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Faith/Spirituality Forum: Annulment/Marriage of Eastern/Western Rite

by Catherine Frakas 20 Apr 2001

Annulment/Marriage of Eastern/Western Rite QUESTION from Matey on December 31, 2002 I was baptized and raised an Eastern Rite Catholic. I fell away from the Church after my early teen years. When I was 20 years old (which was 21 years ago) I married a non-Catholic in a civil ceremony in a foreign country. (I don't know if my husband was ever baptized or not; I would assume he probably was, but he was not a church-goer.) We were divorced in that same foreign country three years later. Shortly thereafter, he remarried.
About a year ago, I started attending church again, and have just recently formally joined a parish. My boyfriend and I are now discussing marriage. He was baptized a Roman Catholic, but does not attend church; however, he is willing to have a church ceremony, in the Eastern Rite church I now attend. So, my questions:
(1) Must my foreign civil marriage be annulled? (Isn't there some lesser procedure that is simpler than annulment?) If so, typically how complicated, time-consuming, and expensive is that process? I have documentary evidence of both the marriage and the divorce, but, as I said, it was over 20 years ago; I have had no intervening contact with my ex-husband and have no idea where he is now living.
(2) May I be married in the Eastern Rite? I remember reading somewhere that a woman must marry in the man's Rite, but the Eastern Rite is very important to me. If it is possible, would I require formal Church permission, or would my boyfriend's consent be sufficient?
Thank you very much. Obviously, I intend to approach my parish priest with these questions, but I always like to gather as much information as I can, and get the perspective of other people's experiences.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on January 1, 2003 Dear Matey:
I do not have a copy of the Code of Canon Law for the Eastern Catholic Rites, so I really cannot answer your question very well.
As for your previous marriage or may or may not need an annulment as I understand them from the Latin Rite canon law. It depends on whether your former husband was baptized or not, for example. There are other procedures involved if your husband was not baptized.
But, if you are to remain in the Eastern Rite, you will have to contact your Eastern Rite pastor about whether you need an annulment or any other procedure.
As to getting married in the Eastern Rite, as far as the Latin Rite is concerned a spouse may transfer to the Eastern Rite if they marry an Eastern Rite Catholic. Being male or female makes no difference. But again, since you are an Eastern Rite Catholic you will have to check with your own pastor.
As to your boyfriend not being a practicing Catholic, this is a problem, in my personal opinion. If I were a priest, I would not marry the two of you since the boyfriend is not practicing his faith. How can he truly know the meaning of the sacrament of marriage if he is a fallen-away Catholic? That is just my own opinion.
Bottomline, is that you need to contact your Eastern Rite pastor to find out the details of what needs to be done in your case.
God Bless.
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