Marriage between a woman and a man in the Catholic Church is a sacrament. It’s both a sign of the love between Christ and his Church, and also a participation in that love.
If a spouse dies, a Catholic may re-marry.
In the situation of a marriage breakdown, sometimes after an extensive investigation a decree of nullity (annulment) may be granted related to a marriage. This is a judgement made by a competent Church tribunal that a marriage that was entered into did not meet the conditions of being a valid sacramental marriage. Such a judgement may be made after a civil divorce has been granted and the annulment process is completed.
If a decree of nullity (annulment) is granted, the first marriage is not recognised as a valid sacramental marriage by the Church and therefore the parties may enter into another marriage, where this new marriage (in the eyes of the Church) is viewed as a first sacramental marriage.
If an annulment is granted there are no restrictions.
If an annulment is not sought or is not granted the Church views the first marriage as still current even though there may have been a civil divorce. In such a situation, the Church views the couple as still married but separated. People who are in this situation are not free to marry in the Church.
If you require further advice regarding marriage, divorce and annulments, please contact the Marriage Tribunal Office in your diocese. These offices can usually be found by doing an internet search with the following words ‘Catholic marriage tribunal’ and insert the name of the nearest capital city to where you live. They will be able to offer you professional advice and pastoral support.
Wedding photo on Unsplash
17 October 2019