Can Catholics ever marry after a divorce?

I understand that as a Catholic you shouldn’t get divorced, but if your spouse abuses you or cheats on you, could you do it? I know you can get divorced but you can’t remarry as a Catholic; so if your spouse hurts you or cheats on you, can you divorce him and get married as a Catholic again?

If common life has been made impossible due to abuse or to adultery, a Catholic can seek a civil divorce. The Church views civil divorce as the equivalent of a legal separation and tolerates it in cases where there is just cause so that estate and child custody issues may be settled. If a Catholic has reason to believe that an annulment may be possible, he may place his case before a marriage tribunal. If an annulment is granted, a Catholic is free to marry at that point (and is not free to conduct any kind of romantic relationship with someone else before that point).

But annulments are not always granted. All an annulment does is declare that the couple did not receive the sacrament of matrimony at the time of the marriage. If the tribunal determines that there was indeed a sacramental marriage, then nothing but the death of one of the partners can end it – not abuse, not adultery, nothing. If there is a valid sacramental marriage, it does not matter why the divorce happened.

This may seem unreasonable, old-fashioned, unrealistic, or in some other way unfair. Instead of nursing such feelings, I recommend to anyone experiencing them to try instead to see the call to lifelong matrimony, even though it must be spent separated from one’s spouse, as a call to carry a cross. God is never outdone in generosity. Just as Simon of Cyrene helped Christ carry his cross to Calvary, so Christ will help us carry our crosses to the end.

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