NEED HELP! ... Annulment


This past weekend I was at my mother’s house for dinner, along with my two brothers (both of whom were baptized Catholic but are not active in their faith). My mom was married for 24 years to my father but they divorced about 10 years ago. They have since remarried.

Anyway, the topic of annulments came up and I told my mom she ought to look into it. She asked me whether it was church teaching that she was supposed to refrain from receiving the Eucharist and I explained that it was. Her new husband (also Catholic … both he and my mom are semi-active in their faith) spoke up and said the priest at their old church (someone he knew since childhood) told them they were fine and not to worry about it.

I prudently told them that a priest doesn’t have the power to negate church dogma and that he was wrong (I said this in the most polite way). My mom basically just said that there was no way she’d be able to get an annulment since she and my father were married so long. Plus she doesn’t want to “bastardize” us kids. (Her words.)

I told her that it wasn’t that way at all, but then my brother spoke up and said that annulments are just the church’s way of slipping out the back door of a marriage.

I’m sure glad my wife couldn’t make it to this dinner, because she was previously married and received an annulment.

Anyway, I really want to urge my mother toward getting an annulment and set her straight on church teaching. I also want to have a ready response for my brother, who’s awfully stubborn and doesn’t know about (or care much about) his Catholicism.

What do I say to him? And what chance would my mom have in receiving an annulment? She is happier than she’s ever been (she’s been remarried for awhile now, and her new husband is wonderful). The problem is, they continue to receive the Eucharist … and I don’t think either of them have any intention of looking into annulment.

For the record, he was previously married as well. And they got remarried in a Lutheran church.

I’m just a concerned son who wants to save his mother’s soul. Please help me.

Thank you,



You might want to read this first on the Catholic Answers main site. It answers most of your questions.

P.S. You are correct that if the remarried couple doesn’t have an annulment and is having sexual relations then they are not supposed to be presenting themselves for Communion.


Thanks, Marauder. I appreciate your directing me to that page.

I have another concern, which is hypothetical. Suppose they do seek annulment and are rejected. My mother is already remarried. What then? Is she to refrain from receiving the Eucharist the rest of her life? Is her soul in danger?

I’m just all torn up about this.


Or she can refrain from sexual relations, live as brother and sister, and recieve the Eucharist and protect her soul.


Yeah, that’s not gonna happen. I can’t imagine telling two married adults to live as brother and sister. Even though I know that in the eyes of the church they are not truly married … and I understand that living together as brother and sister is what is recommended. But I also know they’d be more likely to become cafeteria Catholics and continue receiving the Eucharist thinking they’ve done nothing wrong. Either that or just leave the Church all together. And I don’t want that happening.

I need something that I can tell her that might heighten her desire to seek an annulment.

This is really tough. :frowning:


Maybe if you know something about their first marriages that can assure them that they will probably get the annulment.

An example is that I knew a couple just like you are listing where the wife was violently abused by her first husband. I am sure she can easily claim that she didn’t know about this violent tendancy before the marriage, thus she entered the marriage built on a lie.

This would be grounds for an annulment.

Other things that make it easier involve things like improper form in the first marriage (i.e. one party was Catholic and they didn’t get a Catholic wedding without seeking a dispensation.)

The key is trying to bring them closer to God.


Actually it’s entirely possible that your mother has nothing to worry about. Sounds like an “Internal Forum” case to me. So perhaps the priest at their old church wasn’t “wrong”?


I have never heard of an Internal Forum. And after reading the literature found at that link, I don’t know that I am any more clear on what it is or what it entails. Regardless, I don’t think my mom and her new husband ever did anything formally w/ their old priest who told them they were okay to receive the Eucharist. As it was explained to me, they simply had a conversation with him.

I don’t know if this will help:

My mom herself believes her first marriage (to my father) was perfectly valid. It fell apart in its later years because she was suspicious of his fidelity (he has since remarried the woman my mother was suspicious of … they too have a very happy marriage and my mom and dad are friendlier now than they were when they were married).

I don’t know for sure that my dad cheated. Don’t really want to know.

My father never abused her.

Both my parents were Catholic when they married. Married within the Church. They were high school sweethearts. Brought me and my brothers up Catholic. But I seem to be the only one in my family who is very serious about his faith.

My mom hasn’t been to confession in a long, long time. I don’t know what else I could share that might help you to advise me.


Well, I highly recommend that you purchase the book Annulment: The Wedding That Was by Michael Smith Foster and give it to your mom to read.

It’s very easy reading and explains what a decree of nullity is, and what it isn’t.

You might buy several copies and give one to your brother and read it yourself also so you can be prepared to discuss the topic with him.

Lastly, as to your mother’s “chances”-- it has nothing to do with how long she was married or how long ago, it has only to do with whether or not an impediment existed when the vows were exchanged. Same for your step-dad, who would also have to seek a nullity declaration from his first marriage.


Yes, until such time as her first husband (your dad?) dies or until such time as she and her current spouse cease sexual relations.

That depends upon her full knowledge and free will. It is grave matter, definitely. But, mortal sin requires all three elements.

Continue to pray for them and trust in God’s mercy and his grace. Keep praying that they will take the steps to rectify the situation.


I’m assuming you mean your mother and stepfather.

Unless I’m missing something crucial, it seems obvious to me that they knew a Catholic wedding was out of the question, because I can’t see why two practicing Catholics (whether previously married or not) would want to get married in a Lutheran church. Therefore, they KNOW this marriage is not valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church. And they MUST know that two Catholics who are not validly married CANNOT receive the Eucharist. If their priest told them it was okay, then he has misled them badly. And, forgive me for saying so, it also seems they are too willing to be misled.

I will be surely praying for you and for them.


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