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Steve wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • A non-Catholic marries a Catholic in the Church, but never converts.
  • This marriage ends in divorce and the non-Catholic eventually re-marries another Catholic, this time in a civil ceremony.
  • The person had never converted.
  • The new spouse was not married before.

  • Does the first marriage of the non-Catholic require an annulment from the Church in order to get the marriage blessed?

Steve

  { Does the first marriage of the non-Catholic require an annulment to get the marriage blessed? }

Richard replied:

Hi, Steve —

The kind of situation you describe isn't unusual at all.

As part of the process for validating a current civil marriage, any previous marriage of either party will at least have to be examined and investigated.

That's part of Church law (Canon 1085), and it applies in all cases, even if the previous marriage was only a civil marriage, or involved only the non-Catholic partner of a mixed marriage, as in the case you described.

If the investigation shows a reason why that prior marriage was invalid, as often is the case,
it will be declared null. That's an annulment: a "declaration of nullity" of the previous marriage.

The Boston Catholic newspaper, the Pilot, published a useful explanation of annulments a few months ago, by a judge from the Church court here. The full series of ten articles is on the Boston archdiocesan web site at:

The last of the articles is a summary that tries to correct the common misunderstandings, like:

  • annulments cost a lot
  • that they take forever
  • and so on.

You can also get the book equivalent on Amazon:

These are good sources for further information.

Of course, a couple in the situation you described above will want to get in touch with the local Catholic pastor as part of validating the marriage. He'll be able to guide the couple through the procedure of having the first marriage examined.

Hope that helps!

Best wishes, and God bless —

Richard Chonak

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