Have an annulment question

If a protestant is divorced from an unbaptised person, does that marriage need to be annulled before the Protestant can marry a Catholic?

Freedom to marry is determined for every person who approaches the church for marriage.

Prior bond (a prior valid marriage) is an impediment to contracting marriage. So, any situation with a prior bond requires further investigation. Whether that ultimately results in the person needing a decree of nullity or not depends on all the facts that the pastor gathers when examining the situation.

When a marriage involves a baptized non-Catholic (and non-Orthodox) and an unbaptized person there are several different avenues of pursuit depending on the specifics of the case.

The two people wishing to marry should make an appointment with the Catholic’s pastor and start the premarital investigation of freedom to marry.

This chart has been on different diocesan websites over the years, and it’s a good overview:


Thank you for your response. I am wondering if they qualify for the Petrine privilege. The Protestant person is engaged to my father. They wanted an August wedding. They are very disappointed to learn about this annulment situation. (my father is widowed and 87!) My father’s fiance wants to convert. She is baptized, her ex is not. The ex left her and has had 5 more marriages since. They already met with the priest. He told them that they would need the annulment. But… He has never done this before! He was calling the bishop to ask for assistance. It is my understanding that the Petrine Privilege would be much faster. And it doesn’t appear that the priest knows what he is doing. If it appears that they qualify, I will tell them to talk to the priest about it. Just wanted some clarification. Thank you so much!

In my experience, it is not faster.

Yes, quite possibly. That would be one avenue to pursue, because the ex is unbaptized.

Well, hopefully it will work out. Also, if the protestant’s ex is dead then there is no prior bond. So, given the ages, that should be looked into.

That is wise.

That is quite possible.

Another question, was the ex married prior to his marriage to your intended new stepmother?

It was the first marriage for both of them. She did remarry, but he passed away. The ex is still alive.

From what I have read, it seems like they qualify for the Petrine Privilege. My next questions are… I would assume that she would be granted an annulment considering that he married 5 more times afterwards. Is there any benefit to trying for the annulment first? Is the Petrine Privilege more costly?

Would someone be so kind as to briefly explain what the Petrine privilege is? Thanks in advance!

Here’s the plain language version.

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I would not necessarily consider the Petrine Privilege faster as it must go to the Bishop who will collect information and then if he approves he would send the case to the CDF in Rome who would review it before forwarding it to the Pope. There is also no guarantee that the privilege would be granted.

Its also important to remember that the Petrine Privilege is a dissolution of the bond and not a declaration of nullity. That means the initial marriage is considered valid and only ceases if/when the dissolution is granted. Because of that there are different conditions that must be met with regard to the petitioner’s conduct.

One final note, never assume a declaration of nullity will be granted. While the multiple attempts at marriage might be indicative of defective consent, they are not proof.

If this was a couple that showed up in my office, I would have to tell them that no wedding date could be set until an affirmative declaration or dissolution had been obtained to resolve the question of the bride’s freedom to marry.

OK, thank you for your help. I have such a difficult time understanding how it is that a nonsacramental marriage even needs an annulment. The ex is unbaptised and atheist, that’s not a union brought together by God. I can understand why two baptized people would need an annulment, but not this. Just learned something new, I guess…

What the Tribunal will be looking at (unless they try to have the marriage dissolved by Petrine Privilege ) is whether the first marriage was valid. The Church does not teach that valid, natural marriages are not brought together by God

I felt like I was off as I was writing that. Thank you!

Marriage under the natural law, where both parties are free to marry yet not both baptized, are valid.

Validity and Sacramentality are different things.

Every Sacramental marriage is presumed valid. Every valid marriage is not Sacramental.

Like every Cadillac is a vehicle, yet, not every vehicle is a Cadillac.

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Marriage is a natural estate, and it predates Christ and the Church. God ordained marriage from the beginning.

Marriage is governed by divine law and ecclesial (church) law. The covenant of marriage has the essential properties of perpetuity, fidelity, and fecundy. Any person can enter marriage, not just Catholics and not just the baptized. If they intend a lifelong, faithful, frutiful marriage (or do not positively exclude these elements) and freely consent without any impediment (i.e. coercion, fear, fraud, etc) then they can marry validly.

If someone has married, they are not free to marry another even if they divorce civilly, unless it can be shown they weren’t validly married (had an impediment or a defect of consent) or in the case of the unbaptized if they receive a dissolution of a valid, natural bond.

Christ raised natural marriage to the dignity of a sacrament. The sacramental character makes a valid, sacramental (consummated) marriage indissoluble by anything other than death.

So the unbaptized can have a valid marriage that has limited circumstances under which it can be dissolved, and they can also have invalid marriages because they were not validly contracted with proper consent or they had an impediment.

What doesn’t apply to non-Catholics and the unbaptized when it comes to contracting a valid marriage are ecclesial laws on marriage unless they are marrying a Catholic (so for example, Catholic form is a church law, not a divine law).


I really appreciate the responses. They are very helpful and help me to better understand. Thank you!

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