The Catholic church doesn’t recognize divorce. You need an annulment to be able to remarry. So, depending on the circumstances, a Catholic marrying a divorced person could be okay or it could turn into the grave sin of adultery.
In this quick Catholic guide, we look at the church’s requirements and laws when it comes to divorce and remarriage.
What You'll Learn Today
What Does The Catholic Church Say About Divorce?
The Catholic Church is vehemently opposed to divorce.
CCC 2384: Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death.
When they marry, couples make a pact for life. And, according to the Bible, no human being can dissolve that partnership. Only death can.
Matthew 19:6: Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.
The Church doesn’t expressly say that getting divorced is a sin; just that it’s against the natural law.
In fact, Catholics who’ve undertaken civil divorce are in good standing with the church and can receive communion (as long as they remain unmarried or have remarried after annulment).
The church takes so seriously the permanence of marriage that it officially doesn’t recognize a civil divorce.
Even if you get divorced legally, you are still married in the eyes of the Church. Marrying again without getting an annulment is tantamount to adultery.
That said, the Catholic Church recognizes that a civil divorce is necessary in some circumstances.
CCC 2383: If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.
Can A Catholic Marry A Divorced Person?
The only way to dissolve a marriage in the Catholic Church is to get an annulment, a process that Pope Francis has made easier.
An annulment is not a religious divorce. Rather, it’s a recognition that a proper matrimony did not take place in the first place.
Once you get an annulment, it’s like you were never married. Now you can remarry if you wish.
If a Catholic marries a divorced person who has received an annulment for their previous marriage, then all is good. It’s not a sin and the church will be more than willing to officiate the sacrament of matrimony.
If, however, the person only got a civil divorce but not an annulment, then they are still married. The bible considers it adultery, which is a mortal sin, if you marry such a person.
‘Do not commit adultery’ is one of the ten commandments.
Can A Catholic Marry A Divorced Non-catholic?
We’ve come across some people online saying their Parish was okay with them marrying a divorced non-catholic without having to get an annulment.
The justification is that the Catholic Church does not recognize non-catholic weddings, so it’s like the person was never married according to the Church.
We recommend talking to your priest for clarification if you are in a situation like this one.
But generally, that argument is not true.
The Catholic Church recognizes non-catholic marriages as valid. This is especially so for marriages between two baptized Christians (e.g. Protestants or Eastern Orthodox).
Such a marriage is considered sacramental and thus cannot be dissolved by any human. Marrying a divorced non-Catholic would still count as a sin of adultery if they’ve not gotten an annulment.
What Happens If A Catholic Marries A Divorced Person?
If the divorced person has gotten an annulment, then nothing would happen. You can get happily married in church.
Note: If you are a catholic marrying a non-catholic, that’s a mixed-marriage. You’ll need a dispensation from disparity of cult from the local Bishop.
If, however, you marry a divorced person without getting an annulment, then you are committing adultery.
That’s because in the eyes of the church, that person is still married even if they got a legal divorce.
You’ll be living in the sin of adultery, which is a grave and mortal sin.
It’s highly likely that the church will refuse to officiate the sacrament of matrimony.
Note that you don’t have to get married to commit adultery. As soon as you start desiring that person in your heart, you are already in sin.
Matthew 5:28: But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If you find yourself in such a situation, we recommend going to your priest immediately for advice.
The priest will recommend you get an annulment and go to confession to seek repentance from the mortal sin.
The alternative is to stop desiring that person.
If you find a way to marry a divorced person without an annulment, you’ll be living in sin and no longer in good standing with the church.
You’ll not be eligible for communion and, more gravelly, you risk eternal condemnation if you die while in mortal sin. You won’t get a chance to purify your soul in purgatory.
Can A Catholic Remarry After Divorce?
If you are the one who’s divorced and you want to marry again, the same advice and requirements above apply.
You’ll need to seek an annulment from the Church. Once it’s given, you can remarry.
If the person you are marrying is also divorced, they also need to get an annulment.
You can marry a non-catholic, even one who is not baptized. The Catholic Church does not prohibit mixed religion marriages.
However, you’ll need permission from the Bishop (called a dispensation) to go forward with the marriage.
You’ll also need to make promises to baptize your future children and raise them in the Catholic faith.