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Why does my husband's baptism status matter to his ex-wife's current marriage?
January 1, 2013 5:42 PM   Subscribe

My husband was married briefly and divorced over 20 years ago. Since then, his ex-wife has remarried, divorced again and recently remarried. My husband and his ex wife have had no contact since before the divorce. She has just (out of the blue) asked if my husband was baptized (he was not). She said she would need him to fill out some paperwork acknowledging that he hasn't been baptized so her new marriage is recognized in the Catholic church. Can someone explain what my husband's baptismal status has to do with her current marriage being recognized? They are divorced, there was one child born from their marriage. Could she be trying to have their marriage annulled??

I don't know if I chose the correct category for this question. Thanks, in advance, for your answers.
posted by getyourlife to Religion & Philosophy (18 answers total)
 
Could she be trying to have their marriage annulled??

Yes. If it's important to the couple to have the Church recognize their marriage, an annulment would be necessary, and your husband not being baptized would be grounds for one. A Catholic annulment has no legal effect, so it shouldn't actually affect you in any way.
posted by oinopaponton at 5:52 PM on January 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


She's probably undergoing the Tribunal so her current marriage (presumably a civil ceremony) can be convalidated by the Church. If so, she's seeking a declaration of nullity, yes, but it has no effect on any aspect of the civil divorce, your marriage or the status of the child from the previous marriage. It shouldn't directly affect you in any way. Have a look here.
posted by gingerest at 5:53 PM on January 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sounds like she's trying to have their marriage annulled in a court of canon law. That will have no impact outside of church records, though.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:53 PM on January 1, 2013


If your husband was not baptised, then his marriage to his ex would likely not be recognised as a sacramental marriage by the Catholic church. Source.

If they didn't have explicit permission for this (from the relevant bishop), then the marriage may have been 'invalid' for the purposes of the church. Which means that there would be no impediment to her getting married again in the church.

If it was a valid marriage to start with, I don't think she could get an annulment - that means a declaration that the marriage never existed, which wouldn't be the case.

If it wasn't a valid marriage, she wouldn't need an annulment.

But as others have said, none of this should affect you.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:55 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


It sounds like she's trying to get the marriage anulled, definitely. In the Catholic church, a marriage between someone who has been baptized and someone who hasn't is treated with a lot of suspicion. When bonehead and I were married, we had to get a letter from his folks certifying that he hadn't been married before (because he wasn't baptized, the church won't take his word for it).

It sounds like she's trying to argue that, because your husband hasn't been baptized and he didn't make it clear at the time of their marriage, that his marriage to her 'didn't count'. The church would then declare the marriage null and void.

I can't speak to how she's going to argue out of her second marriage.
posted by LN at 5:55 PM on January 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


My mother had a friend who had been divorced several times and was going to marry a Catholic. In order for her new marriage to be recognized in the Catholic Church, she had to fill out paperwork showing that her previous marriages were not legit "in the eyes of The Lord" because either the previous husbands were not Catholic or were not religious (there might have been some other choices). Ultimately she was getting her previous marriages annulled in the Catholic Church (not in the legal since). So it's quite possible that is what she's doing. In the grand scheme of things, all it consists of is paperwork that is sent to the Diocese and approved. It has nothing to do with the legal status of the divorce in the state.
posted by MultiFaceted at 6:00 PM on January 1, 2013


Nthing annulment. The Catholic Church is weird about marriages. Or rather, is very particular about them. When I was an infant, the local priest refused to baptize me because my parents' marriage wasn't recognized by the Church.

One of the ways that can happen is to have a prior marriage and divorce. An annulment means the prior marriage doesn't count so the Church can't get all up in one's business about it.
posted by zippy at 6:21 PM on January 1, 2013


Sounds like what everyone else said, annulment, but if they have had no contact for 20 years, why respond now? Just ignore her if this is bothering you/
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:39 PM on January 1, 2013


Yup, annulment. It's not really a big deal unless your husband has some emotional attachment to his first marriage being acknowledged by the church.
posted by joan_holloway at 6:41 PM on January 1, 2013


It's not really a big deal unless your husband has some emotional attachment to his first marriage being acknowledged by the church.

Would this make the child from that marriage illegitimate in the church? Would that make any difference to the child? That might be a hassle if s/he wants to get married in the church him/herself at some point.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 7:41 PM on January 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anulment in the Catholic Church does not make the children from the anuled marriage illegitimate. It's an odd thing to follow, logically, but documentation makes it clear that the anulment of a marriage does not affect children born of that union (speaking as one of those children).

Forgive the crappy citation, but apparently this is in Canon Law 1137.
posted by AthenaPolias at 8:19 PM on January 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Since AthenaPolias responded to this before I could, let me supplement with a direct citation to to Canon 1137.
posted by Ranucci at 8:22 PM on January 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are no barriers to participating in any sacrament of the Roman Catholic Church that are related to one's parents' marital status. Annulment means only that a marriage is determined not to have been a valid sacramental marriage.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:36 PM on January 1, 2013


If your husband was not baptised, then his marriage to his ex would likely not be recognised as a sacramental marriage by the Catholic church.

I didn't realise you could link directly to this stuff, but this point is based on Canon 1124:
Without express permission of the competent authority, a marriage is prohibited between two baptized persons of whom one is baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it after baptism and has not defected from it by a formal act and the other of whom is enrolled in a Church or ecclesial community not in full communion with the Catholic Church.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:56 PM on January 1, 2013


Sounds like what everyone else said, annulment, but if they have had no contact for 20 years, why respond now? Just ignore her if this is bothering you

But it's not about him it's about her. The ex-wife obviously wants to get married to her new husband in a Catholic church and have her marriage officially sanctioned by the church, meaning she does not have to "live in sin" with her new husband if she were to marry him outside the church.

Your husband would have to be a dick to deny her this, honestly spoken. It's no skin at all from him other than a few moments of paperwork and it is a simple matter of respect for someone else's religious beliefs.
posted by three blind mice at 12:58 AM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


You don't say if your husband is or is not Catholic himself, and I think that makes a difference in the answer to this question:

*If he is NOT Catholic, then he could go ahead and sign, it wouldn't make any difference to him.
*But if your husband IS a member of the Catholic Church, then he should NOT sign before talking to his own parish priest (or even his bishop) --- in this case it certainly WOULD make a difference to his own church standing.
posted by easily confused at 3:46 AM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


You don't say if your husband is or is not Catholic himself, and I think that makes a difference in the answer to this question:

The husband's not baptized (in any church?), so if he's Catholic he's got more to worry about than his former marriage.
posted by hoyland at 5:58 AM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Would this make the child from that marriage illegitimate in the church? Would that make any difference to the child? That might be a hassle if s/he wants to get married in the church him/herself at some point.

Nope. The Catholic Church doesn't even care about "legitimacy" as far as I recall.
posted by wayland at 5:59 AM on January 2, 2013


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