Divorce and Remarriage - Turning Back the Clock

This thread is the fruit of a discussion my husband and I had recently. He has not been attended church except for baptisms, weddings and funerals for years. He was raised a Southern Baptist but now claims that he believes in God but is done with institutions - that’s just for background to this conversation.

We have been discussing marriage and divorce (as a topic, not something we are intending). I told him that I was acutely aware of my sin in this regard and that while I had repented of my own divorce 40 years ago and despite my former husband’s death years afterward, our own marriage of 32+ years would not be considered valid in the Catholic church unless a determination of nullity was found for his own first marriage. He was astonished at this but he did start reading for himself and came to the conclusion that while Moses made allowances for divorce “due to the hardness of their hearts” Jesus said that it was not to be that way, indeed had not been from the beginning. My husband’s conclusion - “Well, that’s it then. There is no other way around it, is there?”

Being retired, he has time to read while he’s not watching our grandsons. After reading about the process for obtaining and annulment, he regretfully decided that he can’t do it. Why? Because it would cause immense pain to his 4 children from his first marriage and would be an occasion of fresh insult to his ex-wife who is no longer in good health. Repentance is as much as he can do.

The good news, is that he has shed many stereotypes about the Catholic church and yes, the Lutheran church as well.

Finally to my question - in America, you can multiply our situation by millions of times. What can be done, realistically? Are we just a lost generation with no way home? Is this at least part of the reason that many resist reverting or converting to the Catholic church?

How do other faith communities handle divorce and remarriage?

I do believe the annulment procedures are a great impediment for some considering reverting and converting both. Depending on the type of annulment you need it can be time consuming and heart wrenching filling out forms about every personal detail of your marriage and also there is the issue of finding witnesses who knew you throughout the

I do believe given some of the latest meetings about this issue the Church has come to understand it is indeed an issue and is looking for ways to make the process more streamlined or at least give more pastoral care to those that purse this option.

I don’t know what the answer is because this must be done while preserving doctrinal purity and the sanctity of marriage and in accordance with Biblical teaching.


I’m a member of the RCIA team at our parish. Last year I took it upon myself to get more info on annulments/nullity and attended workshops that our Diocese holds on these topics. I was surprised how compassionate the priests and layworkers were and how much they were committed to helping people instead of automatically saying ‘no’. First place is to start with a priest, then take it up to the diocesen level.

I think it is important to realize that it isn’t the Church who is causing the pain, rather it is those who have created the situation in the first place by acting contrary to Church teaching, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

Having said that, this is a huge problem, especially among those who have second families. I have known several people who wished to convert, and several more who wished to come back into full communion who have been prevented from doing so due to annulment problems. Very sad.

From what I have seen in my own diocese the Church has become ever more sensitive to these situations and there seems to be more of a focus on finding solutions. What it boils down to is that the Church cannot simply erase the blackboard. If one’s first marriage was a valid marriage the Church has no authority to make it invalid. “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Mark 10:9)



What about those women who divorced husbands who cheated on them, raped them, and abused them? Was it their fault for creating that situation when they have to flee for their life? Would it be better to stay in an abusive marriage in order to preserve the sanctity of marriage? What if getting an annulment brings the ex back into the picture and puts the women’s life in danger? I realize that divorce is a problem and many people do have a hand in creating the situation, but we must not treat all situations the same or demonize those who had no other choice. There should be mercy for those who fled for their life and they shouldn’t be punished for wanting to get married again and having a second chance at life and family.

Having said that, this is a huge problem, especially among those who have second families. I have known several people who wished to convert, and several more who wished to come back into full communion who have been prevented from doing so due to annulment problems. Very sad.

From what I have seen in my own diocese the Church has become ever more sensitive to these situations and there seems to be more of a focus on finding solutions. What it boils down to is that the Church cannot simply erase the blackboard. If one’s first marriage was a valid marriage the Church has no authority to make it invalid. “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Mark 10:9)


I understand, but surely there special circumstances that must be considered when it comes to certain cases.

I think a big part of the problem in America (and a big part of the whole “west”) is the notion of “freedom” which was a large part of Luther’s point of view. However, it has morphed from what Luther intended.

When the idea of freedom is applied to religion, it teaches that “we don’t need to listen to organized religion. We only need to seek a personal relationship with Jesus. We can we spiritual, not religious…”

The problem with this Protestant idea is that Christ wanted us to be part of a family, part of the Body of Christ, part of His Church. Having a “personal relationship” with Christ is fine, as long as it’s not a “private relationship.” Christ taught things, and those things are taught by the church.

As long as people continue to feel that they can rely on their own personal & private relationship as their source of teaching, they remain their own pope and select to do whatever they feel is right, they are not “called to task” and not challenged to change their lives.

Now that more and more denominations have departed from traditional teachings, lots of people view that tradition is simply “old fashioned” and for the past. Hence they reject the authority of the Church and accept the “authority of secular society.”

This is where we are “lost.” Until people can learn to recognize that the Church speaks with the authority of Christ, society will remain “lost.”

Also, I would like to make following point: people either believe that the Jesus is physically present in the Eucharist throughout the Catholic Church, or they don’t. People either believe that the Catholic Church is the fullness of Faith or they don’t. If you believe this, then one will not leave, even if they cannot receive Communion.

Attending Mass without receiving Communion is better than receiving communion else where because you simply don’t want to be left out.

In closing, as long as people believe that society is the source of authority and not the Church, we will become a more lost society.

God Bless

The children from the first marriage don’t even have to be told. What would be the purpose of that? It would be hard on the first wife? Does she still imagine herself to be validly married to him, after he has been with you for 32+ years? I would suspect that it is not the first wife that he is concerned about, but rather that he just doesn’t want to think about the first marriage.

These are all things the Church takes into consideration when going through the annulment process. If one has to flee for their life was there ever a valid marriage to begin with? The Church approaches these situations with compassion and certainly expects no woman to remain in an abusive situation. My parish priest was given an annulment for the simple reason that his wife refused to bear children, which means that she lied in her vows, invalidating the marriage.

I don’t think the Church would disagree with any of this.



Stilldreamin your situation is very close to mine.
My husband and I both became very interested in exploring the Catholic Faith about 10 years ago due to our involvement in the Pro Life movement.
We both decided we were against artificial contraception as Lutherans and read and accept Humana Vitae, and Donum vitae. I also believe in Purgatory and have no trouble with the Bishop of Rome being head bishop. And The Thoetokos.
However I still have to work through the justification/sanctification issue.(that’s another thread)
Long story short my husband was married before for 19 years and had three kids.
he could be considered the innocent party in the divorce but he does claim part of the blame.
I wasn’t too troubled by what thought would be the annulment process until I started looking into it. We would likely be required to do the long form which means finding witnesses from the first wedding(dh doesn’t even know where they are, now) and contacting the first wife,(and YES her children would know about it she tells them everything.) His first wife left my dh and remarried before he even met me, so I had nothing to do with the divorce(hopefully she would cooperate.)
We’ve been told through the grapevine that my stepchildren, with whom we have a good relationship-would be offended- as it would be disrespecting the union that brought them into the world and declaring them illegitimate. NOT the way it really is, I know, but they barely think Catholics are Christians and find the whole thing archaic and legalist(my relatives words not mine)
So kind of a barrier for now.Not saying we shouldn’t do it or it isn’t right-but it’s just intimidating. Hubby and I separating is not a solution, either, as we have children together(now grown). We’ve wondered if we should do that.
Since neither of us were ever Catholic, It wasn’t a problem when we first met and married.
If I had been Catholic or thinking about becoming Catholic(which wasn’t on my radar screen back 25 years ago)I would have had my dh get an annulment before we ever married or maybe not get married but what do we do now? It’s water under the bridge.
I was ELCA when we married, my dh a fallen away Baptist due to the divorce.
He credits me with bringing him back to church!
To the OP to answer your question:
The WELS church we belong to now allows for divorce/remarriage for the innocent party ,only, due to desertion by an unbeliever or adultery on paper but in practice I think they allow it for more reasons if the person that left is repentant and reconciliation with the former spouse is not possible.

I want to add that the Bible is pretty clear and divorce/remarriage. Jesus himself, speaks against it… I also think that no-fault divorce opened up a can of worms and was a rotten fruit of the sexual revolution.
Not all evangelicals are OKDOKY with divorce/remarriage, either. Remember the hate Amy Grant got back in a lot of the evangelical community when she left her first husband and later married Vince Gill?

This is the situation my co-worker is in now. He was baptized and raised Catholic and wanted to return to the Church but he was married before and divorced and His now wife was married before. the problem with an annulment is that his 'wife’s first husband was a violent abuser, and she has severed ties with all that family. So does not want to have him contacted or even to know where she is. So they now attend an evangelical church. so he’s now turned against the Church. Sad, but that’s the way it is.

I understand that the first children would not have to be told, but their mother lives with the oldest daughter and her family. This would not be a private matter.

I think the sad issue is, at least in the U.S. (don’t know divorce laws in other countries) is that someone can be divorced without their consent or having anything to do with it. So they can find themselves divorced and alone against their will, as my niece was.
Now in the case of someone who is Catholic, for example, it would be wise to work on getting that marriage annulled right away once the divorce is final even if one doesn’t necessarily plan on re-marrying.
But what about those of us in other faith communities who never dreamed we might need a Catholic annulment? The water is already under the bridge so to speak. They’ve enter into subsequent marriages and now have a real barrier to entering the Church. Not saying this barrier isn’t surmountable, but it is a deterrent.

Yes - but first I wanted to see if my husband could be persuaded to co-operate, or even walk with me in this. In the end it was not my words that caused him to consider the whole issue of the validity of a marriage but my steadfast volunteer work with a Catholic charity that intrigued him into learning more. The Holy Spirit has been actively at work here in our family and I am hopeful this marital barrier can be overcome. Whether I continue on in the Lutheran church for a while, or seek admission to the Catholic church I would very much like to remove this doubt in my heart.

Lest any of my Lutheran friends be concerned about my path, I did speak to my own pastor about this and he was supportive. He knows this doubt? guilt? is a worm that gnaws at my peace.

Vanny, I attended a session presented by a canon lawyer in my diocese who said that when the spouse was abusive and/or there is an order of protection in place, the diocese works through third parties and in no way allows the whereabouts of the petitioner to be made known. I would imagine that’s the case in the whole of the US.

Wells that’s good to know. I’ll pass that along to him(if we ever talk about the subject again).

Knowing your measured posts, your concern for our little Synod, and your knowledge of what it means to be a Confessional Lutheran, I was never concerned, for my part. :slight_smile:

God bless you and your husband as the Spirit guides you.

Your brother in Christ,

What you describe is one of the reasons why many want to streamline the annulment process by making use of 21st century technology instead of 19th century technology.

I believe this will one day be better, but the Church moves slow (and rightfully so). But it will always still come down to accepting the authority of the Church first to accept that an annulment is needed.

God bless and may The Lord grant use all wisdom and understanding.

Thanks Phil19034!

yes it is a dilemma, for sure. The CC is right to stand strong on marriage and the family.
It is very clear from the scriptures Jesus stand on divorce and remarriage, although there is an exception(maybe however Matthew 19 is interpreted). I’m glad Pope Francis wants to look into this. Gives me hope.

Try this one! I have been married and divorced twice and am now remarried again. All of this happened prior to starting my journey across the Tiber… My wife is Catholic too. I now see matrimony as a sacrament and am sorrowful of my history. My previous marriages and divorces took place in the USA. We now live in the Philippines and our marriage was a civil ceremony. We both want to be right with the God and His Church. We attend Mass faithfully and I do not take the Eucharist due to my situation. I am scheduled to complete my process at the Easter Vigil. We are planning to move to the USA in 2016. I am truly confused on this. It does seem complicated and the more I read the fuzzier it gets! I have studied hard and fully embraced Catholic doctrine and consider myself a Catholic. We truly want to get this right.


The USA has long past moved beyond the assumption that all Christians were on the same page concerning divorce and remarriage. We are now several generations into a mindset that marriage and divorce are legal statuses more than solemn vows before God. The silence and passive acceptance of this situation in many of the non-Catholic churches hasn’t helped.

It seems that if divorce was treated as a sin that could be repented and absolved instead of something that simply was not possible under God, we should have anticipated this result in society. The problem is what to do about it. Secular marriage really doesn’t function like Holy Matrimony much anymore - maybe they really are two different things altogether, especially now with same-sex marriages becoming legal in so many states.

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