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Faith/Spirituality Forum: Conversion, Anullment and Remarriage

by Catherine Frakas 25 May 2001

Conversion, Anullment and Remarriage QUESTION from FM August 11, 2001 Here is my situation: My father is Jewish, my mother was catholic and converted to protestant prior to my birth. My mother had a hard time finding a protestant church to baptize me, going around to several smaller churches until she found one - I have no record of the baptism other than my mother's words, nothing in writing, not even the name of the church that performed the ceremony. I was married at the age of 20 by a marraige counselor in Virginia, no religion in the ceremony at all. I got divorced 4 years later. I do not know if my ex was baptized or what denomination of faith she was, if any. I know she will give me a very hard time in trying to get any information at all. I was about to start the process of becoming a catholic a year ago, and then I moved. Now I have fallen in love with a catholic woman and we want to get married in a church. I wanted to become catholic BEFORE I met her, not because I met her. I will start classes in my new location to become a catholic and go through the sacraments next month. My question is this -Was the marraige valid? Do I need an anullment, and if so can I do it without the information I know my ex will not give me? What is a declaration of validity? I have no children from that marraige, thank God, but if I ever do, I want my wife and I to be able to provide that which I was deprived; a religion. I want to do it right, no easy way out. Thank you for your time.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on August 12, 2001 Dear Mr. FM:
When documentary proof of baptism is not possible, the Church will do what is called a provisional baptism. This is a baptism that is done just in case there wasn't a baptism before. Being baptized and having documentary evidence for that is critical. All the rest of the sacraments depends upon a person being baptized. So, no problem. The Church will do a provisional Baptism.
As to your previous marriage, you need to talk that over with your priest or with a person from the Marriage Tribunal. They will tell you if you need to get an annulment. If yes, that process will probably take a year or so, thus I would get the ball rolling this week.
In gettng the annulment is MATTERS NOT if your ex will not cooperate. The church will give her a chance to respond, but if theyu don't hear from her, the Tribunal goes ahead with the case.
The issues is whether or not your marriage was Sacramental. From what you describe I would say it wasn't. But go to the local priest where you are taking classes, and ask about it and get the ball rolling on the paperwork if an annulment is needed.
An Decree of Nullity, by the way, means that you were never truly married sacramentally or in the eyes of God (even if you were married legally under civil law). In order to get married in the Catholic Church you must be single. A Decree of Nullity affirms that you were never really married in the eyes of God, and thus you are single, and thus free to get married.
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