Is an annulment needed?

My husband and I are very interested in converting to Catholicism. We plan to begin attending RCIA classes in the fall. I am very concerned though about a previous marriage of mine.

I was married for three years at age 20 and divorced due to my ex-husband’s alcoholism and physical abuse. I was baptized in the United Church of Christ as a child at my own request and do not even know if my ex was baptized at all. He may have been baptized in a Baptist church as a baby but I couldn’t really say.

Part of the problem is, due to the abuse, I’ve had no contact with these people and wouldn’t even know how to go about contacting them with regard to ex’s baptism, etc. I’m also concerned because I’ve read that ex would have to fill out paperwork telling his side of the story and am concerned as to his honesty. I do not want this to keep me from being able to convert.

Can you tell me, would an annulment even be necessary? My husband to whom I’m married now has never been married.

Dear B,

You will need an annulment in order to become a Catholic. The Catholic Church still recognizes that marriage as valid. The state does not have the power to disolve what God has joined together. This being said, the Catholic Church cannot, therefore, recognize your present marrage as valaid.

The aim of the annulment process is to prove that some essential element was missing at the time of the wedding (like psychological maturity). While it is necessary that an attempt be made to contact the former spouse, if this proves impossible or if the spouse is uncooperative, the annulment process can still proceed.

It sounds like the man could very well have been problematic when you married him. If there is evidence for this, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting the annulment. Once the marriage is annuled, you may then have your present marriage blessed by the Church when you make your profession of faith as a Catholic. See your priest about this soon. You are in our prayers.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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