How does a convert to Lutheranism come back to the Catholic Church?

A friend of mine asked me to pray for her mom while I am on pilgrimage. She said that her mom was Catholic growing up but had to convert to Lutheranism when she married her husband. I hear many of these stories about how some parishes said they would not marry a couple unless the non Catholic converted or vice versa in other Christian churches.

But what does that mean if one converts? Does one renounce the Pope? :confused: Would that person be allowed to come back to the Catholic Church if s/he was widowed and the family pressure was off? What if they decided to come back while the spouse was still alive and both recognized what the other spouse was missing out by converting those 50 years ago…

Any advice, reading, notes, etc. would be appreciated!


Once someone is baptized a Catholic, they are essentially always considered a Catholic. There used to be a provision in canon law regarding those who had defected by a formal act, that provision was removed in 2009 and there are no longer any provisions in canon law that consider a person as having left the Church. In the eyes of the Church your friend’s mother is not a Lutheran, she is a “non practicing” Catholic. All she would need to do to “come back” is simply make a good confession and begin attending Mass on Sundays again. If her spouse is still alive then she would also need to speak to her parish priest about a simple process to have her marriage recognized by the Church.

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