Divorce and Priesthood


I’m confused about something. Does having been once briefly married to a Mormon from another country as a lapsed-Catholic forfeit a vocation for priesthood now? I was young when it happened; my heart wasn’t in it, and neither was hers, I believe. I was traveling overseas and stayed with a girl that I’d previously met online. We did it thoughtlessly, taking it all lightheartedly and not considering the consequences. In other words, we simply thought it’d be worth trying out (as insane as that sounds), and if it didn’t work out, “So what?” In my mind and heart, the marriage wasn’t valid. Annulment was the agreement between us soon thereafter - but, when I got home, for some reason, she had sought for a divorce instead, and that’s what we got. It annoyed me - but figured that it wouldn’t be much of a problem in the long run; I just wanted it done and over with. Now I read that I may not be eligible for priesthood, which is deeply saddening since it’s something that I’ve been seriously contemplating since my re-conversion. Is there any chance for me here?


I forgot to mention: She had been previously married as well, and had a young child. This can't be considered a valid marriage, can it?


The thing to do, obviously, is to talk to the vocations director of the diocese or religious order you are considering. No doubt he can put you in touch with the right people, as well as discussing your discernment.

What you describe sounds like a possible candidate for nullity of marriage on three separate grounds (grave lack of discrection of judgement, lack of form, and ligamen) but it is not up to you or the vocations director to decide. You will need to go through the canonical process of applying for an annulment, in the same way as someone doing it for the purposes of entering into a new marrage.

FYI, it wouldn't make much difference if you'd received a civil annulment for the relationship rather than a divorce, as it's a different process from a canonical annulment.


[quote="Mark_David, post:1, topic:244433"]
I'm In my mind and heart, the marriage wasn't valid. Annulment was the agreement between us soon thereafter - but, when I got home, for some reason, she had sought for a divorce instead, and that's what we got. It ?


you are the Catholic party, you are the one to apply for annulment (unless she later wishes to marry another Catholic). Ordinarily civil divorce is required as proof the marriage has irretrievably broken down. Post is unclear, but it you were Catholic and married outside the Church (did not get a dispensation to marry a non-Christian etc.) then your marriage is probably valid due to lack of form. Your parish priest can guide you how to proceed with annulment. It is not a full blown investigation, more of a paperwork procedure, but it is necessary before you either free to marry again or be a candidate for the priesthood. Having attempted marriage also requires a dispensation, but that should be granted if there is nothing more to the story. In most jurisdictions now days a civil annulment is very rare and usually accomplished by divorce in any case.


Hello Mark David,

What you read regarding your “eligibility” for priesthood was probably based on this, from the Code of Canon Law:

"Can. 1041 The following are irregular for receiving orders: …

3/ a person who has attempted marriage, even only civilly, while either impeded personally from entering marriage by a matrimonial bond, sacred orders, or a public perpetual vow of chastity, or with a woman bound by a valid marriage or restricted by the same type of vow…"

The italicized portion would seem to pertain to you: the Church would presume that your “ex” was validly married when you attempted to marry her. This is an issue as a person can’t be licitly ordained while laboring under this irregularity. It is not difficult to have this irregularity dispensed. Based on what you have said, I would suggest that your procedure should be:

  1. Talk to a local priest, laying out your story and your desire to have this civil union declared null by the Church. He will tell you what you need to do (it seems to be a lack of form case–very simple).

  2. If/when you begin discerning priesthood for a particular diocese/religious order, mention this part of your past and make sure your vocation director/superior/bishop know about it, as well as the declaration of nullity.

  3. If/when you are in a seminary and are progressing along (a couple years into theology), ask your bishop/major superior to ask the Vatican to dispense this irregularity.

When you are dispensed, which will not be a problem as long as your bishop speaks well on your behalf and vouches that you are a prime candidate for priesthood, you will be “good to go.”

This is not a huge problem but does require some extra paperwork. There’s plenty of time to take care of it.



A marriage is presumed valid until an annulment is granted by the Church, after which it is of course presumed invalid. It sounds like there are several strong potential grounds for an annulment, but you would have to go through the whole process and actually obtain the annulment no matter how obvious the reasons why the marriage seems like it would be invalid.


Great advice given here already.

The basic fact is that you were married (at least civilly) and this needs to be cleared before anything else can be determined in regards to vocation - for whether you enter priesthood or monastery, or determine that you might re-marry, the issue of the past marriage must be dealt with.

So I would suggest talking first with your pastor and getting the annulment process underway. Then talk to the vocations director about what your options are.



Thank you all for these excellent, well-informed replies! Now I know a few things and where to start; I’m obviously quite ignorant of Canon Law and such. Much appreciated. God bless.


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