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Christy Cole wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have two questions:

I am Catholic who married a Lutheran who is divorced. At the time of his first marriage his then wife was not baptized.

  1. Did they have a valid marriage before God?

I would love to receive Holy Communion once again but am not sure if an annulment is the only way I achieved this.

My other question is on annulments.

  1. If no man can separate a union before God, how can an annulment work?

Just some background:

My husband was also raised in the Catholic Church but later became Lutheran. His divorce was not of his choice. He wanted to work it out but his wife did not.



  { Is the only way I can receive Communion to get an annulment and how do annulments work? }

John replied:

Hi Christy,

There are at least a couple of issues that need to be resolved.

First, you married a non-Catholic without a proper dispensation from the Church and married outside the Church.

Second, your husband is presumed to be married to his first wife until a determination can be made by the Church as to the validity of his marriage.

For you to be able to receive the sacraments, both of these matters need to be addressed.

His prior marriage needs to be looked at. Assuming it can be annulled, you would then need your marriage blessed by the Church and you would both have to agree to:

  • raise any children from your marriage as Catholics and
  • follow the Church's teaching on sexuality and openness to life.

John D.

Mary Ann replied:

Dear Christy,

It is not for us to decide on the validity of the marriage. You would need to talk to your local Catholic pastor. It may be that his prior marriage was not valid, but it would need to be looked at by the Church. There are many factors:

  • did he formally leave the Catholic faith before marrying her?
  • did he marry with a dispensation?, etc.

It is very possible that the marriage was not valid. As for annulling a marriage, that is really not what happens. What the Church does is discover if there was a valid marriage to begin with.

She [the Church] does not annul a marriage, she declares that a marriage was null because something was lacking that was necessary at the time the marriage ceremony took place.

Mary Ann

Mike replied:

Hi, Christy —

I thought this would be a good supplement to Mary Ann's answer:

From the Catechism:

III. Matrimonial Consent

1625 The parties to a marriage covenant are a baptized man and woman, free to contract marriage, who freely express their consent; to be free means:

  • not being under constraint;
  • not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law.

1626 The Church holds the exchange of consent between the spouses to be the indispensable element that makes the marriage.(Code of Canon Law, canon 1057 § 1.) If consent is lacking there is no marriage.

1627 The consent consists in a human act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other: I take you to be my wife - I take you to be my husband. (Vatican II, Gaudium et spes 48 § 1; Ordo celebrandi Matrimonium 45; cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 1057 § 2.) This consent that binds the spouses to each other finds its fulfillment in the two becoming one flesh. (Genesis 2:24; cf. Matthew 10:8; Ephesians 5:31)

1628 The consent must be an act of the will of each of the contracting parties, free of coercion or grave external fear. (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 1103.) No human power can substitute for this consent. (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 1057 § 1.) If this freedom is lacking the marriage is invalid.

1629 For this reason (or for other reasons that render the marriage null and void) the Church, after an examination of the situation by the competent ecclesiastical tribunal, can declare the nullity of a marriage, i.e., that the marriage never existed. (cf. Code of Canon Law, canons 1095-1107.) In this case the contracting parties are free to marry, provided the natural obligations of a previous union are discharged. (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 1071.)

1630 The priest (or deacon) who assists at the celebration of a marriage receives the consent of the spouses in the name of the Church and gives the blessing of the Church. The presence of the Church's minister (and also of the witnesses) visibly expresses the fact that marriage is an ecclesial reality.

1631 This is the reason why the Church normally requires that the faithful contract marriage according to the ecclesiastical form. Several reasons converge to explain this requirement: (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1813-1816; Code of Canon Law, canon 1108.)

  • Sacramental marriage is a liturgical act. It is therefore appropriate that it should be celebrated in the public liturgy of the Church;
  • Marriage introduces one into an ecclesial order, and creates rights and duties in the Church between the spouses and towards their children;
  • Since marriage is a state of life in the Church, certainty about it is necessary (hence the obligation to have witnesses);
  • The public character of the consent protects the I do once given and helps the spouses remain faithful to it.

1632 So that the I do of the spouses may be a free and responsible act and so that the marriage covenant may have solid and lasting human and Christian foundations, preparation for marriage is of prime importance.

The example and teaching given by parents and families remain the special form of this preparation.

The role of pastors and of the Christian community as the family of God is indispensable for the transmission of the human and Christian values of marriage and family, (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 1063.) and much more so in our era when many young people experience broken homes which no longer sufficiently assure this initiation:

It is imperative to give suitable and timely instruction to young people, above all in the heart of their own families, about the dignity of married love, its role and its exercise, so that, having learned the value of chastity, they will be able at a suitable age to engage in honorable courtship and enter upon a marriage of their own. (Vatican II, Gaudium et spes 49 § 3.)


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