Is Remarrying after Divorce a Sin?

Is Remarrying after Divorce a Sin?

By |2019-06-24T16:32:52-05:00March 11th, 2019|Categories: Marriage & Family, The Church on Marriage|Tags: , |

The Beauty of Catholic Marriage

 

Catholic marriageIs remarrying after divorce a sin? To answer this question from a Catholic viewpoint, we must first understand what marriage is.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines marriage as “the matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life . . . ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”

Few things make people happier or more excited than pledging a lifelong love to someone and beginning a life together in holy matrimony. God created us out of love to know, love, and serve Him. He gave us marriage as a gift—and through that gift we help our spouse and future children to know, love, and serve Him. We know that Christ holds marriage as a sacred bond, as it was at a wedding that Jesus performed His very first miracle. Indeed, the unending love between a husband and wife mirrors the love that God has for us.

A Catholic marriage is not simply a contractual obligation to another person signed in the office of the Justice of the Peace. Marriage is a sacrament meant to be faithful, fruitful, and lifelong. During the sacrament of matrimony, the couple makes a vow in the presence of God, their families, and friends to love, honor, and cherish each other until death. The Church, and Christ Himself, takes this vow—this sacrament—very seriously. The Catechism teaches us that the “matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble: God himself has determined [that] ‘what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.’”

No one ever claimed that marriage would always be easy or fun. Because we are all imperfect human beings, marriage—just like life itself—comes with struggles, pain, difficulties, sadness, and tragedy. But it also comes with joy, love, and happiness. Couples who have been married for 40, 50, or 60 years say that their success lies in taking the bad times with the good and weathering them together, as a team. Furthermore, they know that a marriage is not just a man and a woman. A strong marriage needs Christ. It craves His presence and His guidance.

In short, Catholic marriage is a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman.

Is Remarrying after Divorce a Sin?

is remarrying after divorce a sin?

 

Despite the beauty of marriage, the reality is that too many of them end in divorce. According to the Catholic Church, divorce is “immoral . . . because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society.” These are reasons why Christ and His Church uphold the sanctity of marriage and desire for us to do the same. Broken families lead to a broken society.

So, what is a Catholic who finds himself or herself divorced to do? The shame can be unbearable, not just for the divorced person, but for the children as well. Though our society claims to be “modern” and accept all kinds of families, many divorced people feel embarrassed, shunned, and isolated. To make matters worse, many Catholics erroneously think that the Church alienates divorced people. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The Catholic Church grieves with divorced couples. The Church wants you to know that you still have a home with your Church family and that you are deeply loved. Christ does not want you to leave the Church. He does not want you to stop receiving the sacraments.

And is remarrying after divorce a sin? When a divorced Catholic gets remarried without first receiving a declaration of nullity for the first marriage, he is in fact committing a mortal sin.

Why is this so? This is so because, according to the Church, the original couple is still married. If one or both parties remarry, they are committing adultery. According to the Catechism: “Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery.” Jesus Himself was very clear about the issue of divorce and remarriage: “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery” (Luke 16:18).

A declaration of nullity, often called an annulment, is a statement from a Catholic tribunal stating that the marriage was never a sacramental marriage. In order for a tribunal to declare this, one or both parties must provide evidence as to why they believe they never had a sacramental marriage. The tribunal reviews the evidence and makes a decision. If an annulment is granted, the couple is then free to remarry and receive the sacraments.

If a divorced person marries another without receiving a declaration of nullity from the Church, the person is living in mortal sin and therefore cannot receive Communion.

Have Hope

Just as parents love their children, even though they may sin, so God loves us. He will never turn His back on us. If you are remarried and have not yet gotten an annulment, continue to go to church. Stay close to Christ. Pray. While you cannot receive Communion, you can still partake in the Mass itself. God wants you there. He beckons you. And when you do come, He will be there with open arms, welcoming you home.

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About the Author:

Susan Ciancio
Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. After over a decade of working with the mentally ill and the homeless, she changed careers to enable her to spend more time with her children. For the past 16 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials, and website content. Ten of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the editor of its Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive director for the Culture of Life Studies Program, an educational nonprofit program for k-12 students. In addition, she teaches a First Year Seminar course at her local community college and has three awesome children.

12 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Jennifer Minnick March 27, 2019 at 2:31 PM - Reply

    Great article that brings peace and hope!

    • Avatar
      TeamLife HLI March 28, 2019 at 9:29 AM - Reply

      Thank you, Jennifer!

  2. Avatar
    David Lanni April 9, 2019 at 11:35 AM - Reply

    I’m living this for 8 years now. She left me, took another male partner and I haven’t seen or heard from her since. Sometimes the guilt and pain strangles me. But what is worse are how many “Catholic “ friends tell me to find someone else. I won’t. I can’t. Christ’s words and teaching are my light. When the pain is bad, I put myself on the cross next to Jesus and, knowing I put myself there by my own acts, I beg him to remember me.

    • Avatar
      Glyn Morris July 13, 2019 at 5:01 PM - Reply

      You are a genuine inspiration. Thank you.
      Glyn

    • Avatar
      Jane October 22, 2019 at 3:00 PM - Reply

      I understand and get the same. Thanks for that sharing and being faithful to God’s teachings. That was helpful

  3. Avatar
    Maria June 28, 2019 at 2:38 PM - Reply

    I divorced my husband 20 years ago out of frustration and thought at the time, a loveless marriage. Now after recently coming back to the Church six months ago, I realize that we had never let God into our marriage to help us grow into real love. Unfortunately, I remarried civilly to a good man in 2010, and now regret it even though we are compatible in most ways. The truth is that if I could, I’d want to live out my life alone respecting the sacrament of holy marriage. Telling my current partner is going to hurt him deeply and upset his life drastically & I am not certain this is the right decision. A priest suggested that an annulment could be petitioned from my ex-husband, honestly there are no grounds for one, our marriage was 36 years ago. Do not allow yourself to get into this situation of a very grave mortal sin & pray fervently to be strong & avoid divorce if at all possible. The heartache is unbearable and causes pain for all involved.

  4. Avatar
    Patricia August 16, 2019 at 11:03 AM - Reply

    My ex left me and our 8yr old son after 25yr marriage for a woman who he later married 3days after civil divorce. It’s her fourth marriage. He then went on to request annulment. Based on his own defective character at time of union or something like that. It’s insulting and painful and this process has put a firm wedge between myself and the Church. It’s been a year of ongoing inquest and not yet complete. I still love God and the Church. I still honor my sacramental union. I don’t attend church as it’s a place of sorrow vs solace as my most joyful times were with my ex at church. And then later I had to watch him teach kids liturgy and head TMIY while he would openly live with his mistress. No. That fence is not yet mended. I know the arms of the Church are open for me. But my heart is broken by ex and the Church right now. Time and prayer will hopefully allow me to heal.
    Navigation of this with my son has been impossible. Honor your dad but not what he does not how he lives or his partner in adultery?? I pray the Church would take closer look at the CHILDREN of divorce/adultery and annulment and know that the seeds of the future fruit of the Church are being left to wander and often lost in a river of confusion and uncertainty. Along the banks of that river of dis-union are the spouses who are desperately looking for righteous sacramental ground to plant those now fragile seeds.
    I have asked what to tell me son. I have been met with the same deafening silence from the Church when I asked for someone to reach out to my ex to stop his adultery.

    • Avatar
      HLI Staff August 27, 2019 at 9:32 AM - Reply

      Patricia, first let us say we are most sorry for your heartache and the problems this has caused. You have honored the Sacrament, and rightly so. We would advise you to find a good priest or counselor to help you through this. Also, because he has requested an annulment does not mean that this a given, there is no “guarantee” that the sacrament will not be upheld. He has the free will to apply and you have the right to respond. We would urge you to do this, again, with help from the Church. If you need more information, please write hli@hli.org and ask for more information, as we can probably get you a good reference book on this subject.

  5. Avatar
    Ola August 23, 2019 at 7:50 AM - Reply

    I am 40+, Wife left for 2 years now after 4+ years of marriage and she is insisting on divorce proceedings. We have no children yet. Can I remarry if she refuse to reconcile?

    • Avatar
      HLI Staff October 4, 2019 at 9:26 AM - Reply

      Dear John, were you married within the Catholic Church? If you wish to remarry as a Catholic and remain in the Catholic Church, your first marriage would have to be annulled before that were possible. You may consult your diocese on this; there are tribunals, paperwork, etc. but to qualify for an annulment, you must provide proof that there were impediments making the marriage unlawful before you married her. The Church is very good on these points – having had a great deal of practice over generations. We suggest you start by speaking with your parish priest or diocese. They will help guide you. There are also useful resources, some provided by the Church. Good luck and thank you for keeping the Faith.

  6. Avatar
    Meg September 27, 2019 at 1:45 AM - Reply

    I have been divorced for 6 years. He remarried and had a baby with a non Christian woman. I had other partners, currently single. Am I hell bound? Because I was married to my ex with a priest and had dated other men after the divorce. I want my own family. Will I go to hell for wanting to rebuild my life? We can’t annul our marriage, we both are sane people who happened to not love each other and respect each other to stay together.

    • Avatar
      HLI Staff October 22, 2019 at 2:00 PM - Reply

      Dear Meg, thank you so much for writing. You do not say you are Catholic; were you married in the Catholic Church or by another denomination? If you are Catholic, we strongly recommend that you speak to your priest and learn about annulment. Annulment takes time and is a tribune run by each diocese, composed of three judges. After substantial paperwork, they make a judgement on whether your marriage was sacramentally valid. So for instance, your ex-husband; if he were unfaithful to you from the day you married, that would mean his vow was invalid and the marriage can be annulled. But anulment is not “Catholic divorce.” It has to show there was an impediment, making the act invalid and they Church is good at analyzing all of this canonically with two thousand years of history. We strongly advise you to connect with a priest and discuss your concerns. We would also urge you to go to Confession and say that you are trying to live in communion with the Church, and educate yourself more on the matters as you are guided (and there are good books). If you were married in the Church, you are still considered married until an annulment is granted and any friendships must be platonic unless an annulment is granted. What is not clear is when you say “we can’t annul our marriage,’ as that whole sentence is vague and we’re not sure what you meant. If you are in another marriage now, then you need to speak with a priest about what steps can be taken to regularize the marriage because you should do all you can to live in communion with the Church. So no, you are not hell-bound, but you need to go to confession, and until an annulment is granted, may only have platonic relations. There are many supportive groups that can help you through this process. God bless!

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