Failed mixed marriage


My friend, who is Catholic, was married to a non-catholic Christian and is now divorced. What is her status according to canon law? Is she free to remarry in the Catholic Church?


Was she married in the Church?
If so, she must apply for an annulment. Even if she wasn’t, she probably still has to apply for the annulment, anyway.
I don’t know the process myself, but there are plenty of others on here who do know.
Until the annulment is passed, she must refrain from receiving communion.


The marriage is (with a 99.99% probability, as there is technicality a possibility of general dispensation from canonical form) invalid for reasons of defect of form. Catholics are expected to marry in a Catholic church and in the right form, including the right witness (bishop, pastor or properly delegated priest, deacon or in some cases even a layman). If that requirement is not fulfilled or dispensed with, then the marriage is invalid.

By Catholic, I assume she was formally Catholic, as in baptised Catholic or formally received into the Church? If she was a Catholic-practicing Protestant, for instant, then she was not Catholic in the sense of being bound by canon law.


what was her status when she married? Was she free to marry and able to give consent?
Then she is married, civil divorce has no effect.

If she received a dispensation to marry a non-CAtholic and here marriage was witnessed by a priest her marriage is valid until proven otherwise, so she must seek an annulment before she is free to marry again, or even to date.

If she married without proper canonical form (by a judge or minister without a dipensation for instance) her marriage is probably not valid for that reason, so she does not need a full-blown annulment investigatin, but there is an application and paperwork to be done before she is free to remarry.

She must see her priest and lay out the entire situation to him and follow his advice, and no one can do this for her.


Divorce is grave matter and she needs to go to see a priest & seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation before returning to the Eucharist.

Her status under Canon Law is that she is married. Civil divorce does not dissolve a marriage as far as the Church is concerned.


She must first go talk to a priest and discuss her situation. She will need to complete the proper paperwork to have her marriage reviewed by the proper diocesan authorities-- the Tribunal.

There are many factors that will be reviewed to determine the validity of her marriage.

At this time she is NOT free to pursue marriage, in or out of the church.


Chevalier, It’s important to also say that even though it is “likely” invalid ONLY the proper diocesan authorities can pronounce her free to marry via the Tribunal process. So, she must bring her case to a priest.

This is not accurate. I’m not even really sure what you mean by Catholic-practicing Protestant. If she was baptized Catholic and did not formally defect (a very specific process under canon law) then she is Catholic and is under jurisdiction of Canon Law.

This also would be something that must be investigated by the proper diocesan authorities.

The best advice to give anyone in such situations is: go see your priest.


Not exactly.

Divorce, grave matter though it is, is not an impediment to receiving the Sacraments. If she goes to Confession, she can resume the Sacraments.

It is remarriage, which puts one in a state of adultery, that would bar someone from the Sacraments.


She may not even have to go to confession, if she is the innocent party in this divorce. But the Church does permit civil divorce for good reason, just not *remarriage".

There is simply not enough information to know her status. Have your friend see a priest immediately.


Thank you all for your advice. Two points that I forgot to mention are that i) the marriage ceremony was a non-catholic one and ii) she is a practising Roman Catholic and was active in the church (R.C.) even during the period of her marriage. Also, the marriage failed due to domestic abuse she suffered which became life-threatening.


Her priest can point her in the right direction. She still needs to seek to have her marriage investigated, but this type of marriage would fall under the lack of form category. The process to have the marriage investigated is much simpler and quicker. She will need to provide her priest with her marriage certificate, her divorce decree, and her baptismal certificate. There will be a short form to fill out too. Hopefully her priest can give her some good pastoral advice in the process. She is in my prayers.


She needs to see her priest.

Neither the fact that the ceremony was in a non-Catholic church nor the subsequent abuse necessarily invalidate the marriage.

A marriage in a non-Catholic church can be valid if there is a dispensation to marry outside the Catholic form. Abuse, while tragic, does not invalidate a valid marriage. It depends on what was going on at the time the vows were exchanged.

Encourage her to see her priest. These questions cannot be answered here.


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