Dear Catholic Exchange,
I am 64 years old, my husband who I married in the Catholic Church 40 years ago, left me after 40 years of marriage for another woman. How free is he to marry in the Catholic Church and if I should so desire in the future to marry some one else and/or if he should come back home to me, what would we need to do? I am praying my heart out that he does come back to me, our family, and the true teachings and sacraments of the Catholic Church?
Very mixed up and confused.
Please help and pray for our marriage to come alive again.
Mary Ann Diem
Dear Mary Ann,
May God bless you and give you His peace.
Simply put, a man is not free to leave his wife and attempt marriage with another woman. A married couple can separate with a view to resolving serious problems, and some have even divorced to establish a different legal status for the woman, but they may not attempt marriage with another person.
Nonetheless, some marriages were never validly brought about. "Marriage is brought about through the consent of the parties, legitimately manifested between persons who are capable according to law of giving consent (Code of Canon Law, c. 1057§1). Sometimes people enter into a union unable or unwilling to give their full consent when they exchange vows. If you or your husband were to petition a marriage tribunal for a declaration of nullity, and the marriage were determined to be invalid, you and he would be free to marry in the Catholic Church.
If your husband returns, with no annulment granted, then the focus should be on strengthening your marriage and your spiritual lives (If he obtains a divorce before returning there will be some steps to take with the state to regain your legal status as a married couple). If there is an annulment granted, then you would have to validly exchange vows before resuming life together as husband and wife.
Please know that your family is in our prayers.
United in the Faith,
Catholics United for the Faith
827 North Fourth Street
Steubenville, OH 43952