In defence of annulments

In several comments to a recent post, Gareth and Catherine AGREED on something! Here is Catherine’s comment (with my emphasis):

Gareth, for once I agree with you, The whole annulment business is pretty dodgy. No offence intended to anyone who has an annulment [none taken!]. I am delighted that people can remarry, but find it ” interesting ” the technicalities that some people can get out of a marriage on, yet other people won’t be granted an annulment, yet I would consider they were far more deserving.

At the end of that comment, Catherine called annulments a “get out of jail free card”.

It is important to note that annulments are not given for “moral” reasons, but for “legal” reasons. Even the State has the power to annul a marriage if in some respect or other the law concerning marriage was not properly observed when the marriage contract was entered into.

All annulments are on the basis of a legal “technicality”. They are never given for “moral” reasons to the “most deserving”. The Church has laws regarding what is required for a valid marriage. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is worth consulting. I quote the relevant sections (again, with my emphasis):

1625 The parties to a marriage covenant are a baptized man and woman, free to contract marriage, who freely express their consent; “to be free” means:
– not being under constraint;
– not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law.

1626 The Church holds the exchange of consent between the spouses to be the indispensable element that “makes the marriage”125 [CIC, can. 1057# 1]. If consent is lacking there is no marriage.

1627 The consent consists in a “human act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other”: “I take you to be my wife” – “I take you to be my husband” [GS 48# 1; OCM 45; cf. CIC, can. 1057# 2]. This consent that binds the spouses to each other finds its fulfillment in the two “becoming one flesh” [Gen 2:24; cf. Mt 10:8; Eph 5:31].

1628 The consent must be an act of the will of each of the contracting parties, free of coercion or grave external fear [cf. CIC, can. 1103]. No human power can substitute for this consent [cf. CIC, can. 1057# 1]. If this freedom is lacking the marriage is invalid.

1629 For this reason (or for other reasons that render the marriage null and void) the Church, after an examination of the situation by the competent ecclesiastical tribunal, can declare the nullity of a marriage, i.e., that the marriage never existed [cf. CIC, cann. 1095-1107]. In this case the contracting parties are free to marry, provided the natural obligations of a previous union are discharged [cf. CIC, can. 1071].

If on any of these legal “technicalities” – such as not abiding by Church law (eg. a Catholic who marries without dispensation outside of the Church) or the consent not being entirely free (which could be due to immaturity or financial pressure or some other such “technicality”) – it can be shown that the marriage was not, under Canon Law, a valid marriage, an annulment may be granted.

Law – both Church and State – is full of “technicalities”. But the technicalities matter, and it is always on such “technicalities” that annulments are granted.

The duty of marriage tribunals is to ascertain that such a “technicality” really does exist. I grant that it may be that some tribunals have been a little ready to find “technicalities” where they do not exist, but the abuse of the law does not negate the law itself.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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81 Responses to In defence of annulments

  1. Gareth says:

    David: They are never given for “moral” reasons to the “most deserving”.

    Gareth: I think you have missed the point being made a bit here David.

    The point is that it is not a good look and it leaves other Catholics baffled and totally disillusioned where there is a system that it is perceived that some people are being given the green light and are able to ‘live happily ever after’, whilst some other people who may not fit the Church’s totally weird and strange ‘technicalities’ of just when excactly a marriage is weird or not have to live for as long as live carrying their Cross, so to speak.

    The problem very much is even more higlighted because annulnments supposedly are based on legal “technicality” – meaning some people may be able to get around this techicality even if their circumstances are a mere co-incidence and some people can’t.

    For example, I have shared this story before. A former friend of mine was naively married at a very young age in the Church and unfortunately was separated in their mid twenties. They basically have to suffer for as long as they live and can never have children (or alternatively kiss the Church good-bye) because they naively married at a young age and was legally married before the Church. Notice that the Church doesnt take into account that on a personal level that they were probably pretty immature at the time of marriage.

    Yet, in my own circle of friends, another person married at a mature age and had two children and then seperated in their thirties and was able to re-marry in the Church, (no questions asked), due solely to the reason that by mere co-incidence their first marriage patner was a baptised Catholic and according to a some weird technacility, they can go and marry again, despite the fact they were a fully-grown adult when they entered their first marriage and had two children by it.

    And not to mention that if the person that was allowed to re-marry – if there first marriage didn’t bust, no-one would really care less. Their first marriage only mysteriously become invalid once they wanted to re-marry.

    If you are wondering why I am constantly repeating this or making a big deal about nothing, then consider that I have to personally deal with these two people? What I am meant to say to the poor person who’s life is virtually over because sadly they married the wrong person and it busted and they have no hope for the future, but the other on the other hand, they see other Catholics re-marrying all down to some ‘technicalities’ that no-one really understands anyway or that other people just see as an excuse to re-marry.

    It all comes back to my original frustration – once the Church says something is forbidden but then puts a disclaimer on this rule, it will lead to inevitable questioning by some Catholics that some it is unfair that some people are able to bend the disclaimer, whilst some can not.

    Either the Church is faithful and consitent or it is not.

    • catherine says:

      Gareth did this couple actually try to get an annulment? if they did indeed marry when very young, the tribunal might decide that they were too immature to get married and they may get an annulment. I went to a talk given by one of the members of the tribunal and they are certainly interested in the psychological state of the people at the time that they married.

      • Gareth says:

        Hi Catherine,

        I once heard that when it comes to playing ‘i was too young’ card, the Church would (and should) only take this seriously if people make the claim very shortly (say three years maxium) after marriage.

        Doing ten years later would be treating an annulnment as a quasi-divorce and we are so often told that annulnments are not divorce, which most people don’t buy anyway.

        • catherine says:

          Gareth, your friends should not go on hearsay as to what goes on in annulment tribunals but go arrange an interview to dicuss their case.

          • Gareth says:

            too late – they probably knew they didn’t have a case and now have moved onto ‘greener pastures’.

            Remember also that some people have strong reservations to have anything to do with annulnments to begin with.

            They may be scared that their parents may frown upon them if they proceed, they might take into account the Biblical’s strict passages or more importantly they can’t bring themselves to ever deny a marriage took place in which they brought a human life into the world.

            • catherine says:

              Well one can always get one’s first marriage annulled even if one has already gone ahead and married someone else.

              Producing children does not make a marriage valid, all it proves is that the couple had sex. I know of people who got married as it was the only way they could get out from under their parents roof. Then I have met people who had shot gun marriages. Both categories of people can get annulments as the consent element was lacking.

              The till death do you part aspect of marriage is a nice ideal but it really doesn’t cater for the difficulties of marriage. Some marriages breakdown irretrievably because of the death of a child, infidelity, one or both parties change dramatically in their goals/wants/ etc. If they can then get an annulment on the grounds of some technicality I would say go for it, but I feel very sorry for them if some loophole can’t be found.

            • Gareth says:

              Catherine: I know of people who got married as it was the only way they could get out from under their parents roof. Then I have met people who had shot gun marriages. Both categories of people can get annulments as the consent element was lacking.

              Gareth: Hi Catherine,

              That is the problem I have with modern-day annulnments.

              Marriage is meant to be forever, the Lord Jesus even said it Himself.

              Once you put dislaimers on a ruling, saying the Church forbids something BUT, eventually those BUTS build up to the point that annulnments (which are meant to be nothing more than a ruling on the marriage ceremony) becomes something that they are not and the Church is in reality practising divorce.

              That is my beef with annulnments – people can defend them all they want but they are NOT and should not be used as a substitute for divorce, which I firmly believe the modern-day criteria does create.

    • Louise says:

      The idea that people married the “wrong person” is in most cases ludicrous. Except, of course, in cases where the person they married was seriously lacking in character, or really not suitable for marriage at all.

      Modern annulments are a joke and not to be taken seriously, in most cases. I say this regarding the current lax regulations and the even more lax interpretation in many of the tribunals. I emphatically am not saying this in regard to the people who have obtained the annulments. If someone has received an annulment and subsequently married in the Church, then he/she is a person in good standing with the Church. But I consider the bishops to be grossly negligent in this whole area. Annulments ought to be rare. Unfortunately, the situation is such that – mark this! – people who are living as married Catholics, sometimes wonder if their own marriage is actually valid. This is particularly true in the case where the groom was under 25. And this is b/c of the Church’s more recent regulations regarding “sufficient reason.” Now there is an imprecise term just begging to be abused by people who don’t care about the permanence of marriage.

      The more annulments there are, the more there will be – that’s the bottom line. It’s time to tighten things back up.

      • catherine says:

        Actually I havent met any married Catholics wondering whethter their marriage could be considered annullable.
        Most catholics say 45 and under don’t even know annulments exist! I think I may have heard a priest talk about annulments at mass once in my whole life. Certainly I never heard about annulments at school. Seems like the Church doesn’t want people to know they may be able to get their marriage annulled

        • Schütz says:

          The question of annulments only arise when there is a separation between the spouses. This is logical and natural. If spouses remain committed to one another it is a sign that they are truly married. If they do not, it will raise the question of whether they ever really were. The Church requires that before applications for annulments be considered there actually be a decree nisi on an application for a State divorce. The Church never allows the question of validity to be asked about a marriage which has not already broken down.

          As for the ignorance of the under 45’s, I would say one of the reasons they are ignorant about the annulment procedure is because they are also ignorant about the laws of the Church for a valid marriage (they may even be ignorant about the fact that the Church considers a valid sacramental marriage binding).

          • Louise says:

            Well, Catherine, perhaps I know lots of well informed Catholics. Here is a case I know of: a man suffers from depression. He thinks lots of irrational things and feels that he is not appreciated by his family. He would not normally consider a separation, much less a divorce, but he is suffering from depression. He is a deeply religious man, though feeling a bit lost. Therefore he starts to “wonder” if maybe he married the “wrong person.” He “wonders” whether maybe his marriage is invalid and therefore entertains ideas of leaving his wife and numerous children because his marriage may be invalid b/c he was “too young.” blah blah blah.

            He shares this with his wife, who is devasated. She doesn’t understand what happens to men in depression. She sinks into a depression herself. They feed off each others’ depression and things quickly “break down” because she feels emotionally unsafe.

            Just a thought from a real life case.

      • Clara says:

        Louise, I beg to differ. There are many people who enter into marriage for all the wrong reasons for whom obtaining an annulment is absolutely the right course of action.

        I have a cousin who married young because she was pregnant. The man she married was a thug and some of us suspect she probably did not freely consent to sexual intercourse, having seen bruising around her wrists. She thought marriage was the only way to ‘save face’ in a close ethnic community. The priest who witnessed the ‘marriage’ told me AT THE RECEPTION that should she ever want an annulment he had written his reservations in the church documentation. The marriage ended when her ‘husband’ beat her during her second pregnancy. She never bothered with an annulment and never remarried. She was 17 when she married.

        Her brother also entered into a early marriage with his childhood sweetheart who was a spoilt brat. She refused to have children, but ten years later left him for someone else. This cousin too never sought an annulment and has married outside the church. He now has a family. Both my father and I would be in a position to testify to the tribunal as his first wife had told me that she did not want children and recently a relative of hers expressed surprise to my father that my cousin had children, because she had slandered him by saying that it was he who did not want a family.

        Not seeking an annulment – through ignorance both of the meaning of marriage and the annulment process – has placed one cousin outside the Church and prevented his sister from seeking another chance at happiness.

        • Louise says:

          Marriage is not about happiness, it is about holiness and the sooner we all realise this the better off we’ll all be. Having said that, in the two cases you mention (which would not be common) there may indeed be grounds for an annulment. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have them at all, I’m saying they are given out far too frequently.

          Domestic violence is not and has never been ground for an annulment. It is certainly ground for separation. The marriage where the woman refused to have children may have been null b/c she would have lied in her promise to have children during the wedding (I think?)

          • Tony says:

            Marriage is not about happiness, it is about holiness and the sooner we all realise this the better off we’ll all be.

            Frankly, I’m gobsmacked by this comment in the context of this string.

            Sometimes I come across things that fellow-Catholics say that make me think the gulf of understanding within the church is every bit as wide as the gulf of understanding between Catholics and non-Catholics, even between Catholics and atheists.

            I’d like to say a whole lot more about it but it’s probably best to invoke GNTA-SN.

            • Gareth says:

              What was the point of that comment, Tony?

              I understood to know what it meant once I thought about it.

              Stop playing games and potraying other Catholics (whose beliefs are pretty standard) as something out of the ordinary, when these same people probably view your own beliefs as absolutely astonishing (what sort of Catholic would view homsexual activity as acceptable?) but choose not to make comment or even worse spend their precious time engaging in conversation, when you are never willing to listen.

          • Clara says:

            You missed the point – it was domestic violence BEFORE the marriage and bullying of a 17 year old by a 27 year old BEFORE the marriage that is grounds for annulment. It was also about immaturity and cultural pressure which impeded my cousin’s freedom to enter into a valid marriage. The priest who witnessed the marriage entered these observations into the parish records. The priest did not believe he was presiding over a valid marriage.

            • Clara says:

              Interestingly, in neither of these cases has any party sought an annulment because they wrongly believe that the Church would not grant them one because ‘marriage is forever’.

    • Schütz says:

      Either the Church is faithful and consitent or it is not.

      In my experience, Gareth, the Church is RELENTLESSLY consistent, even to the point of apparent absurdity. Both the cases you cite fall under that relentless consistency, as I shall endeavour to show. The application of Canon Law is worth nothing if it is not consistent. It does not pretend to look into people’s hearts, but only judges on the basis of objective fact. Therefore the question “Is A a Catholic?” depends entirely (for the sake of Canon Law) on the objective answer to the question “Has A been baptised in the Catholic Church or at some stage received into the Catholic Church?” It does not ask “What kind of faith does A have?”

      The point is that it is not a good look and it leaves other Catholics baffled and totally disillusioned where there is a system that it is perceived that some people are being given the green light and are able to ‘live happily ever after’, whilst some other people who may not fit the Church’s totally weird and strange ‘technicalities’ of just when excactly a marriage is weird or not have to live for as long as live carrying their Cross, so to speak.

      Surely, Gareth, you should know by now that the Church doesn’t generally give two hoots about “good looks”. Lately, it is starting to learn that this is an important factor of something called “public relations”, but in general, it is a good thing for the Church not to be obsessed (as the world is) by “good looks”.

      The problem very much is even more higlighted because annulnments supposedly are based on legal “technicality” – meaning some people may be able to get around this techicality even if their circumstances are a mere co-incidence and some people can’t.

      As I said, annulments are a matter of the application of Canon Law. It is only on the basis of a “technicality” that an annulment can be granted. Or to put it positively, all the positive “technicalities” of a marriage must be present at the time of the marriage ceremony itself (or, to take in another important circumstance into consideration, at the time of consumation of the marriage) for the marriage to be a binding sacramental marriage. The two main technicalities that the Catechism spells out are:

      1) full and free consent
      2) full compliance with Church law

      Now to your examples:

      For example, I have shared this story before. A former friend of mine was naively married at a very young age in the Church and unfortunately was separated in their mid twenties. They basically have to suffer for as long as they live and can never have children (or alternatively kiss the Church good-bye) because they naively married at a young age and was legally married before the Church. Notice that the Church doesnt take into account that on a personal level that they were probably pretty immature at the time of marriage.

      Are you saying that this couple were not able to get an annulment? Because “naively marrying at a very young age” is in fact one of those “technicalities” on the basis of which an annulment can be granted, if it can be demonstrated. It is called “a grave lack of discretion of judgement” and affects the freedom with which the consent is given at the time of marriage. This “grave lack” can be due to immaturity at the time of marriage, and other factors. I know, because it was precisely under these conditions that my own annulment was granted. I am no Canon lawyer, so I will quote from the letter I received in 2000 when I asked the local tribunal for a clarification of the grounds upon which they were suggesting I might have a case for annulment:

      The grounds “a grave lack of discretion of judgement” on the part of both yourself and the Respondent refer to indications that at the time of marriage neither you nor [your first partner] was in a position to sufficiently appreciate the practical rights and obligations of marriage that you were undertaking. This may be due to factors in the background of either of you, the circumstances of the courtship and decision to marry, and any other factors surrounding the decision of either of you to marry the other.

      Have your friends in the case you cite actually approached the local Marriage Tribunal? They may indeed have a case for annulment.

      Now for your second case:

      Yet, in my own circle of friends, another person married at a mature age and had two children and then seperated in their thirties and was able to re-marry in the Church, (no questions asked), due solely to the reason that by mere co-incidence their first marriage patner was a baptised Catholic and according to a some weird technacility, they can go and marry again, despite the fact they were a fully-grown adult when they entered their first marriage and had two children by it.

      The “weird technicality” is that anyone who is a baptised Catholic is obliged to marry another baptised Catholic in a Catholic Church by a Catholic minister, unless they have a dispensation from the local ordinary exempting them from any of these obligations. That’s the law of the Church. If you are a baptised Catholic (even if you are not practicing) and don’t observe this law, any marriage you contract is not, in the eyes of the Chruch, a valid sacramental marriage. That’s the teaching of the Church. Call it a “technicality” if you like, but there it is.

      As you suggest, lucky for some. I wasn’t a baptised Catholic at the time of my first attempt to contract marriage with another baptised person who also wasn’t Catholic. Neither of us were obliged to be married in a Catholic Church to another Catholic, since neither of us were Catholic, and hence we were exempt from this law. But because a sacramental marriage is a valid marriage between any two baptised Christians, Catholic or not, this “technicality” did not apply in our case.

      Their first marriage only mysteriously become invalid once they wanted to re-marry.

      Father Fleming explained to my friend Pastor Fraser Pearce once that any marriage can become a valid marriage no matter how it begins. If full and free consent was absent at the time of the marriage ceremony, it can be given later in a growing committment between husband and wife. If dispensation from the local ordinary was absent at the time of marriage, it can be regularised with the granting of a dispensation after the event. It only seems as if marriages are declared to be “invalid” when they are questioned, because if they are not questioned, all marriages are assumed to be valid! That makes a kind of sense – the kind of logical, consistent sense that Canon Law applies to all matters.

      It all comes back to my original frustration – once the Church says something is forbidden but then puts a disclaimer on this rule, it will lead to inevitable questioning by some Catholics that some it is unfair that some people are able to bend the disclaimer, whilst some can not.

      Which is why it is so important that we educate people in what is necessary to contract a valid marriage in the first place. It is quite possible that the very reason that we have so many annulments these days is because people don’t actually know what is necessary to contract a valid marriage. This ignorance (not helped, nota bene, by the fact that our society is busy deconstructing and reconstructing the very meaning of marriage all the time) naturally leads to attempts at marriages which are invalid because the parties are not aware of the nature of that to which they are giving assent.

      • Gareth says:

        Hi David,

        I could write all day to your response, but will try to keep it as short as possible.

        Basically, I disagree with most of which you wrote.

        a) You defended the question of annulments only arising where there is a separation between the spouses as something ‘natural’. Well, it may be a natural course of events but it DOES, whether you like it or not, only serve people’s suspicions that annulments are only being used as quasi-divorce in which (some) people abuse to move onto a “second marriage” – which was nearly unspeakable in the Church fifty years ago.

        That is my issue and what many people also share and I think Louise communicated this in some way – annulments are only meant to be a very rare event, not something that people jump at once their marriage falls through.

        This also leads to another issue I have. If some marriages that are declared are invalid, if they would had not have broken to begin with, would we even remotely question their validility. Life would carry on as normal of course – and that is why some people find the annulment business a bit of a farce, marriages only mysteriously become invalid once they end. Sounds a bit ridicoulous to me.

        b) You asked whether the case of my friends actually approached the local Marriage Tribunal.

        Well, this may sound pretty rude – but in some people’s minds even thinking about an annulment to begin with is a no-go area.

        Remember, as little as forty years ago re-marriage was extremely frowned upon and in some people’s minds, the issue of annulments would still be something that they would never even dare think about, out of respect of the traditional Catholic view or their strict Catholic parents or perhaps the straight fact that they don’t have a case.

        And not to mention, that some people are very wary about annulments when children are involved. Putting it bluntly, how we you feel if you found out when you are an adult you were conceived in an invalid marriage that never existed? I would be pretty confused myself.

        c) You mentioned If a baptised Catholic (even if they are not practicing) and don’t observe this law, any marriage you contract is not, in the eyes of the Church, a valid sacramental marriage.

        That is fair enough and I acknowledge it, but this ruling has to be in context. This part of canon law actually came into being around the time of the Counter-Reformation to ensure that Catholics married inside the Catholic Church.

        The canon law exists for how it reads, so that “Catholics” (which could mean anything these days) shouldn’t marry in a Protestant or secular body. And this was the way most people worked until recently as it was unconceivable for any Catholic or Christian to not at least marry before a Church Minister. And so it was that most marriages were valid.

        The main purpose of this section of canon law is NOT so people who are fed up with their first marriage and WHO by mere co-incidence married a baptized Catholic in a secular ceremony can then move onto a second marriage.

        I honestly think that this section of canon law is being used so people can re-marry, then it is being abused slightly and the definition of Catholic in this context (which could come to mean baptized in a Church and never stepped foot in a Church ever again) is being twisted so people can enter second marriages, not to uphold the validity of marriage services.

        Also not to mention that the according to Church canon law, since its weird re-vision in the 1980s, some pretty weird things can be justified. Female altar servers???

        Do you really want me to respect modern day canon law that justifies something as absurd as girl altar servers or married permanent deacons?

        d) You said it is so important that we educate people in what is necessary to contract a valid marriage in the first place.

        Well that is not so easy to begin with. There are thousands upon thousands of “Catholics” whose first marriage falls through and then can not be bothered with it all and marry outside the Church a second time.

        Do you think parish priests or parishoners can seriously be bothered following all these examples through?

        My beef is that where such a system exists, it will inevitably lead to inconsistencies.

        Putting it simply, when exceptions are given to the permanency of marriage, it will always lead to an atmosphere where some people are left baffled as to why some people are in a second marriage and some have to accept their lot in life.

        That is just the way it is.

        I stand by my original objection that the Church in its annulment business has left an atmosphere where some in the Church are left confused and wondering where the consistency is.

      • Gareth says:

        Also sorry to be a nuisance but another thing struck me about your post when you replied to the second case I originally posted and you said “As you suggest, lucky for some”.

        Without going into anyone’s personal situation, I am wondering that if what you are suggesting is true – is it by pure luck I am a baptised Catholic (which could mean anything) and I only get one shot at marriage, but if someone by ‘luck’ as you have appear to admit is not baptised Catholic by birth, the ‘one shot’ deal flys out the window?

        That is a little bit unjust don’t you think and appears to contradict the statement that the Church respects all natural marriages.

        That is what I am talking about when I say the Church’s position leads to frustrations, you can’t have a system where something is only allowed once for some people but not others based on ‘luck’ or mere coincidence there parents trudged them off to a Catholic Church to be baptised.

  2. Gareth says:

    P.S. sorry David – your choice of heading for this topic was a not good choice.

    I know what you are saying, but to say one ‘defends annulnments’ is a bit of a furphy, conisdering if you read the Church’s teaching correctly – they shouldn’t even exist to begin with.

    • Schütz says:

      No, I disagree. One is right to defend the faithful application of Canon Law. The granting of an annulment is not arbitrary, but the application of strict objective measures of justice. Justice requires it. God’s Justice. It is something we should defend.

      • Gareth says:

        David,

        If what you say is true that an annulment is not arbitrary, but the application of strict objective measures of justice then can I ask the following questions:

        1) Are you content with the fact that the Church hands out thousands upon thousands of annulnments and has even come under extreme criticism of the Pope himself?

        2) Are you content with the fact that due to the above, in many, many people’s eyes (including myself) the Church has lost much credibility and leads to the quite justified accusation that annulnments is this day and age is simply another banner for Catholic divorce?

        3) Will you recognise the fact that if what you say is true that annulnments involve the application of strict objective measures of justice, then the fact that the thousands are granted (come on we all know the odd person that has obtained one and are baffled to know excactly why) disproves that there anything strict about them in this day and age and they have come to be something that they were not intended to be?

        My problem with modern-day annulments is that somehwere along the line, their intended meaning has been (quite possibly deliberately) confused. Traditionally, marriage is indissolvable; an annulment is really meant to be a finding by a Church tribunal that on the day of the marriage vows an essential element for a valid marriage was lacking.

        Annulment cannot be granted on what partakes in the marriage afterwards. It pertains to the conditions and intentions of the parties ON the wedding day.

        What is important to remember is that if a person seeks an annulment and abuses the process to get out of an “unhappy marriage,” it is a grave sin.

        For the most part, this is what takes place the Church today – spouses unhappy with their “first marriage” find someone who they believe is “more compatible,” seek an “annulment,” and remarry.

        This is why I get so heated about “annulnments” – marriage accoring to the Bible is meant to be PERMANENT and we have direct Scriptural admonition by the Lord about the topic.

        Isn’t Catholics first priority to be faithful to the Lord?

        • catherine says:

          Gareth when you can’t understand how someone got an annulment, that does not mean it necessarily wasn’t deserved. You are not privy to all the intimate details of a couple’s courtship, psychological history, family back ground, etc.

          By the way, in itself, I don’t see what is wrong with female alter servers. They are not priests, so what is the big deal. The CHurch does change somewhat in response to changes in society and advances in knowledge.

          When the Church first thought about annulments, knowledge of psychiatric disorders was not as developed as it is now. There are many people in the community with personality disorders who are totally unsuited to marriage and at least tribunals recognise this now and I see that as a positive thing.

          Catholics have more than the Bible to go on, the Church has the power to make rules on things and you just have to accept that or you are being a conservative cafeteria catholic (as opposed to a trendy cafeteria catholic) LOL

          • Gareth says:

            Catherine: the Church has the power to make rules on things.

            Gareth: But in doing so it has to be faithful to the Bible and Church doctrinal tradition.

            • catherine says:

              Well I presume the Pope was involved when Canon Law was drawn up so he must have given it the stamp of approval. Now if he is infallible on matters of faith and morals, and obviously marriage/annulments fall in that category, it seems like just have to accept it.

              As David said the whole annulment thing is legalistic and the Canon law may well be an ass, as is civil and criminal law at times.

              If some people abuse the annulment process they only cheat themselves as God knows what went on in their marriage. I think the CHurch needs to worry more about who they are marrying rather than which marriages they are annulling. When I see people who have been living together trot up to get married, I question whether they may be doing it as an attractive photo op or to make their parents happy? The church ought to be grilling people before they get married, not afterwards

  3. Tony says:

    Perhaps slightly on a tangent, David, I have been reasonably close to two annulments.

    The first was a dreadful experience that made on of the individuals feel very humiliated.

    The second was a really important stage in helping the couple come to terms with change and begin again; it was very healing.

    Needless to say, I’d hope that the latter is the norm.

    The other observation I’d make is that people looking on from a distance and making judgements really have no idea.

    • Gareth says:

      Tony: The second was a really important stage in helping the couple come to terms with change and begin again; it was very healing.

      Gareth: I know David said to cut down on the post, but this sentence struck me. Is not the point of annulnments to declare not a marriage didn’t take place to begin with?

      It has nothing to do whatsoever with helping people ‘move on’.

      If people want to fall back on these sort of arguements, is it little wonder that many people, inside and outside the Church view annulnments as a bit of a farce, and nothing more than quasi-divorce.

      • Tony says:

        If people want to fall back on these sort of arguements …

        I was relating my experience, Gareth, not falling back on an argument.

        … is it little wonder that many people, inside and outside the Church view annulnments as a bit of a farce, and nothing more than quasi-divorce.

        Which goes to my last point.

        • Gareth says:

          And I am judging the experience you relayed as an example that only highlights to many what an absolute joke annulnments (cough, cough Catholic divorce) have come to be.

          • Tony says:

            Why is it a joke when an annulment helps couples to heal, Gareth?

            • Gareth says:

              To heal what – people’s guilty conscience?

              The answer is that the primary purpose of annulnments are not to ‘heal’ people (although that can be a nice consequence for some), annulnments are purely and simply to declare that a marriage never took place to begin with.

              Same goes with confession, ‘healing’ may be a nice consequence but the sole purpose is to absolve sins.

              You must know that many people outside the Church view annulnments as a hypocritical way to simply practise divorce, without actually calling it so.

              Any suggestions that the Church is using annulnments as anything more than to declare marriages that clearly out of order (which should be extremly rare) only adds fuel to the fire that the Church’s position on marriage is a bit of a farce and not up to the reality of what it or its Master (who was abundantly clear on the matter) teaches.

            • Tony says:

              To heal what – people’s guilty conscience?

              A whole complexity of emotions including guilt, regret, anger, saddness, etc.

              The answer is that the primary purpose of annulnments are not to ‘heal’ people …

              It’s an answer to a question I haven’t asked, Gareth. I wasn’t saying anything about the ‘primary purpose’. You just assumed.

              You must know that many people outside the Church view annulnments as a hypocritical way to simply practise divorce, without actually calling it so.

              Possibly, but that’s not relevant to my observations nor do I care that much about the apparent views of ‘many’.

              Any suggestions that the Church is using annulnments as anything more than to declare marriages …

              The only one making ‘suggestions’ is you, Gareth.

              I have never ‘suggested’ that the legal purpose of annulments should be compromised. BUT there is a pastoral way of doing it and a legalistic, impersonal way of doing it. I’d opt for the former because it does more than tick legal boxes.

      • Schütz says:

        Tony and Gareth,

        This latest “little” exchange is precisely the sort of thing I am asking you guys to cut down on. Leave off one another, okay? Let what you say stand. You don’t have to keep at it like a couple of terriers…

        All that said, let me say this from the perspective of one who has been through the “process”.

        The “healing” that a lot of people relate concerning their experience of the annulment “process” is a by-product of the legal procedure, much the same way as when someone comes out of a long legal battle (victorious) saying that they now experience “closure”. The process involves a rather minute examination of the situation of one’s courtship, wedding and early marriage period. This reflection can indeed be “healing” (if the participant in the process is a willing participant).

        “Healing” is not the purpose of the annulment, but should not be dismissed as an important side-effect. I am told that marriages contracted after annulments have a high rate of success. The reason for this seems to be the deep self-examination that the process required.

        • Tony says:

          “Healing” is not the purpose of the annulment, but should not be dismissed as an important side-effect. I am told that marriages contracted after annulments have a high rate of success. The reason for this seems to be the deep self-examination that the process required.

          This is exactly what I was trying to say, David, and I too have some personal experience to bring to the table. I get annoyed when I write stuff then have to defend stuff I didn’t write.

          It’s all very well to say ‘leave it’ but I try to write clearly and in a way that is not judgemental or personally attacking or by making sweeping condemnatory generalisations. I’m not asking that people agree with me, but I also think that I should defend myself against misrepresentation.

          Back to the point.

          I actually think the annulment process, well done (as I suspect it is these days), is something that the church can offer the whole community — I’m not talking about it in a legal sense but it’s more pastoral side — so that people actually learn from their mistakes and, should the opportunity come up again, make a success of the next time.

          It reminds me of being on Jury duty a couple of times. Until you get into the system and realise that its fundamental premise is the presumption of innocence — and I think that it a premise worth keeping — all the noise from people saying the law is ‘too easy’ is often just so mis-placed.

  4. Louise says:

    I think the long term effects upon the whole Church – the whole Body of Christ – rather than the feelings of the individuals concerned, are far more important when it comes to annulments. If we do not correctly prioritise, then in the long run, even more people’s feelings will be trampled on – notably children’s.

    • catherine says:

      Well Louise, people can’t apply for an annulment until they have received their divorce, so the children have already been hurt. I don’t see how getting an annulment makes the situation anyworse. In my circle of acquaintance, I know several people who have got annulments and others who are seeking annulments, All of the them had unfaithful partners who have repartnered or remarried and didn’t care about getting an annulment.

      I don’t see how denying the abandoned parties an annulment helps the children. Many children would like to the see abandoned party happy in a new relationship

      • Louise says:

        I don’t see how denying the abandoned parties an annulment helps the children. Many children would like to the see abandoned party happy in a new relationship

        Nonsense. What they’d really like to see is their parents back together and believe me, that can happen. Why do people persist in believing that children car about their parents’ “happiness”? Parents bring their children into the world and if anyone should care about anyone else’s happiness, then it is the parents who should care about their children’s happiness.

        If there are far more annulments being handed out than really should be (and I believe there are), then it’s the ongoing bad example of simply opting out when the going gets tough which causes the problem for more children down the track. Please see the real life example above which outlines how annulments might be causing further marriage breakdown. Put yourself in the shoes of any one of *my* friends whose husbands or wives have deserted them or are threatening to and then look at the question. Can you not see that the bad example of many people just creates more heartache for others?

        • catherine says:

          CHildren generally wish their parents had not split up ( unless there is domestic violence etc), however, once one parent has formed a new relationship, remarried and even produced more children, they get the picture that their parents are never going to get back together and can be happy for the abandoned parent to form a new relationship. The abandoned parent may meet someone very nice who is a good subsitute mother or father for the one who walked out.

          • Louise says:

            Again, I say, nonsense. I am the child of divorce and I know what I’m talking about. I have no wish for any form of step parents, thanks. Happily, I don’t really have to worry about that since I ignore – yes ignore – the fact that one parent has a “friend” of many years standing. I can ignore this b/c very happily they don’t live together. I assure you that step-parents (I’m not speaking of marriage after widowhood) are only one more complicating factor in the life of a child of divorce. Yes, I dare say there are some people in my situation who “just want Mum/Dad to be happy” but I’m inclined to think that they are in a minority. I also suspect (with good reason) that lots of people in my situation say a lot of stuff they don’t really believe, just to keep the peace, or b/c they’ve been duped into believing that “this is how grow-ups see things.” It’s all tosh.

            Furthermore, it is possible for spouses to reconcile and get back together even after one or both of them have lived in adulterous relationships and even after “remarriage” which in most cases is just legalised adultery. I have only just started to pray for my parents to get back together after 22 years of separation
            (following the 23 years years they had together). They are almost certainly still married, sacramentally. I have neglected to pray for their reunion for all these years b/c I bought the lies of the Devil, who says that once it’s over, it’s over. That’s also nonsense. There are people who pray faithfully for their wayward spouse (even after a “remarriage” and subsequent children etc) and God answers their prayers. Here they are:

            http://www.rejoiceministries.org/restored.php

            • catherine says:

              Well Louise when I do counselling people often tell me they were relieved when their parents divorced, and they just wished the divorce had happened sooner. Some people even say that they had a better, stronger relationship with their parents, as workaholic dads would spend more time with their kids post divorce than they ever did when they were married. Obviously , this is not always the case, I am just making the point that divorce is not always a bad thing, it depends on the individual circumstances, why the divorce took place, whether it was a high or low conglict marriage, how it was explained to the children, how custody issues were handled etc etc

            • Louise says:

              Divorce is always, objectively, a bad thing. It may, however, sometimes be necessary.

              It is estimated that perhaps one-third (certainly no more than that) of divorces result in happier children, b/c of the very high level of conflict (and sometimes violence). But that’s an awful lot of children left over who aren’t happy about the divorce and who just have to put up with it when – even in confession mark you! – they have priests, friends, family etc saying “get over it.” (I doubt anyone would say to a rape or assault victim, or person suffering depression, “get over it” but somehow it’s okay to say it to children of divorce. Interesting.)

              Of course, one can “get over it” in terms of getting on with one’s life and not sinking into depression etc and if there were not so many Ideologues pushing the wonders of divorce down our throats, I would never mention this topic at all, but it is simply a lie that divorce is okay.

              Incidentally, short term relief is often at the expense of longer term pain.

              And as for fathers, well, as much as I love my Dad, there can be no doubt that he sees far less of us (by his choices) than he would have if he and Mum had stayed together and that, I believe, is the more typical scenario. All in all it’s just a bad job and I can’t believe that Catholics can argue in its defense.

            • Tony says:

              I too am a child of a broken marriage, and I think the one thing I’ve learnt from that is a kind of humility about other people’s relationships.

              I know my parents were subject to all sorts of judgements from people who knew nothing.

              In my own situation, the cliches don’t fit neatly. My mother left my father for another man. I was, in a sense, predisposed to not like him and hard-pressed not to think of him as a family breaker.

              They were married for well over two decades and I could barely shake those feelings about him.

              Yet, when it came to my mother’s eulogy, I thanked him very publicly and very sincerely for his part in allowing my mother to love and be loved in marriage for the second half of her adult life.

              As an adult, am I relieved that my parents separated? No way. Do I wish they’d have done it sooner? No way.

              But they did. That’s just reality. I believe my mother chose love. To do that required courage (love+courage is near enough to holiness for me).

              My father, in his way, did the same. Both choices were messy and traumatic with life-long consequences. As a young teenager I felt whole one day then torn in half the next.

              This was a time when separations were rare and anulments were even rarer.

              My mother, who was a good Catholic, was so alienated by priests and other ‘good’ Catholics at the time, that her one clear wish for her funeral was ‘no priests!’.

            • Gareth says:

              Yes it wasn’t necessary because it wasn’t relevant to the personal story that you shared.

              The story was suffice as it was.

              And seing you defended your right to use it, I will defend my right to respond that I suspect the feelings towards the priests in this case is unwarranted because they were probably doing the right thing.

      • Louise says:

        An annulment makes the children illegitimate in canon law. It also greatly hurts the spouse who was deserted if the deserting spouse obtains an annulment by declaring that the marriage was never a marriage. A good woman assumes she is a Catholic wife and gives the best years of her life in this cause, even to the point of foregoing a “career” etc. Then it is declared null. In times past this would only have happened rarely when the criteria for annulments were justifiably tighter. I don’t say annulments shouldn’t be possible – they obviously should as a matter of mere logic. I’m saying they should be rare b/c the law should be crystal clear and not allow room for vague, immeasurable concepts such as “sufficient reason.”

        I accept all annulments from a juridical perspective, but from a moral perspective I cannot help but lament.

        • Tony says:

          An annulment makes the children illegitimate in canon law.

          While that seems like a pretty logical assumption to me, L, it is not a fact.

          “Does annulment make our
          children illegitimate?”

          No — children of a marriage that’s determined to be invalid by a Catholic annulment, are still legitimate. (Code of Canon Law, canon 1137).

          When a couple marries, they assume the marriage is valid and was entered into in good faith. Children conceived under this assumption of a valid marriage, are considered to be legitimate.

          This fact does not change even if the marriage is later found to be not valid.

          See http://www.beginningcatholic.com/catholic-annulment.html

          • Gareth says:

            we have already discussed this before as something that the Church puts a ‘spin’ on, but makes no logical sense.

            The Church must think people are stupid to declare a marriage never happened and therefore declare that a child has been born outside wedlock and then say the child is not illegitimate.

            How on earth do you think the actual children will react once they reach adulthood.

            All the more reason not to think of annulnments in the modern church as a farce.

            • catherine says:

              Gareth as a Catholic one has to accept a lot of things that are not logical, e.g. the virgin birth, the trinity; if you can accept those teachings, accepting that children of an annulment are legitimate should be easy

            • Stephen K says:

              Gareth, you make a very telling point, here. Tony is certainly stating the official reassurance given, and to that extent he is correct, but you are voicing the way it would make sense to most people, and probably most children.

              I think the confusion or doublespeak revolves around the word “legitimate”. What do people mean? And I think the confusion is exacerbated by the whole Catholic vocabulary on marriage and sacrament. Let me explain.

              On the one hand, Catholicism recognises “marriage” as a natural man/woman contract, and so it recognises all marriages in the natural state as real, entered into with consent etc. But it also insists that Christian marriage is a sacrament, and that by Canon law Catholics must receive the sacramental form if they wish to marry.
              So, on the other hand, the Church does not recognise any conjugal arrangement for any baptised Catholic if it was not witnessed in the Church as a sacrament.

              At the same time however, since the Church accepts, however reluctantly, that it does not operate in a social vacuum, it acknowledges, not as a matter of theology but simply as human jurisprudence, that the sacramental contract, like the natural contract, are contracts recognised by secular law. The legitimacy of children has never – at least I don’t think it has – been an ecclesiastical “legitimacy” – there is no such thing – but a civil legitimacy, for social and economic (inheritance, legal capacity) considerations.

              This “legitimacy” – considered purely technically – is nothing more than “legal capacity and entitlement”. Unfortunately, it has always been invested by people with the meaning of moral stain, turpitude, the fruit of sin. This is a reprehensible, unfounded and hypocritical attitude that has caused immense pain and harm to centuries of children.

              So, the fine distinctions the Catholic church makes and relies on between “marriage”, “contract” and “sacrament” to base its reassurances that children do not become “illegitimate” by a declaration of annulment, are, in my view, in practice, far too subtle for most of us, and many children would without any doubt feel unmoored, disconnected, illegitimised, groundless by an annulment. And can I say, I think this is a major, or frequent reason/consideration why many Catholics do not seek annulments. They do not have any confidence in the process to avoid this effect on their children.

              This consideration, I strongly suggest, may be often accompanied also by a complete or instinctive rejection of two incongruities: (1) that a Catholic “sacramental” marriage is somehow different from any other marriage; and (2) that, as you have correctly alluded to in several of your posts, by the sheer accident of childhood formational circumstance (i.e. born into a Catholic environment and baptised as a non-consenting infant) a person is compelled under pain of sin to get the first attempt at a conjugal relationship right – (a sacramental marriage is indissoluble, so the teaching goes, and all such marriages are presumed to be valid from the time of the ritual vows. This presumption is only suspended when a Catholic questions or challenges it in the annulment process and only quashed upon a declaration it was null) – while others are under no such fantastically unrealistic pressure.

              So, although Tony is technically correct, your frustration seems to me justified. I suspect that on this point you and I disagree only on the more fundamental point that whereas you might think the modern Catholic church has arrived at an intolerable inconsistency through misguided pastorality, I think the Catholic church has so far not yet completely come to terms with how best to revise and improve upon the harmful rigour and inherent inconsistency of its age-old traditional attitude/teaching.

            • Gareth says:

              Stephen: So, although Tony is technically correct,

              Gareth: Thanks for the post Stephen, but I still challenge that there is something not right about the Church’s justification on the issue of declaring that children born outside wedlock are somehow magically legitimate?

              The Church’s websites (which are part of the annulnment ‘business’) says so, but pure common sense says otherwise.

            • catherine says:

              Frankly, I don’t know where all these children are who would be traumatised by their parents having their marriages annulled. Nowadays children born out of secular wedlock are commonplace, and people don’t discriminate against them. As Stephen has clearly pointed out legitimacy is a legal concept, and the couples who get annullments were legally married, if not sacramentally married according to the Catholic Church

            • Tony says:

              Bravo Stephen (again)!

              FWIW, it never occured to me, nor did I here a whisper from anyone else, that my siblings and myself might be bastards (at least in terms of ‘parentage’).

            • Louise says:

              Well, Catherine, I concede that these days most people would not give a stuff whether or not they were “legitimate” in canon law or civil law (I was definitely under the impression that canon law used to recognise “legitimacy” of birth, but I could be wrong). But, as it happens, I know a woman who is not a practicing Catholic herself but was very distressed at the thought that one of her parents might seek an annulment b/c she believed it would make her illegitimate. This woman is in her 40s, like me. Younger generations wouldn’t give a hoot, I have no doubt, but if my parents’ marriage were annulled and if it made me illegitimate in canon law, I would be pretty upset myself.

              But then, it seems as though only Gareth and I are truly horrified by divorce anyway, so maybe we’re just weird.

              I note, Catherine, that you do not seem to care much about the woman whose marriage is turned into a non-marriage by an annulment. I find that interesting. If “caring” about people’s experiences (rather than something more objective and rational like principle) is to be the determinant of right and wrong, then I can only say I’m disturbed that one group of people have your compassion and not another. Whereas, of course, using principles to discuss these things means that our possibly biased feelings don’t really come into it.

            • Gareth says:

              There is another good point Louise.

              Imagine all those out there that are p***ssed off because their spouse ran off with someone else and then they had no say in the Catholic Church declared their seemingly normal marriage ‘invalid’.

              And to think that the money that we put in the plate each Sunday goes towards subsidising this whole process.

              Saint Thomas More who would rather lose his life than abuse the permanency of marriage would drop dead if he came back and say it all.

            • catherine says:

              Gareth:Imagine all those out there that are p***ssed off because their spouse ran off with someone else and then they had no say in the Catholic Church declared their seemingly normal marriage ‘invalid’.

              Gareth, you really need to go and get informed about the annulment process.
              When one applies for an annulment, it is part of the process that the other party to the marriage is asked to give their side of the story. if you were better informed about annulments you might find you were not so opposed to them.

              I have friends whose spouses ran off with other people, and it was the “innocent ” parties who sought the annulments, and they were delighted to have the opportunity to do so.

            • Gareth says:

              I have read otherwise – e.g. that is deeply demeaning for the spouse from the first marriage to hear according to the Catholic Church’s warped reasonings that their marriage actually ‘never happened’.

              There was a famous Kennedy case in the U.S. where this happened and she was shocked she petitioned the Vatican and asked for it to be overturned.

            • catherine says:

              Louise: “”note, Catherine, that you do not seem to care much about the woman whose marriage is turned into a non-marriage by an annulment.

              Well I have numerous Catholic female friends whose husbands had affairs/left them for other women and they were devastated by it BUT the women initiated the annulment process and were delighted when they were granted an annulment and could seek happiness with a new partner.

              My friends are lonely and would dearly love to meet a good man. Now some women, and I don’t know of any, may be upset their spouse seeks an annullment and gets it, but hey they are going to be devastated he got a civil divorce. The errant partner has the flown the coop, they ain’t coming back whether they get an annulment or not.

            • Gareth says:

              Your friends should offer it up to God.

            • Louise says:

              Catherine, thanks to the normalising of divorce (and may I remind you that God hates it?) you and most other people posting on this topic seem to be constitutionally incapable of looking at the issue from more than one perspective. You seem to be incapable of grasping that one person’s suffering being made the rule for establishing right and wrong might just make thigs worse for very many more people, particularly children and therefore society as a whole. Please try to look at things more rationally.

              I have conceded that there are indeed times where separation and even legal divorce may be necessary – and the occasional need for separation has always been recognised by the Church – but you simply will not concede that divorce is bad for kids and bad for society (and normally bad for both spouses) and should be discouraged as much as possible.

              I’m sick of Catholic apologists for divorce and I don’t care if your friends are lonely. Everyone is lonely at times. Gareth is right – they should offer it up. And please don’t exclaim about how “mean” I am, since you don’t care that the majority of children from broken homes are suffering cruelly.

              We Catholics must “enter by the narrow gate.”

            • catherine says:

              Louise, in many cases divorce is bad for children, ie when there is a low conflict marriage and one or both partners get bored, have an affair etc and split up.
              However, in some cases of divorce, ie domestic violence , drug and alcohol abuse, incest, divorce is a blessing.

              The difference between you and I on the divorce issue, is I do not believe that the perceived “easy”” availability of annulments would make a significant difference. I don’t think there would be many, if any children today who would be traumatised by their parents getting an annulment, as movie stars and celebrities have children out of wedlock and noone bats an eye.

              When people leave their marriage, they don’t get a verdict from the Marriage Tribunal that they can have an annu lment, before deserting their marriage. people want to get out of their marriages whether they can have an annulment or not. The number of Australians who seek an annulment would be incredibly low compared to the catholic divorce rate.

            • Gareth says:

              Actually Catherine, the Catholic Church doesn’t recognise divorce.

              It is impossible and hates by God.

        • Louise says:

          Thanks, Tony, I must have had the incorrect information, or perhaps the new code of canon law has changed the ruling. Thankyou for going to the trouble of finding that link.

  5. Schütz says:

    Lord in heaven, you guys. I turn my back and what do I see? 19 Comments! Except for a guest appearance by Louise (Hi, Lou! Glad to see you’re still at the table!), it is the three musketeers going for it. I haven’t read all this yet, but I would like to think you might have taken my point in the post above: Say your piece and be done with. PLEASE!!!

    • Gareth says:

      In fairness David it was only one post and a pretty important topic at that.

      I actually did think before every post I made here and believe every post was necessary.

      And I didn’t see how other people were excluded from the discussion.

      You have to allow room for some in-depth discussion on contentious issues and I would see it as favourable that you are achieving a purpose of encouraging discussion.

    • Louise says:

      Hi David. :)

  6. Alexander says:

    My concern with annulments is that the widespread existence of marriages which the Catholic Church subsequently claims never existed, suggests that the Church’s opinion of marriage has become separated from the general public’s. In particular, since the widespread availability of divorce, most people contracting marriage might hope it lasts forever, but I very much doubt they expect they’re entering into an indissoluble relationship: divorce is always an option.

    How many people are fornicating without knowing it? Sure without knowledge it can’t be a mortal sin—but isn’t a venial sin bad enough?

    So contra Gareth and Catherine, I would suggest that the Catholic Church should generally assume marriages in certain cultural contexts are invalid (e.g. Western countries). This would mean priests have be very diligent in educating Catholics who want to get married—including recent converts who wish to have their “purported marriage” recognised by the Church.

    • Clara says:

      Hear! Hear!

    • Schütz says:

      I would suggest that the Catholic Church should generally assume marriages in certain cultural contexts are invalid

      I understand your concercn, Alex, but I think this is going too far. The Church always assumes that a marriage is a marriage (sacramental or otherwise) unless expressly asked to examine the case. To do otherwise would be to undermine marriage even further.

      But you are right about priests being diligent in educating Catholics about marriage. The problem is, the first time they get to educate one of their flock on the matter is when they turn up with their fiance at the presbytery door asking for a wedding service.

      • Clara says:

        I agree that we must assume that marriages are valid – I know many non-sacramental marriages which appear valid, but I am all for greater education.

    • catherine says:

      I agree with you Alexander, I reckon most marriages done in the Catholic Church in western countries such as USA and Australia are annullable :) I reckon it is fair enough that there are a lot of annulments granted.People dont go into them thinking for better or worse, it is for as long as it suits me. Let’s face it, most of these couples were living together before they got married and didnt see anything wrong with it. Most of these couples were using contraception and didnt see anything wrong with it. They will get divorced, they wont get an annulment and will get new partners and at Christmas and Easter will be rocking up for communion and they won’t see anything wrong with it. Not blaming them or judging them, they are poorly educated and living in a society where pre marital sex, getting divorced etc is commonplace and totally acceptable.
      So if they don’t understand what being a catholic entails ( as their behaviour seems to demonstrate) I do not see how they can contract a sacramental marriage.

      • Louise says:

        Dear God! Marriage is not only a sacrament (in the Church) it is also a natural good (out of the Church). To be content with this appalling situation is just… I’m gobsmacked.

        I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it on this thread; tightening the divorce laws (ie getting rid of “no-fault” divorce) and tightening the canon law on annulments (or at least reverting to previous canon law) would go a long way to improving the situation.

        • catherine says:

          Louise no fault divorce will never be abolished, as in Western society it is all about the individual and people like their freedom. When Tony Abbott proposed a no fault divorce system (or marriage lite) for those who want it and another at fault system for shall we say religious people, it was not popular.

          regardless of whether the Church tightens up on annulments, it will do little or nothing for the divorce rate. The vast majority of catholics in Australia who divorce don’t go for an annulment. The perceived, and I stressed pereceived easy availibility of annulments would have 0.00001 effect on the divorce rate amongst catholics. MOst catholics are only nominal catholics and even most of the practising ones are a wishy washy lot and are leaving their wives and children for younger women, remarrying in a civil service and not giving a tinkers curse about getting an annulment.

          • Gareth says:

            Catherine: The perceived, and I stressed pereceived easy availibility of annulments would have 0.00001 effect on the divorce rate amongst catholics.

            Gareth: I debate that

            Catherine: Most catholics are only nominal catholics and even most of the practising ones are a wishy washy lot.

            Gareth: I don’t debate that.

          • Louise says:

            Louise no fault divorce will never be abolished, as in Western society it is all about the individual and people like their freedom.

            That is defeatist thinking, which the Devil loves. Have you enver noticed that the “progressives” almost lways get their way in the end b/c they keep persisting? They don’t take “no” for an answer. No matter how many times one of their wicked bills is defeated (e.g. euthanasia), they just come back again – sometimes in the very next year. They do this in part b/c they honestly believe that their cause is just and it’s just a matter of time. “It’s inevitable” they say.

            Well I say that since God is in Heaven and since we are in the right whenever we agree with Him, that nothing is “inevitable” when it comes to legislation. There is simply no reason to suppose that large numbers of people won’t come to their senses about divorce. I know many people, both in and out of the Church who are totally fed up with the failing marriages they see around them. If you consider the 50+% of marriages which do not fail and then the many divorcees who are unhappy their spouse obtained a divorce, I think you can see that a potentially large number of people agree with me on this issue, or would, if they could hear a really good presentation of why no-fault divorce ought to be repealed.

            I don’t care if TA’s proposals were unpopular. That doesn’t mean they will always be unpopular and as soon as I’m able, I will start the movement for Marriage Restoration, unless someone else does it first.

          • Peter says:

            I am inclined to agree with you Catherine.
            1994 was the International Year of the Family
            and a number of pro-family groups joined forces to campaign for the period of seperation before divorce extended from 1 year to 3.
            It never went anywhere.Never got off the ground.Politicians said there would be no support for it.I see little if any evidence that a similar move would go anywhere in 2011.

  7. Stephen K says:

    There seems to be some argument at cross-purposes on this post: David is – quite accurately in my view – defending the idea of the annulment process as a process of legal declaration, and as we should know, these sort of decisions, as in the civil court systems, derive from a judgment about the meaning of legal terms and the correspondence of facts to them. On the other hand, Gareth is complaining, essentially, that an alleged frequency of annulments and their determination on the basis of “technicalities” renders the Catholic position on marriage hypocritical and inconsistent. Gareth thinks annulments are a wedge in the teaching of Jesus against the dissolubility of marriage. I understand him to be arguing for the discarding of the whole notion of annulment.

    These arguments aim at different targets, to some degree. On the one hand, I think there is merit in Gareth’s complaint that Catholic annulment – in practice – amounts to “catholic divorce”, and that one reading of – Matthew, is it? “…..let no man put asunder” – would suggest Jesus was against all divorce, hence there should be no such thing or anything that resembles it.

    The trouble is, the literal meaning is not so unqualified: “What God has joined together….” begins the sentence. One could ask, “how does one tell if God has joined?” This leads to questions like examining facts, not taking apparent acts and words for granted, the possibility of misunderstanding and immaturity, discernment after the purported events etc. This leads to who might be able to do this, whether the state or the Church, and so on. And all this is without venturing into biblical criticism of the meaning and origin of the purported sayings of Jesus!

    You get the picture. It seems wrong to me to insist on simple absolutes here (as indeed on many areas). I think there is a great deal of selective literalism behind some Catholic moral teaching, in the sense that there is a tendency to read allegory into some of the Gospel sayings and literalness into others. What did Jesus really say? If he said what the Gospel records, why did he say it? Was it a reflection of his particular Judaism or some apocalypticism? Does one believe he said things conscious that they should be the basis for 20 centuries of conflicting interpretations or simple absolutes, or what?

    Here we begin getting into the question of who and what Jesus was and thought and how he did so. Christians who believe he was the incarnate God may adopt various approaches to interpreting the Gospel sayings. The Catholic church says it does not believe in divorce and effectively says that you only have one shot at a valid marriage while a spouse is alive. It places tremendous weightiness and presumptively irrevocable weightiness on the first vows ever made.

    Well, I’d like to propose that nothing that humans do, including sacraments, are absolute. Their effects last only so long as the will of the persons so inclines. By will, I do not mean “mood” or “feeling” merely, but more something akin to “intent”. That intent cannot be and empirically is not confined or encapsulated by the uttering of a vow at an altar. It lives in and is manifested in a conjugal relationship; but it can cease, sometimes for reasons others think reprehensible or unjustified (but not necessarily by all) but sometimes because people become irreconcilably different, and sometimes because their lives and health are in danger. To suggest that the most important thing about marriage is that it is permanent is to divorce (no pun intended!) the institution from the people in it and to subordinate the latter to the former, which I say is unreal.

    There are reasons why a stable conjugal partnership is the best environment for the raising and nurture of children, and this, I suggest, is a pragmatic reason why a doctrine of permanency arose and has been maintained by the Church and many other former societies. But only if all things are equal: that is, if the partnership is volatile and violent or unfaithful – it’s not, and not only not for the children, but also not for the partners.

    I also suggest that notions of lifelong faithfulness also have the effect of restraining or restricting promiscuity and social and economic disruption and chaos. But this reason has nothing to do with an assertion that it is a sin to not stay together unless it is publically declarable that the original circumstances of marriage entrance were compromised in some way.

    I think the core problem is the whole notion that the validity of marriage depends on words spoken at the very beginning; this is a notion of “instrumental validity”. On the contrary, I rather think that marriage is as valid (lit. “worth”, “sound”) as the ongoing actions of both partners tend to promote it, which is a notion of “dynamic validity”.

    To conclude: I think the notion of permanent marriage under pain of sin is a literalist approach that has had social and individual results that are both beneficial and injurious; the process of annulment only makes sense, and only has a place, if you adopt what I’ve called the “instrumental validity” approach. I think psychological facts of human growth and understanding and behaviour place such an approach in serious doubt.

    • Gareth says:

      Stephen: I understand him to be arguing for the discarding of the whole notion of annulment.

      Gareth: Not excactly. I am arguing an annulnment should be what it truly is written and meant to be, which if it truly was applied by the Church, common sense would tell you it would only apply in very rare circumstances as was the case for many years in the practice of the Church.

      One one starts to braoden the criteria for what something is to be interpreted, then gradually it will lose its traditional meaning.

      • Louise says:

        These arguments aim at different targets, to some degree. On the one hand, I think there is merit in Gareth’s complaint that Catholic annulment – in practice – amounts to “catholic divorce”

        In practice, that’s what it has become. Even though annulment is technically not the same as divorce, never-the-less “Catholic divorce” is what we’re looking at.

    • catherine says:

      great post Stephen K
      Verywell done, you don’t post often but when you do it is excellent:)

  8. mike cliffson says:

    Wotcher, folks.
    I may have missed the word “discernment” on skimming, but I was taught that anulments depend on the church’s discernment. Which depends on the Holy Spirit, and on the charisma granted to priests, in particular. Just as the church cannot CREATE a canonized saint.Holy mother church, made up of fallible sinners, discerns it. Depositions and Canon law are human grist for the, subservient, human intellects in both processes. The Creed:”…./.. I believe inthe catholic church…./..”
    Do we? 24hrs/24, 7 days aweek, immersed in a world with worldly criteria?
    I Know a touch to the bad, tho surely not a smidgin of my own sins, of priests whose fatherly correction has helped me, unconnectedly, in my spritual life, in an annulment process I had minor involvement in on the one hand , and who have heard confessions of mine on the other. Were it ten times more, would their absolutions be invalid? Or their discernment in anulments wrong? Would sinful popes invalidate a canonization? Or a sinful priest make the mass he said invalid? Not so. This was all thrashed out a good many centuries ago.
    But what if the penitant deliberately and knowingly fail to make a good confession?All bets are off. I know personally of no cases,but have heard that some people do this “to get an anulment.” How should one know? It’s an easy enough accusation. Whereas the contact Ive had with people who’ve been thru anulments has always been with well meaning folk, sometimes muddled,often already barely this side of shellshock, for whom it was an emotional wringer on top of great suffering, usually to a healing end, often with bouts of bitterness. I assume they shared the human condition with me. There may be frivolous soulless malicious evil liars – who are not beyond salvation either, come to that- involved in anulments, but I doubt there are many.
    Surely the greater scandal is the degree to which we modern catholics are weak in our faith and in knowledge of the faith.

  9. Louise says:

    Be comforted, David, I have finished with this thread.

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