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Andrew McJames wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have friend I went to Catholic High School with. She apparently thought she had been baptized as an infant but never was. She started attending my school in the eighth grade. I assume she would receive Communion when she went to Mass with the rest of us. Obviously if she had never been baptized she never received either her First Holy Communion or First Penance.

She later left our school, moved out of town, and attended public school so she obviously had no Confirmation. She got married civilly at 19. Somewhere along the line she started attending an Born-Again church and that pastor married them in his church. She's now divorced — not Catholic, still not baptized but a strong a believer who wants to be baptized at some point.

Obviously she's not really a Christian in technical sense as she's not baptized. We could perhaps assign her the status of catechumen as she is a believer. I think it's very safe to assume a baptism of desire. I've been sharing the Catholic Faith with her since she reached out to me after 40 years of not hearing from her. My hopes are that she will return home to the Church.

She seems open to hearing about the faith. She's very confused about what she was taught in Catholic school; this is not surprising at all . . . this was, after all, the 1970s.

My question relates to her marital status.

  • She is not a baptized Christian so is the marriage assumed to be sacramental or not?

There appear to be grounds for an annulment anyway since she married this guy three months after meeting him at the young age of 19. She had a very troubled childhood:

  • first molested by an older brother
  • then she ran away from home after her sophomore year in high-school to Uncle's home where he molested her.

So it's pretty obvious this poor girl was not ready for marriage, in my humble opinion. That said:

  • Where she wasn't baptized, is there even need for an annulment should she become a Catholic and want to marry again?



  { For this 19-year-old, Is her marriage sacramental or not and would she need an annulment? }

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Dear Andrew,

Happy to help.

I will assume that the man she married when she was 19 was not a Catholic or Orthodox.

Since she was not baptized and she married a non-Catholic that makes her first marriage valid but not sacramental.

Since she has not remarried, she is free to come into the Catholic Church however should she want to get married again, she would need a process for that first marriage to happen as it was valid.

She could do a full Catholic annulment but it is probably not the best way to go. Converts can take advantage of the Pauline Privilege and have their first marriage dissolved by the Church upon the new marriage.

Finally, separate to her issue but something that seems to be asked also by your question:

The definition of a Sacramental Marriage is a valid marriage between two baptized people.

So two baptized Protestants married by anyone is a valid Sacramental marriage.

If a baptized person marries an unbaptized person, and the unbaptized person gets baptized, their marriage becomes sacramental by virtue of the Baptism — nothing further needs to happen with regard to the marriage.

Fr. Jonathan

Andrew replied:

Hi Fr. Jonathan,

Thanks for the help. I thought the Pauline Privilege might come in to play. Though it was a civil marriage, I believe the marriage may have been to a Catholic followed by a Church wedding in their Protestant ecclesial community.

I'm aware that there is no impediment for her becoming Catholic so long as she does not first marry again but I was just curious about the status of her first marriage.

It would seem that if she were to enter the Church, her Baptism would then make her first marriage sacramental and thus require some kind of process should she want to remarry again.

From my perspective, getting her into the Church is the first priority. The only reason I'm concerned about the whole marriage thing, is that I would not want it to become a reason to dissuade her, should it be cumbersome . . . but God can handle that much.

I just show up with my 2 fishes and 5 barley loaves.

Thanks Father Jonathan!

God Bless you,


Fr. Jonathan replied:

Hi, Andrew —

Let's analyze the status and potential status of her marriage as a 19-year-old.

  1. If it was to a Catholic then it is clearly invalid. It does not exist canonically or sacramentally. Since they are divorced it doesn't even exist civilly. If that is the case, the priest would simply prove its inexistence with a Lack of Form case. Meaning, prove that the marriage that involved a Catholic lacked form, i.e. her former spouse, as a Catholic was obligated to go through the Catholic Church in some capacity and he did not — thus, the marriage was invalid.

  2. If she does not remarry then she is not married at all (because the first marriage was invalid), therefore there is no impediment for her to become a Catholic.

  3. If she does remarry a non-Catholic, then she would simply do the Lack of Form case for her first marriage and, again, she is free to come into the Church as nothing prevents her from entering.

    Assuming the new husband was never married before, her new marriage is valid and non-sacramental. If he is a baptized Christian, then when she is baptized their marriage becomes sacramental — it was already valid.

  4. If she does remarry a Catholic outside of the Church, then she would have to have a Lack of Form case and then the marriage would have to be made valid (convalidated) before she comes into the Church.

    The priest would have to apply for a Dispensation from Disparity of Cult to marry her as an unbaptized person to a Catholic and then perform a ceremony. The result of the ceremony would be a valid, non-sacramental marriage, which would become sacramental after she was baptized by the mere fact that they would both be baptized.

Fr. Jonathan

Andrew replied:

Thank you so much!


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