Not sure I am in the right forum for this question but I’ll give it a try. I spent this past year instructing an RCIA class in my parish; my first one. One of the candidates was a hopeful Catholic revert who was in the process of awaiting annulment of her Protestant husband’s first marriage. After almost a year now the letter arrived today from the diocese with denial of the annulment. I am devastated for her! She had gone to confession for the first time in many years and was so happy at the prospect of being Catholic again and receiving the Eucharist. My question is this. How do I show my support for her at this time? What advice can I give her? How can I show her that the church loves her, that Jesus loves her? I will pray but what do I pray for exactly? In her eyes the Church is turning her away and I admit, although I understand the Church teaching on marriage, I struggle with situations such as this. How can we mercifully help her draw closer to God? I promise our Protestant brothers and sisters are going to welcome her. I wish for her to feel the joy and complete happiness that can only exist, in my opinion in the Catholic Church which I believe to be the Church established by Christ. What would Jesus say to her? How would He convince her that He loves her after telling her she cannot have the close relationship to Him that she desires? Thank you.
The solution is to put God first and live a life of continence, that means no sexual relations.
In my case, it was my own marriage that had the validity reaffirmed through the annulment process and that may have made it more easy for me to deal with. This is what I’ve done, with a good degree of success…
Every time I start to think about how wonderful it would be to have another person in my life in that capacity, I sit down, close my eyes and meditate on the time I spent as a married person. I think about the many experiences of my married life. In just a few short moments I will have absolutely no desire in the least of pursuing a one on one relationship with someone of the opposite sex.
As I told my advocate and the tribunal of second instance, the annulment decision is a win/win situation. Either I get my annulment and I move on with my life trying to find a life partner, or I get declined the annulment, and I breathe easy knowing that if what I had was what God wanted for us in marriage, well I must be okay, because only a crazy person would want anything to do with the joke and farce that is marriage…
After a short meditation on my married life I suddenly have no desire to pursue a close one on one personal relationship with a person of the opposite sex…
John 9: 11 Who said: No man, Lord. And Jesus said: Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.
This sort of unkind, flippant answer gives CAF a bad reputation. The poster has asked a serious question about someone who is facing spending the rest of her life separated from a man she loves and has married in good faith, and your best response is that “marriage is a joke and a farce”. I am sure that advice will provide solace and succour down the decades ahead…
This confuses me. Is she already living as the wife of the Protestant Man? Why would she have to get the annulment? What about the original wife? I think I would try to find out the reason that the annulment was denied. It is possible that the original request was badly written/presented. There must be more to the situation. Peace and prayers for the both of you.
I want to come back to this and encourage her to not give up hope, keep going yo Mass and even confession. Even if she can not receive she is still a Catholic and can still go to confession. I really pray that it has a good resolution. M. E.
You have found, and early on, one of the most challenging pastoral situations one confronts in pastoral life and pastoral work. Yes, it is devastating. It is a journey of companionship that is never the same in terms of the path you will be walking and where all it will lead.
The circumstances make me wonder, ultimately, if the case might have been inadequately briefed on the part of/i behalf of the petitioner. Before beginning the process of appeal, she needs to consult a canon lawyer about this case and quickly. Unfortunately, cases are at times, for various reasons, inadequately prepared and therefore cannot be rightly adjudicated realistically by the tribunal.
The process is not over but she, and the gentleman whose prior bond is under scrutiny, must become decidedly more proactive and bring more resources to bear as far as his case.
Beyond that, you can be a companion to her but it will require now much more the intervention of the pastor of her parish and a canonist as she will need expertise to draw from that is theological as well as canonical.
She will also have to figure her way forward…her husband, who is not Catholic, will have to be part of the discussion since this concerns their marital relations and, ultimately, they will have to decide how they will proceed – both with the appeals and with their lives, their relationship and the practice of their faiths. No doubt, in addition to a pastor and a canon lawyer, she will need a friend. There are various possible outcomes, none of which are what one would wish to choose, from a human perspective.
This is not an unusual situation, unfortunately. She is not in need of an annulment. She is a Catholic who is returning to the practice of the faith. But she had married, at some point while not practicing her Catholic faith, a non-Catholic Christian who has a prior bond. His prior bond needed to be examined for a possible declaration of nullity. The declaration of nullity for him regarding his first wife was necessary in order for there to be the freedom to be able to proceed to validly contracting a marriage in the Church between the Catholic woman and the non-Catholic man who had been married to the first wife, divorced, and then married the current wife, the Catholic woman, outside the Church.
The latter marriage they had attempted, and are living, would have been invalid because of both his prior bond and, of course, she was bound to canonical form. Defect of form is overtaken however by the greater need to favourably resolve the prior bond, which has been sustained by the court of first instance.
While the Catholic party can and should continue going to Mass, without the intention to live in continence, which obviously concerns the non-Catholic gentleman as well as her, she could not approach either the sacrament of the Eucharist or the sacrament of reconciliation. For the confessor to grant absolution, the penitent must not be in a situation such as persevering in living as husband and wife with someone to whom they are, in fact, not married.
Both will need intense pastoral care…the gentleman to the extent he is willing and cooperative with a Church that will probably seem much less endearing at this moment. She under a number of titles.
While I agree with several of the previous answers to the OP I want to look at it from a different angle. One, God is not withholding anything from her. God does love her and wants to have a close relationship with her. If she feels the Church is turning her away then perhaps she needs to internalize what the Church teaches about marriage.
Why the tribunal made the decision it did IS part of God’s plan even if it is very difficult to understand at this time. Maybe you can pray for understanding for her in this situation. Pray she begins to learn God’s plan for her life. Pray there is clarity somewhere for her. Pray that she seeks spiritual direction to help her find peace with this.
I’ve worked with RCIA for years and am a marriage case advocate. I’ve also been through the tribunal process. I had a pretty clear cut case. My first husband is deceased and I had lost touch with my second husband after our divorce. When I converted a wise deacon nudged me to seek a decree of nullity even though I wasn’t married or considering marriage. Even though it was a paperwork case (he had a previous marriage with a living ex-spouse) I knew it would be very difficult to obtain the paperwork I needed. So I prayed. Then I decided to accept whatever outcome I would get. If I couldn’t obtain the documents I needed then I would consider myself a married woman living separately. However, God had other plans. I was able to located my ex-husband and he assisted me with getting the documents I needed to obtain a decree of freedom.
My point is we don’t know what God’s plan is for us. We don’t know the why, the reason He does what He does. We do know God calls us to be faithful and submit to His will. I’m not trying to uncharitable with this woman, I’m sorry she is going through this. I can’t imagine the pain she feels. I just know that trusting God with this is a pretty good option.
I agree with Horton. She CAN have a close personal relationship with Christ.
One must look at it through the lens of mercy though. Be there for her, encourage her, pray for her, and listen.
Don’t encourage her to do anything hasty.
As Father so wisely says, the couple needs to consult a canon lawyer on how to proceed with an appeal. Sometimes a more knowledgeable or different perspective can shed new light on something. You never know. I wouldn’t throw in the towel just yet.
God does indeed have a good and beautiful plan for them. You and I just can’t see it right now. Doesn’t mean He has abandoned either one of them.
God bless you for caring.
She will need lots and lots of pastoral support, and she will need friends on the parish -not people who undermine the teachings of the church or tell her that the church is “wrong,” but people who will welcome her to the things that are possible - attendance at Mass, being present for the Consecration, Bible studies, distributing food to the poor, and everything else a person can do who is unable to receive the Eucharist. Encourage these things and keep her involved in the parish community, while God works out her situation for the good.
My suggestion that she continue to go to confession was that she could receive some very good-intense advice-support from a priest. While it couldn’t be a sacrament?? it would be helpful in many ways. As she is already Catholic by baptism I think she could validly go to confession anyway. I may be wrong, but I am willing to learn. As a baptized Catholic and she does not continue a non-sacramental union I think she could be absolved of sin. There is always two sides to consider.
Yes. My cousin waited 20 YEARS for her annulment.
She never missed Mass, she went to Adoration, and she was very involved in ministries.
The problem is, she cannot be absolved of a sin she intends to continue to commit… in this case, having sexual relations with her husband is adultery since he is still married to his former wife because his previous marriage was found to be valid. Unless she and her husband agree to live as brother and sister, she cannot receive absolution. Therefore, she cannot go to confession and receive absolution.
She probably can and should receive pastoral counseling or spiritual direction, considering her situation. But not sacramental confession.
We don’t know if she continues to live in sin. I am sure her confessor advised her not as she was seeking an annulment. It is hard to judge how she and her husband are living. We don’t know.
If it was only as easy as living as brother and sister… It’s more than that. Much more. She needs to go to Mass out of town (or at least out of her area) lest she start a scandal. If these 2 people continue to cohabitate, it will cause all catholics that know them to believe they are living in sin. It would be… scandalous… And that is another sin. On top of the other sin they are committing.
At least that is what I’ve been told…
Her parish family would not be concerned, as it is none of their business.
Being “none of their business” certainly would not/did not stop anyone in my parish…
Also, I’ve always thought the church’s stance was to avoid scandal, even if it means attending mass out of area…
It would depend on whether anyone in the current parish is aware of the situation. If they are living as brother and sister and the priest has given permission for them to receive the Sacraments, then only those who know anything about the previous marriage could potentially be scandalized, but if the only people who know are the priest and the RCIA Catechists then it’s not really an issue.