Sticky Annulment Problem

I’m in a very awkward situation. Some time ago I began exploring the Catholic faith and last year entered RCIA. I’ve studied hard, read everything I can find, and now I have an intense love for the Church. Last weekend everyone in my RCIA group was received into the church - except me. Why? Because my wife, who is not Catholic and does not want to be, had a previous marriage and she refuses to apply for an annulment.

Obviously this is very delicate and the priest advised me not to create conflict by pushing her about it. I’ve tried for months to gently persuade her to do the paperwork. She won’t budge. There is little doubt her prior marriage would be found null, but she sees no reason why *she *should jump through the church’s hoops when I’m the one who wants to be Catholic.

For my part, I understand the church teaching on marriage and I don’t expect any special favors. My problem is how to accept my current status, ie I can go to mass but not receive communion. I find myself resenting the other people when they go forward. I get angry at my wife for putting me in this position. When the priest elevates the host, I look down because I can’t stand to see what I am forbidden to touch.

As gently as everyone tries to put it, the fact is that the church presumes that I am an adulterer, and there is nothing I can do to prove otherwise. When I walk in the church I feel like I’m wearing a scarlet letter A on my chest and I worry what people must think about me.

Any advice or prayers are greatly appreciated. Thank you.

I don’t know about advice, but I will pray for you:)

This is a sticky problem, and it sounds like since your wife has no interest in the Catholic Church, so she thinks there is no reason she should do anything to help you out in being received into the Church. Certainly there are eternal consequences to the situation you now find yourself in, but your wife needs to see the earthly consequences. I am sure that your priest gave you the option of living with your wife as brother and sister. Don’t you think that might get her attention and show her how seriously you take your faith. I think this is a situation where some sacrifice is called for. Maybe you need to take the lead.

It looks like your wife has simply decided to be a problem. Basically, her wish not to investigate that previous marriage - or her wish to avoid the proceedings - or her wish to have nothing to do with Catholic tribunals - is more important to her at this moment than you are.

Since her first marriage is to be assumed valid until proven otherwise, marital relations are indeed not supposed to take place - your marriage with her is not valid at this moment for all I can tell. You cannot have any obligation which is contrary to the law, which means you aren’t obliged to have marital relations with her.

Let’s hope she will come to her mind.

Dulcissima, another problem is that my wife struggles with depression. I’ve discussed it with both priest and shrink. All agree the better course is to wait rather than do anything that would overwhelm her or create even more tension.

What I really need is advice on how to live with this situation while keeping my faith intact. I should also mention we have a severely disabled child who consumes enormous amounts of our time and energy. This is the son of her first husband (he abandoned them), and I’m now raising him as my own. So we have a pretty chaotic home life in the best of circumstances. My new faith has been a big help in dealing with all of it, and I don’t want to lose it.

Do you have an opportunity to go to adoration? Go and sit with Jesus and talk to Him.

With your wife, it will not be easy, but love her with such joy and become such a better husband that she tells her friends “golly, everyone should have a Catholic husband”. Let the Holy Spirit work on softening her heart.

You do have quite a cross to bear. Still, you have to respect your conscience. You have to make sure your basic needs are being met if you are to be of any use to either your wife or your child. Your sanctity has got to be first among your needs.

I think the advice to spend some time in adoration is a good one, and I would also ask if you have learned to pray the rosary. You are going to need to really open yourself up to God’s will, and you are really going to need to communicate your needs to your wife. Start gently, yes, but know that she can not let her depression hold you hostage indefinitely.

I will keep you in my prayers. One prayer I have found really helpful and comforting is the Memorare. You might like to pray it too.

Remember, O Most Gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection,
implored your help or sought your intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence,
I fly unto you, O Virgin of Virgins, my Mother;
to you do we come, before you we stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in your mercy, hear and answer me.

Pray with confidence, because you can count on our Blessed Mother to always deliver your prayers to her Son. She will never let you down.

I’m so sorry for your situation. Please, don’t turn away from the Lord at the Consecration. I know how it must hurt not to be able to receive Him, but you need to ask Him for the strength to continue on in your new-found faith until your wife’s heart softens.

In the meantime, while you cannot receive the Eucharist, you can still make an act of Spiritual Communion. Before I got up the courage to finally go to Confession, I would a pray to the Lord for Him to come to me in whatever way I was able to accept. Below is a prayer that you may want to pray during the times when others are receiving the Eucharist:

My Jesus,
I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment
receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You.


Judy, thank you very much. It’s mainly during communion that all the terrible thoughts come into my head, so this prayer is just what I need. Thanks again.

My church does have adoration. I go sometimes but I guess I need to make it more regularly. I have a hard time just clearing my mind and listening to God.

You’re welcome.
It is no surprise that you find yourself being consumed with anger just when the Lord has been made present to us in the Eucharist; it is precisely what Satan wants. He wants you to abandon your faith rather than trust completely in the Lord. Do not let him win. Spend your time praying for Spiritual Communion as well as for your wife to receive the graces she needs to realize how much it means to you to one day be able to receive the Lord in the Eucharist.

I will also offer prayers for the both of you.

keep working on things. Sounds like you might check out

I greatly encourage you to look at the Host. This is the reason that the altarboy rings bells at that point, so that people who are bowing reverently know when they can look up at Jesus.
And, I know that people do not think any less of you. You have shown us here that you are a truly devout, God-fearing man, and I’m certain that that must come through in your conversations.
All the suggestions listed above are really good, and I will continue to pray for your situation, your wife, and your upcoming reception into the Church!!

Thank you to everyone for your suggestions and prayers.

Now another question: I am told that the Pauline Privilege may apply in this case, which would make the process somewhat easier than annulment.

My wife was not baptized at the time of her first marriage. She does not think her husband was either, but there is no way to prove it unless he offers some kind of testimony. He is unlikely to be cooperative.

So in a Pauline Privilege case, what kind of evidence is required to prove that neither spouse had been baptized? Any canon law experts out there?

I Edited out the Spiritual Communion Prayer as someone already posted it.
Keep the focus on you and Jesus at that moment.

WRT your wife petitioning for anullment. Can’t you negotiate for it? Did you explain how much it would mean to you ? What would you do if she didn’t get it? Have you ruled out living as brother and sister until she does something about this for you ? Would you live as brother and sister if her marriage was declared valid?



You know, from what I’m reading it seems “The Wife” signed on to a marriage with the OP who’s not RC & wasn’t at the time of the marriage contract, and that it was (and is!) a perfectly valid marriage following their shared beliefs at the time. Therefore, her position is not at all unreasonable!

The OP is commended for seeing how his wife’s chaotic life (and no doubt constant public scrutiny due to her single-parent obligations for her seriously challenged son) gives her a different world-view than he. Between parenting and possible depression, I imagine further scrutiny would be unwelcomed…and I suggest that just the thought of expending energy on any additional project, much less the painful reminder of the man who abandoned her in such a situation, would be completely overwhelming.

I further admire the OP for asking for prayers…and especially for first & foremost following the guidance of his priest, who seems to be acting as his Spiritual Father. This would be the person best informed about the situation and the parties involved, and the person acting in the best interests of the OP and the spouse. Often with advice from internet message boards we…um…get what we pay for…

For those suggesting that she’s being “The Problem” and advocating radical arm-twisting to FORCE her to do it, I post this gentle reminder that she didn’t sign on to marrying a RC…she’s not the one changing the rules after-the-fact. I wonder how such coercion would be seen by a Latin marriage tribunal, eh?

To the OP: My husband never would have converted had I asked him, much less had I tried to coerce him! However (BIG however)…after much exposure and positive experiences with clergy & parishioners, and seeing how my faith imparted an atmosphere and lifestyle to our home & relationship which he embraced, he began to seriously enquire…and after about 18 months of serious enquiry, he’s decided on his own to seek reception! :slight_smile:

(Of course the conversion hasn’t ever been the big problem in our house…it’s his family’s reaction to it, which is a never-ending source of drama. :wink: I admit it was the line in the above quote, “Let’s hope she will come to her mind.” which triggered my post. If I had a nickel for every time someone in his family has said that to him, and even to ME! Sigh!)

He is not trying to convert her. He is trying to follow his own conscience, but can’t be received into the Church because his marriage IS invalid as his priest did advise him.

I do agree that I came across rather strongly, but that is only because I can sympathize. I know what it is like to live with someone who is mentally ill and does not want to change the status quo.

The priest did NOT say my current marriage is invalid. In fact, he thinks it almost certainly IS valid and my wife’s earlier marriage was not. But he cannot act on that opinion without a ruling from the tribunal.

I apologize. I misinterpreted what you had written in your first post as to why you were not able to be received into the Church. I was also under the impression that one can not validly enter into a marriage until they have determined the validity of a prior marriage.

Ok I converted to Catholic last year, was a non practicing Lutheran before that, anyways I had to seek an anullment to get married last year, not only to be married in a Catholic church but in most churches we treid, yes we could have done a few of the non denominational ones without but thats not what is important here,
we were willing to be wed outside the Catholic church and I still am as well, my reasons are my own, but also apply here as well if they see an outside marriage as valid for your wife till proven invalid that has to apply to all not just a few.

regardless of that now
sit down with your wife and ask her if she truely loves you?
ask her if she truely wants to be your wife or is she still stuck on her ex and unwilling to let go of him in this way,
tell her it means more to you to know she wants to be validly married to youand not with her ex,dont argue over this talk like the adults and lovers you are.
you do not need to "push Catholic faith"on her for this, also tell her she fills out paperwork sends it in and really has nothing else she really has to do,will take about a year, to get final ratification.

on that note were you two married in a church?
if so you may want to concult a Bishop and inform him of situation you were not Catholic at time of you and wifes marriage
you may need to take some additional steps as well.

she dont need to be Catholic to get a Catholic annullment and its one that all other churches also seem to recognize as well
I never felt i “needed to have one” but did it anyways,just like my fiance was willing to go outside church to be married BUT i knew her dream was to be married within the church so although i was willing I also put the thought aside as well to make her dream come true. not for anything else…

good luck to you

Dulcissima, don’t worry about it. This is complicated stuff with lots of subtle distinctions, I’ve learned. I appreciate your thoughts and prayers.

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