No possibility of annullment, options?

If someone on a second marriage sees no possibility of recieving an annullment for the first marriage, are there any options? Can you still follow catholic teachings…do you live in a state of mortal sin forever? (non- catholic hoping to convert)

I think I understand the basics involved but with an uncoperative first husband and no witnesses due to estrangement with family, I doubt there would be the neccessary co-operation.

I have tried to simplify the situation and highlight my main concerns.

You really have no way of knowing what the possibility of an annulment is until you 1) talk to a priest and 2) start the process. Don’t waste time getting our opinions - get going and find out what is really possible or not. I’ll be praying for you.

Don’t assume… talk to the tribunal in your diocese and they will be able to guide you. From what I have seen from other posters on this board, cooperation by your former spouse may not even be necessary.

If you continue to live as husband and wife, that is, engaging in marital relations, with someone whom the Church does not consider your spouse, then yes, you are living in a state of mortal sin and cannot recieve the Eucharist. Some couples choose to live “as brother and sister” until they can get the marital issues cleared up, so that they may receive Eucharist.

Get help from the people who know how to help. Get contact info for the marriage tribunal in your diocese.

it is not necessarily true that non-cooperative ex or witnesses would delay the annulment proceedings or make the judgment of nullity impossible.

best way to find out is to proceed, give as many witness sources who can tell the story in a balanced accurate way about what conditions pertained at the of the marriage.

if “hostile witnesses” elect not to tell their side of the story, which is their right, then the decision will be made on your testimony and those of witnesses who back you up, which may not be a bad thing from your point of view.

You’ll have to go into detail with the priest.

Some things that come to mind though, are : Is your first husband Christian or Catholic? How about your current partner? There are anulements under different grounds. One if called the Pauline. This is where when one converts to Catholicism, and the husband does not wish to convert, an anulment may be granted so that the convert can marry a Christian. I don’t really know much about it but I did read about it somewhere.

Don’t give up hope on God’s calling for you to explore and embrace the Catholic Church.

Thanks everyone, I knew in my heart that I needed to speak to my local priest but we both sit on the same board of governors at my childs school and I’m struggling a bit with approaching him.

First husband is muslim, second husband is catholic (non practising) we were married by a minister of my protestant church.

Don’t give up home on God’s calling for you to explore and embrace the Catholic Church.

Thanks Sina, I have never been more terrified, confused and content in all my life!! :smiley:

I used to be nervous about talking to a priest, especially as a new convert back 9 years ago, but it gets easier and you realize they are just regular guys! ( with an extra special job ). Plus they have seen and heard it all and they are very good with confidentiality.

ALOT of people have been in your position.

You will get the best information from your priest (even if you haven’t converted yet) as he is the one who initiates the anulment process.

I would suggest you also pick up a copy of the book Annulment: The Wedding That Was by Michael Smith Foster.

You definitely need to explore everything with your priest and see what kind of case you have for nullity.

The fact that your first husband was a Muslim, and therefore unbaptized, does open up the *possibility *of dissolving even a valid marriage via the Petrine Privilege. It’s something to be explored.

I thought it was Pauline Privilege that applied to a non-believer?

Oh jeez, now we’re really gonna confuse the poor girl. :wink:

She was baptized though. Pauline Privelege for two unbaptized parties, where one later becomes baptized.

Pauline Privilege applies to two non-baptized persons when one wants to become baptized or does become baptized and the other leaves the marriage.

In the OP’s case, she was already baptized.

Petrine Privilege applies to a baptized person married to an unbaptized person who wants to marry a Catholic or become a Catholic.

I went off and checked that elsewhere, Pauline is when both are not baptised, Petrine, is when one is baptised (as I was) Petrine is decided by the Holy Father in Rome. I’m surmising so I don’t forget the words! :smiley:

If the priest decides to go down the Petrine route I go into something called Legim…Ligamen…something like that, sorry not really sure what the word is or even what it means.

Will pop in and see the priest. He’s really lovely, nothing at all to be scared of. I just wasn’t keen on airing all that “dirty linen” to people who know nothing of it.

Priests seem to be blessed with the ability to always see you as the person you are, not as the dirty laundry once associated with you. So, be as candid and forthcoming as is needed.

Errr… Petrine privilege is when you have several wives and you choose to stay with one of them other than the first one you married.

We generally would not describe dissolution in cases of polygamy (canons 1146-1148) as a “Petrine privilege.” I have never heard it so described, at least in my circles.

The reason is that there is no need for the intervening exercise of papal authority involved in the dissolution involving a polygamous convert. Look at those canons.

So 1ke is broadly correct in reference to the “Petrine privilege” but it may also be granted in favor of the faith a little more broadly than depicted in that post.

There’s a summary handy at but there are several other factors and conditions involved which exceed the scope of an internet forum.

As to the earlier comment on ligamen, I have no idea why that would be involved, but the poster’s (or anyone’s) best course of action is always to consult the parish priest and not to rely on any forum.

Get the parish priest to recommend a canon lawyer to help with the process of annulment. You don’t go into a divorce court without a lawyer to protect your rights and interests. Don’t go into a court of canon law without similar assistance. Sir Thomas More (much later St. Thomas) was always astonished at the naivety of litigants who thought that consulting legal counsel was unnecessary.


You never know whether the cooperation/noncooperation will help or hurt your situation. When dh and I both went to try to annul our previous marriages we both faced people who would not cooperate or people we prayed would not cooperate.

First… nobody has seen my ex for years… not even his own mom! But yet in the end, his sister asked me if she could help by writing a statement to the tribunal for me… where my own family didn’t want to participate (thankfully my sister did return the paperwork)

Now with DH… he and his ex were not Catholic, but his ex is a nosy control freak and we have no idea to this day if she ever responded… but dear Lord his brother used the forms to tell the tribunal everything he thinks is wrong with the Catholic Church!

Both our cases went to different tribunals because of where he was confirmed and married Lutheran… and mine went to my own diocese… which is one of the toughest in the country.

Both of us were granted our decree of nullity for different reasons… but dh did have to go to counseling (about 4 sessions) before we could get married.

You really won’t know until you talk to a priest and start the process… don’t worry about who will or won’t participate.

I too was previously married to a Muslim in a civil ceremony. I am Lutheran. My fiancé is Catholic and we would like to get married in the Catholic Church. Is an annulment still necessary for me?


Yes, you would need either a declaration of nullity OR a dissolution of the marriage. To clear up any questions/misunderstandings:

There are essentially 4 types of nullity/dissolution cases. I’ll list and describe the 4 types.

  1. Pauline Privilege - this may be given when NEITHER party was a baptized Christian, AND one party wishes to be baptized and (I believe) marry a Catholic, AND this party was not the primary cause of the marriage breakdown. In this case, the bishop may dissolve the marriage. This is NOT a declaration of nullity; it is a dissolution of a valid, natural marriage.

  2. Petrine Privilege (Favour of the Faith) - this may be given when ONE party was baptized AND the other party was not, AND the baptized party was not primarily responsible for the marriage breakdown, AND (I believe) the baptized party wishes to marry a Catholic. In this case, the Pope may dissolve the marriage. As with the Pauline Privilege, this is NOT a declaration of nullity; it is the dissolution of a valid, natural marriage.

  3. Documentary procedure - this is done for cases where the marriage was not valid and the grounds can be proven “on paper”. For example, if there was a prior bond of marriage, or if one or both parties were Catholic and married outside the Church without permission, this would apply. This usually only takes a few weeks as no witnesses are required. This is a declaration of nullity, i.e. a statement that a valid marriage never existed.

  4. Formal nullity trial - this is the most common scenario. If neither the Pauline nor Petrine privileges apply, and the grounds cannot be proven on paper, a formal nullity trial is required. This requires the petitioner to submit a basic questionnaire and, likely, have a formal interview. Witnesses will also be called for questioning, and additional evidence (e.g. police reports, medical reports, counselling records, etc.) may be required. This is a declaration of nullity, i.e. a statement that a valid marriage never existed. A formal nullity trial usually takes 12-18 months or so, depending on the nature of the case. Of note, although it’s called a “trial” there’s usually no “courtroom” procedure; most things are conducted through correspondence or through a private taped interview with the parish priest and/or a member of the tribunal staff. A panel of canon law experts will decide, by a simple majority vote, whether or not the marriage is valid based on the evidence provided. Subsequently a second tribunal reviews the evidence and also votes on the outcome. Only once two affirmative (i.e. marriage not valid) decisions are received is one free to marry.

Catholics believe that, in the absence of documentary evidence to the contrary (i.e. things you can prove “on paper”) every marriage is valid until proven otherwise. If one or both parties is not baptized, the marriage is a natural marriage. If both parties are baptized at the time of the wedding or are baptized after the wedding, the marriage is a sacramental marriage. A valid, sacramental marriage can be dissolved only by the death of one of the spouses. Consequently a formal nullity trial is required, at the very least, when both parties are baptized, UNLESS there is evidence that can prove “on paper” that the marriage was not valid, as I have described above. Grounds for proving a marriage invalid can include things like not intending to be faithful, not freely consenting to marriage (e.g. giving consent only because of pregnancy or because one was “forced” to marry), not intending to be married for life, not being open to at least the possibility of children, etc. These are usually nebulous, which is why a formal nullity trial is required.

Forum rules request we not resurrect threads over 1 year old. Perhaps the Mods will split this off.

You are not currently free to marry, and your first marriage will have to be examined. Since you were married to a non-Christian, there are two avenues: decree of nullity or Petrine Privilege. If your ex was previously married, Ligamen is also a possibility.

You need to meet with your fiance’s Catholic priest as soon as possible. No wedding can move forward unless you are declared free to marry.

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