Q : 
Is it true a divorced person not allowed to be baptized? How about for those who are remarried? Why?
【 Question from 】 Canada 加拿大

Fr. Francis : 

For someone who is seeking baptism, the only reason the sacrament cannot be given is that he or she still desires to live in a lifestyle that is contrary to the gospel.

Although divorce is not part of God’s plan, divorce itself is not a sin. Today, many who are married are not open to the truth of marriage. And if one person in a marriage is like that, their life together would be a series of pain and suffering.
Often in these relationships we cannot even say who is right and who is wrong, because many of them are truly ignorant of the truth. And there are also some, because of emotional scars from childhood, or brokenness within, or mental illnesses, who are truly incapable of entering into marriage. Genuine ignorance and incapacity, these cannot be mortal sins. They are mistakes and tragedies.

And then there are those situations, where, either unilaterally or bilaterally, there are verbal, emotional, financial, physical or sexual abuses. These are violations of basic human dignity. In these cases, separation would be necessary.

And if these situations present a threat to the innocents involved, especially children, and would require legal protection, divorce may even be necessary.

And then, of course, a divorcee could be the victim. And even for the culprit, even though there may not be the possibility of repairing the marriage, there is always room for repentance and conversion.

Therefore, a divorcee can receive the sacrament of baptism.

But those who are remarried cannot receive baptism, since Jesus repeatedly stated in the gospel, those who are remarried are committing adultery. It is not pleasing to God.

But some would say, the previous marriage was very bad. Does it mean that one is condemned to be alone after divorce?

The Church understands the difficulties experienced in marriage, and knows that many of it failures were due to one or both parties never having entered into authentic married life. The Church has the authority to judge if these failed marriages have indeed been authentic. And if it is found that they did not possess the necessary criteria of marriage, the Church has the power to declare them to be null. This is called “annulment”. Then the current civil marriage may be recognized by the Church, and is no longer a remarriage.

Hence, for a remarried person to receive baptism:

  1. Apply annulment for the previous marriage from the Church’s marriage tribunal. This will take time, possibly more than two years, and there is no guarantee of success.
  2. Wait until the previous spouse pass away.
  3. Live as brother and sister with the current spouse. This one is really difficult. Not only both sides have to be willing, they also have to consider the impact on the children and the family. But difficult as it is, some have chosen this path. Because after they have experienced God, they knew it is more important for them to do this.
  4. For the dying and the very old. For them, many of the above considerations no longer apply.