Thought spouse was dead, married someone else, spouse came back

Here’s a hypothetical scenario for y’all:

A young Catholic couple gets married.

The wife, who is in the military, has to leave for war a couple months after the wedding.

It is soon discovered that the helicopter she was in crashed, and though they never found her body, she was presumed dead.

Husband is told that his wife is dead. Her family has a funeral ceremony for closure.

Husband moves on and a couple years later marries a new woman in his life… again, in the Catholic Church.

They start having children right away, and 10 years later they are still happily married with 3 young children.

One day, this man’s wife who had been pronounced dead 12 years ago, is found alive in a war prison. She is rescued, and brought back to the US.

Now, what is the man’s responsibility to his first wife… verses his current family?

What must be done in this case? Is the moral thing to do in this scenario to break up his current family and be faithful to his original wife?

Please share your thoughts on how the Church would want an issue like this to be handled! :thumbsup:

Now he has a legitimate reason for having two wives simultaneously :D, j/k

I have no clues. :mad:

I would think that since its assumed he was dead, the marriage would be invalidated. This truly is a moral cunnundrum though.

Oh my… The Wisdom of Soloman is needed here.

I honestly don’t have a clue, since nobody would have done anything deliberately sinful.

Probably one for the Marriage Tribunal at the Diocese.

See Code of Canon Law 1707, paragraphs 1-3 regarding the canonical process for a spouse presumed dead. The Vatican document *Matrimonii vinculo * also deals with this topic.

Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (green book) page 1798, commentary on canon 1707:

A declaration of presumed death does not dissolve a valid marriage. Only death can dissolve a ratified and consummated marriage (can 1141). Therefore, if a spouse who was presumed to be dead is later found to be alive, the other party must separate from the second partner and return to the first spouse. In this case, the bond of the first marriage never in fact ceased to exist because the absent spouse was not dead, and the second marriage is invalid because of the impedeimetn of prior bond.

There is no ‘fault’ with any of those involved. Yes, the man must separate from the second wife and return to the first. I’m sure there will be lots of hurt feelings, but ‘presumed death’ and ‘legal closure’ etc. are not certainties. IOW, the second wife may have thought the possibility of the first wife being alive was non existent, but any rational person would know that there was a CHANCE. She took the chance and decided to presume the first wife would NOT return, but she was wrong.

The first wife never ‘presumed’ that her death would be pronounced and her husband would move on.

CHILDREN of course make it harder. Certainly the children are legitimate. Certainly the father will wish to continue to be their parent. Again, the father also ‘took a chance’ (there was ALWAYS the possibility the first wife was not in fact dead), and so while he and the second wife followed ‘da rules’ they DID ‘take a chance’ and they would always have to consider that the first wife MIGHT return. So they are not poor innocents in the sense that this was a ‘miraculous’ something. it was always a possibility that the first wife still lived.

Ideally, the first wife and husband would resume their marriage. The second wife and children would be treated as family, with all parties subduing ‘bad feelings’. The second wife would become like a SISTER to the first wife and to her husband. The children would become like the first wife’s children (although still being the children of the second wife), and all parties would strive to parent and love those children.

great answer to a phony scenario. More time needs to be spent on reality and the here and now than making up unrealistic scenarios. If someone is having their spouse go to war, they are married until the death is confirmed not presumed. This includes MIA scenarios.

I would imagine it would be emotionally traumatizing for the second “wife” to have to start seeing this man as a brother after she’s known him only as her husband of 10 years. And for their 3 young kids to witness the separation of their parents.

What a difficult situation for all of them.

I don’t think I would have called it “taking a chance” nor would I say they weren’t poor innocents.

If military personnel show up at your door and tell you your wife has died in a helicopter accident, and you go to her funeral and everything, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t have absolutely 0 reason to think it could even be possible that she might be alive.

It’s really not that phony. Things like this have happened before.

I thought it was a legitimate question.

With one correction, it’s not a far-fetched scenario… happened all the time in Vietnam.

The correction is that the military would not presume someone deceased and “declare them dead” if no body was found. Such a troop would be labelled as “missing in action” and the spouse would have to sue the courts to have them declare her as dead (while the military would still consider her MIA rather than KIA)…

So in other words, the only one who would have her declared dead and then hold a funeral is her spouse, who would have to know that there was a chance she was NOT dead.

Yup.

Actually, in the Catholic Church the process involves the bishop and the moral certainty that the spouse is dead. Moral certainty is basically the same standard as “beyond a reasonable doubt” in criminal trials or the one to be used by tribunals ruling on the invalidity of marriage. The point of it is not taking chances, while it’s true it doesn’t hold on to every remote, fanciful possibility.

I don’t think that a helicopter crash in which no body was found would qualify as KIA for the military, nor do I think it would meet the burden of proof necessary under the canon 1707 requiring moral certitude.

There is nothing “phony” about this scenario. 400,000 US servicemen were held in Japanese prison camps alone in WWII, to say nothing of other nations. Russia held German soldiers captive for DECADES after the END of the WW2. I’m sure it happened more than a few times! I have no reason to think 1KE’s response is incorrect.

Exactly, this is far away from phony. In fact is more common than you imagine. I know of a real case where the husband returned after 23 years when everybody thought he was dead and the wife was remarried. Unfortunately this situation tends to ne very traumatic for everybody and is a very complicated situation. The case I know the man ended up commiting suicide three years after his return. Very sad sad case.

Oh wow, that is awful… the poor guy… :frowning:

Exactly, this is far away from phony. In fact is more common than you imagine. I know of a real case where the husband returned after 23 years when everybody thought he was dead and the wife was remarried. Unfortunately this situation tends to ne very traumatic for everybody and is a very complicated situation. The case I know the man ended up commiting suicide three years after his return. Very sad sad case.

Did his wife go back to him when he came back?

This happens all the time … on soap operas and telenovelas. :rolleyes:

No, she didn’t. It is a long story but basically the woman told him you can’t ask me to pretend that twenty years have not passed and go back to you like nothing. The man didn’t take it very good and the situation just escalated to more problems. It was very traumatic for every person and unfortunately, all the parties involved ended up in a major fight. They ended up fighting in criminal court and then the fact that legally speaking the situation is way way far more complicated than go back with your first husband didn’t help. As I said it was extremely sad case and the man ended up shooting himself. It was a horrible case :frowning:

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