Expert Answer Forum
Why I, A Protestant, Need An Annulment To Marry A Catholic In A Protestant Church QUESTION from tom fuller February 21, 2000
I am marrying a lifelong Catholic in my (a Protestant) Church. I, a Born Again Christian, have no intention of converting to Catholicism. My fiance wants me to do an anullment of my 24 year marriage. She is divorced but was not married in the Catholic Church. I believe this will do nothing but alienate my former wife and children who have no clue about Catholic anullments.
Does this make sense? I would like to please my fiance-but also God.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on February 23, 2000 Dear Mr. Fuller:
Bro. Ronald referred your question to me for a more detailed answer.
There are some missing pieces of information in your question that makes it difficult to give a precise answer.
For example, if your fiancé is Catholic, it is illegal of her to have the wedding ceremony in a non-Catholic Church unless she has the permission of the Bishop. And even with the permission of the Bishop, a priest would still perform the ceremony.
Or it is possible, for proper reason, for the Bishop to grant a dispensation from Canonical Form. This means permission is given for the wedding ceremony to be conducted by a non-Catholic minister, such perhaps as your pastor.
But without this special permission, your fiancé cannot validly get married in your church and/or with your pastor doing the ceremony and still be a Catholic in good standing.
Thus, if she is to rebel against the Catholic Church on these issues, it hardly matters whether an annulment if given, since an annulment pertains to qualifying for a sacramental marriage and if she is marrying outside the Church in this manner, without permission, the marriage is not sacramental anyway. So what’s the point?
If however all is being done the way the Catholic Church’s Canon Law requires, and you have a previous marriage that you entered into as a baptized Protestant person, you will have to apply for a nullity of your marriage in order for this marriage to be valid. If you don’t then as far as God is concerned you have two wives which is a sin.
The reason that you must get an annulment even though a Protestant is that sacramental marriage is presumed with all baptized persons. It is not just a Catholic thing. Your marriage as a Protestant is recognized by the Catholic Church as a valid and sacramental marriage unless there was some condition to not make it sacramental and thereby annulable.
As far as your previous wife, she needs to understand what the annulment means. It does not mean there was not a marriage between you. There was. It does not mean that the kids are bastards. They are not. It means that the character of your marriage was not sacramental in the eyes of God. It means that while you were indeed legally married, your marriage was not truly a marriage under God. Why? Well there are many possible reasons. The reason most often the case in annulment cases in the United States is immaturity. That is, the parties were too immature to truly understand the real and true nature of marriage; and thus they did not realize what they were entering into.
That is one of the requirements for a valid marriage. The each person must KNOW with full knowledge of intellect and decision of will what they are getting into as a Sacramental marriage.
Bottom line, your fiancé cannot marry you if you are already married. Since marriage is for life, a divorced person cannot re-marry because they are still married UNLESS his first marriage was not a real Sacramental marriage. If it was not sacramental then it was not a marriage under the eyes of God, even though the marriage was legal in civil law and the person is free to marry (because he was never married to begin with under the eyess of God).
All this is rather complicated. I am not an expert on the Church’s marriage laws, but I hope I represented the Church law correctly here. If any of our readers are Marriage Tribunal staff, perhaps you can correct any errors I made.
And this I hope this clears up at least some of the mud in answering your question.
Back to Index Page