Sunday, August 2, 2009

Charity in Truth for the Divorced and Remarried

Someone pretty high up in the Church recently said that the non-admission to Holy Communion of those whose lives are objectively not in full accordance with the teachings of the Church is an act of 'Charity in Truth'. An article I wrote recently on the subject was published in the March 2009 issue of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland Newsletter: Does there exist an 'internal forum' solution for the divorce and remarried? It's a bit long but you might like to read it. Would welcome comments/queries.


  1. welcome back to the blogosphere!
    Robert Colquhoun

  2. On a certain Catholic discussion board a poster (who had certain knowledge) said that the 'internal forum' solution was regularly practised in his diocese; pastoral concern trumped Church teaching.

  3. Victoria, sadly this happens all too often, which is why I felt moved to write the article.I believe my article describes the true internal formum solution: brother and sister and avoiding scandal.

  4. Dear Father,

    Thank you for this article.

    After 14 years of marriage, I found out that my husband had previously been married in a register office to a woman who wanted to obtain a passport. He never lived with her, he just married her and had no further contact with her. The first I heard about it was when he received a letter from a solicitor on behalf of the other woman, who wanted a divorce so she could marry someone else. He said that he thought the woman had divorced him a long time ago. I spoke to my then parish priest. he said that the register office marriage would no be recognised by the church anyway, and that we should sort out the divorce and then we might need a convalidation ceremony, but he felt that our marriage in the church was valid. So my husband got a divorce, our marriage had to be civilly annulled, and we remarried in a register office, to satisfy the civil law.Our parish priest changed at that point, so we did not discuss it with him again after doing all this. Reading your article, I wonder if we should have put our case before a Tribunal?
    All this happened several years ago, so I hope we have not been inadvertently living in sin all this time, but if we are then I would like to rectify our situation as soon as possible.

  5. Umm ... Father, it's the CLS of Great Britain and Ireland not GB and "Northern Ireland". The latter is a purely civil jurisdiction, whereas Ireland has had no significant eccleciastical boundary changes since 1152! NI dates to 1921.

  6. Thank you Eamonn for this correction which I now make to the original post.

  7. Marguerita

    You when people say 'it's complicated'...

    The validity in the eyes of the Church of your husband's first marriage would depend on whether or not he and/or his first wife was a Catholic at the time. If he or his first wife was a Catholic, then the registry office marriage was certainly invalid. Therefore he would be free in the eyes of the Church to contract another marriage.

    And so he did, with you. Were you free to marry at the time? Was the marriage celebrated in a manner that made it valid in the eyes of the Church? If you or your husband were Catholic at the time, it would have had to be celebrated in the Catholic Church, unless a dispensation had been obtained.

    Then your marriage had to be annulled civilly because it turned out that your husband's previous marriage had not beed dissolved. And your marriage was celebrated anew in the civil forum.

    On the above assumptions, it would appear that your marriage is both ecclesiastically and civilly valid.

    However, if your husband was not Catholic at the time of his first marriage, and if his first 'wife' was not Catholic, then his marriage would enjoy the presumption of validity and he would have to approach the ecclesiastical tribunal to petition a declaration of nullity so that his marriage to you could be validated. To marry with the sole purpose of obtaining a visa is not to marry. But this would have to be proven. Provided he has the evidence to prove this, the tribunal should find in his favour.

    If you need any further clarification, please let me know. If you'd like to discuss it privately, put some contact details in the combox - they won't be published as I moderate all comments.

  8. Thank you for your reply Father.

    My husband was a Catholic at the time he contracted the first marriage, although not practising, and the lady was a Muslim. I am also a Catholic, and our marriage was celebrated in a Catholic church and I was free to marry. So based on what you have said above, I think that means that we have done what was necessary and are now validly married?

  9. I would agree, on the basis of the facts you have given you are validly and sacramentally married and there is nothing to prevent you having full access to the sacraments. I hope this puts you at ease. Should your parish priest have any difficulties with this, I would suggest you take it up with his superior, i.e. vicar General or bishop to get clarification. If I can be of any assistance, don't hesitate to let me know. May God bless you.


Please avoid being 'anonymous' if at all possible.


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