“Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” I accept church law as it applies to marriage, but I can’t begin to describe the despair that I feel knowing that no matter how much I repent, I am not forgiven in the eyes of the church for divorcing and remarrying 11 years later. I long to receive Christ in the Eucharist, because of my deep and abiding love for Him, and because I know that without his saving grace, I am lost and floundering. At this late stage of my life, I have decided to seek an annulment and try to set things right in the eyes of God and the Church. I am struggling with the feeling of abandonment. I am struggling with knowing that I am a lowly outcast in the Church. What is it that is left for me to do now as a Catholic. I attend mass, and it is the most difficult thing that I do all week – because it leaves me so very empty and longing for the Eucharist. Many times I am embarrassed by my tears during mass. What is it that I am still allowed to do? Can I go to confession? Does it matter, even though I will still be in a state of sin? If I die tomorrow, will I go straight to hell? I am reading Thomas Merton now – Seven Story Mountain. I am struck by the fact that despite his prior life of sin, he was still able to obtain forgiveness. Murderers and all manner of criminals can repent and obtain forgiveness. But those who divorce and remarry are evidently forever lost!
The reason that you need an annulment is that one cannot be validly married to two people at the same time. Jesus said that what God has joined together, no human may divide. The state simply does not have the authority or power to nullify a valid marriage. But if an essential element to a valid marriage can be proven to have been absent at the time of the wedding, then no marriage actually took place. So it is all very logical and really quite simple.
Now Catholics are not allowed to marry outside of the Catholic Church. For them to do so, results in an invalid marriage. So long as a Catholic lives in such a marriage, he or she commits a mortal sin every time he or she has sexual relations. BUT—if he or she chooses to be celibate until marrying in the Catholic Church, he or she may go to Confession and receive Holy Communion. Forgoing such relations until you are validly married should not be all that difficult for one who has an abiding love for the Lord as you say you have. You are in our prayers.
Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.