Was this marriage valid?

A Catholic man (baptized as a child) leaves the Catholic church, joins a non-Catholic church, gets baptized in that church, gets married, and later gets divorced. He then returns to the Catholic church, and wants to marry a Catholic. Does he need to annul his first marriage, or was it automatically invalid?

Also, did these rules change in recent years?

Consult a canon lawyer and a priest. Yes, there was a period where a Catholic was considered (by **some **bishops, and not by the entire Church) to be able to formally’ defect’ from the Church and become a Methodist, etc. However, most bishops did not believe a Catholic could ever formally defect, and in fact, the Church has taught that a person, once Catholic, is always Catholic. I believe that the definitive teaching was made formal in 1983 or so.

But even if the person were considered Catholic and therefore the first marriage, not being held in Church, was invalid through defect of form, this still needs to be pursued. Thus, consult a canon lawyer and priest for authentic and formal information because we don’t really have enough information to make a determination from what you have provided. As I said, not every bishop taught that a person ‘could’ defect, so that makes a difference. The person’s understanding of what he did makes a difference. The person’s ability to understand marriage and his ability to consent and whether or not he or the spouse was ‘at fault’ in the divorce makes a difference.

Consult a canon lawyer and priest. If this is a hypothetical, again, there is not enough information to make any kind of determination other than it might be possible that the marriage was invalid through defect of form, but it might be equally possible that it was a valid marriage for which a decree of nullity must be sought. That determination is up to the Church and not to us laity to make idle speculation.

I once heard a teaching that since he was baptised Catholic, he was never free to marry outside the Catholic Church. This would make such marriage automatically invalid.

However, to make a long story short, he did go through the process of annulling his first marriage, and did remarry within the church. I just wasn’t sure why annulment was necessary.

The non-Catholic ex-wife did not agree to the annulment, since she considered her marriage and divorce to both be “valid”. She would not admit to being gulity of fornication.

There is no such thing as being baptized again. There is only one baptism. If he was “baptized” in a non-Catholic church, no Sacrament took place.

That being said, I don’t think an annulment is necessary because the Catholic didn’t get married in the Catholic Church, therefore, no Sacrament took place. Had he never been Catholic, then he would have to get an annulment. However, I don’t think it’s an automatic thing. I think he has to do some paperwork, etc., before the Church will marry him. I’m not 100% sure on this one, so I would advise talking to a good priest. This is just what I recall from my feeble memory. :slight_smile:

Both, depending on when the marriage took place. Annulment doesn’t “make” a previous valid marriage suddenly invalid. Instead, annulment formally certifies that a marriage that was always invalid is indeed invalid and can be viewed as invalid by the Catholic Church.

Yes, the rules change all the time. The rules that were in place at the time of the wedding ceremony are the ones that count for that marriage. Different rules were in place from 1917-1949, 1949-1983, 1983-2006, 2006-2010, and 2010-future.

No matter what, he needs a declaration of nullity–unless the “first” wife has died. Even if it’s an “automatic” (to use your word) annulment. The Church would call that “lack of canonical form” and the process would not be as complicated as a typical annulment, but it would still be necessary before pursuing a Catholic marriage. I’m speaking in hypotheticals here. If this is a real life situation, he needs to speak to his own pastor about this. In your scenario though, that would not be a “lack of form” situation (not under the 1983 code) but would be a valid marriage.

The canon law has indeed changed. The original 1983 code of canon law allowed for one who was baptised Catholic, but who left the Church by a formal act to be “released” from the obligation of canonical form. However, Pope Benedict changed the canons just a few months ago and removed that clause. The relevant canon (old '83 code or new canon) would be the one in place at the time of the marriage. Likewise, if the marriage ceremony occured before 1983, the 1917 code would apply. That’s why this gets too complicated to answer in a simple web forum and one should talk directly to a priest or canon lawyer.

What we typically think of as “an annulment” is a ruling by the marriage tribunal that a marriage is null.

In the case you mention what probably happened was that the marriage was ruled invalid due to “lack of form”. I believe it technically is *not *a ruling of nullity. But many (though not all) dioceses require the paperwork for such situations to be run past the tribunal. This is typically a short process (maybe three months?) compared to other marriage cases which can take several years.

The marriage took place before 1983. The divorce after 1983. What rules apply in that case?

The marriage was annulled by the church. He since remarried within the Catholic church. The ex-wife remarried in the Baptist church (but that’s another story).

The applicable canons for determining if the marriage was valid or not would be the canons in place at the time of the (first) marriage, not those at the time of the divorce, so it would be the 1917 code; however as Just Lurking posted, the individual canons of the 1917 code also changed over time. Whatever canons were in place at the time of the marriage, those were the canons that the marriage tribunals consulted in determining that the marriage was null.

This was the rule that was in effect 1949-1983, and is the rule that will be in effect 2010-future.

there is no “automatically invalid” marriage, he still needs to submit his individual situation for investigation and canon law process of the diocesan tribunal. Yes there is some change in how the issue is handled, in that the definition of “formal defection”–a Catholic leaving the Church–has been more stringently applied. There is no possible way that a general answer here is going to meet the needs of an individual, as every marriage situation is unique.

I’ve been wonderring about this for a while…Why ask if the marriage was valid, given that the Church has already issued a declaration of nullity?

I think I get it now. You’re not so much asking if it was a valid marriage, as much as you’re asking “why was there an annulment if the marriage was obviously not a valid marriage.” Is that it?

Anytime there’s a situation where someone wants to get married in the Church, but has been married before, there must always be an investigation into the previous marriage. The only exception is when the previous spouse has died–in that case, the priest needs a certified copy of the death certificate. Anything other than death of the previous spouse requires a formal declaration of nullity before the party can be “re-married.”

In Catholic law, marriage “enjoys the favor of the law.” That means that whenever there is a reason to believe that a marriage has occured, that marriage must be presumed valid until proven otherwise; even if the situation is one of an obviously invalid marriage. This is like “innocent until proven guilty”–if there’s a marriage license, the couple is considered married until proven otherwise, even if there was later a civil divorce.

In the situation you described, yes, the marriage is invalid because he was baptised Catholic and therefore could not validly marry outside the Church. We can say that in conversation, but no one can say it officially until a marriage tribunal has investigated it and issued a formal (and final) declaration of nullity (annulment). That’s why the priest doing the investigation for the 2nd marriage had to first get a declaration of nullity of the 1st marriage before going ahead with the ceremony. It’s one thing to “know” that a marriage is invalid because of some obvious fact, but it’s another thing to “declare” that the marriage was invalid. This is not a decision a priest can make on his own, even if it is obvious in the extreme that the marriage wasn’t valid.

In some of these “obvious” cases, the marriage tribunal doesn’t need a lot of information, and what would otherwise be a very lengthy process can sometimes be handled rather quickly. That might or might not have been the case in the situation you’re asking about. For all we know, the annulment might have been done on some different grounds. Regardless of why the annulment was granted, the fact remains that the priest still had to have it, or he could not have performed the second ceremony.

No matter how clear it might be that a marriage isn’t valid, the priest cannot act on that unless and until there is a formal annulment, and he has the official decree in-hand. I think that might be the answer to your original question.

As others have said, consult a canon lawyer or someone in your diocese. Most likely, from what you describe, the marriage was not valid (as he is a Catholic), and so an annulment would not be required.

wrong. yes the tribunal must issue a decree of nullity, no it does not require a full blown investigation with witnesses, only documentation of the fact of baptism and marriage outside Church canon law, and the grounds will then be lack of form. But yes such an individual does need to contact his pastor because there are pastoral issues to be dealt with, and to initiate the process in his diocese of residence, or the diocese where the attempted marriage took place. There is a formal process that must be followed to document the lack of form and issue a notice that the parties are free to marry. There is nothing “automatic” about it.

My own take on it, based on extensive research into defection and not a deep background in canon law, is this:

Prior to 2006, if the person did something conscious and definitive to leave the church, he could be considered to have defected and no longer bound by the marriage form, and thus the marriage in another church would be valid. AFTER 2006, when they issued guidelines for obtaining formal defection, the same person would have had to follow those to be exempt from Catholic forms. Very very few did so, at least for that reason, so someone who just sort of drifted off and married elsewhere has an invalid marriage and doesn’t need an annulment, most likely. Recently, late last year/early this year, that all changed. Now a Catholic is ALWAYS bound by Catholic form, defection or no. Therefore the person marrying outside that had an invalid marriage and presumably wouldn’t need an annulment. It all would be so much simpler if you just stay true to the faith or get out for real and for good as I did. I pity the poor revert trying to navigate this labyrinth of rules.

THanks. Good points. I never said there was anything automatic about it.

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