From a reader:
I am in the process of converting from the Anglican tradition to the
Catholic Church. The priest of the church where I am taking RCIA has told me that he has the pastoral prerogative to waive the requirement to regularize my marriage to a divorced man. I think this is incorrect, but how do I respectfully disagree with him without seeming priggish and ungrateful? I’m far from an expert on Canon law, but I feel that he is allowing me to sneak into the Church. I want to be
faithful and obedient, and I am not looking for loopholes. Am I being
overly-scrupulous, as my Catholic friends say? Should I start over
with RCIA in the other church in the parish, while simultaneously
submitting to the Tribunal? Or should I continue to attend Mass in
this church but tactfully say “I’m not ready to enter this Easter;
I’ll wait for a declaration of nullity before formal entry into the
Church”. I don’t want to come across as “holier than thou”, but my
conscience is troubled.
Your conscience is rightly troubled. At the same time you are to be commended for wanting to do the right thing.
There is no “prerogative” that permits a priest to dispense from constitutive law (c. 86), and “one spouse at a time” is certainly constitutive of marriage!
I suggest that you make phone call to the diocesan tribunal and ask for a canonist. Don’t just talk about this with the receptionist. State that you are planning on becoming Catholic, that your husband was married previously, and that your pastor informed you that he has the prerogative to waive the requirement of regularizing your marital situation. Tell the canonist of the tribunal that you can’t find any evidence of that in your reading of canon law. That should be sufficient to get the ball rolling.
You are not being uppity to expect the pastor to abide by the law of the Church.
Your actions may also prevent other people – perhaps of less sensitive conscience as you – from being duped.
Be prepared for the possibility that your husband’s prior marriage may not be able to be declared null.
That would be a huge cross to bear, but the truth of the matter is worth knowing as you make your way home to the Catholic Church.