Conversion/Marriage Questions

Good afternoon everyone,

I have a few questions that I am hoping you can answer for me. I did a search prior to posting but could not find any posts that matched my exact situation. I was raised Baptist but was never Baptized. I married in 2001 and was divorced in 2004. We were married in a Methodist Church because my former wife was Methodist.

Two years ago I finally met and married the love of my life. She was born and raised Catholic but has not actively practiced in several years. We were married in September in a Christian non-denominational ceremony. She was never married prior and neither of us have any children. How will the Catholic Church view our marriage? I am going to begin the RCIA this coming summer when the new classes form and begin. Am I going to be politely told that since I am divorced I am not welcome? Is it possible the church will never recognize our marriage?

Ironically, I attended a Catholic Military High-School. I attended Mass but did not participate because of my Baptist affiliation. (That was a long time ago, I am 36 now).

Thank you,


Welcome, James. Congratulations on your decision to join the Church.
Please make an appointment to speak with the pastor the parish where you will be taking instruction; he can help guide you through the annulment process. You will have to have your first marriage investigated to determine if it was a valid marriage or not. This is not something that we on an internet forum can determine, so please take whatever advice you get here with a grain of salt. You will NEVER be told you are not welcome to join the Church, but you may have a heavy cross to bear if your first marriage is indeed found to be valid. Again, my only advice is to contact your pastor to set up a meeting as soon as possible to get the ball rolling on the annulment process.

You were not free to marry her because you have a prior bond. She was not free to marry in a non-Catholic ceremony without dispensation. Your marriage is not valid at this time.

That’s wonderful! Welcome!

You are not going to be told you are not welcome. Of course you are welcome. There are some things that will have to be taken care of for your to enter the Church and her to resume the practice of the faith, and your marriage is one of them.

I would suggest not waiting until RCIA begins. Simply make an appointment with your pastor and discuss the situation. Your first marriage will have to be examined, it will either be a decree of nullity or perhaps a Petrine Privilege case since you are not baptized. It will also depend on whether or not your ex-wife was married before or not, that could simplify things if she was.

If and when your first marriage is dealt with, then your current marriage can be made valid in the Catholic Church.

Again, I urge you to not wait but to get your marriage situation sorted out now rather than later. Don’t be afraid, just take it one step at a time.

Unfortunately, when the marriage tribunal examines your case, it is very possible that they will determine that your first marriage was, in fact, valid. Consequently, the Church would not “recognize” your current marriage - it will be considered invalid.


You are not going to be told you are not welcome. Of course you are welcome.

If the tribunal rules that the OP’s first marriage was valid and that his current marriage is invalid, I bet he won’t be feeling so welcome.

I urge you to not wait but to get your marriage situation sorted out now rather than later.

Agreed. The longer you wait, memories will fade and willing, co-operative witnesses will be harder to locate. Your chances of success will be greater the sooner you get the ball rolling.

Thank you for your quick responses. I contacted the Pastor this afternoon and requested a sit down at his convenience. I will keep this post bookmarked and will post the prognosis and eventual outcome. Everyone that I have spoken with has a varied opinion of my situation. It is very difficult to discern to say the least. Half of my family is Irish Catholic and half is Irish Protestant. 75% of my co-workers are Irish Catholics (Law Enforcement). I pray for a favorable outcome but that is God’s will and I will respect whatever decision our local Diocese determines.

Thank you again!


Keep in mind that Christmas is a very busy week for priests, so you may not end up getting to talk to him until after the new year.

If you were have never been baptized, your former marriage is non-sacramental and may be dissolved by either Pauline or Petrine Privilege. Such cases are common in RCIA. I am not an expert on this, but your pastor should be able to ascertain this for you rather quickly - after the Christmas rush and he has a chance to catch his breath.

If his first wife was baptized, only the Petrine Privilege would apply - and that only if she (the baptized party) was not the primary cause of the marriage breakdown. From what I have read, tribunals will often recommend that the petitioner pursue a formal nullity trial instead because of the specific requirements of the Petrine Privilege.

When I ran RCIA for our parish, a few years back, it was recommended that we pursue the Petrine whenever possible. It was quicker and simpler than a formal nullity proceedings.

The local parish Priest contacted me today while he is on retreat to let me know that he will meet with me next week. I didn’t expect to hear from him at all until next week since I knew he was on retreat. That’s pretty awesome. I will update the thread after I meet with him.


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