Divorced And Still Catholic!

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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.



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  1. (note: several of the comments on this page look like they were left by me…that’s because I added a comment plugin to the blog and it got confused. :0/ And I can’t figure out how to set things right again…so it’ll just stay this way…)

    First, you are an excellent writer.

    Second, your advice is good whether you are a mom or a dad like me. The paperwork for the annulment sits on my desk untouched for months. Your blog this time prompts me to find the time to take it up again. I do need that clarity in my life as to where the Church and therefore, Christ, sees my former marriage.

    Thanks again for the blog.

  2. Dave,
    You’re welcome and thank YOU for the feedback…and for the compliment! I wish you well on the annulment process journey.


  3. Hi Manya,

    Thanks for the blog. Have been separated and going through a brutal divorce/custody battle for nearly three years. Will seek an annulment; always knew that I would.

    There have been so many lows during this time that I call being in the ‘pit,’ but God has led me to a great many ‘benefactors’ (friends, family, co-workers, strangers) who uplift me spiritually, emotionally and at times financially. For these, I am so very grateful of course. This whole time has been is a real lesson in humility and I thank God for it. Isn’t it amazing how when so many things are taken from you, it is then that you realize they were never yours to begin with? Then you are no longer so fearful because you finally come to know that you must rely on our Lord in everything.

    Another truth that really has helped me get through all this is that God didn’t make this happen, rather he allowed it to happen (the choices I made, my husband made, the courtroom drama, being broke, the sorrows, the joys, all of it). And God is there every step of the way.

    I wish you much peace and again thank you for informing and encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ to pursue an annulment. -L

  4. Laura,
    You’re welcome! I’m so glad you found your way here.

    I’m sorry about the long battle you and your family are experiencing. You made an important point about having a support system that is helping you through this.

    You have a great attitude and outlook, Laura. You’re right that we learn so much from these difficult experiences AND that God did not MAKE this happen….I feel another post coming on….:0)

    God bless you and your loved ones, Laura. Thank you for leaving a comment and please keep in touch here.


  5. My fiance and I want to be married in a Catholic church. We were both raised Catholic. I have never been married, but he has. He was married in a Lutheran church since his now ex-wife was of Lutheran faith. So my question is can we be married in the Catholic church and if so what is the process? Thanks.

  6. Lizzie,
    Thank you for writing! I’m SO glad you and your fiance want to marry in the Catholic church.

    The answer to your question is, “Probably but you need to speak with a priest to get all the information you need.” I don’t know all the ins and outs of the annulment process and directives of the church regarding previous marriages in other religions. I believe your fiance will need to go through the annulment process, which I highly recommend and encourage him to do. Believe me that it will benefit you both!

    Please make an appointment as soon as possible for both of you to speak with a priest about this.

    Bless you both.
    By the way, I’d love it if you’d give me an update. 🙂


  7. Thanks for this post. Have been separated from my husband of almost 10 years for 8 yeras now. I have had the papers for annulment for years but they remain untouched. I am not ready yet to retrieve all the unpleasant and hurtful memories of my life and write them down. I can’t as yet go through all those again. But this post gives me an assurance that there is someone who understands what I am going through.

  8. Thank you. God bless you and help you.


  9. Hi Manya,

    This is just an FYI that Servant Books will publish a new book this fall titled “Annulment: 100 Questions and Answers for Catholics” written by two canon lawyers: Pete Vere, J.C.L., and Jacqui Rapp, J.D., J.C.L. The book will be available in October.


  10. Is there support and help for those who are Catholic and have been divorced against their will but are praying for their marriage to be restored? I hear a lot about annulment and moving on, but what about healing what was broken? Just wondering, because I feel very alone as a Catholic with this stance, although for some reason there is support in the Protestant community, is this because they don’t have annulments? God bless.

    • Sarah,
      You bring up an interesting point.

      We have all tried to heal our marriages. I’m sure that after a divorce takes place, for some there is still hope and prayers for the marriage to be restored. I’ve also heard of couples remarrying each other again after divorce. I hope this happens for you.

      There comes a point when a person needs to let go and move on for their own emotional and physical health. I guess it’s assumed that this moment usually comes by the time the divorce is finalized. Also, some of us have spouses who remarry soon after the divorce, which takes all hope for reconciling away.

      I remember the exact moment when I realized it was time for me to move on. It wasn’t an easy thing to do because I wanted my relationship with my husband and I’d held on and fought for it for so long. But there was actually a moment when it became crystal clear to me that it was time to stop and refocus my energy.

      I’m sorry you feel alone as a Catholic trying to heal her relationship after divorce. I don’t know what Protestant communities have in the way of support after divorce but I’d love to hear more about that if/when you have time. I don’t believe that having the possibility of receiving a Declaration of Nullity is the reason Catholics don’t have the same sort of support.

      God bless and bring you peace.

  11. I have been married three times and have three annulments. So it is possible to receive an annulment – if I can you can too.

    I have no plans to remarry, but the annulment process was an instrument in my healing the wounds of divorce. I now know, for instance, that I was not meant to be married even though “society” made me feel that having a husband and a family was the only socially acceptable way to live my life. I would have been much happier as a single but that was not even presented as an option.

    I am a convert to the Catholic faith. How I wish I had grown up as a Catholic!

    It is true that Protestant communities are much more accepting of divorce and divorced people. But remember, we have the Holy Sacraments of Grace given to us by God to strengthen us in our life’s journey.


  12. There is so much talk about marriage, improving and preserving it, blah, blah, blah, in Protestant and Catholic circles.

    Yet when a marriage does fail, there is no talk about what to do to help the divorcee pick up the pieces. Its as if we have fallen off the face of the earth. We’re “failures”, we “didn’t try hard enough” or “didn’t pray enough”. My parish of 700 families has nothing in the way of help or support for divorced persons. We’re still here, we still contribute money to the parish, and we still attend Mass. Yet we are the invisible men and women.

    • Annette,
      I’m sorry your parish doesn’t give any readily apparent support to divorced Catholics. Many years ago, the parish I was in at the time also didn’t…until I spoke with “them” about it and, in fairly short order, there was a support group for divorced Catholics and even a retreat. Speak to your pastor about it or whomever is in charge of such groups at your parish. You could also call your diocesan offices and find out if there are any such groups at neighboring parishes. I also suggest, as I so often do, going to http://www.DivorcedCatholic.com and checking out their programs. They have one that they’ve “taught” in parishes and that can be purchased by parishes…you could become a teacher of it yourself if you felt so inclined.

      I wish you the best in locating – or helping to create – what you and others in your area need.

  13. Manya…. I have been separated for 14 months and will be divorced in a few weeks. I am catholic and wanted to save the marriage with counseling but she refuses. I’m finding it hard to let go… since we had 5 kids together. I feel she is getting bad advice from her family who supports divorce and do not follow the church teachings. A civil Divorce is just that, we will not truly be separate until an annulment… that doesnt seem to matter to her. Any advice?

    • Andrew,
      Pray and ask for strength, understanding, patience, perseverance…for you and your children…and their mother…through this difficult time. God bless and bring you peace.

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