Wow! That’s a loaded question! But it brings to mind the roots of the marriage sacrament. Although Catholic teaching on marriate is often at odds with our culture, its roots are found in Jesus’ teachings about the sanctity of marriage: “What God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Matthew 19:6). But Catholic officials also recognize that in this flawed world marriages sometimes fail.
The Church teaches that a new marriage cannot be initiated while a previous marriage still exists. If someone does remarry in a non-Catholic ceremony, the Church is unable to release anyone from the marital vows of fidelity and permanence. The new relationship would be considered sinful, outside of God’s ways. It is different from other sins because it is ongoing and cannot be repented with the intention of never committing that sin again.
Fortunately, the Church offers the chance to start over again if a previous marriage proves to have been invalid. After having a marriage declared null (sometimes known as having it annulled), a person is welcome to remarry, receive the sacraments and participate fully in Catholic life. Many people find the process a helpful step in understanding the deeper reasons why a marriage ended.
Anyone in this situation should contact a priest to discuss the process. Perhaps the first marriage was invalid and reconciliation, along with a return to the sacraments, is possible.