Hello Brother Dimond:
My husband and I heard you on Coast to Coast a couple of days ago and loved everything that you said. We spent the entire day and evening yesterday watching the dvds on your website and reading the information there. Everything you've said makes perfect sense to us and we both feel that you have come to us at a time in our lives when we were at a crossroads spiritually.
So here is our main question: We have been married for five years and have a six year old daughter together. My husband was born and raised a Catholic in the pre-Vatican II Church, and I converted to Catholicism from the Methodist Church after Vatican II. We were both married previously in the Catholic Church and then divorced. We married each other in a civil ceremony without obtaining annulments. At the time, we did not think about the religious ramifications of what we were doing. However, after listening to you (especially the dvd on Hell), we are now thinking quite a bit about it. So the question is, what do we do now? We obviously do not want to go to Hell. Is an annulment still an option? If so, what do we do in the meantime while we are waiting for the process to complete?
…You and your fellow Brothers are in our prayers as you continue this wonderful work. We look forward to your response.
Thank you for your e-mail. It's great to hear about your interest, and God is definitely giving you graces to act upon this information. We would encourage you to pray the Rosary each day if you are not doing so now. Now to your important question. If your husband was born and raised a Catholic and was previously married by a priest to another person baptized as a Catholic, then he was validly married to that person. Thus, he wouldn't be free to marry again if that person is still alive (unless that person whom he married was already married, but we'll assume that's not the case).
In your case, you were a Methodist. If you were married to another baptized Protestant then you were married validly and wouldn't be free to marry unless that person is dead. If these facts are correct, then you and he are both married to others and obviously cannot live as married people together; for that would be an adulterous situation. I know that this is probably hard to accept, but there is no other answer to give since it is the truth (assuming the above facts about your past marriages are correct). We hope that you will act on the grace to do the right thing. We have enclosed at the end some points about what a true annulment actually means so that you have a better understanding of it, and why it wouldn’t apply to your situation (assuming the facts as summarized here are correct).
According to Catholic dogma, the essential properties of marriage are unity and indissolubility. A marriage validly contracted and consummated is binding until death separates the spouses. “There is no such thing as the annulment of a consummated sacramental marriage. The expression is sometimes used inaccurately for the declaration of nullity of a union reputed to be a marriage but which upon examination is proved not to have been such.” It’s important for us to understand that there is no such thing as “an annulment” of a consummated marriage, but only a declaration of nullity that a certain union never was a marriage to begin with if there is clear-cut evidence proving that a particular union was not validly contracted.
With this in mind, it’s easy to see why “annulments” (that is, declarations that certain unions were not actually marriages) were traditionally given very rarely. Such cases are extremely difficult to prove, and if there’s a doubt about whether a particular union was a validly contracted marriage the Church presumes the validity of the marriage.
Canon 1014, 1917 Code of Canon Law: “Marriage enjoys the favor of law; therefore in doubt the validity of marriage is to be upheld until the contrary is proven, with due regard for the prescription of Canon 1127.”
A good example of “an annulment” that could be given on solid grounds would be if a woman were to “marry” (through no fault of her own) a man whom she later discovered had been a validly ordained priest. Since priests cannot enter into matrimony (canon 1972), the union between this priest and the woman was not a valid marriage. She would be given a decree of nullity that she was never married. She would be free to marry another person.
Another obvious example for an “annulment” would be if the person you “married” turned out to have been married before, but he hid this information from you. A more subtle and anachronistic example would be if a woman married a slave whom she actually thought was a free man, but was not. A declaration of nullity would be given, since that particular error about the person one is marrying is so grave that it renders the marriage invalid (canon 1083.2).
In all of these cases, the reason must be grave and the evidence that there never was a valid marriage must be clear. That’s why only 338 annulments were granted in 1968 in the U.S., when the pre-Vatican II teaching on marriage was still enforced for the most part. However, with the explosion of the post-Vatican II apostasy, the teaching of the indissolubility of marriage has been thrown out the window along with the other dogmas. From 1984 to 1994 the Vatican II Church in the U.S. granted just under 59,000 annually, even though the number of Catholic marriages has fallen one third since 1965! The Vatican II sect grants an annulment to almost anyone who wants one.