For centuries, marriage has been and still is sacred in the Catholic Church. Therefore, according to the Catholic canons, any marriage is a lifetime union only separated by the death of one or both partners. As much as the church frowns upon divorce, we can attest that there are many challenges that a married couple faces that may necessitate a divorce.
So, should a Catholic marry a divorced Catholic? A divorced Catholic can marry a fellow Catholic only after the nullification of the prior marriage. The church grants this divorce and not through a civil procedure; any civil annulment is null in the church’s view. If a Catholic divorcee decides to remarry in a civil way, the church will still consider them unmarried and they will not be allowed by the church to partake in the Holy Communion.
A Catholic marriage is a lifelong sacramental commitment that the church and the believers take seriously even when separation issues arise. We will delve into matters such as grounds for divorce, the Catholic Church’s view on divorce and remarriage, plus other contentious issues that may arise.
The Catholic Church’s Stand on Divorce
For what God has put together, no man can separate; the church advises most Catholics to try their best to solve marital problems in their marriage. Doing so will help eliminate the possibility of divorce and separation, which the church strongly opposes. Given that Catholic marriage is a marital covenant, the couple should treat it as an everlasting agreement.
In essence, the Catholic Church does not allow or encourage divorce, and in fact, the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize it. The church believes that once two people tie the knot and a priest conducts their union before God as per all the matrimony laws’ order, only death can separate them.
For a relevant marriage, the church dictates that the parties must have conducted their wedding at their own free will, without undue influence or coercion. The parties must also have consented to honor and love one another for a lifetime. Finally, couples must be ready to unconditionally and willingly receive children from God. Once the union meets these three conditions, Catholic marriage is valid and cannot propagate a divorce.
Although the Catholic Church seems to have reservations on annulment issues, there are still some conditions under which the church may deem divorce an option. For instance, if a partner is involved in drug abuse, violence, or adultery, the other partner may have a solid ground to ask for a separation. As long as the reasons are valid, then the church can invalidate a marriage, and the Catholic becomes a divorcee under the church’s laws.
The church also views divorce as immodest since it may disorient a once united family and even the society, causing mistrust between the couples, their families, and relatives. A divorce would also tear the family apart and render a previously canonically valid marriage invalid. Separation can also traumatize children and may affect their mental health.
Therefore, the Catholic Church advises that a couple should try as much as possible to avoid issues that may culminate in annulment. However, there are some sufficient reasons why divorce may be an option in the Catholic Church. In such cases, the church has to grant the separation for the sake of the believer’s well being.
If the partner obtains the divorce, he/ she is still a member of the church. Divorced Catholics can still participate in the church activities and even partake of the Holy Communion. This freedom can only come as a result of a successful invalidation of a union by the church. Let us look at some instances where a divorce may be the church’s last resort.
Several obstacles may make your marriage invalid before God and the Church. First, if the marrying partners have a blood relationship (consanguinity) or close relatives (affinity), the church has to immediately break the union. The couple should divorce if they find out that they are in a close relationship because allowing such a union to continue may be sinful.
Mental Illness or Drug Abuse
If a partner has problems with substance abuse or mental health, then they can allow separation. Such information about the bride or groom may be unknown at the wedding time; hence, most of these instances only present themselves later on in the couple’s married life. If such problems strain on the other partner’s life, then he/ she may have sufficient grounds to apply for a divorce.
For a sacramental union, Catholics marry for love, commitment, faithfulness, and procreation. But once you violate the doctrine of faithfulness to your partner and God, then the church can start the proceedings for your annulment. Infidelity is one of the gravest sins among married couples in the Catholic Church; thus, you can easily obtain a divorce whenever your partner becomes unfaithful in the marriage.
The Form of Marriage
A valid Catholic wedding must be presided over by a priest or deacon inside the Catholic Church. The marriage must be sacramental and meet all the provisions of the Canon Law on matrimony. For your marriage to remain valid, if there is a twist of form, then the Catholic partner can obtain a dispensation to validate the marriage before the church and God. Change of marriage form mainly occurs due to intermarriages (a Catholic marrying a Christian or a non-Christian).
Marriage Through Fraud
An individual may enter into a union with ill intentions to deceive the other party for reasons best known to him/her. A spouse or a third party may propagate such a marriage without one partner’s consent. These marriages that occur by trickery and deceit are invalid and are substantial grounds to initiate a divorce.
Other grounds that can initiate a divorce include lack of intimacy, lack of commitment, domestic violence or physical abuse, falling out of love, or financial issues, among many other matters. However, given that marriage is a sacred union, the church still maintains its canonical principles in matters of divorce. It can only grant an annulment if one or both partners violate the stipulated matrimonial laws.
The Catholic Church’s Annulment Procedure
Like any other procedure, the church has laid down steps that the couple must follow before an annulment. First, the party seeking an annulment must have been married, divorced, and is wishing to remarry in the Catholic Church. Similarly, annulment functions to legitimize a person’s marital status before the church allows one to get married once again.
In the same way, marriage involves two consenting parties, so does divorce. You have to either formally or verbally inform your spouse about your intentions. He/she then decides whether to accept or challenge it. Accepting it means that they can actively participate in the entire process until the divorce is final.
The next step is the presentation of the relevant documents to officiate the process. These documents include an annulment petition through the Catholic Church, the partners’ baptismal certificate copies, a copy of a civil marriage certificate, a copy of the church marriage, and finally, a signed copy of a divorce paper from the judge.
Presentation of the documents marks the commencement of the proceedings. Most cases begin at the parish level, where the deacon or priest will submit your proposals to the church’s tribunal. You can either rely on the church or present your grievances straight to the tribunal (this may help save you time).
After presenting your request to the tribunal, you will present at least two witnesses. These witnesses must have sufficient knowledge to initiate an annulment. They could be your family members, relatives, or friends who have been present before, during, and after your wedding. They are supposed to speak the utmost truth about the marriage in question without favoring a particular side.
After gathering all the relevant information, the panel will then decide on the best cause of action. It is upon the tribunal to determine whether there are enough grounds for a divorce. Here, a Defender of the Bond also participates in supporting the factors that validate a marriage. Once they reach a final verdict, you and your former spouse will receive notification of their decision.
Generally, annulments don’t have a specific timeline, although they take approximately sixteen months. This process may be faster or longer depending on factors such as insufficient or late evidence. Therefore, the petitioner must be fast and accurate when gathering data. Also, note that the divorce proceedings may cost you; different Catholic Churches charge different fees.
It would be best to inquire from your parish priest about the exact cost to annul your marriage. In case you are unable to pay the fee, you can come up with an installment plan to ease the burden of paying it all at once. But if you cannot pay the whole fee, the church can make arrangements to pay partially.
The Catholic Church and Remarriage
Every man and woman deserves a second chance at happiness; this is where remarriage comes in. The church aims for its members’ well-being, so if a parishioner is unhappy in his/ her marriage, then the church has to step in. As much as the Catholics detest divorce, there are still some instances where it is the only option to save the couple. The main cases where a believer can remarry are divorce or the death of the other partner.
Remarriage After Divorce
Couples may divorce through a civil or church process. The Catholic Church’s canon law is clear on divorce and remarriage in that a valid annulment must be according to the church’s due process and not via the legal channels. Thus, for you to be officially annulled and subsequently remarry in a Catholic Church, the church must participate and finally set you free to find another partner. Otherwise, you haven’t divorced in the church’s eyes.
To be on a clear standing with the church, in case you had a civil divorce, try to talk to your priest to process your annulment according to the canon laws. Afterward, you can receive Holy Communion and remarry. Those who remarry without nullifying their marriage by the church’s tribunal commit bigamy (offense of marrying someone when you are already married).
Remarriage After Death of a Partner
The church always wishes the couples lifelong love and commitment. However, certain phenomena are beyond our control, such as death; a spouse may die, leaving his/ her partner behind. For some reason, the partner may decide to remarry or stay single but have the freedom to remarry in the church since a death has broken the union, so there are no remarriage impediments.
Can You Remarry Inside a Catholic Church if You Are Divorced?
Marriage in the Catholic Church is sacramental and deserves respect. It is through marriage that God binds two people to become one flesh. Therefore, the spouses should live together and stick to each other through thick and thin. But as much as the Catholic Church detests couples’ separation, sometimes it may be the only way to save a life. In such instances, the church will grant an annulment.
Once you resolve your marriage status, you are at peace with the church, and it will be upon you to decide whether to get remarried or not. Because the church is now aware that your previous marriage is null, it will be ok if you decide to remarry.
Your matrimonial ceremony will still be meaningful and follow the order of matrimony, as stated in the canon laws. Anyone who decides to remarry without official annulment by the church becomes an offender of the church’s marriage laws; hence, such a marriage will be invalid.
Can a Catholic Marry a Divorced Catholic?
This question has been common among many Catholic believers. At times, the church might be stringent on marriage matters, but individuals may decide to do things their way. You may fail to follow the laid down procedures of annulment and still get married. You may be ok with it, but it does not make it right. You may end up committing bigamy or be involved in an invalid union. Since it is safer to be on the good side of the law, you must adhere to the church’s rules.
As long as the divorce is under the church’s law, then the Catholic can remarry. Given that the previous marriage is null and void, the believer is free to decide to marry or not. Therefore, a Catholic can marry a divorced Catholic only if the divorce was granted by the church, which means that the church has approved that he/ she is single.
Contemporary Issues in Marriage and Divorce in the Catholic Church
Presently, the major causes of divorce are; drug addiction, gambling, neglecting family responsibilities, adultery, and emotional and physical abuse. These and other issues may result in one or both partners opting for a divorce. The effects of divorce are quite grave, especially on the children. The couple’s family, relatives, and society at large may also be affected by a divorce. There are noticeable effects due to divorce, either negative or positive.
It is a concern that children who have suffered from divorced parents’ experience are likely to go through the same in their adulthood. After marriage annulment, the children born from these relationships are also likely to suffer depression and mental disorders for the rest of their lives. Similarly, one or both partners may be traumatized and eventually decide to live a solitary life, a situation that the church discourages.
On the other hand, remarriage may help a divorced spouse desist from promiscuity and develop focus in life. On the other hand, through remarriage, you can get a second chance to appreciate how vital marriage is in one’s life. The church is also concerned about the welfare of the children. They are supposed to be brought up by both parents in the ways of the Lord; therefore, a divorce may distort the family dynamic.
The Catholic Church’s stand on divorce and remarriage is that no one should annul their marriage because it is sacred and blessed by God. Hence, neither the state nor the spouses should break the covenant. The Catholic Church also believes that marriages, whether sacramental or natural, are permanent; therefore, a marriage made null through a civil process is only invalid if the powers of the church intervene.
Divorce and marriage are all important in their respective ways. Divorce in an abusive marriage is necessary, just like one would marry to get a lifetime partner and commit to each other. When one is divorced, it will be for the good of both parties and the children. The effects of separation are grave, and that is why the Catholic Church would prefer that the couples receive counseling before finalizing the annulment process.
Living a happy life in the service of Christ is important for you and the church, so even after divorce, you may have a chance to be happy again. Since the Catholic Church has never allowed remarriage after divorce, it enabled many believers to solve their marital issues amicably and ensured that the children got parental love from both parents.