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Stephen Robertson wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am a 74-year-old Protestant, who has been a Christian all my adult life. In 1958, I was married in the Lutheran Church, and was baptized as an adult in the Lutheran church. In 1989, I went through a sad divorce, and was later remarried in the Methodist church.

I am happily married and am not seeking any divorce. I am currently a member of the Episcopal church, but am not happy with the direction that church is going.

My father who is now deceased, was Catholic so the past few years I have been exploring the teachings of the Catholic Church.

  • Is there any hindrance to my becoming a Catholic, such as my past divorce and remarriage?

Due to my old age and general health, I don't think I could handle any annulment proceedings. Receiving Communion is very important to me, and I wouldn't want to be barred from Communion unless I receive an annulment from my first marriage ... should that be necessary.

I'll be waiting for a reply.

Sincerely yours,

Stephen

  { Is there any hindrance to my becoming a Catholic, such as my past divorce and remarriage? }

Mary Ann replied:

Dear Stephen,

The annulment proceedings are not stressful, should you wish to seek one (assuming your first wife is still alive — if not, no annulment is needed.) You may not need one even if she is still alive. It depends on many factors too complicated to discuss here.

Do not hesitate to talk to a Catholic priest about your concerns.

God bless.

Mary Ann

Stephen replied:

Dear Mary Ann:

The annulment proceedings may not be that difficult in itself, but it can reopen old wounds on both sides, especially with the other party thinking things such as,

"It is bad enough that we divorced, but now you want to act as if the marriage never existed."

and of course, once again, the children have to wonder why you would want to annul the marriage to their mom.

That is why I would want to avoid an annulment of my previous marriage that had lasted 31 years. It could cause problems with my current wife of 22 years, wanting to leave the past in the past.

Nevertheless, I think I understand why a person who is married in the Catholic Church and gets a divorce, would have to go through the annulment procedure in order to remarry.

Thanks for a speedy reply to my question.

Stephen

Mary Ann replied:

Stephen,

I understand what you say. There is no good answer that resolves everything. It may be that if you wish to become Catholic and don't wish to have your previous marriage examined for validity, you could simply live celibately with your present spouse.

As for an annulment, there is a difference between a civil annulment, which nullifies any bond at all, and a finding of nullity by the Church, which does not annul the legal marriage and does not de-legitimize the children, but simply states that the natural permanent marital bond and/or the sacramental bond was not established because of some impediment at the time:

  • age
  • things affecting freedom and consent
  • one's understanding of what marriage was
  • one's intention, etc.
  1. Many Americans get married with the idea that divorce is an option. This is not marriage: the marital intention has to be for permanence.
  2. Other Americans marry with the idea that children are to be excluded, and this decision renders marriage invalid.
  3. Still others marry with the intention of infidelity, or the lack of the ability to be faithful, and this would void the marriage, because the spouses must intend fidelity.

There are so many ramifications and factors that it is really best to talk to a priest confidentially.

You are not obligated to do anything.

Mary Ann

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