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Nichole Ritterman wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have two questions.

I've been doing some reading and I just want to make sure I'm correctly understanding the issues involved.

I was baptized and had my First Communion in the Catholic Church. After my parent's divorce, I attended Mass with my dad the weekends I was there but my mother had me confirmed in a Lutheran church. When I turned 18 and moved out, I started attending the Catholic Church again but did not take any classes or do anything to get confirmed.

I am assuming that when I was confirmed in the Lutheran church, I was considered to have left the Catholic Church and became Lutheran. I was then married in the Lutheran church, as my husband is Lutheran, and since then, we have been attending the Lutheran church. I always intended on going back to the Catholic Church but since I started doing research I've discovered, I am not able to. I wasn't aware, at the time I was married, that the rules about being divorced and remarried applied to a person married to a divorced person.

The way I understand the Church's teaching is that I couldn't participate in Communion, Confession or be a Godparent. In addition, because:

  • I never received a Catholic Confirmation, and
  • I think, would be viewed as having left the Church

I can't be confirmed because it would be absurd to confirm someone who cannot participate in the sacraments. So my two questions are:

  1. Does the Church view me as having left the Church?
  2. Since I was confirmed in another church, could I take classes and be confirmed because I'm married to a divorced person without an annulment?

Nichole

  { Does the Church view me as having left and regardless of my marital history, can I be confirmed? }

Eric replied:

Wow, talk about a tricky situation. :-)

As for whether you left the Catholic Church, this is somewhat unclear. The Vatican clarified a few years ago that in order to be considered, under canon law, to have left the Catholic Church you need to write a letter to the bishop renouncing the faith. What is unclear is whether this clarification applied retroactively. In any case, whether you've left the Catholic Church is somewhat immaterial with regard to either:

  • your marriage (in either case, it's invalid) or
  • rejoining the Church (in either case, it's simply a matter of going to Confession).

What you need to do is have your husband request an annulment.

  • If he gets it, you are free to return to the Catholic Church and receive the sacraments.
  • If he does not, you may be able to receive the sacraments, if you live as brother and sister henceforth, until his ex-wife dies, at least.

You are right that you cannot now receive the Eucharist, owing to the fact that you are presumed to be in a persistent state of sin, having relations appropriate to marriage but outside of it.

Likewise, you can't go to Confession without repenting of that sin and having the purpose to avoid it in the future. Without Confession, you can't return to the Church (if you departed) and so can't receive Confirmation. If you haven't departed from the Church, theoretically, canon law does not prevent you from being confirmed but I suspect, in practice, they would not do it. I have no clue about the Godparent part of your question.

I encourage you to:

  • have your husband go for the annulment.
    It's the best course of action, to the extent possible.
  • to get your marriage regularized and, of course,
  • to return to the Catholic faith, whether formally or informally.

The Catholic faith is your best help toward salvation so I hope you'll persevere in your journey back to it, no matter what the obstacle may be.

Hope this helps!

Eric

Mary Ann replied:

Hi Nichole,

You can return to the Catholic Church by making a confession of faith. You would probably be asked to go through some education program to prepare for Confirmation and for making this Confession of faith.

You would need to find out if your husband was free to marry you, in order to know if your marriage was valid and whether you could receive the other sacraments, but there is nothing preventing you from attending Mass as a Catholic and praying as a Catholic.

I would encourage prayer for God's help and guidance through all of this.

Mary Ann

John replied:

Hi Nichole,

Just to add to my colleagues comments:

I don't know that your Confirmation in the Lutheran church can be held against you. It sounds like you were a minor at the time. You say your mother had you confirmed as a Lutheran. It sounds like the first thing you did as an adult is make a choice to return the Catholic Church.

Now obviously you have some issues to resolve with respect to your marriage but it doesn't sound like you made a conscious decision of your own free will to become a Lutheran.

John

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Hi, Nicole —

The only thing not answered was the Godparent part. To be a Sponsor at a Baptism she would have to be a Catholic in good standing, and she isn't yet — albeit no fault of her own.

The only other thing to add is that some annulments are much easier now so she should ask her husband to at least investigate for her with a Catholic priest. And of course:

  • if his first wife happened to be a Catholic or Orthodox, and
  • they were married outside of the Church

this could be very simple.

Hope this helps,

Fr. Jonathan

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