Can a previously married woman become a nun?

I read in a magezine the other day that a divorced woman can become a nun. Is this true? I know a widowed woman can become a nun, but was unaware that one that is divorced can.
My mom is still married, but is planning on divorcing my dad. My dad is a really awful person. He drinks too much, smokes too much, he watches pornography, is emotionaly abusive, has cheated on my mom (probebly more than once), and doesn’t really believe in God. so you can pretty much see why she wants to leave him. She isn’t interested in getting marries again. But ever sinse I’ve shown interest in becoming a nun, she’s also been interested in that life as well. she’s unsure if she’s be allowed though after she’s divorced. Any info would greatly help.

A civil divorce doesn’t break the marriage bond. Your mother would still be married, so she couldn’t be a nun.

Now, if she got the marriage annulled by the marriage tribunal, that could be a different story, although it would still be up to the order she wanted to join as to whether or not they would accept her.

if he doesnt belive in god, he may not understand that it is a sacramental bond and so he couldnt fully consent… there might be a chance for the anullment right there.

A divorced person can become a consecrated religious if s/he has been dispensed from marriage vows through annulment. However, acceptance of that person is up to the particular community. Sometimes (perhaps in an exclusively cloistered community), if a divorcee has children, s/he won’t be accepted because a parent will always need to be a parent, even if the children are grown and of legal age.

In any case, don’t expect things to move too quickly, because an annulment takes forever and can be painful, and a religious community would want to see that an applicant has had plenty of time to grieve and bring closure to that part of life before beginning with them.

Just like marriage, good discernment of religious life requires that one be totally “free” and conscious.

Dear Child,

The particular case you raise involves complexities that are not well answered in an internet forum.

Most of all, we will want to keep all of you in prayer, but I will mention some things.

While there are general requirements for novitiate and profession in institutes of conscrated life and societies of apostolic life, there are additional requirements that are imposed by the proper law of each. Should your mother pursue this, the director of novices or admissions would be in the best position to discuss the prospects of assuming vows following divorce and what would take place.

Rather than speculating about possible grounds of nullity or the prospects of a decree of nullity, these are things that would be directed to the tribunal via the parish priest if the marriage does in fact end in permanent separation. The determining error of canon 1099 about the sacramental dignity of marriage (or even as the closely related intention contra bonum sacramentalitas of canon 1101, § 2), mentioned above as a possibility, is difficult to establish, and the jurisprudence is complex. We do best to let tribunals investigate and assess the legal impact of the facts in marriage cases.

For purposes of general information though, Rome has permitted couples to remain married, dispensed them from the obligations of marriage without dissolving it, and then to enter religious life or ordained priesthood. Decrees of nullity were not involved.

The most celebrated case involved two Anglicans in the 1800’s in which a couple became Catholic. The man had been an Anglican priest. Subsequently, the husband was ordained as a Catholic priest and the wife entered the convent. Again, I mention this only as a point of general information (or Catholic trivia) and do not intend to apply it to your mother’s situation.

I should also note that a decree of nullity does not dispense a person from the obligations of marriage because it says they were never assumed in the first place. What does not exist cannot be dispensed from. However, canon law recognizes that certain obligations of natural law do arise even from invalid marriages and continue to bind after even definitive separation, namely things like any alimony, child support and education, etc.

So all of this can be complicated. I will say a prayer tonight for your discernment and the welfare of your family. God bless you. :slight_smile:

Both the Church and the world need committed Catholics who will embrace the conscrated life and the evangelical counsels.

Some orders accept divorced/annuled woman, others don’t. Most have age limits and most are pretty picky as to who they take. Some of the cloistered orders, yes, there are still some around, :thumbsup: still retain the practice of having lay or extern sisters who live at the convent, take part in the activities of the convent and live as sisters, but have dealings with the public that the cloistered sisters cannot have, deliveries, maintance shopping etc. Your mom may want to look at something like that as an option.

As a side note I have often in the past several years thought of a similar path, not a nun of course, :smiley: but my age, over 50 precludes me from almost all male religious orders. So if she is really interested in that path, she may want to start looking.

and cheating is not a reason for anullment nowadays, the church has gained permission for spouses to cheat on each other when they take the foccus test they have, it basically states that you will forgive your partner and talk it out,if you do not agree to it then you cannot be married in the Catholic church.

the other stuff could possibly be means if they were not present at time of marriage, after the civil divorce she needs to file for nullity…

A married woman can be a tertiary, regardless of age. At your mothers situation I wish she can read the messages of the VOLUMES in the Direction for our times. She will know that her husband is being place in front of her like a cross, she can save her husband if she will not give up with this cross. God would not put this cross if she cannot carry it. I have been in her shoes and my husband got better, because I never give up on him. I found out the Mass offering can healed. So I offer Masses for my husband for myself, many times even until today. My husband went through tough times like your father now… Jesus help and Mother Mary also helped. One night also during the time I was struggling with our marriage I dreamed of the Mother Mary, she told me if I wanted the thorns go away on my path, I had to pray the rosary everyday, and I did… from praying the rosary everyday, I found the “Mass offering for the living” that heals vise, addiction and spiritual healing… then I found the 911 prayers of Father Corapi, I continue on that, the result, after 4 yrs we have received marriage convalidation in the Catholic church during the Divine Mercy Sunday 2 years ago, and my husband went to RCIA and he got Confirmed in our faith this year. Our marriage is actually doing much much better now… Tell your Mom to not give up her cross; because suffering is santification. Jesus said: ‎"Love those that hurt you- because by grieving you he has given you the means to deserve a greater reward in Heaven. Join your means to his forgiveness and your prize will grow even more in Heaven." May the Lord bless you.

Is 50 the age limit?

Different orders have different limits. There are many that have a younger age limit

This relatively new order of sisters is something that might interest your mother.

The founder of the order is a divorcee herself. The entire format is intriguing, they do not live in common, and individual Sisters are responsible for providing for their own needs, in addition to contributing to the missions of the order.

You have to be divorced, widowed, or single, however. If she decides to stay married to your father, she could consider joining a third order of one of the more traditional orders (third order Franciscans or Carmelites come immediately to mind, for example,) or even consider Opus Dei.

Most religious orders accept only younger, healthy applicants. You really can’t blame them, their resources are pretty limited and their numbers are diminished due to the aging of their own number, who spent their lives in the order.

you changed your question in your post
yes a widow can become a nun in fact that is how many religious orders started.
yes a divorced woman can become a nun under certain circumstances.

A woman who is currently married should be focusing on doing whatever is in her power to save her marriage, and would not be even considering religious life at this point. A married woman should not even be thinking of annulment at this point, either.

Is anyone able to tell me what would happen to any adult children from an annulled marriage? Do the children automatically become illegitimate?

No, they do not become illegitimate.


I don’t see why she couldn’t become a nun is her marriage qualifies for annulment, I know a man entering the priesthood in that situation.

This from up in the Ask An Apologist forum.