Does a divorced Protestant have to get an annulment to marry a Catholic?

I’ll try to be brief.

I was married, but had a civil divorce and an annulment.

I am dating a Protestant. He is divorced.

Would he have to get an annulment from the Catholic Church for us to marry? He and his wife were baptized and married in their church … so it’s my understanding the Catholic Church would regard it as a marriage. But I’m not sure how the Catholic Church could annul a marrage that didn’t take place within the Church.

Yes, he does need an anullment.

But I’m not sure how the Catholic Church could annul a marrage that didn’t take place within the Church

Actually, as baptized persons, their marriage DID take place within the Church.

Only as Protestants, they didn’t know it. :slight_smile:

There are probably people on this forum who can explain this better than I can but, that’s the most succinct way I know how to put it! :slight_smile:

First and best advice - speak to your Priest.

There are many factors to consider, and you Priest can best guide you.

Until the man in question is certain that he is not validly married, one would behave as if he is married (not dating or fostering romantic feelings). Friendship is a great Christian thing, but, unless this man is free to marry, he is not free to date.

Prayers for you!

Yes. The Protestant would have to petition for a decree of nullity.

Talk to your priest.

The same impediments regarding validity apply to everyone-- the only thing specific to Catholics is the form of marriage. Therefore, the Church can evaluate the evidence.

Do speak to your priest, but yes their marriage would require an annulment if he were to see a marriage with a Catholic. I myself am in the process. Neither my ex-husband nor myself was Catholic at the time we married, so our marriage was not in the Church.

You can get an idea of the process by taking a look at the website for the tribunal in the diocese in which they were married. A lot of them have FAQ’s and and a packet you can download from the internet. Still, your priest would be the best place to start.

Yes, Please go see your priest as soon as possible if you are seriously considering getting married.

The church recognizes the right of protestants to seek marriage based on the terms of their individual churches rules or in any manner they wish if there are no such rules. It’s a matter of great respect that is given to non catholics actually. It recognizes that the spouses are the ones who create the marital covenant and only bring it to the church to witness and make it sacramental. It’s quite beautiful that the church defends marriage this way.


AND this is one of the errors that needs to be corrected in the Annulment process. As a returning Catholic who was Protestant for 40 years, and who married 25 years ago as a Protestant, I know first hand exactly how the Protestant Church views marriage and divorce. Adultery is considered a ‘Deal Breaker’ throughout Protestantism. That belief should AUTOMATICALLY negate a Protestant Marriage as invalid. They absolutely do not view marriage as indissoluble, and truly have that ‘deal breaker’ in the mix during the vows.

For us, I came back to the Church about 4 years ago. My husband of 25 years did his own due-diligence and is more steeped in Catholicism than anyone I know. His former wife (as my former husband) had an affair, abandoned the marriage and 3 children, and remarried the man with whom she was unfaithful.

My annulment was straight forward, but my dear husband is now on Round 2 trying to obtain an annulment. It has cost us several years, not being able to receive communion with our 17 year old (who became Catholic also), and several thousand dollars to pay both annulment processes and hire a Canon Lawyer…and it STILL isn’t resolved.

To top it off, he’s 65 and his only real witness (his mom) is deceased.

But the fact remains: when he got married the first time, he knew in his mind that if she was ever unfaithful, the marriage was allowed to dissolve and he was free to re-marry…according to Protestant beliefs.

The strange, legalistic stand of Our Church that Protestants are ‘brothers and sisters in the faith’ is absurd in this area. Marriages in the Protestant Tradition are by definition not valid because of this firmly held conviction that adultery is a deal-breaker. So when a former Protestant comes to a new understanding after the fact, and desires to become Catholic, it should be welcomed and honored, rather than severe legalistic roadblocks thrown out.

It is wrong to hold someone accountable at a time when their lack of understanding caused them to hold to a belief…like the Protestant stand on adultery. THAT is the whole REASON for Convalidation, isn’t it??? To have a TRUE, VALID MARRIAGE??? Otherwise, when Protestants come into the Church as husband and wife, there would be no reason to Convalidate if Tribunals believe their initial vows were truly ‘valid.’

This is a disturbing and frustrating contradiction, and it needs to change.

We know several very orthodox priests, a Sister, and several Deacons are in agreement on this point…they understand the Protestant view and think it should be strongly considered…still, we wait for ‘approval’ by the Tribunal…and I continue to wait to finally receive the Eucharist I’ve been denied for many years, and to Convalidate marriage to a wonderful, Godly, Catholic-in-his-heart man who wants to be Roman Catholic after almost 60 years of being a Protestant!

Thanks for the commentary. I suppose it’s possible that the Church could change its views on Protestant marriages by making the assumption that they are all by nature invalid, for the reason you cite.

But that would be quite a change from the current policy, in which the Church assumes most marriages to be valid, unless shown to be invalid on an individual basis.

In a way, such a change might be viewed as disrespectful of Protestant marriage. I don’t know if this idea was discussed at the recent synod.

Yes. It is unlikely the Church is going to make any automatic negative assumptions about what any two Protestants believed about the nature of their marriage vows when they took them. After all, the question is not what they were taught about marriage. The question is the true nature of the vows made by that particular pair of Christians. By virtue of a valid baptism, they are truly Christian. If their vows are true–that is, made in good faith with a sufficient understanding of the true nature of marriage–and there were no confounding impediments, they have true Christian marriages, which by their nature do not lose their indissoluble nature by a change in attitude later down the line.

Such a radical change would not just affect how the Church view Protestant marriages but also how marriages are viewed in other apostolic Churches .I don’t see that happening.

I think there is a little confusion here.

Protestant marriages are seen as valid until proven otherwise. So are civil marriages and marriages in other Non-Christian faith traditions. Regardless of what the participants faith traditions taught the participants, there is still a possibility that when the participants entered into the marriage they meant their vows to be in line with Church teaching on marriage. There are non-catholics out there who have been taught by their faith, by their families, or by their own consciences that marriage is exactly what the Church teaches it to be and made their vows validly. What it really comes down to is the intentions of the particular couple when they spoke their vows and the only way to determine that is with Tribunal investigation. Which is why each case is investigated individually.

You were a Catholic who married outside of the Church, if I read your post right. Canon Law requires all baptized Catholics to marry in the Church or receive dispensation to marry elsewhere. When a Catholic fails to marry within the Church or receive dispensation their marriage is not presumed valid due to Lack of Form. The case can be handled rather quickly as it does not require an investigation because the Church knows it to be invalid beyond doubt.

Your husband and his ex wife were not Catholics, not bound by Canon Law, and free to marry in any way they chose. Which is why their marriage is presumed valid until proven otherwise through the local Tribunal.

Yes, the purpose of Convalidation is to make an invalid marriage valid. But this only applies to those who are in invalid marriages such as Catholics who married outside the Church without dispensation or those who married with a presumed prior bond (previous un-annulled marriage). People who are already in valid marriages do not have to have a Convalidation as they are considered properly married by the Church.

I feel your pain. I was a Pagan at the time of my previous civil marriage. I later married a fallen away catholic and then decided to convert 10 years into our marriage when my husband came back to the Church. Our marriage is invalid due to my prior bond and because my husband was a baptized Catholic who married outside the Church. Because of these facts, we will need to have a Convalidation. I am in month 14 of waiting for a decision from the Tribunal with no end in sight. My 15 year old daughter was Baptized and Confirmed this past Easter and is able to receive Eucharist while we are not allowed to receive. It hurts. I actually broke down and cried at Labor Day daily Mass when everyone went to receive and I could not. You aren’t alone. I pray for all annulments to be judged fairly and finished speedily every Mass and a few times a week besides. Let’s hope God is guiding his Church into a new era where the annulment process will be both accurate and quick or allow priests/Bishops to allow the divorced and remarried to receive on a case by case basis while awaiting Tribunal rulings.

You really cannot paint all Protestant churches with the same brush when it comes to marriage except that their marriages are considered valid until proven otherwise. There is no universal Protestant belief system on anything, let alone Marriage.
The best the Church can do is to honor its brother’s and sister’s in Christ by recognizing their marriages as valid and natural so long as there is no impediment to their marriage such as a previous marriage.

The Church cannot change its doctrine on Marriage.

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