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Alexa P. wrote:

Hi, guys —

I was baptized in a Baptist church as a teenager. My first marriage was to a believer not affiliated with any particular denomination. We were married in a Methodist church. We were divorced a couple of years later due to adultery on my part. We had no children.

Several years later, I remarried a non-practicing Catholic in an outdoor ceremony performed by a local Judge. We were divorced after 2 years due to adultery on his part. He is now remarried to the woman with whom he had the affair. We have one child who is now in Catholic school.

I am interested in completing RCIA in order to learn about and understand the Catholic faith that my child is being taught. Once I have completed the RCIA classes, I will make a decision of whether or not to become a Catholic. Either way, it's important to me that my child have both parents that can guide him spiritually and participate actively in his religious education. I have no plans to remarry.

If I do join the Catholic Church:

  • Will these things in my past prevent me from receiving all of the sacraments, like Communion?
  • Do I need to seek annulments from either of these marriages in order to be a member of the Church?
  • Are my two marriages even recognized as valid by the Catholic Church or will I be seen as a single woman?
  • Will my son be considered illegitimate?

Basically, considering my past:

  • How will my son and I be viewed by the Church?, and
  • Will there be a limit as to how much I can participate in the Church?

Thanks,

Alexa P.

  { If I join, will these things prevent me from receiving the sacraments and how will we be viewed? }

Paul replied:

Dear Alexa,

Let me take a shot at your questions.

You said:
If I do join the Catholic Church:

  • Will these things in my past prevent me from receiving all of the sacraments, like Communion?

Unrepentant, unconfessed, mortal sin disables us from receiving our Lord in Holy Communion, until we are forgiven in the sacrament of Confession. Confession is available every week at most churches. Mortal sin necessarily includes: grave matter, full knowledge and full consent of the will.

If we do not have full knowledge that our acts are wrong at the time, or do not fully consent to them, we may not be (fully) guilty of the sin. If you become Catholic, a good sacramental Confession will wash you clean of all past guilt you may have and enable you to receive Communion whenever you want.

You said:

  • Do I need to seek annulments from either of these marriages in order to be a member of the Church?

I don't believe you have to in order to be a member of the Church. However, if you were to decide to marry in the future you would probably have to have these unions examined.

You said:

  • Are my two marriages even recognized as valid by the Catholic Church or will I be seen as a single woman?
  1. The first one may be presumed valid, unless, or until, an annulment process declares it otherwise.
  2. The second one is probably not valid, for two possible reasons:
    1. If your first marriage is valid, the second one automatically would not be.
    2. If the second man was a baptized Catholic, even though fallen away, he would still have to marry in the Church for his marriage to be valid. He was not.

You said:

  • Will my son be considered illegitimate?

The Church does not use this term, and it has no meaning in the legal language of the Church. Every child is loved by God regardless of how they were conceived or to whom they were born. The Church uses the term putative marriage for those invalid unions that were nullified, of which both parties in good faith believed they were truly married.

You said:
Basically, considering my past:

  • How will my son and I be viewed by the Church?, and

Like any mother and Son, who love God and seek His will.

  • Will there be a limit as to how much I can participate in the Church?

No. You are not in an irregular union presently, so no practical change would be necessary. Confession and Communion, the vital lifeblood of every Christian, would be available to you.

Peace,

Paul

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