What is right? What a mess I am in! Help!


#1

I am a baptized Christian (Baptist) who had my first serious conversation with a committed Catholic a few weeks ago & I have not been able to stop thinking about this since. I've been reading everything I can about the Catholic Faith & have come to some conclusions rooted in logic. For one, the authority of the Catholic Church is likely true. The arguments just make sense to me. I admit, I am still wrestling with a lot of issues, but if I accept the authority of the Church, then that means that it must be essentially doctrinally correct.

This presents many problems for me, from a practical & theological standpoint. I have looked at a few core beliefs and, again, they make sense to me, including the Churches position on marriage & divorce, as well as such topics as contraception. My wife & I were both married before. I've spent a LOT of time looking at various sites concerning annulments because I realize I would have to seek them out in order to become catholic. That said, I am reasonably sure that my first marriage would be declared null (I married the day after my 17th birthday, after a short courtship/engagement. She told me after our second intimacy that she was pregnant with another mans child. I was in love with the idea of love & really didn't know what I was doing. I lied to my parents that the child was mine so they would sign permission for the license & lied to the minister that married us. I married outside the church I belonged to because my actual pastor knew the truth & wouldn't do it. There's more, but you get the idea.) I do not think my current wife has as strong a case, although she had a much shorter marriage. I also doubt she will be willing to pursue the annulment process or become Catholic. My current wife claims to be a Christian & was baptized as a child, but has no interest in the church. I also believe she would be very judgmental of any attempt I might make to become Catholic. It would be almost like declaring an intention to become a Buddhist or Muslim or something. We have been together for many years and are close friends, still attracted to one another, with 3 children together. I met her while I was still with my first wife & she helped me get the courage to do what I had wanted to do since very early in my first marriage: leave her. I think that my current marriage is also not sacramental, since she was also married before & even if that was annulled, it began in sin & neither of us was committed to the idea that it HAD to be forever anyway. I now understand & agree with the catholic understanding of the Sacrament of Marriage & it kind of scares me. In my protestant idea of things, I have always held onto the idea that I could get out & start over if I really needed to. Now, that doesn't mean I believe in easy divorce. We have lived together too long & struggled through too much for that, but it was still an option. Honestly, if this marriage required convalidation, assuming annulments were granted all around, I'm not sure I could do that. I would want a partner in faith for life & I don't see my current wife filling that role, no matter how I might love her.

So, what should I do here? If I end up annulled from my first marriage & she is not from her first, would I be free to leave with the ability to remarry (no, btw, I have no one in mind & have never cheated on her.) If I seek an annulment & she does not, where does that leave me? What if both of us are annulled & they tell us to get convalidated & I decide I can't do that. Would that mean our marriage was not sacramental, e.g. null, in the eyes of the Church? I am also concerned about the effects on our lives in other ways, the children...finances, ect... all of which are exceedingly important.

I want to seek out God's will & do what's right & I'm confused & afraid. I don't want to risk my soul. I can see living a celibate life for some time, but I believe that I am called to marriage, not celibacy. I also do not see it possible to live as "brother & sister" as some apparently try to do. I really kind of feel like a jerk asking these brutally honest questions, but I don't know who to ask. I don't really know the local priest & I'm afraid to start the process until I decide for sure what to do.

What a mess!


#2

[quote="D20gm, post:1, topic:325565"]
...

I am reasonably sure that my first marriage would be declared null (I married the day after my 17th birthday, after a short courtship/engagement. ...

My current wife claims to be a Christian & was baptized as a child, but has no interest in the church. ...

I think that my current marriage is also not sacramental, since she was also married before & even if that was annulled, it began in sin & neither of us was committed to the idea that it HAD to be forever anyway. ...

If I end up annulled from my first marriage & she is not from her first, would I be free to leave with the ability to remarry (no, btw, I have no one in mind & have never cheated on her.)

If I seek an annulment & she does not, where does that leave me?

What if both of us are annulled & they tell us to get convalidated & I decide I can't do that. Would that mean our marriage was not sacramental, e.g. null, in the eyes of the Church? ...

[/quote]

I have read similar from many on this forum.

You want to see what could happen before acting. I think you summarized the possibilities.

[LIST]
*]one or both married to a prior
*]married to each other
*]neither married at all
[/LIST]
You only have the option to convalidate if neither of you are found to be validly married.

I would ask myself "Can I continue living like I do today?". To follow lamb-like is initially difficult due to fear, yet the path is called the *easy **yoke of Christ. (Matt 11:30 For my yoke *is easy, and my burden is light.)


#3

Peace be with you!
Welcome!
You have found a church of sinners!

Without recognising that we are sinners, we cannot know God. Pride is the barrier. You are tearing down barriers! Wonderful! None of us is without sin. None can condemn you. Knowing you are in a mess is a whole lot better than not knowing.

Nobody will suggest breaking up your relationship or your family. Prayer and private devotion will be your way out. Your prayers and prayers of others. You have mine, I promise. God knows your heart’s desire, even if you cannot work it out yourself.

My only advice is to find a priest, or a spiritual director, and bide your time in prayer. Ask help from Jesus’ mother, Mary. He never turns down a request from his own mom, even when he said his time hadn’t come yet. Just leave them with your problems. Don’t try to think up solutions.

I will present your cause before the Blessed Sacrament today.

May God bless you and your family.


#4

I feel you are needing to get out of something but I'm not sure why. You need to go to the priest or a good counsellor first who knows canon law and can help you. Don't look for what you want to hear; look for the truth. You might hear opinions on this thread. What you need are solid answers. Go to a good priest or marriage tribunal for** advice.**


#5

What I suggest you do is make an appointment with the pastor of your local Catholic Church. Tell him what you have told us, and ask for his guidance.

Don't make judgments about your and your spouse's prior marriages without thorough review of the situation. There are many factors.

Try to take things one step at a time.

You will likely be asked to attend RCIA, which will likely start up again in the fall. In the meantime, you can meet wth the pastor and work out an approach to the irregular marriage situation.


#6

If their prior marriages are invalid, they are validly married. There is no convalidation in this instance.


#7

[quote="Auntie_A, post:4, topic:325565"]
I feel you are needing to get out of something but I'm not sure why. You need to go to the priest or a good counsellor first who knows canon law and can help you. Don't look for what you want to hear; look for the truth. You might hear opinions on this thread. What you need are solid answers. Go to a good priest or marriage tribunal for** advice.**

[/quote]

Thanks for the replies.

Auntie A, I think you are right & I don't fully understand it all either. For one thing, I feel as though my current relationship only works because I make it work. Part of that is not living a Christian life. I mean, she says I can go to church if I want but she won't go & I really think she would freak if I start going to a Catholic Church. She would definitely freak if I took the kids to one! My kids are not baptized at all & I am worried about that now too. You have to understand, we Southern Baptists (lapsed or not) have always been taught that Catholics practice idolatry, both because of statues in the church & praying/worshipping Mary & the Saints. This is an area it may, honestly, take me a while to work through myself. I am just beginning this journey, but I have not been satisfied as a protestant for a long time. There are so many opinions on scripture & no authority. It makes no sense that God would establish his Church & not establish it with structure. I think that is the root of the many errors in Protestantism. I studied the bible extensively until I got to the point that the conflicting opinions about scripture led me to just put it down. Everything I studied so far in Catholic books & websites makes sense, logically. I really am seeking the truth in Christ. That is more important than anything else, but there are many aspects of things to consider that affect others too. I have to get things somewhat worked out in my mind before I can really DO anything substantive. I suppose that is why I am here on this site. There seem to be several people who post regularly here that have a good grasp & some training in the Catholic Faith. I have multiple issues, only one of which is whether I am in a sacramentally valid marriage. I know only a Tribunal can definitively answer that question & it could take a while. However, these questions are forcing me to confront my relationships & life in a broader sense & talking about this with other Christians here may help me work through some of these ideas before I talk with a priest or, especially, my current wife.

So, to summarize, I have 3 issues here:

  1. The process of getting right with God & His Church, e.g. becoming Catholic.
  2. Whether my current marriage will survive the changes that #1 will bring, because I will not do it half-way. I believe that God expects a total commitment.
  3. Whether or not my past & current marriages are valid & sacramental. If so what should I do & likewise if not, what should I do.

Any reasoned & knowledgeable opinions on these subjects to help me work through these issues based on Christian love would be appreciated. At this point I need some Catholic Christian friends & this is as close as I can get.


#8

[quote="1ke, post:6, topic:325565"]
If their prior marriages are invalid, they are validly married. There is no convalidation in this instance.

[/quote]

Thanks for the reply, 1ke. I have seen your posts elsewhere & you seem to be pretty knowledgeable about things.

Please correct me if I'm wrong about the following:

A Tribunal will not give an opinion on a current marriage at all, so you are saying that if a Tribunal determines that all prior marriages are invalid, the current marriage is considered to be valid & sacramental without further ceremony.
However, since the current marriage is not examined without a divorce decree first, I really wouldn't know whether the marriage is truly valid & sacramental, would I? Without a formal examination, I could still be living in a state of Mortal Sin (Fornication) in God's eyes if both my 1st marriage & my wife's 1st marriage are invalid & my current one is ACTUALLY invalid in God's eyes. I say this because an annulment is only supposed to reflect the truth, but how can it if its not examined. True or not?

Also, what if the Tribunal makes a mistake? Would submitting to the authority of the Tribunal, even if they are in error, cause any sin resulting from their mistake to be covered by God's Grace?

I know that the process is supposed to encourage people to stay together, but it would seem like it would be more helpful to examine all marriages, even current ones, to see what the true situation is. Otherwise, you actually are encouraging divorce in order to get a ruling on a current marriage. :confused:


#9

[quote="D20gm, post:8, topic:325565"]
Thanks for the reply, 1ke. I have seen your posts elsewhere & you seem to be pretty knowledgeable about things.

Please correct me if I'm wrong about the following:

A Tribunal will not give an opinion on a current marriage at all, so you are saying that if a Tribunal determines that all prior marriages are invalid, the current marriage is considered to be valid & sacramental without further ceremony.
However, since the current marriage is not examined without a divorce decree first, I really wouldn't know whether the marriage is truly valid & sacramental, would I? Without a formal examination, I could still be living in a state of Mortal Sin (Fornication) in God's eyes if both my 1st marriage & my wife's 1st marriage are invalid & my current one is ACTUALLY invalid in God's eyes. I say this because an annulment is only supposed to reflect the truth, but how can it if its not examined. True or not?

Also, what if the Tribunal makes a mistake? Would submitting to the authority of the Tribunal, even if they are in error, cause any sin resulting from their mistake to be covered by God's Grace?

I know that the process is supposed to encourage people to stay together, but it would seem like it would be more helpful to examine all marriages, even current ones, to see what the true situation is. Otherwise, you actually are encouraging divorce in order to get a ruling on a current marriage. :confused:

[/quote]

This is too much to answer on a message board. The proper place for this is to go to your local parish and speak to a priest or deacon who can guide you.

A marriage can be valid but not sacramental. There will be questions about whether your baptist baptism is valid and therefor whether you are married as a baptized or unbaptized Christian. There are questions about whether you were married in a church or in a civil ceremony. All of this is complicated by the fact that you are not yet Catholic.

There is just too much going on here for anyone to comment about on an internet message board. You really need to go to the local parish and speak to someone who can guide you.

-Tim-


#10

You do have some hurdles but I don't think I have ever seen a clearer case of God speaking to someone, you have almost received a typed written letter inviting you to our faith:thumbsup: Please, don't let some of your concerns keep you from answering this call, take baby steps one at a time. The first step, speak to a priest and then see what he suggests is next. I will be praying for your journey.


#11

[quote="D20gm, post:8, topic:325565"]

A Tribunal will not give an opinion on a current marriage at all, so you are saying that if a Tribunal determines that all prior marriages are invalid, the current marriage is considered to be valid & sacramental without further ceremony.

[/quote]

Yes, because we are speaking of non-Catholics.

[quote="D20gm, post:8, topic:325565"]

However, since the current marriage is not examined without a divorce decree first, I really wouldn't know whether the marriage is truly valid & sacramental, would I? Without a formal examination, I could still be living in a state of Mortal Sin (Fornication) in God's eyes if both my 1st marriage & my wife's 1st marriage are invalid & my current one is ACTUALLY invalid in God's eyes. I say this because an annulment is only supposed to reflect the truth, but how can it if its not examined. True or not?

[/quote]

Without evidence of invalid consent or an impediment, and with the prior marriages ruled invalid, the current marriage enjoys the favor of the law. It is valid.

[quote="D20gm, post:8, topic:325565"]
Also, what if the Tribunal makes a mistake?

[/quote]

We may have moral certainty regarding the tribunal decision.

[quote="D20gm, post:8, topic:325565"]
Would submitting to the authority of the Tribunal, even if they are in error, cause any sin resulting from their mistake to be covered by God's Grace?

[/quote]

No, in absence of fraud, there is no sin.

[quote="D20gm, post:8, topic:325565"]
I know that the process is supposed to encourage people to stay together, but it would seem like it would be more helpful to examine all marriages, even current ones, to see what the true situation is. Otherwise, you actually are encouraging divorce in order to get a ruling on a current marriage. :confused:

[/quote]

I do not follow your logic here. In order for the parties to be in a "current marriage" that is not a first marriagee a divorce already occurred. The Church did not encourage it.


#12

[quote="mountee, post:10, topic:325565"]
You do have some hurdles but I don't think I have ever seen a clearer case of God speaking to someone, you have almost received a typed written letter inviting you to our faith:thumbsup: Please, don't let some of your concerns keep you from answering this call, take baby steps one at a time. The first step, speak to a priest and then see what he suggests is next. I will be praying for your journey.

[/quote]

Thank you for your encouragement & your prayers. I really need both. I hope to talk with a priest soon & maybe I can get a good nights sleep. That's been really difficult lately.


#13

[quote="1ke, post:11, topic:325565"]
Yes, because we are speaking of non-Catholics.

Without evidence of invalid consent or an impediment, and with the prior marriages ruled invalid, the current marriage enjoys the favor of the law. It is valid.

We may have moral certainty regarding the tribunal decision.

No, in absence of fraud, there is no sin.

[/quote]

This is reassuring. Thank you. I have been concerned because of all the things I've read about the American Tribunals being too "easy" to "get" an annulment from. Above all, I want to get a fair hearing and find the truth with confidence that the result is acceptable to the Lord so I can be right with Him & the Church (able to enter, receive sacraments & so forth).

I

[quote="1ke, post:11, topic:325565"]
do not follow your logic here. In order for the parties to be in a "current marriage" that is not a first marriagee a divorce already occurred. The Church did not encourage it.

[/quote]

Perhaps I wasn't clear enough. I was, in frustration, referring to the second (current) marriage in my case. I am divorced from my first wife & still married to my second, legally, although I suppose until a decision is made about both my wife's first marriage & my first marriage the current legal marriage is considered invalid by the Church & I am living in sin. If both of those are invalid, my current marriage would be considered valid & sacramental until & unless a divorce was sought & it was proven invalid. According to what you wrote, I think I understand that I would not need to have my current (2cd) marriage examined, since

[quote="1ke, post:11, topic:325565"]
We may have moral certainty regarding the tribunal decision.

No, in absence of fraud, there is no sin.

[/quote]

Thank you


#14

[quote="TimothyH, post:9, topic:325565"]
This is too much to answer on a message board. The proper place for this is to go to your local parish and speak to a priest or deacon who can guide you.

A marriage can be valid but not sacramental. There will be questions about whether your baptist baptism is valid and therefor whether you are married as a baptized or unbaptized Christian. There are questions about whether you were married in a church or in a civil ceremony. All of this is complicated by the fact that you are not yet Catholic.

There is just too much going on here for anyone to comment about on an internet message board. You really need to go to the local parish and speak to someone who can guide you.

-Tim-

[/quote]

Tim, I agree. This discussion has been useful, but I really do have to speak to a priest soon & I will. Please remember me in your prayers. Thank you


#15

[quote="1ke, post:6, topic:325565"]
If their prior marriages are invalid, they are validly married. There is no convalidation in this instance.

[/quote]

The poster said about his current marriage that "neither of us was committed to the idea that it HAD to be forever ... I have always held onto the idea that I could get out & start over if I really needed to" which shows defect of consent.


#16

[quote="Vico, post:15, topic:325565"]
The poster said about his current marriage that "neither of us was committed to the idea that it HAD to be forever ... I have always held onto the idea that I could get out & start over if I really needed to" which shows defect of consent.

[/quote]

Yes, I do see that now. Thanks for pointing out this was in reference to the current marriage. This could require a new act of consent, but not necessarily in the external forum.

This is why it is always necessary to lay out all the facts with the pastor.


#17

[quote="1ke, post:16, topic:325565"]
Yes, I do see that now. Thanks for pointing out this was in reference to the current marriage. This could require a new act of consent, but not necessarily in the external forum.

This is why it is always necessary to lay out all the facts with the pastor.

[/quote]

What is the "external forum?"


#18

[quote="D20gm, post:17, topic:325565"]
What is the "external forum?"

[/quote]

Exchange of vows before witnesses. Sometimes when there is a defect in consent, it is enough that the person simply make a new act of consent internally-- meaning just an act of your will privately.

It is something to discuss with the pastor.


#19

[quote="1ke, post:5, topic:325565"]
What I suggest you do is make an appointment with the pastor of your local Catholic Church. Tell him what you have told us, and ask for his guidance.

Don't make judgments about your and your spouse's prior marriages without thorough review of the situation. There are many factors.

Try to take things one step at a time.

You will likely be asked to attend RCIA, which will likely start up again in the fall. In the meantime, you can meet wth the pastor and work out an approach to the irregular marriage situation.

[/quote]

This!

I will pray for you!


#20

Hi D20gm,
I am a new Catholic, spent most of my 40 years as a Protestant Christian, some of those years as a Southern Baptist. My husband is pretty anti-Catholic, and appalled that I became one.

For many years I felt drawn to the Catholic church and casually studied the Church's beliefs. About 2 years ago I got serious, and like you saw the logic in it all. This past Easter I was received into full communion. Let me suggest as others have that you make an appointment with a priest and tell him your story. In fact, you might want to talk to a couple of priests just to get two sets of ideas. I also suggest that you take this one step at a time; don't become overly upset about becoming a Catholic, and what your wife will say/think, and what you will have to do about your marriag, etc. It might be better if you concentrate on one thing at a time. Perhaps going to RCIA is a good next step after talking to a priest. I went to RCIA for two years before I made a decision, so you see you don't have to figure it all out at one time. It's a journey.

God bless, and may He lead you in paths of righteousness for His names's sake.


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