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Nidhin Mathew wrote:

Hi, guys —

A non-Catholic friend of mine has been married 19 years to a non-Catholic woman. He has been separated from his wife for two years now and is in the process of getting a legal divorce. He has not been dating any woman since then. He would like to become a Catholic and is now
a catechumen.

  • Can he avail of the Pauline Privilege to dissolve his previous marriage?
  • Can he get dissolution by the Pauline Privilege even if he does not wish to remarry?
  • If he does want to remarry, can he do so at a later point in life?


  { Can he have his marriage dissolved by the Pauline Privilege even if he does not wish to remarry? }

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Nidhin —

Language needs to be precise to figure this out but here is what I assume:

Because the man is now a catechumen I assume that he:

  • was a non-baptized person who is receiving Baptism for the first time and becoming a Catholic, as opposed to,
  • being a baptized non-Catholic.

I cannot make the same assumption about his former spouse because all that is said is that she is a non-Catholic.

For the purpose of an answer, I will assume they were both unbaptized persons.

If this is the case and he is not currently getting married to another then there is no need for any process for him to come into the Church. His marriage is perfectly valid and remains so before and after the Baptism.

The Pauline Privilege dissolves the first marriage when the person is married to someone else by virtue of the person's Baptism and the favor of the local Bishop, therefore, there is no need or ability to do this prior to the man's Baptism.

When and if the man chooses to marry later in life, based on his Baptism he could apply to the local bishop for the Pauline Privilege as long as the first wife is still unbaptized and still wants to be divorced.

The theological point is the person would be going from a non-Sacramental marriage to a Sacramental marriage but if the first wife was since baptized this would not be the case — no matter what Church the person was baptized into.

For the record, the Pauline Privilege has its roots in scripture based on I Corinthians 7:12-15 (that is why it is called Pauline). The application of this Scripture passage has evolved over the centuries into its present form.

Fr. Jonathan

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