Difficult Issue - Help!

I am facing a very uncomfortable situation and I really want to know what the Church says about this issue.

A woman I know was raised Catholic, later became Protestant, married another Protestant in a non-Catholic wedding, and about twenty-some years later found out that this marriage was an invalid marriage in the eyes of the Church. This marriage was very bad all along, and she was told by a priest that if the husband wanted to leave, she should let him.

Not long after, the couple separated and she started seriously dating (while still being legally married, though not sacramentally married). Although I assume she thinks she is acting in accordance with what she was told by the priest, I do not believe she is practicing the Catholic faith at the moment. She is making some members of her family very uncomfortable, and the Protestant members say that her actions are not Biblically based (the fact that she is in a serious relationship without being divorced).

What should I think about all of this?

what does this have to do with you? Did she ask your opinion?

what does this have to do with you? Did she ask your opinion?

I think this is not the kind of answer that someone needing help right now would want to get, :frowning: but to answer your questions:

(1) This person is close to me and is acting in a way that nobody who knew her before would have expected

(2) Regardless of whether she asked me or not, I need to know what to think in this situation and I came here to know what the Church would say on this matter.

I would appreciate it if someone could answer my question!

The Church would say she’s put herself in outside the Sacraments by joining a non-Catholic ecclesial communion, marrying invalidly, and by no longer attending Mass, and that is a much bigger thing than dating someone.

She needs to go to Confession and resume the sacramental life.

Regarding dating this other person while her civil marriage is not yet dissolved, this is in the area of **prudence **rather than sin. It is not *prudent *to jump into a new relationship when the old one is still not resolved. It is not *prudent *to jump into a new relationship without reflecting on and acknowledging her own actions and hand in the old relationship’s demise and dealing with any emotional or psychological issues. It is not *prudent *to date someone until her freedom to marry is officially recognized by the Church (via a decree on the lack of form, which is a paperwork matter).

She was not in a valid marriage, and therefore she has no impediment to a valid marriage in the Catholic Church. Dating isn’t sinful, as she is free to contract a marriage. But, since she isn’t a practicing Catholic, it would seem she does not intend to enter into a valid marriage and therefore a marriage with this new man would be no different than with her soon-to-be ex-husband, not a marriage at all.

you should not think or do anything one way or the other unless you are a party to either her current or former marriage. in general one puts the most charitable possible interpretation upon any action or behavior one observes on the part of another. You cannot know all the facts, nor can she be sure of her status unless and until she submits her situation to the canon law tribunal of her diocese for investigation. We don’t know, we don’t judge the marriage status of others. That is why there is a tribunal in the first place. If she asks you, and not until she asks, you should give her the advice to go the pastor of her Catholic parish where she resides and get the process started. We don’t know all the facts because we have only heard a couple of them, and those at 4th hand so it is useless to speculate. Most likely she has never been validly married, but that is up to her to investigate, should she ever plan to marry again. Her family and friends, no matter what their faith confession, should stay out of it until she asks their advice.

Thank you.

Regarding dating this other person while her civil marriage is not yet dissolved, this is in the area of prudence rather than sin.

Her protestant relatives are not looking at the “non-sacramental marriage” aspect of it, and I do not know that they are aware of it (I suspect it would matter very little to them if they were). They see the fact that she is dating while still legally married as a sin, and I wanted to know if this is true.

But, since she isn’t a practicing Catholic, it would seem she does not intend to enter into a valid marriage and therefore a marriage with this new man would be no different than with her soon-to-be ex-husband, not a marriage at all.

As far as I can see, this is exactly the case.

Most likely she has never been validly married, but that is up to her to investigate, should she ever plan to marry again. Her family and friends, no matter what their faith confession, should stay out of it until she asks their advice.

It is a fact that she is in an invalid marriage. Like I said, her relatives are not seeing the non-sacramental aspect of this, they are seeing a married (though separated) woman in a very sudden, very intense relationship and they see this as a sin. I would think that when someone close to you is obviously or possibly sinning in a serious way, you’re supposed to at least warn them? So in light of this, I can’t think that something that could potentially be serious is “nobody else’s business”.

Honestly, as a friend I would not use the word “sin” to speak about her new relationship. I’m not saying it isn’t a sin, but more serious is her previous attempt at marriage, and being outside the Church. As guiding her back to the Church, this issue, including the declaration of nullity for her first marriage (which would be only a formality for her), will arise naturally.

As another poster indicated, it would be proper to guide her in the prudence of resolving her previous relationship before embarking on another.

Here’s the deal - the confessional is sealed for a reason. While her dating is not prudent as the above poster as stated- we do not know what her status is as it is none of our business if she has been to confession or not. If as your friend she asks for your advice than you can share the teaching but I would stay away from words like sin to describe the nature of the relationship she is in now and use prudence. Also, I would remember that discussing these matters with her family members without her invitation to do so is tantamount to gossip.

The Catholic Church does not allow married couples who have not bothered to have their marriage dissolved in the civil arena to date, either. Even if there is a defect in form that renders the attempt at marriage invalid, the "i"s must be dotted and the "t"s crossed. She was publicly married and is not divorced, yet she is dating men other than her separated husband. That dating without a divorce (and, for Catholics, a decree of nullity, as well) has created a scandal. No one has to eavesdrop on the confessional to know that.

Admonishment of fellow Chrstians in a case like this is not judgmental, and it is not out of place. If it is something in her past, even a matter of days or weeks, but she is not doing it now, then bite your own tongue until you find out first-hand that she is currently doing something wrong. Don’t allow talk behind her back, but if you become aware by a first-hand account–I mean that she talks about it–that she is *currently *dating, then admonish her. Advise others to do likewise. If she has been admonished, but will not listen, then bite your tongue and change the subject if she brings up her improprieties.

EasterJoy, this is exactly what I was wondering:

The Catholic Church does not allow married couples who have not bothered to have their marriage dissolved in the civil arena to date, either.

And you have described the situation accurately:

She was publicly married and is not divorced, yet she is dating men other than her separated husband. That dating without a divorce (and, for Catholics, a decree of nullity, as well) has created a scandal. No one has to eavesdrop on the confessional to know that.

Just what I thought:

Admonishment of fellow Chrstians in a case like this is not judgmental, and it is not out of place.

Thanks to all who have replied with their suggestions, and for reminding me to avoid gossip. :blush:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.