I’ve been divorced three times – can I still become Catholic?

“I’m not Catholic, but because I’ve listened to you and all of the other shows on Relevant Radio it’s really touched my heart. And so one of my concerns is, I’ve been married and divorced three times – I don’t know if me becoming Catholic is even an option?” asked Candace from Texas on The Patrick Madrid Show.

“That is not an obstacle for you to become Catholic. There may be some changes that you would need to make in order for you to be received into the Church, but you could do it! You’ve got it within your grasp to do that,” said Patrick Madrid.

He spoke with Candace about the presumed validity of her previous marriages. He recommended that she speak with a priest about the annulment process and if it is applicable to her situation. “The Church presumes that all people who are baptized—whether Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or what have you—they have a valid marriage unless it’s proved otherwise. Now, by valid I’m referring to the sacramental quality of the marriage.”

“The Church cannot annul a valid marriage, but the Church can declare that a marriage that was presumed to be sacramentally valid to be null, meaning that there was no sacrament celebrated, even though everybody may have thought that it was sacramental,” said Madrid. “When they’re satisfied that there was some reason that would have prevented a valid marriage having taken place, then that person is free … to have their marriage blessed or get married to someone in the Catholic Church. Those different scenarios open up. The reason that’s important is that’s going to affect the way that you would come into the Catholic Church.”

While that’s going on and while you’re taking instructions in the Faith, what I would suggest is when you’re certain that you want to be Catholic, then—this is going to be a big step, brace yourself—you would be in a position to say I’m going to live as brother and sister with the husband I’m with now. Because Jesus said, ‘He who divorces his wife and gets remarried commits adultery.’ So this is why the Church has this ministry as a way to determine if that person is free to get married and so long as you’re not free because you were married or presumed to be married sacramentally, it’s not licit to engage in sexual activity with somebody else.”

“So, that would be the way in which you could come into the Catholic Church. You would not be baptized, but you would receive your other sacraments of initiation—Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist—you’d go to confession, and you would be received with open arms and it would be a wonderful thing. And that sacrifice that you would make to say, ‘Lord, I want to be completely ready to receive you in the sacrament and I want to be living according to the teaching of the Church and the teaching that you give in the Gospel,’ you can do it! Now, I know it’s easier said than done and I don’t mean to say it in a light way because I realize this is a serious thing that couples undertake. But it would be heroically virtuous and it would be a straight path right into the Catholic Church.”

Listen to the full podcast here.

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.