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Seeking Stephen wrote:

Hi guys,

I am a widowed Catholic man dating a divorced Catholic woman who is working on her annulment.

  • Is the OK in the eyes of the Church?

We are abstaining from sexual intercourse.

Your response would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

Stephen

  { Is it OK for a widowed Catholic man to date a divorced Catholic woman working on her annulment? }

Eric replied:

Stephen,

Let's think this through. She is pursuing an annulment because she was putatively married and wants to know if that marriage was valid. There is some chance that the reply will come back negative, that is, that the Church, after researching it, may conclude that she is in fact (still) truly married to the man she ostensibly divorced. This would leave you in a position of dating a married woman which is not really advisable.

Even if you ignore the impropriety of dating a married woman, there is the danger of getting emotionally involved and being tempted to ignore the potential outcome of the annulment. In other words, let's take things to the extreme:

  • You fall in love, get engaged, plan a wedding, then all of a sudden the annulment, let's again say, comes back negative — what would you do and wouldn't you be tempted to disregard it?

The safe position would be maintain some emotional distance from each other and not, strictly speaking, date until the annulment comes through. Treat her as if she is married, because she very well might be (and to the Church, marriages are given the presumption of validity until proven otherwise).

Eric

Stephen replied:

Eric,

Thank you for your input.

May I say this, I would never marry outside the Church . . . ever.

So I believe you are saying that I date her or see her, keeping in mind she is married, and treat her as such.

God Bless you and your work.

Regards,

Stephen

Eric replied:

Stephen—

What I can say from a standpoint of Church teaching is that you should treat her as you would a married woman until she receives the annulment. I don't think it would be proper to date someone married to someone else, and so I'd recommend you put the relationship on hold and not date her for now.

The Church has not addressed specifically the subject of dating per se, perhaps because it is a culturally-conditioned phenomenon, but if it were me, I would not date her in the prevailing U.S.-culture sense of the term of cultivating a romantic relationship (especially an exclusive, boyfriend-girlfriend going-steady type), of spending time alone together, showing physical affection proper to romantic relationships, etc.

I'd keep it as a warm but arms-length friendship with a promise for more should the annulment pan out. I know this may be tough to hear and even tougher to put into practice, but it's my objective recommendation.

Eric

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