Marriage before Catholicism


John and Jane are atheists, they marry in a registry office but after a few years split up and get divorced.

John meets another woman (Hannah) who is also an atheist and marries her in a registry office.

A couple of years later John and Hannah fall in love with the Catholic Church and want to be Catholics, what happens to them?

Does the priest tell the they must part from each other as John is married still to Jane in the eyes of the church? What if they agreed to commit to a platonic relationship?

Just wondering how the marriage before Catholicism works.



The Catholic Church recognizes marriages among non-Catholics and assumes they are valid unless and until proven otherwise.

The assumption would be that John and Jane had a valid marriage and John was not free to marry Hannah.

If John and Hannah now want to become Catholic, John will need to work with the Tribunal to determine if his first marriage was valid. Anything that follows would depend on what the Tribunal finds.



If some or all of the people in question are unbaptized, Pauline or Petrine Privilege may also be an avenue.

closed #4

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