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Malina Mechaley wrote:

Hi, guys —

My husband and I have been married for 6 years. We have a 2-year-old son. My husband is Catholic and our son has been baptized in the Catholic Church. My husband and I have attended RCIA together (for a short period of time).

We have spoken to our priest about me becoming Catholic but I was married for a short time when I was 19. I have never been baptized. I was in the Army and was married out of convenience by a Justice of the Peace. I was also Agnostic at the time of this marriage.

I have looked over the Declaration of Nullity.

  • Is all that necessary for the circumstance I am in, particularly the part about witnesses?

I have no idea where my ex-husband is and I am not in contact with anyone from that short part of my life. Also, because it was a marriage of convenience, I find the questions intrusive and see no reason to drudge up that part of my life again.

When listening to Catholic radio I heard mention of a partial annulment however our priest did not mention anything like that to us.

I love my family and the Catholic faith very much. We attend Mass weekly but I feel like I am embarking on a losing battle. We have considered going to a church in another county. My mother-in-law told us some Archdioceses are more stringent than others. Any reassurance or guidance on this issue would be greatly appreciated.

My husband and I are afraid my annulment will be rejected. If I am not able to become a Catholic my husband is ready to leave the Church. I know that will hurt him deeply.


  { Is it necessary to drudge up that part of my life again by requesting this prying Church paperwork? }

Bob replied:


I hear the stress and pain about this matter in your letter and I want you to know it will all turn out fine: God loves you and your family beyond measure and He will use this process to make you even stronger as a family. Trust Him. He's got your back.

Fr. Jonathan can give you the best procedural advice but it can be streamlined. I'm sorry that the process of annulment feels so invasive but in a certain way, it has to be.

Your privacy will always be maintained and respected but to get to the bottom of the circumstances, in some sense, you have to get in a time capsule and go to a place you wouldn't really want to go to again.

In the end you will be better for it . . . for we grow out of these trials.

Keep the faith, persevere and press on. God is with you.


Bob Kirby

Fr. Jonathan replied:


I am glad you wrote to us. Sometimes the Catholic Church can seem bureaucratic. Here you are trying to become one of us and we seem to be putting obstacles in your way. Sorry about that.

Please remember that this is a life time decision that ultimately leads you to Heaven. This is not a membership in a club that doesn't want you; it is a path to God. So breathe:

  1. take this time to learn about the Church and the Sacraments
  2. read the Bible, and
  3. know that what you are about

Is worth it.

Having said that, we still need to address your situation. Your husband and son are Catholic and you are not baptized. The process that you should inquire about is called the Pauline Privilege.

This is a very ancient procedure that comes from the New Testament. When Saint Paul was evangelizing, many people inspired by the Gospel were converting to Christianity, however, there were times when their spouses did not want to be baptized and at that time, the conversions were so strange to the spouses that the marriages were ending.

The non-Christian spouse were telling the new converts that if they were baptized they would leave them. So, the early Church created a way for newly baptized Christians to enter into the Church and be married to someone else who did not find the Church offensive and this has come to be known as the Pauline Privilege.

  • So, when you were married at 19, was your husband also not baptized?

If so, you could do this other process and not have to answer all those questions you don’t want to. The Church would attempt to locate him and see if he is baptized and that would be the hard part.

Now if he was baptized at the time of the Marriage and was a Catholic, this could be even easier for you — this is technically called a Lack of Form and perhaps this is what your friends are referring to.

There is a chance that you may have to do the Annulment but from what you have written, it doesn't sound like a difficult annulment.

Find a priest you are comfortable with and analyze your situation with the various options.

Above all, it is clear that God is calling you to Himself. That is an invitation you should accept — don’t let anything get in the way of it.

Fr. Jonathan

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