Divorce & Joining the Church


My family and I have been visiting our local parish for some time now and feel very drawn to join the Catholic Church and hope to begin RCIA & RCIC in the fall. I have a question that I am hoping someone here on the forum can address. My wife and I have been married for 15 years and have a beautiful 10 year old daughter. My wife was never married before marrying me, but I was married twice before marrying my wife. I am unsure as to what would need to take place before we join the church. My wife and I were both baptized in the Southern Baptist faith. We are looking forward to joining RCIA and would like to take whatever necessary steps soon as to not hold up the process.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

God Bless!

You’ll probably need to get in contact with your priest to go over the details of your particular situation…

This is the appropriate response. Having taught RCIA for a few years, I know firsthand there are twists and nuances to every situation. The best thing to do is to discuss it with a priest. He will give you proper guidance. Pray a bunch before meeting and realize that some of his guidance may not sit well with or your wife. Remember whatever he says will be done with the goal of getting your soul correct with God, which is why you are exploring the Catholic church!

Your situation is extremely complicated. You need to speak to your parish priest about RCIA and the complex marital situation. While your first marriage was probably considered legally valid by The Church (not sacramentally valid, though) - I am not sure what they would say about the ensuing marriages and where you stand, now.

Best of luck!

Welcome home to your whole family
not enough info
this should be covered in your initial interview(s) with the priest or his delegate in the parish where you will be preparing for sacraments. There are too many variables to discuss here, but they can tell you what you need. In general, if you were married before, the Church considers your first marriage to have been valid, until proven otherwise. Then it will look at the second marriage. If it is established that those previous marriages were not valid, then you prepare to have your current marriage convalidated, if necessary. Facts to start gathering: baptismal status of all previous spouses, and yourself at the time of those marriages, marriage and divorce paperwork for previous unions, your own proof of baptism and that of your other family members. The parish can also tell you how to establish this if the Baptist church does not provide a record.

Most of this sounds harder than it is and while there may be delays they will usually be due to human reasons such as normal hang-ups with paperwork and red tape. All of this is for a reason: to insure that your current marriage is valid and to insure that you can receive sacraments in the same state of sanctifying grace you enjoyed at your Baptism. A beautiful reason, that justifies any road blocks. No matter how long it takes, even the times of waiting and frustration are graced opportunities for healing and growing closer to Our Lord.

This is not an accurate statement. The sacramentality of the first marriage depends upon the baptismal status of both parties. Non-Catholics can certainly contract valid and sacramental marriages. A valid marriage between the baptized is by its nature a sacrament.

The OP will need to sit down and lay out all the facts for the priest and determine next steps. The diocesan tribunal would need to investigate and examine each marriage.

You are right. If neither was Catholic, their marriage could have been sacramentally valid (since the OP states he was baptized.) What I meant, and should have worded better was that the first marriage would be viewed as valid, but not the same as a Catholic sacrament.

I am concerned that the OP’s second and current marriages would be considered invalid.

This simply isn’t true. A valid marriage between two baptized people is a sacrament by its very nature. There is no distinction of any kind between Catholic and non-Catholic.

Certainly on the face of things they would seem to be. Investigation by the tribunal could prove otherwise if there were impediments or defects of intent or consent. We don’t know the baptismal status of the prior spouses, whether or not either were Catholics and therefore bound by Catholic form, etc. There are many variables.

The OP definitely needs to talk to a priest.

Hello and thank you to those who responded to my post. I do intend to speak to my priest about this matter, but appreciate any insight that may be obtained until then. To clarify some finer points My marriage to my first wife was performed by a baptist preacher. We were both baptized baptists. The marriage was troubled from the very beginning due to her mental illness, deceit, and infidelity. A child was born of this marriage and is now an adult. The second marriage was a rebound relationship and lasted a very short time (1 1/2 years) and bore no children. We were married in a baptist church, but I honestly do not remember if she was baptized…I suspect she was. Neither of us attended church outside of the wedding ceremony. I have no idea where to locate her as it has been the better part of twenty years since we last spoke. I hope that helps in case anyone else cares to comment with the additional information.


You will want to make that appointment with your priest. You will also want to start collecting the documents you will need. Proof of baptisms for both you and your ex spouses as well as yourself, marital licenses, divorce decrees. Think about who in your life will help you explain/ witness to the reasons why you think your previous marriages were invalid. Try to locate your previous wives.

Read a book or two about the annulment process. There is a good one by Ed Peters and also one by Michael S Foster.

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