Pope Francis poses with President Trump, second right; first lady Melania Trump, center; Jared Kushner, left; and Ivanka Trump during a private audience at the Vatican on May 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Is Melania's marriage valid in the eyes of her church?

(RNS) With the possible exception of his turnaround on Islam, the biggest religion news to come out of President Trump's first trip abroad was the revelation that his wife is Catholic.

The story broke during the Trumps' visit to the Vatican, when Pope Francis was seen blessing a rosary brought along by Melania and someone from the Daily Mail asked the question. Given the endless coverage of Ivanka and Jared's Jewishness — to say nothing of Donald's own religiosity (or lack thereof) — how can we not have known that we've got the first Catholic first lady since Jackie Kennedy?

Over at GetReligion, Terry Mattingly (surprise) blames the mainstream media's religion-blindness. After all, a little poking around would have shown Melania sporting a rosary in a photo published in the Palm Beach Post on the occasion of her 2005 wedding (in an Episcopal church) to Donald.

But I suspect there's more going on here than media negligence. It's that pesky Catholic divorce and remarriage thing.

According to canon law, a marriage is not valid if one of the partners was previously married and the spouse is still alive and the previous marriage has not been annulled by the church.

Thus, when Newt Gingrich decided to marry his Catholic inamorata Callista Bisek, he obtained annulments of his previous two marriages (and subsequently converted to Catholicism himself).

Did Donald do likewise? If not ... well, by traditional Catholic standards Melania is living in sin and should not receive Communion.

This has become a neuralgic issue in the church thanks to Francis' 2016 exhortation on the family, "Amoris Laetitia," which much to the disgust of Catholic conservatives opens the door to allowing Communion for those in such invalid marriages.

Under the circumstances, you can understand why the Trump campaign — and, indeed, the Trump presidency — had an interest in suppressing Melania's religious identity. And why Melania looks so uptight in her photos with the pope.

Since last week's revelation, however, there has not been a peep from the Catholic right. No request for clarification of the Trumps' marital status. No demand to know if and where Melania is taking Communion. No snarking at Francis for advancing his "Amoris Laetitia" agenda by acknowledging an invalid union.

Where's Cardinal Burke when we need him?

Would the situation be different if, say, we were talking about the Catholic spouse of a pro-choice Democratic president?

Is the pope Catholic?

(Mark Silk, a contributing editor at RNS, writes the "Spiritual Politics" column)


  1. I feel for her, I would love to convert to Catholicism but I am my wife’s second husband – she has no interest in converting, and I wouldn’t ask her (nor could we afford to) get an annulment from the father of our kids.

  2. Who can say what’s happened or is happening in the privacy of one’s own person? None of this has been or needs to be revealed. Even inquiring Minds do not need to know.

  3. Annulments are just God’s way of saying that whenever his holy book says something inconvenient, it must mean something else entirely.

    People who commit adultery in their hearts. people on their third marriages to self admitted adulterers.

    I guess three times really is the charm. Hypocrisy, especially religious hypocrisy, Is always charming,

  4. You ever actually talk to anybody who has had a marriage annulled, Ben? I haven’t, but I know of a case or two.

    I’d sure be hesitant to ascribe those two situations to “hypocrisy”, and in my own Scripture search, I saw none.

    Like I’ve said about homosexuals, everybody’s got an individual life story or situation. Annulments & divorces are no exception. Gotta know the real details and the real why’s of it — and only God knows all the details on all sides. And only God can heal things, and deal with the scars.

    But you’re right — God did come up with a holy book, His Book. He makes clear that there’s only a few valid reasons for divorce/annulment. (And NO valid reasons for that other behavior.)

  5. Assuming there are legitimate grounds for annulment, no one is ever denied one for inability to pay the customary contribution for legal fees. You ought to contact your local pastor and look into it.

  6. I fail to find any mention of annulment in the bible. But you are willing to condone it anyway, because that’s how you are.
    I don’t care what the reasons are, and neither do most Christians. It’s most assuredly not MY book, and it is their book only when it is convenient., They get divorced for reasons besides adultery, which is the only reason Jesus permitted. They get annulments, which are simple pretenses that the marriage was never valid to begin with. They still get a legal divorce, and still pretend that god doesn’t care.
    now, here is my personal opinion, the one you aren’t interested in. I think divorce is a tragedy for some people, and for others, a real blessing. If someone wants my opinion about their divorce, they are certainly free to ask me about it. If they get a divorce, it’s simply none of my business.
    What IS my business is the public, hypocritical pretense that the bible matters there, but doesn’t matter HERE. And you have demonstrated it completely, as you always do.

  7. As usual, a vapid analysis from Mark Silk. It’s not clear that Mrs. Trump is even baptized — the UK Daily Mail reported her communist parents didn’t have her baptized when she was a child — in which case she wouldn’t be recognized as a Catholic by the Church at all, even if she somehow considers herself one by virtue of her Slovenian nationality. By all appearances, Mrs. Trump does not even assist at Mass on Sundays, let alone present herself for Communion. *That’s* why there’s no such “demand” from “the Catholic right,” by which Mr. Silk seems to mean, “practicing, orthodox Catholics.”

  8. The First Lady has said her parents were sincere and militant atheists and that she was not baptized. I think we can consider her a Catholic catechumen.

  9. Pick up the phone and call the Diocese. Francis has completely eliminated any of the previous voluntary fees. They’re gone.

  10. The Catholic church lost its credibility with the horrors of pedophilia to include over one billion dollars in settlements and numerous bankrupt dioceses. Add to that the erroneous doctrine they have been spewing the last 2000 years and you have a nothing religion.

  11. With the non-profit organization Mary’s Advocates, I work to reduce unilateral no-fault divorce. As an aside, it also became necessary to help a respondent defend against trumped up charges of invalidity of one’s marriage. Both Saint Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI have criticized the abuse of the annulment process when annulments are granted wrongly for psychological grounds.

  12. Getting an annulment does not turn one’s children into “bastards,” etc. Too bad so many people believe this old wheeze.

  13. I don’t see anything in the Bible about computers. Or electricty. And yet, here you are, using both! In contravention of God’s Word!

  14. Oh, it’s there, allrighty. WITCHCRAFT!

  15. Good for you and I mean that sincerely.

  16. Annulment is a legal and spiritual fiction that something which exists somehow does not.

  17. Can you provide a biblical construct which would affirm the validity of the rite of annulment? I can’t. Even when the bible does not specifically address a particular act or practice, we still ought to have the sense and ability to color within the lines.

  18. A catechumen is someone who is studying Catholic teachings in preparation to being baptized. Is she – is Mrs. Trump receiving biblical and catechetical instructions from a catechist or RCIA in the Catholic Church?

  19. So, the Daily Mail’s report that the First Lady’s spokeswoman confirmed that the First Lady is Catholic, is incorrect?

  20. You know the difference between “cradle Catholic” and “practicing, Orthodox Catholic,” don’t you? Cradle is still Catholic.

  21. “Bbbbut we have TRADITION that says it’s OK!”

  22. If you’re saying that Melania is a cradle Catholic, then I don’t know of any reports that Melania had been baptized or raised Catholic by her parents.

  23. It’s difficult to tell how accurate the latest Daily Mail report is, because no actual words from Mrs. Trump’s spokesperson were quoted. All we got was the Mail’s own paraphrase. If Mrs. Trump was a church-attending Catholic, there wouldn’t be any secret about it. Reports would have surfaced a long time ago, in the secular and at least the Catholic press, covering it. The preponderance of the evidence seems to indicate that she isn’t a Catholic at all — nominal or practicing — but she may well be a moralistic therapeutic deist with a cultural affinity to the Church given her Slovenian nationality and Catholic extended family.

  24. Well, in charity, let’s use the term loosely. I’m sure she has asked one of her assistants to look into this.

  25. Oh why do I laugh? I love my Catholic brethren (Being a former Catholic myself), but your comment on causes me to revert to my default question, “Can you provide a biblical construct…? 😎

  26. God expects those who are
    married to remain faithful to the marriage vow. When uniting the
    first man and woman in marriage,the Bible stated: “A man . . .
    will stick to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Later,
    Jesus Christ repeated that statement and added: “Therefore, what
    God has yoked together, let no man put apart.” (Genesis 2:24;
    Matthew 19:3-6) Hence, Jehovah and Jesus view marriage as a lifelong
    bond that ends only when one partner dies. (1 Corinthians 7:39)
    Since marriage is a sacred arrangement, divorce is not to be taken
    lightly. In fact, God hates divorces that have no Scriptural
    basis.—Malachi 2:15, 16

    HOWEVER, the Catholic
    church is absolutely wrong saying that “Fornication” as mentioned
    as the only basis for divorce, means “unlawful marriage”. To
    Catholics :if you are married and there is no grounds for an
    annulment—one mate can sleep around over 1000 times and there is
    nothing the other mate can do! This is not a bible teaching. “Fornication”
    IS a basis for scriptural divorce

    As used in the Bible at
    Matthew 19:9; 5:32, “sexual immorality” (Greek, por·neiʹa)
    applies to illicit sexual relations outside of Scriptural marriage.
    It includes adultery, prostitution, and sex relations between
    UNMARRIED individuals, as well as oral and a— sex and the sexual
    manipulation of the genitals of an individual to whom one is not
    married. It also includes such acts between individuals of the same
    sex as well as bestiality. LOOK at the Greek word…
    por·neiʹa—anything done in a PORNO film is por·neiʹa

    The Scriptures are very clear: Those who practice FORNICATION cannot remain in the Christian congregation and will not receive everlasting life. (1 Corinthians
    6:9; Revelation 22:15) What is more, even now they bring much harm to themselves in the form of a loss of trust and self-respect, marital discord, a guilty conscience,
    unwanted pregnancies, disease, and even death. (Read Galatians
    6:7, 8.)

    (Ephesians 5:3)
    (Colossians 3:5) (Revelation 2:21) (Revelation 9:21)

    Jesus acknowledged that fornication IS an acceptable ground for a Scriptural divorce—indeed, the only acceptable ground that allows for remarriage. An innocent spouse might decide to forgive the erring marriage mate. However, a person who chooses to use Jesus’ statement as a basis for divorcing an adulterous mate is not doing something that God hates. It is the unfaithful spouse’s deceitful conduct that is hated by God.

    In view of this, it is
    important for those who are genuinely concerned with doing what is
    right to find out what the Bible really says on this subject.

  27. Both of the Trumps in reality worship money not God AND in the case of Donald..he worships himself. Just listen to him.
    If you don’t realize this by now you never will.
    Just for the record: as a New Yorker living 2 miles from Trump’s local residence, I would remind all that the minister of the church Trump falsely claimed during the campaign to be a pious member of, stated he could not ever recall seeing Trump in the church.

  28. That makes you a danger to all children. Protestants have committed this horrid crime more than Catholics, with Methodists the worst offenders. Being an obvious Catholic hater is no excuse for excusing others in order to condemn the one you hate and thereby giving families a false sense of security in places there is even more danger. Shame on you. Research. Read. It’s clear you believe the lies you have been fed, but at least stop spreading hate, you will answer for that on Judgement Day. Research the history of Christianity. Read Scott Hahn, an ex protestant minister who had the courage to educate himself.

  29. If you can’t afford it, there is no charge provided there are grounds to annul her marriage. It’s not something you can buy. It takes time and work, they have to see that the marriage wasn’t valid or there are acceptable reasons for it to end.

  30. A truly Catholic marriage is a sacramental marriage, where the husband and wife have a true commitment to each other, till death, AND to Jesus Christ and His Church. This commitment must be there from the get-go, or it can be declared annulled. If the commitment was there at the time of the marriage ceremony, but waned later on, then no annulment will be granted. This power of the Church to give an annulment is granted to it by Jesus Christ, in Matthew 16:18-19, when Jesus said that whatever the Church binds on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever it looses on earth shall be loosed in heaven. But aren’t all marriages forever, as Jesus said in Matthew 19:6? Didn’t Jesus say that whatever God has joined together, let no man put asunder? Yes, he did say that, but God does not join every man and woman together, marriage ceremony or not. Some marriages are not pleasing and holy to God, and therefore, in the Church’s declaration of an annulment, He did not join the man and woman together at the wedding ceremony.

  31. Melania was secretly baptized by Franc Čampa, the parish priest of St. Lawrence’s Church in Raka, on June 14, 1970

  32. That is certainly a creative answer, but I can’t accept the logic of the theology. However, I thank you sincerely for your illuminative reply.

  33. How do you define annulment?

    Why do you call annulment a “rite”?

  34. Jesus stands behind His Church and will honor it’s authority as stated (Matthew 16:18,10). All the sin of its members, from the Pope on down to you and me has no effect on that truth. The Bible came to us from God through the Church which is the final authority as to its meaning.

Leave a Comment