While getting into a liturgical tussle here earlier today, I noticed a post describing a candidate for full communion:
I have a good friend, formerly a Methodist minister, who was received into the Church several years ago. His eldest child, a daughter, was married for one month in an abortive attempt at marriage when she was in her late teens. Now she has decided she wants to become a Catholic and has been involved in the RCIA program in a local parish in Atlanta since September. However, the priest of her parish has told her that in order to become a Catholic in his parish, she must first get an annulment. The way he has put it to her, as she relates it, is in flat out pedestrian terms: no annulment, no church membership.
Many bloggers and our commentariats know this is wrong, unless …
Unless the woman is currently married.
Here’s how it works:
If you are divorced, you may continue to participate in the sacramental life of the Church. If you are a divorced non-Catholic, you may become a Catholic, annulment or no. However, if you are divorced and remarried, you will need to attend to the Church’s respect for marriage, not only as a sacrament, but as an institution. The earlier marriage(s) will need to be annulled before you can continue as both a married person and a Catholic.
This is one of the most difficult hurdles for incoming Catholics: if there is a previous marriage and neither party was ever a Catholic. Strangely enough, if a Roman Catholic marries outside of the Church, it is a relatively easy matter to declare the form of marriage insufficient. A Catholic could theoretically get married to ten spouses in front of a JP, a Moonie, or whatever. And then validly marry number eleven with a relative minimum of red tape and fuss.
Since when has getting an annulment from an earlier attempt at marriage become a condition for becoming a member of the Catholic Church?
Canonically, no person can impose such a condition. This is the Catholic Church, however, and sometimes fringey ideas get more mileage that they should.