When in Rome, Marry as the Catholics Do

By Carolyn Homer (with comedic assistance from Eric D. Snider). Carolyn is a Mormon attorney engaged to a Catholic attorney in Washington D.C. Eric is a film critic and humorist in Portland, Oregon.

Friends keep asking Brad and me when we’re getting married. We appreciate the support, but we believe marriage is a private decision, to be made by no one but the bride, the groom, and the Catholic Church.

Brad and I want a Catholic wedding, and the Catholic Church takes marriage very seriously — almost as seriously as it takes divorce.

Being Mormon, I respect quirky theologies. Your faith? Your rules. But now that respect has gotten me into trouble. You see, Brad and I are divorced. (Not from each other.)

You can imagine what a bureaucratic nightmare this is, wrangling with the Catholic Church. Well, whatever you’re imagining, double it, and set it on fire. We’ve spent months navigating it — not to plan our wedding, but to figure out the process of getting permission to plan our wedding.

We knew the process would require religious annulments. In the Mormon Church, this meant my ex and I each wrote letters about our divorce, and then met with our bishops and stake president, who also wrote letters endorsing our divorcedness. That whole package of love notes was sent to Salt Lake City (to church headquarters, not the city in general). Within four months, our “sealing” (as it is called when you’re married in a Mormon temple) was “canceled” (as it is called when you cancel something).

Thankfully, sealing cancellations were recently simplified. Mormon Church policy used to dictate that a divorced woman couldn’t have a sealing canceled unless she was betrothed to a Mormon. Marrying a no-Mo? Out of luck. Theoretically, this meant women were spending eternity with men they couldn’t stand on earth, giving heaven a dark, ironic twist suitable for an M. Night Shyamalan movie. But that’s all changed. Hooray for feminism!

That’s the Mormon half. For Catholics, despite that trendy new Pope Francis’s push to modernize annulments, it still takes much longer. This is partly because annulments are handled on a first-come, first-served basis, and the Catholic Church has 1.2 billion members, and a lot of them want annulments. A few minutes of research revealed that indulgences and bribery, though popular in the Renaissance-era Catholic Church, are no longer effective. That’s “progress” for you, I guess.

So Brad and his ex submitted paperwork, suffered through multiple ecclesiastical inquisitions, and otherwise endured a three-priest tribunal’s autopsy of their dead marriage. Nothing fun ever happens before a “tribunal.” And remember, the issue under consideration was whether two people who didn’t want to be married, and who were no longer married, should still be married. Eventually, the Catholic Church agreed with literally everyone else and granted the annulment. As of March, Brad was free to re-marry in the Catholic Church! Time to set a wedding date!

BUT NOT SO FAST. Brad isn’t free to marry me because I am a divorced woman, i.e, a brazen hussy. I wear the scarlet D. If Brad marries me, the Catholic Church would consider it adultery and excommunicate him.

Now, I had thought, and a reasonable observer might think, that this wouldn’t be an issue since my first marriage had been annulled, all official-like, by the Mormon Church. (My faith? My rules.) But nope — while the Catholics trust Mormons to approve Mormon marriages, they don’t trust us to cancel them. The Catholic Church has to determine independently whether my Mormon marriage qualifies for an annulment. Brad and I don’t need two annulments, we need three.

But this is complicated by another fact: in the eyes of the Catholic Church, I am a heretic. (Let’s be honest, it’s not hard to get on the Catholic heretic list.) And it’s not just me, but Mormons in general.

In 2001 (rather late to the Mormon-theological-condemnation game) a Vatican council decided that the Mormon conception of the Trinity resembles the Arian Heresy of the Fourth Century. (I would call it the Arian Correctness, but that’s not going to win me any friends in Rome.) This means Mormon baptisms no longer count as “Christian.” We don’t even qualify for the back-handed honorific of “Separated Brethren.” Instead, I’m a heathen, a heretic, maybe even an apostate. (I confess: those epithets are kind of cool. “Kiss me, I’m a heretic,” has a nice ring to it.)

So how does the Catholic Church pass judgment on a heretical Mormon divorce? Apparently, no one knows. My legal education hadn’t prepared me for the insanity of a (literally?) Byzantine system. I spent hours pouring over canon-law blogs, but my main finding was that I regretted being aware of the existence of canon-law blogs.

The blogs gave me the following contradictory answers:

  1. A local Catholic priest can deem my prior marriage invalid in a proto-annulment.
  2. A local Catholic bishop can grant me permission to marry in a Catholic church through a dispensation.
  3. A three-priest regional Catholic annulment tribunal must interrogate me and my ex for the next eighteen months.
  4. As a heretic attempting to marry into the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” I must seek a marital “dispensation in favor of the faith” from the Vatican.

I reached out to a couple of priests for clarification, but they refused to talk to me. They told me that since Brad (the Catholic) couldn’t yet marry in the Catholic Church, I (the non-Catholic heretic) wasn’t even engaged enough to ask my question.

So I called a canon-law lawyer. The irony of a Mormon lawyer hiring a Catholic lawyer to adjudicate her already-annulled Mormon marriage in the Catholic Church is not lost on me. The lawyer told me to talk to a priest.

Exasperated, I queried some Catholic theologian friends. They suggested I call a church to schedule, and simply not volunteer that I’d been married before. If it came up anyway? Lie.

I am not comfortable lying to a priest. Or at least, not as comfortable as my Catholic theologian friends seem to be.

Once Brad’s annulment was granted, I finally found a priest who would talk to me in Indiana (because that’s where we want to get married, not because Indiana priests are more lenient or anything. Although I’m open to recommendations for playing “Priest roulette.”) This priest, whom I did not lie to, said I needed to take the Vatican route — which is “expedited” to only take 9-12 months!

And that’s where we are. Until Brad and I both have official “get out of prior marriage free” cards from Rome, we aren’t even eligible to call a church to schedule a wedding.

Of course, when we do call a church, most parishes won’t give us a date any earlier than six months out. Catholics have a mandatory engagement period, and our “engagement” won’t religiously start until my Vatican permission slip arrives. We will then need to participate in Catholic marital-counseling to prove our sacramental sincerity. You’d think surviving their Kafkaesque ordeal would be sufficient proof.

We were hoping for an October wedding. We’re still hoping for October; we just don’t know what year. Our engagement will likely last longer than either of our prior marriages. But that’s OK; we’re enjoying it more!

Like a good Catholic, Brad has felt guilty and apologetic. I tried to comfort him with “It’s not your fault your church is trapped in the 14th century.” He responded, “Maybe the 17th. We’re not trying to burn you at the stake, so I think we’re past the Reformation.”

We may just give up and elope.

Or become Episcopalians.

We’ll keep you posted.

Comments

  1. Fascinating. So is the crux of it seems to be that the catholic standard for getting married is broad enough to accommodate a Mormon wedding, but the catholic standard for annulment is narrow enough that a cancellation of sealing will only qualify for an annulment under certain circumstances. Is that correct?

    I mean, I my understanding of it (maybe wildly inaccurate) is that an annulment can only be something that made the marriage invalid from the beginning, while a cancellation can be granted based on circumstances that arose after the marriage. So there are situations where grounds for cancellation wouldn’t support grounds for annulment. But my sense (again, maybe wildly inaccurate) is that the invalid-from-the-beginning thing is, in practice, often little more than a legal fiction.

  2. Amy Grigg says:

    Fascinating and kind of hilarious, Carolyn. Thanks for sharing your journey. And may the marriage gods and the Catholic Church smile upon you both.

  3. Carolyn says:

    @JKC: Your understanding matches my understanding.

    Still, I was hoping that if I just turned over the entire basket of sealing-cancellation paperwork to a Catholic Church that would satisfy a bunch of their procedural standards and the annulment could be expedited. (They’re particularly concerned that they don’t annul a marriage without giving an ex-spouse notice, for example.) But it doesn’t. In my case at least my prior marriage meets Catholicism’s substantive annulment standards, too.

  4. Jason K. says:

    This is hilarious and horrifying all at the same time. Can’t we just go back to the earlier Middle Ages, before either church or state was involved in most marriages?

  5. Well, I think that you should read Battesimo mormoni more closely. It definitely does not say that the Mormon conception of the Trinity resembles the Arian Heresy of the Fourth Century. it merely gives Arianism as an example of a trinitarian heresy.

    Battesimo mormoni actually says that the Mormon conception of the Godhead is too far removed from the Trinity to even be a heresy:

    The words Father, Son and Holy Spirit, have for the Mormons a meaning totally different from the Christian meaning. The differences are so great that one cannot even consider that this doctrine is a heresy which emerged out of a false understanding of the Christian doctrine. The teaching of the Mormons has a completely different matrix. We do not find ourselves, therefore, before the case of the validity of Baptism administered by heretics, affirmed already from the first Christian centuries, nor of Baptism conferred in non-Catholic ecclesial communities, as noted in Canon 869 §2.

    The Mormon Godhead is definitely not Arian or Arianish. (The JW’s are basically Arians though.)

  6. Carolyn says:

    @Kullervo: That’s eminently fair. I’m no theologian, I don’t fully understand the various Trinitarian doctrines and I should have read the whole thing.

    My “Arian” point came from (a) conversations with amateur Catholic theologian friends who said ‘that sounds Arian’, (b) a religious studies class I took in college where a early Christianity professor and I got into a long discussion of Mormon Trinitarianism and he said “that sounds Arian,” and (b) reading the Stephen Webb / Alonzo Gaskill book which argues in part that the Battesimo mormoni was incorrect because some Arian-like baptisms are recognized by the Catholic Church.

  7. Carolyn says:

    @Kullervo: Thinking about it more, perhaps I should change the word “resembles” to “is even more far afield than.”

  8. Thanks for letting us laugh at the insanity you’re dealing with.

    Has official policy on Mormon women and sealings changed? Or is this UOOT?

    You are making me not regret having left the ranks of interfaith marriage, that’s for sure. Look forward to your happy nuptials (someday).

  9. Kullervo and Carolyn,

    The Mormon baptism CDF decision is one of my favorite subjects to think and argue about. I think they were right that the version of Mormon Godhead doctrine they described is more heretical than Arianism, but (different topic) I think they were wrong to take that version as necessarily representative of all Mormon Godhead doctrines. That’s a problem that’s inherent in a religion that doesn’t have creeds. And I understand that the easier practical answer is to just require re-baptism, but as a matter of doctrine, the old case-by-case ad hoc approach was more correct, I think.

  10. Carolyn says:

    @JKC: It makes me wonder, as Mormon doctrine slowly morphs into looking more mainstream (although never all-the-way mainstream) on this point, whether the Catholics upon reconsideration would say “Mormon doctrine has changed, so Mormon baptisms qualify”; or “Upon receiving further information, we have determined Mormon baptisms qualify”; or “we were previously incorrect, Mormon baptisms qualify.”

    In other words, if and when the CDF decision changes, I’d be more fascinated by what the reason given for the change says about Catholic and Mormon institutions, than the fact of the change itself.

  11. Wow no wonder Henry felt like beheading was an attractive alternative way to end a marriage.

  12. Elder Oaks is working hard to make sure that does not and cannot happen, Carolyn. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2017/04/the-godhead-and-the-plan-of-salvation?lang=eng

  13. My “Arian” point came from (a) conversations with amateur Catholic theologian friends who said ‘that sounds Arian’, (b) a religious studies class I took in college where a early Christianity professor and I got into a long discussion of Mormon Trinitarianism and he said “that sounds Arian,”

    It does “sound Arian.” I was an Arian heretic long before I became a Mormon. Kullervo is, as usual, dancing with an unspecifiable number of angels upon the head of a metaphysical pin. Since the concept of the Trinity itself is incomprehensible, it stands to reason that one of its most prominent counter-theories couldn’t be simple; it too has to be incomprehensibly complex (as opposed to the simplicity of the scripture cited in the talk to which you referred).

    Technically, a Catholic “declaration of nullity” is a statement that the marriage was never really valid from the beginning. For a Catholic marriage to be valid, it is required that: (1) the spouses are free to marry; (2) they are capable of giving their consent to marry; (3) they freely exchange their consent; (4) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; (5) they intend the good of each other; and (6) their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister. In other words, if the priest was a priest and all of the other things were in order, it is almost always necessary to lie about one’s previous marriage in order to attain an annulment. (It should be noted that lying about this is an ancient and long-honored practice.)

    So, unless Brad or his former wife were not free to marry, didn’t intend to wed for life, or weren’t really open to children, he’s gonna have to fudge it anyhow. Which lie are you more comfortable with? Personally, I’d worry more about being honest with Heavenly Father (and it sounds like you have been) than with Father So-and-So at St. Whatever’s,, but I quit being Catholic a very, very long time ago.

  14. Carolyn says:

    @New Iconoclast: Brad’s annulment has been granted in accordance with Canon law, no fudging involved. The basis for that grant, and any argumentation as to whether Catholic priests were applying their own canon laws correctly, are beyond the scope of this post.

  15. Angela C says:

    I was aware that getting a Catholic annulment is plenty difficult because it causes so many issues with converts who are not married due to one of them having a prior marriage, but this inter-faith business is so much more difficult! While I still think the hurdles for a Mormon sealing cancellation are nutty and sexist, this is definitely a whole lot worse, the excellence of Pope Francis notwithstanding. Human policies for supposedly divine institutions are pretty terrible. They seem to be worse for institutions that claim more divine sanction (Mormons & Catholics) than those who acknowledge the human hand (e.g. Episcopal and other liberal Protestants).

  16. Fascinating question, Carolyn. It’s a weird thing, because before they could decide whether Mormon doctrine on the Trinity is orthodox, heretical, or just not even Christian at all, the first question that the CDF had to decide is what is Mormonism’s godhead doctrine in the first place, and that’s something that not even Mormons can agree on, other than a few broad, simple propositions that largely just track the language of scripture, and answering it is bound up with contested questions of authority within Mormonism (e.g. if BY’s Adam-God doctrine has been repudiated as a whole, to what extent do his individual statements about the nature of the father and the son remain authoritative? and if the statements of a sitting president of the church–expressed as authoritative at the time they were made–can be dismissed as individual opinion by later administrations, then to what extent can we really rely on anything other than codified scripture as an authoritative statement?).

    So, the way I see it there are two ways of answering the question: One way would be a sort of “mere” Mormonism, which would ask “what is the absolute minimum that a person must accept to accurately be called an adherent to LDS Godhead doctrine. That way would tend to seek accommodation and minimize inconsistency. The second way would be to find everything said by high ranking church officials and accept it all uncritically. The CDF approach was closer to the second way, and maybe I’m naïve on this point, but I would sort of expect to see a bit more nuance and sophistication–after all, if the CDF can navigate the nuance of distinctions between speaking ex cathedra and not, they are at least equipped to deal with analogous questions in Mormonism. Obviously, from my earlier comment, I favor the first approach, and I think they got it wrong by taking the second approach. The problem with the second approach is that it assumes a unitary doctrine and doesn’t account for the possibility (the reality) that there are competing strains of thought. So by assuming a unitary doctrine, you are in reality picking one version of many.

    But the problem with the first approach is that, taken to the logical extreme, it essentially renders official church teachings irrelevant and focuses just on individual belief/understanding, and if the standard is going to be what version does the individual person believe in at the time of baptism, then does that mean that whenever a person holding heretical views is baptized in a church whose official doctrine is orthodox, that person’s baptism is invalid? And what if the person doesn’t have any understanding of God at all (e.g. infants)? So I see why they felt they had to go that way. The difference, as I see it, is that the case-by-case approach works where the church in question doesn’t have an official creed, but that doesn’t really solve the problem, it just pushes it back a level, because deciding whether Mormonism has an official creed, and if so, what is it, raises many of the same inconclusive questions.

    As a legal nerd, what I think would have been awesome would have been a “certified question” from the CDF to the First Presidency (What is the LDS doctrine on the godhead with respect to these specific questions?) then the CDF could decide for itself where the answers fell on the spectrum between orthodox and not even Christian at all.

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    When the Catholics came out with the document about Mormons needing baptism, I thought the result was clearly correct, but as I saw things through my Mormon eyes. That is, to me the obvious grounds were authority (we have Mormon priesthood, not Catholic priesthood) and reciprocity ( we make Catholics get baptized, why shouldn’t they do the same to us?). I was fascinated that they reached what seemed to me the obviously correct result on completely different grounds (our doctrinal understanding of the Trinity).

    This post was really interesting and even fun (for those of us who don’t have to go through it in reality). Thanks for sharing, and here’s hoping one day the Gods (er, urp, the one true Triune God) smiles upon your Catholic wedding.

  18. Carolyn says:

    @Kevin: Right!! I was so surprised when in conversations with Brad and in reading some creed books I realized that the Catholic’s position on baptism ISN’T grounded in “authority”, it’s grounded in “the body of Christ is large and anyone who receives baptizes in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (except Mormons) is validly baptized.

  19. Carolyn, this is fascinating! And hysterical (though I imagine not quite as funny when you’re the one living through it!)

    I was at Notre Dame when the Catholic policy regarding Mormon baptism came out, and my Catholic friends were a bit apologetic. But I was like, don’t apologize! We sure as heck don’t recognize your baptisms, so it would very odd for me to make a fuss about your not recognizing ours. (Though I was of course very interested in the way it was framed theologically.)

  20. It’s remarkable that the process is even possible. With the Catholic focus on one marriage only ever, one would think that the Mormon openness to the possibility of multiple marriages (at the same time!)((historical and in some limited respects still today)) would be highly suspect.

  21. It really is uncomfortable to feel some sympathy for Henry VIII.

    This makes my 13-month sealing process seem almost merciful, and I was ready to implode over that–though admittedly, when this is over, you will not be forced to choose between a polygamous sealing or no sealing at all.

    Do you know when the sealing policy changed for women, and if that was churchwide, or if you lucked into a kind leader who took mercy on you? As recently as 2014 we were requesting cancelation from a previous sealing and were being flat denied.

  22. MDearest says:

    What a delightful read about the labyrinth of hedges cultivated in endless (and ageless) variety to protect the Churches’ interests in the sanctity of marriage. Pharisees have commendable creativity. What’s really commendable, however, is the optimistic good humor you show as you navigate this particular labyrinth. Congratulations to you both on the measure of success towards achieving engagement. It bodes well for the actual marriage.

    Some of these hedge-clipping comments are a hoot. IMHO

  23. Sarah Belnap says:

    So the real question is why? Why in the world go through all of this work for religions you don’t really believe in. You have indicated that you are falling away from Mormonism, by being willing to take catholic sacraments and do a catholic wedding. You have also indicated various misgivings about Catholicism because of the craziness, doctrine, shunning, and the problems you have encountered, etc. So if you are a heretic, by not being willing to forgo some elements of knowledge from your prior faith, why work so hard to be married in that church? What is the point? Why not just get married in any church? Tons of them have little to no hurdles to jump and will marry just about anyone or anything.

    Or, the other question is why would any church besides the mormon church work at all. On the flip side though, you also indicated that you wanted to cancel your sealing. Why cancel it if you don’t believe it actually works? If that is then so, that would mean no other church, including the catholic church would have valid ordinances. So if you were to get married you should choose a mormon wedding over a catholic one (plus it would probably be easier)

    So either you don’t believe at all and anything will work, so why put yourself through this pointless torture. Or you do believe in Mormonism and your hubby is the one that needs to convert, not you.

  24. ” You have indicated that you are falling away from Mormonism, by being willing to take catholic sacraments and do a catholic wedding.”

    I won’t pretend to know the state of Carolyn’s relationship with the church, but this is a non sequitr.

  25. My Catholic wife and I squared that circle in a very Catholic country by leaving both churches out in the cold and not following up the mandatory civil marriage with a religious ceremony.

  26. Marian says:

    Very fascinating. It takes some serious grit to take on two archaic bureaucracies to build the family you want in the way that you want. Kudos to you and your fiance!

  27. Mike R. says:

    Re: CDF reconsidering as Mormon theology becomes more mainstream.

    I think that even if we went full Trinitarian, it’d only fix part of part II of Battesimo mormoni. The “completely different matrix” from which Mormon theology emerges would still be a problem as long as we believe in the Book of Mormon at all. The “essential difference between the Baptism of John and Christian Baptism” would still be a problem as long as we have 2 Nephi 31, and teach people that Christ’s baptism by John was an example for what we all need to do. The whole baptism of Adam, or the baptisms by Alma at the Waters of Mormon, as pre-Christ but still fundamentally Christian baptisms would be a problem. The belief that baptism has nothing to do with original sin, and the rebaptism of excommunicated members would also be big problems.

    All the rest about how Mormons aren’t suitably Trinitarian seems like window dressing, considering that the Catholic church spent literally centuries violently suppressing Arianism — that’s still Trinitarian enough, but Mormonism isn’t?! I hate to ascribe a secret and bad motive to anyone, but it really looks like the CDF already had a bunch of reasons to believe that Mormon baptism was always invalid, but thought they’d look too mean-spirited about it unless they could really make Mormonism sound shockingly wrong.

  28. The vagaries of Catholic annulments have interested (and baffled) me since my protestant friend married the second time in a Catholic church. He had first to get an “annulment” of his 12 year first marriage. It was granted by the archbishop on grounds that wife no. 1 had stated both before and after marriage that she would never have children. That was enough to make it not a “real” marriage. Maybe the archbishop was merely looking for a rationalization to allow what was wanted by a very prominent Irish-American Catholic family. (Of course, I’ve been baffled by other friends’ experience with LDS sealing cancellations also.) Good luck, Carolyn and Brad with your quest.

    Tangential aside: Perhaps I have spent too much time hanging around other Christian churches to be surprised that the Catholic objection to Mormon baptism is not grounded in “authority”. At least to the extent of baptism, I have been given to understand that the Roman Catholic Church, like many protestant churches, accepts the “priesthood of all believers” — at least those who sufficiently believe in the Trinity. I have wondered sometimes why our LDS church is so hung up on actual authority. The question I would pose to other legal nerds here is why is apparent authority (the Anglo-American legal concept) not enough to perform or receive a valid Christian baptism. I would welcome comments on that question, but ignoring this tangential inquiry in this thread may be more appropriate.

  29. Shauna Huffaker says:

    divorced from my temple marriage for the last 18 years. Happily married to a born Muslim now Atheist for 16 years. We have two children. I never pursued a cancellation because I was told it would never be granted. After reading this I have hope this could be possible but I can’t find any information on the recent simplification process you mention. Where could I learn more.

  30. Sarah Belnap, I am honestly baffled by your comment. For one thing, it sounds like you have difficulty imagining that someone could value their relationship to their religious tradition unless they conceptualize it in the exact same terms that you use, which sound strikingly absolute (Mormonism is either true or false, your belief in it is all or nothing, and if it’s true then Catholic sacraments are invalid and therefore worthless and there would be no reason to participate in them. I happen to think all of those assumptions could stand to be questioned.) And as JKC said, you’ve taken a mighty leap in your conclusion that Carolyn is “falling away.”

  31. carolynhomer says:

    @Shauna: honestly, go talk to your bishop. Be prepared with a 1-2 page written letter about why your first marriage is terrible and why you would like a cancellation.

  32. Although it wouldn’t be as fancy, a simple solution would be to just get married by your Bishop in an LDS Chapel. It would make you legal and have the same force, “until death do you part”.

  33. carolynhomer says:

    @kelly: But the marriage wouldn’t have the same force for my fiancé, who is important here. Any marriage to me outside a Catholic Church results in his literal excommunication –I.e. He is in such a perpetually sinful state he would be barred communion.

  34. Mark N. says:

    Unfortunately, the first thing that came to mind is that this kind of thing is why all those people in the large and spacious building are pointing and laughing, and not just at Mormons.

  35. AnonForThisPost says:

    “Theoretically, this meant women were spending eternity with men they couldn’t stand on earth, giving heaven a dark, ironic twist suitable for an M. Night Shyamalan movie.” I’m all for women wanting to get their sealings cancelled. However, please don’t perpetuate the notion that there’s a snowball’s chance of spending eternity with an Ex whom you detest. I hardly think either the author or her fiance had to worry about that prospect.

  36. marcella says:

    I think the authority thing is fascinating. Not on the “priesthood of all believers” side but on ours as JR mentions above at 5/8 5:42. I have been told several times (most recently when my former husband, who is inactive and participating in activities that would lead to being disfellowshipped if not excommunicated depending upon the Bishop/Stake leadership, wanted to ordain our son as a Priest) that “it’s not the priesthood holders worthiness but the faith of the one receiving the ordinance that actually matters.’ Which seems like it would mean that if anyone gave a blessing or performed a priesthood ordinance on someone with enough faith it would stand. It’s an odd view in my perspective, but I’ve been told this by several leaders of various stripes.

  37. Mike R. says:

    Marcella, I’ve never heard of anyone being reordained, because the person performing the ordination wasn’t worthy or the person being ordained didn’t have much faith at the time. I’ve only heard of ordinances having to be redone (or ratified by the First Presidency) if a procedure wasn’t followed. There’s an explicit statement to this effect if you request someone’s priesthood line of authority from the Church — there might be gaps because of missing or incomplete information (e.g., we don’t even have a record of who performed this ordination, let alone of whether they were properly ordained and worthy themselves), but the validity of the ordination is not affected as long as it was “authorized by the proper authority and recorded on the official records of the Church.” That whole “recorded on earth = recorded on heaven” thing seems to carry a lot of weight.

  38. marcella, that’s so interesting to me, because I have a male relative who is a very active and faithful member of the church, but who also happens to not actually believe in it–he’s quite orthopractic, but not orthodox. And his bishop won’t let him do anything like ordain his sons to the priesthood (or even speak in church, for that matter), which honestly strikes me as kind of absurd. Maybe I just don’t appreciate orthodoxy enough?

    I too have heard the line about the faith of the one receiving the ordinance being what counts, which I can see in some ways. Latter-day Saints aren’t Donatists, who were deemed heretical for their view that priesthood rituals were only efficacious if the priest was worthy–that tends to lead to problems when it turns out for example the a whole bunch of baptisms and marriages over the years were actually invalid, oops. But I can also see that it raises tricky questions about why you need the priesthood in the first place. Thinking more about the LDS situation–the D&C says “Amen” to a man’s priesthood when he exercises unrighteous dominion, but we don’t really believe that, because then would we still maintain the validity of the ordinances he performs by virtue of that priesthood? (Let me just say that if unrighteous dominion actually canceled out priesthood efficacy in performing ordinances, my baptism is soooo null and void.) Put another way, why is it in LDS theology that a man’s actions performed by the power of the priesthood have a certain something, regardless of the man’s standing before God, that a woman’s never can?

    (Sorry for the tangent! I should probably write my own post about this or something.)

  39. @Sarah Belnap ~ >>>you wanted to cancel your sealing. Why cancel it if you don’t believe it actually works?<<<

    Have you ever actually been divorced? Or even just had a toxic break-up?

    I've never been Mormon, but I've got a toxic Mormon ex-husband and a toxic Christian ex-boyfriend in my rearview mirror now. I can't even imagine if we'd been Mormom & sealed and one of them were able to taunt me that any children I have with a new spouse will be sealed to them in heaven.

    I totally get why Mormon women like Carolyn who happily re-marry to non-Mormons don't want sealings to toxic exes still in place.

  40. Based on where you are now, it looks like, from a practical standpoint, your sealing cancellation was unnecessary. You could have skipped that step entirely and just spent that time and energy pursuing the Catholic annulment for yourself. You could still go after the sealing cancellation if you wanted to, but it apparently had no impact on your ability to marry in the Catholic church.

  41. Carolyn says:

    @Ann Porter: Oh, the letters my ex wrote for the sealing cancellation yet end up being helpful to the Catholics too. In any case, I “practically” wanted a sealing because Mormon doctrine is still that any future kids I have with Brad would be deemed sealed to my ex. I found that unacceptable.

  42. “Any future kids I have with Brad would be deemed sealed to my ex.”

    Until, later, some helpful distant cousin going back through her family tree has sealing blessings pronounced upon them with their biological parents. Happens all the time, for which I am grateful.

    That doesn’t reduce the annoyance factor of erroneous assumptions that people believe are factual or the unsettled sense that comes from not having everything wrapped up nicely with a bow in this life. Nor is it an attempt to justify anything at all. It just is to say that my research on the various positions taken by various church authorities, and other well-meaning Mormons on the topic, and my understanding of LDS theology, and my understanding of proxy temple work lead me to believe that the various statements, by whomever it may be, at whatever time and place, about the nature and details of eternal, earth initiated, child-parent relationships and “who is sealed to whom” fall firmly into the realm of conjecture, not doctrine. Conjecture, painted as reason, and developed into pronouncement is a normal human response when there is an unanswered question:, creating an “authoritative” answer in order to avoid the discomfort of uncertainty. It happens all the time in all sorts of ways in a myriad of life situations. And it’s always a problem.

    On the other hand, I do believe that LDS doctrine does include the idea that “the same sociality that exists here” will exist in the life to come, that loving parents who lost young children to death will be with them again, and that God is, in the end, all about finding ways to deliver and foster mercy, goodness and healthy relationships for those who seek that. Which I sense you definitely do.

  43. Become an episcopalian. Or can’t you convert to Catholicism? I see how important your religions are but they shouldn’t ruin your plans. Religion needs to take a step aside and let those that love each other do simply that. Love. We’ve left a lot of old fashioned traditions since the 18th century, might as well just keep going right? Or maybe one of you should convert. Or just get married outside. Throw everything out with the bathwater.

  44. I’m an Episcopalian, and we’d be happy to have you if it comes to that. I’m sorry the situation is causing you both so much stress and pain. We have a lot of ex-Catholics, and they often have a lot of processing to do about leaving the church, when they’ve been taught that being outside it means damnation.

  45. Sounds convoluted and rediculous that the Catholic Church is being a stickler on this. At any rate though once you are sealed to a person and you don’t keep the covenents or they theirs you are under no obligation to stay with them. I’m pretty sure even if you both do but don’t like each other God isn’t going to force people against their wills to be together. That is Satan’s plan remember? Forcing people to do stuff.

  46. What a great sense of humor!

    So why don’t you just do what Joseph Smith did, have a revelation and marry yourselves to each other? (Just kidding.)

    I get it that you are doing all this for your future husband. Just a question: if your husband doesn’t marry you, he just lives with you and …. and you have 15 children, does he still get burned at the stake, spiritually of course? I thought a bunch of these Catholic guys have 2 or 3 or more families.They are officially married to the first wife and the rest, well call it what you wish.

    To shed further light on the question of the trinity, my bishop told me that actually we do believe in the trinity and he referred me to the first article of faith.This is why the brethren keep it on the third grade level.

  47. I actually have a friend who just finished a thesis on the CDF document concerning the invalidity of Mormon baptisms! In contrast to the Arians, who at least held the Father is God, and that the Son and Spirit are divine in some meaningful (albeit derivative) sense, the Mormons apparently holds that the Father and Son are both mere creatures. If God is not referred to at all in the formula of baptism, then there is a defect. But it is certainly a strange issue!

    This post was one of the first to come up while search “canon law” on wordpress. Certainly a very interesting situation, though I am sorry for the pain it may have involved. You will be in my prayers.