Am married to a member of the Church of England. He was married 3 previous times, all for very short periods. The first was in the Church of England, the second and third were by civil ceremony. The third wife was a non-practicing catholic. I was married once before several years ago in the catholic church and had my marriage annulled. We have been told that in order for our marriage to be blessed by the catholic church, he has to obtain TWO annullments, costing us $2000, which we can ill afford. In the meantime, I ( the catholic in the relationship) can not receive communion. My annullment took 2 years to go through and that was with willing interviewees. None of his family or friends are catholics and have already said they don’t want to be bothered by the church. So this could takes years! I feel betrayed, let down, and rejected by the catholic church. I feel like I’m being punished for loving someone who has made mistakes in his past. He’s not affected by this, but I’m very hurt and wondering why we need to go through this process, when none of his marriages should have even been recognised by the church anyway. Please explain this to me, as I’m struggling to defend my faith, when I feel so confused myself. I miss the communion, and hate feeling judged when I stay behind in the pew while my young son goes up alone. It just isn’t right!
I would like to begin by saying you should not feel judged. We are all sinners in need of God’s mercy and love. None of us have the right to claim to be “better” than another.
As for why a non-Catholic needs an annulment, it is because marriage is available to everyone. Marriage is the exchange of consent to be in a fruitful, loving, and committed relationship until death do you part. When a man and woman publicly make these vows, those vows are presumed valid.
It is important to remember that the laws of the Catholic Church are binding only on Catholics. God’s laws, on the other hand, are binding on everyone. It is God, and not the Catholic Church, that created the institution of marriage. While the Church regulates marriages amongst her own members, people outside the Church are bound by divine law.
If two baptized persons exchange marriage vows, their marriage is a sacrament and cannot be dissolved by any man. The annulment process examines whether either party of the couple had defective consent for one reason or another which would cause the sacrament not to have taken place. An annulment does not dissolve a prior marriage, it recognizes that a sacramental marriage never existed.
He does not need an annulment for his 3rd marriage because he civilly married a Catholic who was bound by Church law to be married in the Church. However, his first two marriages need to be examined. His first marriage is presumed valid until proven otherwise. Should that marriage prove to be invalid, that means he was truly free to marry the 2nd time and thus those vows become the presumed valid marriage.
Situations like these can be difficult and confusing. The institution of marriage is the foundation of society and the Church treats it like the serious matter that it is. Please continue to pray and trust in the Lord.
As for cost, every diocese will work with the petitioner depending on what they can afford. Lack of funds is never an impediment to the annulment process.