Many people who have gone through the heartbreak of divorce wish to remarry.
The Church has understood this well.
To be true to the teachings of Jesus, the Church cannot simply assume that everyone who is divorced is free to remarry, and therefore has the process of annulment to investigate whether a person was validly married in the first place.
Some in our culture don’t want to wait for a cancellation before they start dating. They go ahead and date in hopes that they will receive an annulment.
Is it correct?
A reader writes
A reader writes:
Are there any official guidelines for divorced people dating before requesting an annulment?
I know someone who does this and claims he’s not breaking any rules by doing it.
To answer this question, I have to distinguish between two different situations: Those waiting for an annulment of documentary procedure and those who hope to obtain an annulment of ordinary procedure.
Cancellations of the documentary procedure
Some people need what is called a “documentary procedure” cancellation. These are cases where it is so clear that a marriage is void that it suffices to present certain documents which will prove the nullity.
The most common type of annulment in this category is when Catholics (who are obligated to observe the Catholic form of marriage) marry outside the Church without a dispensation.
In these cases, the nullity of the marriage is so obvious and certain that the Church does not require a thorough investigation, which is why the documentary process exists.
It is possible, even before the cancellation is pronounced, to be certain that one is not married to one’s ex-spouse.
In such cases, unless something else affects the situation, one is entitled to consider oneself free to marry someone else, and it would not automatically be wrong to investigate the future marriage partners.
While this is not automatically wrong, it might still be prudent, for various reasons, to get the documentary process quashed first.
Cancellations of ordinary procedure
Most cancellation cases are not documentary proceedings. They require a thorough formal investigation and are known as “ordinary procedure” cancellations.
In these cases it is not clearly before the survey that a person is free to marry, that is why the survey is necessary.
These marriages are presumed valid and the parties are required to consider themselves still related to their previous spouse until it is proven that the marriage was void.
So what about pre-cancellation dating in their case?
“Dating” is a phenomenon that only occurs in certain cultures. Consequently, it will not be found explicitly mentioned in the Code of Canon Law.
What will be found is a canon that asks the faithful to act in communion with the Church even in their daily activities:
Can. 209 §1.
The Christian faithful, even in their way of acting, are always obliged to maintain communion with the Church.
Things that would undermine their communion with the Church, such as actions inconsistent with Catholic morality, violate this obligation.
In addition, the Code provides:
All faithful Christians must direct their efforts to lead a holy life and to promote the growth of the Church and its continual sanctification, according to their own condition.
One cannot therefore circumvent what moral theology would say on the grounds that one does not “break any rule” which is found explicitly in canon law. Canon law itself requires people to live morally and strive for holiness.
And even if canon law did not say so, the fundamental moral obligations to act in accordance with one’s state in life and to seek holiness would remain.
Beyond the question of one’s obligations under canon law, there is the even more fundamental question of how to date someone without annulment in terms of moral theology: is it moral to date someone if are you divorced and don’t have an annulment?
Basic moral principles
The meeting is a novelic, and it is simply inappropriate to engage in romantic activity with one person when you should consider yourself married to another.
To do so is a violation of the Ninth Commandment (not to covet your neighbor’s spouse) which also endangers temptations to violate the Sixth Commandment (not to commit adultery) – either mentally, physically, or both!
Apart from very unusual circumstances, those who need an annulment of ordinary procedure must, for practical purposes, consider themselves still married, and therefore for them dating in this condition has the same moral character as dating someone. one other than their spouse while they are still married.
Moral theology would repudiate the actions of a man who knows he is related to his wife but is dating another woman, and therefore it repudiates the actions of a man who must assume he is related to his wife but is dating with someone else.
Do not like
Also, continuing a romantic relationship with someone else when you are presumed to be related to another is not an act of love.
It’s actually cruel.
Not only does this tempt you to violate your marital obligations, but it also leads another person into an immoral situation.
It also upsets both of your feelings and – if the annulment should not happen – it will lead you to the very painful choice between continuing the relationship in violation of your moral obligations or ending the relationship and all the pain that will mean.
Putting another person at this kind of risk does not have that person’s best interests at heart and is therefore not an act of love.
It’s an act of selfishness that doesn’t care about the risk you put the other person in.
Conclusion: Dating when you are not clearly free to enter into marriage is fundamentally messy on multiple fronts.
It is simply wrong.
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