Marrying someone who is divorced


#1

Hello,

My wife and I are both life-long Catholics, although not always practicing. I have always believed divorce to be a sin, unless there was good reason (i.e. infidelity, abuse), but I recently (as I said, haven’t always been a practicing Catholic!) came across this passage:

“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

Now here is my problem. My wife married young, to a non-Catholic of another Christian denomination. She later divorced him. Although she has never been open to discussing that previous relationship, I believe it was due to abuse (mainly verbal abuse), but not infidelity. Fast forward a bit and we met and eventaually got married. We indicated to our priest who married us that she was previously married, but to a non-Catholic and not in a Catholic Church. So the priest married us in a Catholic wedding, leading me to believe this was all good in the eyes of the Lord. Note: this is my first (and only) marriage.

Upon reading the bible passage above, it appears that sexual immorality is the only valid reason for divorce. If this is the case, then my wife’s divorce is not valid and I am committing adultery by having married her. And if this is true, then my only way to stop living in a state of mortal sin would be to divorce my wife, which itself is a mortal sin. Is this correct?? or is God as happy with our marriage as my wife and I are?

Thanks for any responses!


#2

Correct. Your wife’s first attempt at marriage was invalid due to lack of form (she got married to a non-Catholic outside the Catholic Church without the proper dispensation from her bishop to do so). She was free to marry you.

This is why Sola Scriptura is so dangerous. Reading one bible passage out of context can lead to erroneous conclusions. We must always make sure we are understanding Scripture with the mind of the Church. The Church’s teaching on marriage guides us.

That is also a faulty translation. See here:

Matthew 19:9
I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”

And Matthew 5: 31-32

See the explanation of the term from the Greek porneia provided here as a footnote to Matthew 5:31-32.

There are many things that can make a marriage unlawful (i.e. invalid). This passage is one basis of the concept of nullity in marriage. One such example is the marriage your wife attempted, a marriage outside the Church. It is a violation of our Church law, therefore not valid.

No this is not correct. Be at peace. If your wife was not free to marry, you would not have been able to proceed at the time the premarital investigation was conducted.

You are getting worked up over nothing.


#3

thanks 1ke. perhaps I am getting worked up over nothing. I did, at your suggestion, look up the meaning of the Greek “porneia” and it does seem like it pertains to being unlawful in a sexually immoral sense (as in an incestual relationship). with this stricter reading, it might be interpreted that even infidelity is not a valid reason for divorce. so in your attempt to set me at ease, I think I’m now even more worked up! :wink:

I think what would be helpful is to understand what the Church views as an “unlawful” marriage.


#4

You are. In fact, you are basically saying that you don’t believe your priest knows what he is doing.

Please stop it.

Please know that the Church is our sure guide.

There are many impediments to valid marriage. They are listed in canon law.

Your wife’s first marriage had the impediment of lack of form. Your wife wasn’t validly married. The civil ending of an invalid marriage is not sinful.

What would be helpful is if you trust your priest.


#5

fair enough!


#6

In the Catholic tradition, one can argue that there are two kinds of marriage:

  1. Valid Marriage
    — via Sacramental Marriage
    Natural Marriage
  2. Invalid / Irregular Marriage (which are not marriages in the eyes of the Church)

Only death can dissolve a Sacramental Marriage. In order for a marriage to be Sacramental, it must be between two Baptized people, who essentially took their vows seriously and establishes into a vow between the two spouses and God.

A Natural Marriage typically cannot be dissolve either, without a Petrine Privilege, Pauline Privilege, or some other annulment. A Natural Marriage is any marriage where one or both of the spouses are not baptized. However, it’s equally binding if the vows were taken seriously. If both spouses become baptized, their marriages becomes Sacramental during the Baptism without any additional Rites, etc.

Now, an Invalid or Irregular marriage is when something at the time of the marriage kept the Sacrament from taking place. Often, this is something the priest or even one/both of the spouses don’t see at the time. Example: one spouse is simply going through the motions at the wedding and doesn’t believe in the vows and breaks them. The fact that the spouse didn’t believe in the vows could mean that their soul wasn’t in the proper place during the wedding, preventing the Sacrament from taking hold.

All marriages are assumed to be valid, unless there is reason to believe they are not. In your wife’s case, she was Catholic and didn’t get married in the Church (and didn’t seek dispensation). Which means that at the time of her first marriage, she didn’t understand the Catholic believe regarding the Sacrament of Marriage. If she did, she would have been married in the Church or received a dispensation. So in her situation, its pretty easy for the Church to assume that the soul was properly prepared to perform and receive the Sacrament.

When two non-Catholics did married, it’s harder for the Church to figure out if the couple didn’t intend to honor their vows or didn’t understand Christian marriage.


#7

I’m going to attempt to explain this from a layman’s understanding, which may not be totally theologically or canonically correct; but should be a good 1000 foot view of the situation.

In the Catholic tradition, one can argue that there are two kinds of marriage:

  1. Valid Marriage
    a) via Sacramental Marriage
    b) via Natural Marriage

  2. Invalid / Irregular Marriage (which are not marriages at all in the eyes of the Church)

  3. A valid marriage is any marriage between the bride, groom & God.

In order for a marriage to be Sacramental, it must be between two Baptized people, who essentially took their vows seriously and establishes into a vow between the two spouses and God. Only death can dissolve a Sacramental Marriage.

A Natural Marriage typically cannot be dissolve either, unless dissolved by the Pope via a Petrine or Pauline Privilege. A Natural Marriage is any marriage where one or both of the spouses are not baptized. However, it’s equally binding if the vows were taken seriously. If both spouses become baptized, their marriages becomes Sacramental during the Baptism without any additional Rites, etc.

All marriages are assumed to be valid, unless there is reason to believe they are not.

  1. Now, an Invalid or Irregular marriage is when something at the time of the marriage keeps the Sacrament from taking place (or would prevent the Sacrament from taking place if both are Baptized). Often, this is something the priest or one/both of the spouses doesn’t see at the time.

Example: one spouse is simply going through the motions at the wedding and doesn’t believe in the vows and breaks them. The fact that the spouse didn’t believe in the vows could mean that their soul wasn’t in the proper place during the wedding, preventing the Sacrament from taking hold.

A 2nd example is when two people are forced into marriage. For example, two kids are dating and fornicate. Then, girlfriend gets married and they get married because they feel it’s the right thing to do. But they didn’t want to get married in the first place and only did it for the child. Then, it’s possible that the Sacrament didn’t take place if one didn’t really want to get married.

Third (yet similar) example: Couple moves in together before getting married, but then boyfriend starts to think that he doesn’t want to marry his girlfriend. But they have already moved into together and he’s too afraid to break it off, because he does like her and respects her parents. Then, she starts talking about she wants to get married. So they do, but he really didn’t want to, he went along with it to keep her happy. In that instance, it’s possible that the Sacrament never took place.

In your wife’s case, she was Catholic and didn’t get married in the Church (and didn’t seek dispensation). Which means that at the time of her first marriage, she didn’t understand the Catholic teachings regarding the Sacrament of Marriage. If she did, she would have been married in the Church or received a dispensation. So in her situation, its pretty easy for the Church to safely assume that the soul was properly prepared to perform and receive the Sacrament. But when two non-Catholics marry, it’s harder to tell without more in-depth investigation, because their choice of ceremony doesn’t reflect their beliefs. So the annulment process must take place.


#8

Some priests are lax with policies. It’s a good idea to get a second opinion in doubt.

I once went to a church where we rarely had confession, and I can’t remember ever seeing anyone pray the rosary.

We didn’t have kneelers. The sister did liturgical dance.

We voted, did away with the Creed in mass.

On occasion, instead of Father, he would say “Mother” and changed the “Prodigal Son” to the “Prodigal Daughter” one time.

We didn’t have holy water anywhere.

We mostly came in shorts, even in the folk group.

We had a guy who was openly gay with a pink triangle on his guitar strap who was later elected as an officer.

Priests are human, sometimes make mistakes, and if in doubt, best to check it out.


#9

I’m not trying to be confrontational or rude, but I frankly find your tone irritating and uncalled for. I’ve seen you respond this way in several other posts, and it’s incredibly disheartening.

The original poster asked his questions in good faith. He was earnest. He said, “I don’t know, please help me.” And you answer in the most elitist and dismissive way imaginable. Is your intention to make him feel bad for finding this forum, registering, and asking a question about something important in his life? Because your answer(s) sank my heart. They were hateful, honestly.

His understanding of the teachings is misled, that much has been established. But I can think of a million other ways his question could have been answered that included kindness, encouragement, open arms, and not such an angry sense of frowning judgment. Show the way. Don’t yell it.


#10

No that is not my intention, and no they were not hateful. This is your opinion (you are free to not read my posts by the way if you do not like them, that is what the ignore button is for).

The OP seems to be doubting his marriage and is ready to leave his wife based on one scripture passage and his interpretation of it. And after answering that he is indeed validly married, he replies that he is even MORE worried and afraid. This points towards something beyond a simple question. He should talk to his pastor, as perhaps he has scrupulous or OCD type tendencies. At any rate, posting here is making him MORE anxious, not less.

Forum posters come in all shapes and sizes, and many come here who have serious issues. They need the spiritual guidance of their priest.

So, OP, if my post to you came across as rude, please know** that was not my intention**.

Thank you for your unsolicited condemnation of my attempt to help people. Perhaps kindness, encouragement, open arms, and the benefit of the doubt could have been extended to me as well, rather than an angry sense of frowning judgment.


#11

Even though your wife’s first marriage was recognized as valid by the state, your wife didn’t jump through all the hoops necessary for the Church to recognize her first marriage as valid. So, as far as the Church is concerned, your wife and her “first husband” were never married and your marriage with her is her first marriage. Jesus’ teaching against divorce and remarriage refers to marriages recognized as valid by the Church.


#12

I think you’re good insofar as the Church is concerned and can now relax. :thumbsup:

I believe you were right to seek reassurance, though, because you had a valid question (and that’s one of the reasons CAF is here, to answer questions on the faith!), but be at peace, now. All is well.


#13

Did you mean to say “that the soul WASN’T properly prepared…?” otherwise it would seem contrary to the point you were trying to make.


#14

doubting yes, in the sense that I am not sure of its validity with the Church. But I certainly do not doubt my relationship with my wife and the family we are raising. I have no intention of leaving her! I was only pointing out the paradox that if my marriage is a sin, then I would have to end it, which also is a sin. kind of hard to wrap your head around!

also, definitely OCD, but not scrupulous. I am just getting ready for my first reconciliation in 25 years so have been doing a lot of self reflection, and in so doing became concerned about this issue. by the way, I didn’t take your post in a bad way. I appreciate your candor. but I also appreciate your support Merlin. thanks all.


#15

In doing some research on this issue, I’ve come to an interesting theory/understanding. The original Greek “pornea” literally translates to fornication, which of course means sex between two unmarried people. So how can it be that the only exception allowing divorce is fornication? Two married people cannot fornicate by definition. And therein lies the Catholic (and Jesus’s) teaching. If for whatever invalidating reason the married couple isn’t actually married, then they are fornicating. So because the marriage is invalid or unlawful, they can divorce, because technically it’s not even really a divorce. I wonder if this is God’s way of allowing invalidating reasons to change - by authority of the Church - as society changes since this leaves it fairly open-ended (i.e. the bible does not define what invalidates a marriage).


#16

We have people on the forum, with scrupulosity, who sometimes struggle with reconciliation. They think they need to spend hours in the confessional!

Well, let me tell you what I do. I get out some form of examination of conscience similar to this:

usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/penance/examinations-of-conscience.cfm

I go down the list of mortal sins.

Then, I go…First Commandment…estimate number of times…

Second commandment number times…estimate, approximately with each commandment.

So, with each commandment, I think it gives the priest an idea of how entrenched each sin is. If it’s a one-time thing, it’ll be a different matter, possibly, then if it’s the thousandth time. Do you see their point?

So…I go…

First Commandment…x number of times.

Second commandment …x …

Third commandment…

Things that may fall out of that, I summarize it into some brief form, what I did, failed to do…say the number of times.

I can generally do a confession in about 5 min., but I go with a list.

I don’t go into detail on the sins, generally, unless the priest asks for it. Generally, they don’t want, or need, all the details.

I’ve even had priests compliment me on my confessions. I once had where I went 10 years or so without going to confession, told the priest I wanted to do a sweeping general confession.

I went armed, list in hand, breezed down that list, but even so, he said he thought I did a “good confession” to a point he complimented me on my thoroughness.

Also, besides the completeness, I’ve been complimented on my brevity! :wink:

I used to do these long rambling confessions, not go in with an Examination of Conscience. Actually, I didn’t even know to do an Examination of Conscience till I went at one place that had these pamphlets outside the door as a guideline.

Otherwise, some people think they have nothing to confess…I haven’t killed anybody…I haven’t stolen…raped anybody…nothing to confess.

However, under the umbrella of theft, say, would come everything from cheating on one’s income tax to probably taking credit for an idea that wasn’t your own.

Under “murder” comes even losing one’s temper.

Under sexual sin is even the desire of it.

That’s why the Examination of Conscience is so helpful, but it’s not advisable to get hung up on confession, stay in there unduly or worry unnecessarily.

You go down your list, estimate the times, and do it to the best of your ability, and that’s all one can be expected to do.

If one still worries after doing all that, then it probably falls under scrupulosity and needs attention for either a counselor or a priest, or both.

In either case, be it your marriage, that issue is resolved. You can rest easy and let go of worry. As to confession, do as they suggest, and again, let it go.

With St. Faustina, she felt after confession as if maybe she hadn’t been forgiven. It was said Jesus said he felt so hurt by that, that he said he felt more hurt by her doubting his forgiveness than he felt hurt by the sin she was confessing!

So, with confession, do your best, and then think, “Jesus, I trust in you!” If that doesn’t help, it’s scrupulosity.


#17

I’d like to throw another wrinkle into this if I may, simply out of curiosity. Let’s say person A (a Catholic) marries person B (of any faith, could be Catholic) and that this is person A’s first marriage, but person B is divorced. Now let’s say person A and B become divorced. Is person A free to marry in the eyes of God and the Church? My thinking is that the marriage between A and B never actually happened (i.e. was not valid) because A and B could not get married in the first place due to B’s divorce. A and B were simply living together in an adulteress relationship, but were not actually married in the eyes of God. So A was sinful and must ask forgiveness, but is free to marry. is this a correct line of thinking?


#18

The laws on marriage are complicated. The basic law is the Natural Law, with additional clarifications by Jesus Himself, and finally by the Church which possesses the power to bind and loose.

My basic impression would be that the priest who married you understood the situation and found no impediment.

If I has scruples at this late date, I would seek spiritual counsel for a trusted priest who has worked with marriage cases rather than asking laymen who are not really familiar with all the facts and probably not Canon lawyers.

.


#19

It is more complex that that. You do not specify where A and B married, whether the first marriage had been examined for nullity, whether the parties of the first marriage were baptized, and other factors.

Simply put, we cannot say. It is pointless to try to construct hypotheticals of this nature, because the specific details matter when it comes to marriage.

What we *can *say is that if person A is a Catholic, that person must marry in the Church or receive a dispensation from form to marry elsewhere or they do not marry validly.

If Person A marries B outside the Church without dispensation that marriage is invalid not because of B’s prior marriage but because of A’s attempt of marriage outside the Church.

If A married in the Church, then the prior bond of B would already have been dealt with and B would have been free to marry, hence the marriage between A and B would be valid.

And, we cannot say something is invalid due to B’s divorce, but rather because of B’s prior bond (unless B’s prior bond is shown to be invalid or it is dissolved).

It is not the *divorce *that is the issue.


#20

yes, thanks - typo :blush:


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