Catholic church and divorce

I just read the thread about divorce, Henry VIII and the Anglican church.
Now, at my knowledge in the Roman Catholic church it is assumed that divorce is not possible. However this is not true. I know that Caroline of Monaco and her first husband Philippe Juneaux (sp) is divorced on civil AND catholic right, which is however exceptional. But when is such a catholic divorce granted ?

I’m no catholic, but I know that it’s usually given when one person has an affair.

No, this is not correct. A member of the Roman Catholic church can only re-marry for CHURCH when his/her partner has died. On reasons,not known to me, the Roman Catholic church grants a new marriage when the husband is still alive (e.g. Caroline + Philippe).

There is no such thing as a Catholic divorce. You get an annullment, which means that the Church declares that the marriage never happened in the first place. One of the parties has to prove that there was some sort of defect in the marriage. There are chancery court hearings, and on and on and on.

You’ve opened up a Pandora’s Box here.

Here is a nifty site concerning annulments:

From what I learn being a Catholic (I still consider myself Catholic, albiet a very bad Catholic), there is no such thing as a “Catholic divorce.” Perhaps an there was an annulment?

According to this story, your original premise is flawed:

OK, here’s one more:

OK, not only was I raised a Catholic, but my mother has been through the annullment procedure twice, so I feel uniquely qualified to comment on this.

It’s true that within the Catholic church, there’s no such thing as a “divorce”. A divorce would mean that a marriage had taken place, and now it’s over. Unfortunately, in the Church, once you’re married, you’re married, unless one of the partners dies. A secular divorce means nothing to the Church. Were a divorced person to remarry, he or she would technically be living in sin, because the second marriage would be invalid.

So what you have to get instead is an annullment. An annullment means that the marriage never happened in the first place. Usually you can get one annullment without too much fanfare, by saying that you were young and didn’t know what you were doing, or that your partner deceived you (i.e., by saying he would raise your children to be Catholic and then refusing to have kids, or wanting to raise them Jewish, or maybe he became abusive, something like that).

However, it is much more difficult to get a second annullment. The Church tends to think that after your first mistake, you should have wised up and figured this whole marriage thing out. Mom had to spend two years filling out paperwork, writing out what was basically her life history, and sitting through endless meetings with priests and bishops. So did her prospective husband (my current stepfather), who wasn’t even Catholic at the time. It was a huge mess. It finally went through, but I can assure you that second annullments are quite rare.

So anyway, that’s the deal with Catholics and divorce, at least from my perspective.

This forum is “General Questions.” Even though there is no explicit requirement for this, I would like to point out the value of posting accurate answers to the questions posed.

In other words, if you don’t know the answer, the very least you should do is qualify your posting as a guess, or a hunch. Ideally, you would simply refrain from posting. I address this advice specifically to st1d, whose contribution to this thread was of absolutely no worth.

While the castigation above may be better suited in spirit (if not in vituperative rhetoric) to the Pit, the part that is GQ-worthy is the refutation of the suggestion that one partner’s having an affair is sufficient, in Roman Catholic tradition, to vitiate the marriage bond. It is not.

The Catholic position is that matrimony is a sacrament - one of only seven - given by each partner to the other at the moment of marriage and dissolved only by death. In other words, once you’re validly married, there is no way to destroy that matrimonial bond.

The Church recognizes civil divorce, but considers the partners still married, and simply living apart. A civilly divorced person can obviously not re-marry, since he or she is still married.

An annullment is a decree that recognizes that, earlier appearances to the contrary, the marriage in question was never valid. If one, or both, of the parties to the marriage labored under a then-unseen defect, then the marriage, which looked vlaid at the time, really is not.

As an extreme example, a “shotgun wedding,” where one person marries under threat of death, could later be annulled, since consent must be freely given. The existence of individual impediments (e.g., antecedent and perpetual impotence to have sexual intercourse, the bond of a previous marriage, the existence of holy orders or a perpetual vow of chastity in a religious institute, marriage between direct descendants and ancestors, or failure to reach age 16 for the man and 14 for the woman) will also serve as grounds for the annulment.

The process takes the form of a trial - the marriage is presumed valid, and the one seeking the decree of nullity must present evidence to show why it was not valid. The judge rules, and the losing party may appeal. Once the appellate process is resolved, the decree is issued.

  • Rick

My understanding <tips hat to Bricker> is that not marrying in a Catholic church is itself sufficient grounds for annulment. So my wife (raised Catholic) would have no problem getting an annullment if she wanted one. Never mind that we’ve been married almost ten years, and have three kids. In the eyes of “The Church”, there is no marriage.

I believe that if you a marry a non-Catholic and it’s not a Catholic wedding, the Church will usually just disregard the first marriage as if it never happened. It’s fairly easy to get the Church to accept a subsequent marriage between people if it is both their first trip to the altar in a Catholic Church.


You’re mistaken, I’m afraid. Even a civil marriage is presumed valid; the fact that you were married other than in a Catholic church is not, itself, sufficient reason for an annullment.

There are some things which might constitute diriment impediments, however. The Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law, Can. 1124, provides:

So if you were not Catholic, and your wife did not receive a dispensation or permission to marry, then the marriage might suffer an impediment.

However, there’s a big difference between this and “…in the eyes of the Church, there is no marriage.” To the contrary, Can. 1060 provides:

In other words, in the eyes of the Church there is a marriage; it would fall to one of you to prove that there wasn’t.


See my remarks above. It’s not by any means automatic that the Church will disregard the first marriage, even if it didn’t happen in a Catholic setting.

There is such a thing as the “Pauline Privilege,” which applies to a marriage of two unbaptized people where one of them is subsequently baptized and becomes Catholic. Can. 1143 provides that the marriage is dissolved in favor of the faith of the party who received baptism, if the unbaptized partner is not willing to receive baptism or at least live peaceably with the new-found faith of the baptized partner, and the baptized person wishes to marry another in the faith.

Apart from that extreme case, it still comes down to proving the existence of a hidden diriment impediment to the marriage in order to get a decree of nullity.

  • Rick

My question is thus:

If a couple has a marriage annulled, then there was no marriage. If there was no marriage, (lets assume they had sex) then are they guilty of fornication: sex outside of the bounds of marriage?

Fornication, like any sin, is not a “strict liability” offense. In other words, to seriously sin, you must commit an act you know to be wrong, with full advertance of the will.

The couple was having sex, in good faith, in the context of marriage. The later declaration of nullity does not retroactively make their actions sinful. They believed they were acting properly.

By the way – not on topic, exactly, but worth pointing out: an otherwise valid but unconsummated marriage may be annulled.

  • Rick

Thanks for the info…don’t mean to sound extreme either…just trying to sort this out logically.

If a guy kills Marilyn Manson. Lets say he really believes that Manson was the antichrist and that he was doing the will of God, is he guilty of murder the sin. Even though he believed he was acting properly… perhaps even following the voice of God (in his head). Is there a way to plead insanity through the church to avoid sin? By the way I am not describing myself. REALLY!

My cousin’s father & mother divorced – his mom was catholic & his dad wasn’t. He told me that in the eyes of the Catholic Church, this meant he and his sister were now considered illegitimate. If I understand you correctly, that is not correct. Is it?


In the situation you describe, the person would be have committed the sin of murder, since he genuinely believed he was doing the will of God, and God presumably has every right to overrule His own Commandments, should the need arise.

Interestingly enough, he would also probably not be guilty of the secular crime of murder, since he, by reason of mental disease or defect, lacked the ability to distinguish right from wrong, and could not appreciate the nature and quality of his act.

Remember, though, that the concept of sin is not the same as the concept of crime. A crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, to a jury of one’s peers. A sin is an act that offends the goodness of God, and exists between the sinner and God. When the intelligent and aware person, knowing God and His law, deliberately refuses to obey, moral evil - mortal sin - results.

  • Rick

It is not correct.

Can. 1137 provides:

The only way to have illegitimate children is from a couple that are not married. If they are married and later receive a decree of nullity, the children are legitimate. If they are married and obtain a civil divorce, the children are legitimate.

  • Rick

Quoth Bricker:

It’s important to note, too, that such “express permission of the competent authority” is a fairly routine practice, and is almost always granted. If it was a church wedding, officiated over by a Catholic priest, then he almost certainly thought to bring up the relevant paperwork.

Of course, this is assuming that the non-Catholic belongs to some other Christian church. If we’re talking about, say, a Catholic and a Satanist, then it’s probably a bit less trivial.

So let me get this straight…

Can a non-Christian (or non-Catholic) sin?

You said a person must : “commit an act you know to be wrong, with full advertance of the will”. If a person fully believed there was no God or some other god or gods… and in their “god’s” value system, things that are sins in Catholicism are not wrong. Are they sinning.

Under the system you describe a person with no relationship with God would be unable to sin.

Additionally, if I really beleived that stepping on ants was morally wrong and I deliberately refuse to obey this command. Am I sinning.

Summary: is sin

  1. related to acts that are wrong,
  2. related to my belief that acts are wrong
  3. related to God’s knowledge that acts are wrong, irrespective of my belief.?