You might wonder why I have the words, “Yes, We’re Still Catholic” as part of the title of this blog. That’s because there’s a common misconception that once a Catholic divorces, they are automatically excommunicated from the Catholic church. Not true!!!
While divorce is strongly discouraged for Catholics and something to be avoided IF AT ALL POSSIBLE, when a Catholic goes through a divorce, they are still a Catholic in good standing within the church – still able to participate in the sacraments (i.e. receive Holy Communion).
Now, here is what a divorced Catholic cannot do:
- Remarry in the church UNLESS their previous marriage has been declared invalid by the Tribunal of their diocese. (By the way, this does NOT mean your children become illegitimate or that the marriage is viewed as never having taken place.)
What would happen, you might ask, if a divorced Catholic does not receive an annulment and decides to marry outside the church? Since their previous marriage had not been declared invalid by the Catholic church, technically that marriage still exists. That person would then still be strongly encouraged to continue attending mass and the sacrament of Penance, however they could not receive Holy Communion because, in the eyes of the church, they are committing adultery (a mortal sin).
What if their marriage was annulled but the marriage of the person they now want to marry has not been annulled? Then, they cannot be married in the Catholic church, and, again, they would be considered to be committing adultery. This situation, however, can get complicated quickly and is way outside my knowledge base, so please contact a priest if you have questions about this.
So….if you decide to marry again and want to marry IN the church so that you’ll be able to continue fully practicing the Catholic faith, then the previous marriage of each person needs to be declared invalid by the Catholic church before the second marriage takes place.
All this can get complicated and, hence, is quite misunderstood by most people (Catholic or not). You may have many more questions that I’m not able to answer well so please contact a priest to discuss them.
Just a couple more things….
I encourage you to pursue an annulment even if you feel that there’s no way you’d ever be granted one. You just don’t know that for sure!!
The annulment process is not an easy path to follow but it’s well worth it. I had to answer many many questions not only about my courtship and marriage but also about my childhood. It took me a long time to complete my answers because it was emotionally difficult to go through the memories again AND to be very honest with myself concerning them. However, THIS is the part of the process that leads to healing!
Also, be aware that the process will take about 18 months from the time you send in the completed questionnaire ’til you’re notified of the final decree. For this reason, I strongly encourage you to start the process as soon as you feel ready, whether or not you have any intentions of marrying again. It IS a healing process and you just never know…you might want to marry again at some point and either you or your future spouse may want to marry IN the Catholic church.