Non-Catholics and Annulments
If a single Catholic wishes to marry a non-Catholic, who is divorced, why does the non-Catholic’s first marriage have to be annulled even though they are not members of the Catholic Church and were married in another church?
The previous marriage of the divorced non-Catholic has to be investigated by the Tribunal process.
A wedding between a non-Catholic single man (who had never been married before) and a non-Catholic single woman (who had never been married before) is regarded as a valid marriage. The Catholic Church presumes the validity of such marriage and this presumption remains in place until and unless the contrary can be proved by means of an ecclesiastical decree of nullity issued by the Catholic Church. This is the Catholic Church’s understanding and teaching with regard to marriage. Therefore, the Catholic Church cannot and does not presume that the non-Catholic divorced party is free to enter a new marriage unless the canonical status of the previous marriage can be determined in favor of the non-Catholic.
If the Catholic chooses to marry the non-Catholic without a decree of nullity, the marriage is regarded as canonically invalid because of the presumption in favor of the validity of the non-Catholic party's prior bond of marriage.
Several issues regarding the status of children are often discussed in the context of a case for a declaration of nullity.
A declaration of nullity by the Church has no civil effect in the United States. It does not, therefore, affect rights in regard to such matters as property, inheritance, visitation of children and the like. A declaration of nullity has no effect on any children born of the union, in regard to such similar rights or legitimacy, either in secular law or in Church law.
It must be understood that any case presented to the Tribunal may be suspended if any civil action is underway or forthcoming. It is important for the Tribunal to know if all obligations of the Civil Divorce are being met. This includes the obligations to children and to the previous spouse. A party's failure to meet such obligations are an obstacle to a future marriage in the Church
Divorced Catholics and the Sacraments
Many Catholics whose marriages end in divorce believe that they are excluded from the sacraments of the Catholic Church. Are divorced Catholics permitted to receive Communion?
There is a distinction in this scenario:
-If a Catholic has divorced their spouse and HAS NOT entered into a new union they are not excluded from the sacraments – including the Eucharist. In the case of reception of the Eucharist, they simply must be properly disposed (in a state of grace), as any other Catholic is required to be, in order to receive the body and blood of Christ.
-If a Catholic has divorced their spouse and HAS entered into a new union without the benefit of a decree of nullity they are excluded from the sacraments (including the Eucharist) until such time that their situation is regularized by the Church.
For more information, Catholics are encouraged to talk with their parish priest, or contact the Tribunal directly.