Confused about divorce and non-Catholics


A recent occurrence within my family has made me start to wonder about divorce amongst non-Catholics…

I’m confused about how the Church views divorced non-Catholics. Because they are not Catholic, they would not be getting an annulment. So what I’m not understanding is if divorced non-Catholics remarry, are they committing adultery? Because in essence, Catholics can divorce and remarry, and not be committing adultery so long as their first marriage was annulled. But for non-Catholics they don’t have the option of annulment.

Here’s what got me wondering. My sister married her husband 3 years ago at the age of 21. Now they are more than likely divorcing. They are not Catholic, no one in my family but me is. In fact, her husband isn’t really even Christian. He was not baptized before they married, he only got baptized about a year ago in their Lutheran faith, but has not ever been confirmed to one faith. They’ve had a number of issues in their marriage, such as he lies about things (has since the beginning but she wouldn’t recognize it) and he views porn. She is rather pushy and can be self-centered, so they both have issues, and it all hasn’t been worked so they feel as though they can’t fix it. My parents and I even had doubts about the whole marriage before it even began but she didn’t see the issues…

So now I’m in the dilemma of that I’m not sure how to view the situation. Of course I’m sad for her. I don’t believe divorce should be the option, but I do understand that not everyone picks the right person to marry (and I feel as though this is the case with them). So of course I wouldn’t want her to stay in the marriage unhappy for the rest of her life. And it really isn’t my place to judge, that’s for God to do on Judgment Day.

So I guess I’m just really wondering that if she were to remarry, would that be considered adultery?

Is there anything I need to say to her about the situation so that I’m not allowing her to sin without voicing something about it?

I hope this post made sense, I’m just confused about the whole situation of divorce.


Jesus was really, really clear on the topic of “remarriage” after divorce. The fact that over the years, non-Catholic Christians have left behind Christ’s teaching on re-marriage after divorce does not make it any less true and eternal.


My * guess *is you are mixing marriage with attempted marriage and also mixing divorce with an annulment when all four have different meanings.

Marriage – the two become one for life

Attempted marriage two attempted to become one but never achieved unity

Divorce – A group who recognized A marriage now consider it not a marriage

Annulment – no marriage occurred even though a wedding ceremony may have occurred.

So a catholic who attempts a marriage even if that attempt enjoyed the presumption of validity may petition the church for a finding no marriage (unity) was ever achieved.

Now the non-catholic who never turns to the church is on their own to find and follow god’s plan so they may or may not be in adultery we simply do not know. If a protestant turns to the church they may be “loose*” from their “bind*” meaning have their past errors rectified and any past sins absolved.

hope that helps

‘* the bible says Peter may bind or loose and it will be recognized in heaven


basically, since they have no recourse to the Catholic Church… we can only suppose whether they had a marriage .

you see annulment is the finding that the marriage was never valid… or that the marriage is somehow broken in a way that the church finds means that there is “no marriage”

God, certainly, knows the truth.
if the husband was not a Christian at the time of the marriage… that might (in the Catholic church) assist in finding for a cause of annulment… for instance. without the church we can only GUESS whether their marriage is valid. and therefore if any potential re marriage is valid.

i will state that as with ANY discussion of sin. the question of “does the person know they are sinning” comes into play. if they do not think of what they are doing as adultery. it cannot truly be a mortal sin at least…


Many Protestant churches take a fluid view of divorce and remarriage. (One sect was founded just for that reason… :wink: )

So if its members are taught a lie and grow up believing a lie, that you can go through life being a serial bride and groom, well… they are not culpable like the couple that is taught the entirety of the truth their whole lives and who choose to reject it.

One of the reasons the Catholic Church is so hated in so many places is because of its stand on the indissolubility of marriage.

Now, in this particular case, he was not baptized at the time of the marriage. Later he was. But were vows renewed after he became a Christian?

The Catholic view is that all Christian marriages hold the status of being valid and sacramental if both are baptized. If two protestants divorce and one wants to convert to Catholicism and marry a Catholic, or even marry a Catholic without converting, that protestant marriage will have to undergo examination by a tribunal.

The Catholic Church will not insult other churches by presuming that the only valid marriages were those between Catholics.

So your sister, should she grow in her faith and mature and find her way to Catholicism, might need to have an annulment in the Catholic Church someday.

Until then, pray she learns from the experience, goes through counselling and figures out what went wrong so she does not make the same errors again.

21 is very young in this society. (Yeah, spare me all the stories of teens and 20’s marrying and it being peachy keen decades later. You’re special. :wink: )

For most, our society doesn’t foster sufficient maturity, morality and responsibility at such age for them to be competent to make such a permanent decision. Yes, they can drink and vote, and join the army, but none of those are permanent choices.

I’m worried that our society has perfected the art of the “starter spouse”. :frowning:


Non-baptized persons have a “natural” rather than a sacramental marriage, and this can be dissolved – it’s not adultery if they remarry.

Baptized persons (as in this story) have a sacramental marriage, which is binding until death. If both spouses are not baptized at the time of the marriage, the marriage becomes sacramental automatically as soon as both spouses are baptized.

However, there may have been some defect in the marriage from the beginning – they didn’t understand what they were getting into, at least one of them had no intention of forming a permanent bond, etc. – in which case the marriage would be invalid, and they could remarry.

But, without recourse to the Church, there’s no way for this couple to be positive their marriage was invalid. All we can do for now is assume that it may have been invalid, and that the people are acting according to their conscience.

If either of them wants to become Catholic, however, they will have to get an annulment for the first marriage in order to be validly married to someone else.

Short answer – assume the people are acting in good faith. There’s no need to say anything about it unless you’re asked. My aunt is remarrying after divorcing her husband of many years, and I stay out of it. I suspect her marriage was invalid because of all the circumstances of it, but I can’t be sure, and neither can she. If she ever thinks of becoming Catholic, the Catholic branch of our family will talk to her about annulments, but meanwhile, we didn’t think it was right to stick our oar in. As long as they are acting according to their conscience and what their beliefs teach them, they are not sinning.


Thank you all for your posts, you’ve helped make it make more sense to me.

For what it’s worth, no, their vows were not renewed once he was baptized.

I will continue to live my faith and hope that over time perhaps she’ll be able to accept Catholicism. I think that would be one step in the right direction, and would help in the future for seeing marriage as a Sacrament (since it isn’t one in their denomination). I know she doesn’t like my parents church for a number of reasons (one being how the pastor treated me after I declared my wanting to become Catholic) and perhaps if she does need to move back home with us, I can help foster a desire to become Catholic.


I was in a somewhat similar situation when discerning this marriage. I was baptized Christian (Protestant) and married a confirmed Catholic in a courthouse. We divorced. I later went through RCIA (8 years later) and confirmed Catholic. I got a lack-of-form anullment meaning that because my xh had the responsibility to marry in the Church and did not that our marriage was not valid. It only took about a month or two to get it back. The hard part was finding the paperwork as my xh was very abusive and finding a baptismal certificate at some Church in Boston was not easy. But I knew God would watch over my marriage when my mother opened phone book called the first Catholic Church she saw in Boston and it was the one holding his baptismal certificate.

If your sister ever has a change of heart- the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will provide what they see fit.


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