As someone beginning RCIA in four days and awaiting specific information from my priest regarding the initiation of the annulment process, I find myself becoming very nervous. I know that conversion to Catholicism is the right path for me, but I’m concerned that my past will come back to haunt me. I know that only my priest and the tribunal can give me specific information and make decisions regarding my annulment, but I’ve been making an effort to do a little research in order to be prepared for what lies ahead – and honestly, there are a lot of horror stories out there.
I was born and raised Pentecost – save a foray into the Baptist church (where I was baptized) for about year when I was nine – stopped going to church from ages sixteen to twenty-two, and entered the Methodist church at the age of twenty-two to appease my then-fiance and his family (I’m not 100% certain, but I assume he was baptized into the Methodist church as a baby). I never felt comfortable there and stopped attending about six months before our divorce (which was two years ago). At the time of my marriage, I know I never intended to want a divorce, but it happened (for reasons I won’t detail here) and it has only been since the civil divorce that I have even begun to explore the Catholic faith and, eventually, be led to conversion. Until now, I always assumed my civil divorce would be sufficient, as it would be in any Protestant church I have been part of – and I did believe that to be so at the time of my marriage.
In my research, I’ve spoken with some people who seem to think I should not encounter any major issues in obtaining an annulment simply because the marriage was not in the Catholic church and neither of us were Catholic at the time. Others seem to think it might be an issue because we were both baptized (though not into the Catholic faith) and were married by a pastor in a church (though not a Catholic church). I don’t know what to think. I’m sick at the idea of facing “punishment” – because I truly would like to find, marry, and have a family with the right person – for the rest of my life because I married someone I shouldn’t have when I was younger. My ex-husband has now remarried and started a family of his own, and I’m happy he has been able to do that. I simply want the same privilege with the blessing of my new faith.
So, my question is this: From those of you who have experienced the annulment process or have some knowledge of it, what kinds of things – in your opinion and/or experience – can I expect to encounter? Should I expect this process to be one I will have to navigate for years, or can I reasonably hope this will be a straightforward process? And, since I am not remarried or engaged, should I still be able to be confirmed with the rest of my RCIA class in May even if we are still awaiting the decision on my annulment, or will I, as a candidate, have to wait until the annulment is granted?