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“Ask a Priest: Could a Twice-Married Protestant Join the Church?”
Q: I am a Protestant clergyman, divorced for 20 years from a 25-year marriage. My first wife became an Episcopal priest, and I filed for divorce due to her infidelity. Four years later I married my present wife. She was divorced from a quick Reno marriage after five years. We want to be Roman Catholic; both first spouses are living. We practice as many Catholic disciplines as we can and have done so for about a decade. Is there any possibility of our admission to the sacraments? Confession alone would be helpful. We are diligent students of the faith and both engaged in Bible-focused service/ministry with others. Thank you. – R.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: That you feel drawn to the Catholic Church is a sign that the Holy Spirit is working in your heart.
If you and your partner want to enter the Church, a few steps would be needed.
Your domestic situation would need to be regularized somehow. There are various ways this could happen.
First, you could separate or at the very least resolve to live as brother and sister.
You would also want to see if the both of you could have your first marriages annulled. If — emphasis on if — the annulments were granted, and all else was in order, you and present partner could have your current marriage convalidated (“blessed”) by the Church. The best thing would be to speak with a local Catholic pastor.
I understand how hard it might be for you to regularize your marriage in order to enter the Catholic Church. It might seem like a daunting task, but in the end, meeting those challenges and trusting the Lord in the midst of them will bring many unforeseen graces.
If you decide to pursue entrance into the Catholic Church, you might need to undergo a bit of instruction. It might not take much instruction if you are already familiar with Catholic teaching.
The Catholic pastor could help explain the details of other things you would need to do.
In the meantime feel free to attend Mass (without receiving Communion).
You might want to check out The Coming Home Network, for non-Catholic pastors seeking to enter the Church.
You might want to intensify your prayer life, too, and ask the Holy Spirit for special guidance. He has already brought you quite a distance.
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I’m confused – if Boris Johnson, married and divorced twice as an Anglican, could marry in the Church to his third wife, as his prior marriages are not considered valid for Catholic purposes, what is different about the situation this gentleman asks about?
Great question! Fr. McIlmail responds:
Since Boris Johnson was baptized Catholic, his previous marriages, entered into without Church approval, lacked canonical form (the technical term). Thus, it would have required only a simple administrative process to declare those marriages invalid.
In the case of the Protestant clergyman, his first marriage certainly would be presumed to be valid. Hence there would be a need for an annulment if he wanted his current marriage to be convalidated in the Catholic Church. I hope this helps.