On Protestants Needing Annulments
Why do Protestants need
annulments to marry in the Church?
The short answer is that any time one man and one woman of legal age exchange consent (I do), the marriage is assumed to be valid until proved otherwise (even if neither is baptized) since we believe that "natural marriage" is written deep in the hearts of all men and women. That means two athiests (e.g.) who marry in Las Vegas in front of an Elvis impersonator are still presumed to be in a valid marriage, until proved otherwise.
So every prior marriage needs to be examined, and proved as "invalid consent" before anyone can attempt marriage again in the Catholic Church.
Validity is one dimension; sacramentality is another. Sacraments unite us with Christ in a special way that access tons of special graces not otherwise available to us. Even if a marriage is presumed valid, it is not also sacramental unless both parties are validly baptized.
As to Protestants (non-Catholic Christians) by reason of their valid Christian baptism they are part of the
one Church. That’s good news . . . all Christians are united even if not in
full communion. All baptized are able to receive the sacrament of marriage. Two baptized non-Catholics thus are assumed to contract a valid
and sacramental marriage until proven otherwise. Since sacraments cannot be broken, non-Catholic
Christians need to have their prior unions investigated and their marriage
bonds declared null to be free to validly marry again within the Catholic
A valid Christian baptism is where ( 1) water is poured on the head, (2) the
person baptizing fully intends what the Church intends in baptism, and (3) the Holy
Trinity is invoked, “in the name of the
Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit” with no variation thereof such as
Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.
Sources: Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, the Catechism,
and Canon Law:
There is “ . . . one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to
the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and in all.
of the Catholic Church
1271 Baptism constitutes the foundation of
communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full
communion with the Catholic Church: "For
men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in some,
though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. Justified by faith in
Baptism, [they] are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be
called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the
children of the Catholic Church. Baptism therefore constitutes the sacramental bond of unity existing
among all who through it are reborn.
1278 The essential rite of
Baptism consists in immersing the candidate in water or pouring water on his
head, while pronouncing the invocation of the Most Holy Trinity: the Father,
the Son, and the Holy Spirit
Canon 1055 §1.
The matrimonial consent by which a man and woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and procreation and education of the offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.
For this reason, a valid matrimonial contract cannot exist between the baptized without it being by that fact a sacrament.