Question: My boyfriend was previously married through city hall. He and his ex have gotten divorced. Would we be able to get married in a Catholic Church?
Is your boyfriend a baptized Catholic, or is his previous spouse a baptized Catholic? If so, did they get a dispensation from canonical form (being married before a priest and two witnesses) in getting married in city hall? If not, they didn’t follow the process required for the Church to recognize their marriage. Their marriage would thus be considered invalid and each of them would be considered free to marry in the Church.
If neither are Catholic, then the person interested in remarrying would have to go thru the annulment process. This is an indication that the Catholic Church recognizes other religious or civil ceremonies. It accepts that a couple married in city hall are validly married because it believes that a commitment of vows creates a new reality and is to be respected.
In other words, the Church takes it seriously when we make vows. It assumes that we mean what we say unless it’s proven that we weren’t capable of doing what we said due to psychological, emotional, or physical impediments.
The annulment process can be long and/or painful (bringing up stuff from the failed marriage), but it can also be healing. The annulment process is all about helping people come to the truth of the matter.
Pope Francis recently put together a commission that may work on making this process a bit easier on people, so stay tuned for more on this.