An Annulment Journey


#1

For those going through an annulment, I'd like to present the experiences that my wife and I went through. My wife is Canadian and I am from the USA, so we went through a similar sort of experience as far as paperwork, interviews, etc with immigration for her to come the USA. We had found a really great website to track our experiences with others for that. Sadly, there is nothing like that for annulments.

Before I start the story, I do not advocate doing things as we did! Don't think that what we did is an easy way out. We did things the way we did them because of the immigration issues.

My wife and I met back in 2005 on-line. Within 6 months we met up -- she was at one end of Canada, British Columbia on the west coast, and me in Pennsylvania. We had such a bond of love between us that she and I got engaged and she moved to Ontario in the spring of 2006. I spent 18 months commuting 230 miles each way on weekends to see her. When we got engaged she told me of her intention to become a Catholic. She was baptised Anglican and attended an Alliance church. At Easter 2007 she became Catholic. I am a cradle Catholic.

I should mention that we are both divorced. She was not married in the Catholic Church. I was not either. While her marriage followed the rite of her faith, mine did not. I was married in a field by a Unitarian Minister. I did not seek dispensation from form.

Soon after, we began the immigration process. Love conquers all, but it doesn't pay the gas, electric, and rent, and she was suffering on less than $900 a month. Without me providing food and a tank of gas she'd never have been able to make it.

This process was such that she had to immigrate as my fiance and get married within 90 days of her entry. A day before US Thanksgiving 2007 she entered the USA. We got married in a civil ceremony two weeks later.

Immigration cost close to $2,000. When you add moving costs, it was closer to $2,500. Needless to say the well was pretty dry. By summer though, the money tree began sprouting again to pay for the annulments.

Being married civilly that left us a very difficult choice. Again: I do not advocate doing things as we did! This is a dangerous way of operating and the occasion for sin is great! We vowed to take St Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary and the model of the Holy Family as our model. We vowed to live a marriage of celibacy during this time.

We began the annulment journey in June 2008 here in our local diocese, Pittsburgh PA. Mine was summary due to my error of not seeking dispensation. It was granted swiftly and inexpensively, $50. Her's was another matter. The next few months were emotionally stressful as she had to recall a lot of hurtful/ abusive things done by her ex-husband. She'd write and then be in tears. I was there always with a hug and kiss and tender love. After a few interviews, just prior to her calling of witnesses, it was determined that as her marriage was performed in the geographical area of the Archdiocese of Vancouver BC, her case had to be stopped here and resumed there. This was in the autumn of 2008.

In January 2009, we paid them Can$800. Things started moving then. In the spring my wife made a taped testimony here in Pittsburgh. Once again, she had to recount the abuse.

As this was going on, her witnesses were interviewed in BC -- this involved two additional dioceses. Contacting her ex was another matter. He refused all mail from the archdiocese. It was sent certified mail and he refused to accept any of it. Attempts to reach him through his parents or by phone met with a similar fate.

There is good reason as to why every attempt must be made to contact him. He is an atheist having renounced all faith right after the minister married them back in the 70s. BUT, should the miracle of his acceptance of Christ and the Catholic Church occur, he too would be afforded the benefit of the annulment as requested by my wife.

The tribunal prepared the case in June. In September it was read, and in November a judgment of nullity was declared. This is about 1 year after we began proceedings in BC, and 16 months after the whole process began in Pittsburgh.

All Canadian cases are sent to the national tribunal in Ottawa Ontario for review. This is for procedural errors, adherence to canon law, as well as agreement with the grounds decided by the hearing diocese. We are in that phase now. In mid November, we sent an additional Can$350 to Vancouver.

We believe that this will be quick. 3 months perhaps. As soon as it is done, we will have a proper marriage in the church.

Lessons learned:

1) Again, I do not advocate doing things as we did. Our circumstance was unique. We consulted with our pastor and he cautioned us about what we did, but stated that it was on our souls if we strayed. We recognise the grave occasion for sin as well as scandal against the church and the sanctity of marriage. We thank God for the courage and strength he gave us in maintaining celibacy.
2) The process is long, but it does work. There will be times when you feel like nothing is happening, but just as marriage is serious stuff, so too is the work that the church must do through to determine nullity.
3) It does a cost a bit. Consider the cost of attorneys in divorce. In a sense, while not to say annulments are Catholic divorce, you are in the hands of a court of canon law making a legal judgments and the advocate is effectively your attorney. You're not buying an annulment as some charge. If you can't afford it, work with the diocese.
4) Your ex may be the biggest jerk in the world, but is still afforded the benefit of the judgment. It may be conditional, as should your ex decide to remarry in the Church they may be required to prove that their intentions are genuine.
5) Love each other. Lots of bad stuff comes up. There are a lot of tears. Pray the rosary together

I hope our story helps

May Christ bless all of you!

Tony


#2

Agp2176,

Wow. I had no idea that the process could be such a burden. Since coming back to the faith I have tried hard to obey all the rules. When I read something like this it creates such a sad feeling of helplessness. I don’t know if I could handle such as gracefully as you and your bride.

I was married in the methodist church in 1980 but never asked the Catholic church to bless the wedding. We ended in civil divorce in 2000. I have often thought about asking the Church for an annulment (?) but haven’t so far. Guess after the last one I thought I would always be single. Lately though I have been rethinking the whole “alone” thing.

So based on your story I probably better get busy with whatever has to be done in case I want to remarry sometime.

Thank you for taking the time to share. I’m sure your story will open the eyes of many of us in a similar situation. May you and your bride be showered in graces from the Almighty for making it through such an ordeal. Amen :thumbsup:


#3

Thank you for sharing your experience!
God bless you and hear your prayers.


#4

To clarify a few things.

First, the Church does not give/grant “annulments”. The Church has the Tribunal review a marriage to determine validity. If the marriage is determined to have been invalid from the beginning, the Tribunal issues a “Decree of Nullity”.

For a Catholic who married outside of the Church, the tribunal issues that nullity decree based on a Defect of Form.

There are costs associated with the tribunal investigation process. If a person cannot afford those costs, some or all of it will be waived.

One can pay a kajillion dollars and not “get an annulment”.

A decree of nullity is never a guarantee, yes the process always works and sometimes it works and finds the marriage WAS valid.

Jimmy Akin has a good booklet available on the process.


#5

I feel blessed that my diocese does not charge anything for the annulment process, though they do accept donations.

My previous marriage was dissolved via the Pauline Privilege which is a much easier process than an annulment but only applies to a small number of cases.

My fiancee, a cradle catholic, did have to have his first marriage declared null. He filled out his initial application in Jan. 2009, he received his questions to be filled out in early Feb. 2009, he dragged his feet a little in answering all the questions and did not get them turned in to the tribunal until late April 2009. His witnesses received their questions in May and all of them returned them that same month. I know they contacted his ex-wife, but I don't think that she participated. In Sept. 2009 we received the judgement from our local diocese that his marriage had been declared null, of course this is automatically reviewed by a second diocese, we received the final judgement from the second tribunal in Nov. 2009. From what I have read the process he went through was much faster and simpler than some of the stories I have read. Of course the fact that his marriage only lasted about 4 months may have made the process easier as there was less evidence to go through.


#6

I wanted to post a follow up on this thread.

Precautionary note: DO NOT DO AS WE HAVE DONE! See the initial post in this thread

Through the grace of God, the Canadian Appeal Tribunal in Ottawa has confirmed the affirmative decision of the declaration of nullity by the Archdiocese of Vancouver BC Canada of my wife's first marriage. We received a letter from Vancouver in this morning's mail heralding this joyous news.

We are now both free to stand before God in the church and have our marriage sanctified.

This journey, which lasted 20 months, has been one which, while difficult at times, has united us. The gift of the celibacy which we practised during this time, while not without pain and longing, we accept with open hearts, and offer the sacrifice therein that souls may be saved and find their way to Heaven.

We both thank God for His grace and the strength that carried us through. We ask His blessing upon the members of the tribunal and its staff. We also ask that He fill the hearts of our former spouses with His love, and that they see that Jesus is the way the truth and the light.

God bless

Tony


#7

Was nice to read... thank you for sharing.


#8

Tony & Family,

May our dear Lord shower you and your family with abundant graces the rest of your life. Amen for your patience and faith. Thanks for sharing the last chapter.


#9

[quote="agp2176, post:1, topic:181388"]

I hope our story helps

May Christ bless all of you!

Tony

[/quote]

yes your testimony does help others facing similar situations, to see that even what seem insurmountable barriers start to fall when you cooperate with God's grace through His Church.

for those btw who are faced with the immigration dilemma, work with your local diocese they can and in fact want to expedite things for you, can give you invaluable guidance, and pastoral care. Do it before you take civil law steps that can complicate things.


#10

You've got a great attitude towards your faith, even the necessary and burdensome procedures the Church has established to protect us from our own foibles. Hard as it is, there is no other reasonable way to discern sacramental marriages from invalid ones. You can't leave it to the individual, the power of rationalization is too strong.

One thing that may help others understand the cost is to understand what is happening. Everybody who has divorced knows what the lawyers and court fees involved cost. It's expensive! And most of THAT fuss is about the comparaively trivial matter of money. With marriage tribunals and the canon lawyers that work on the cases, the matter is SO much more important and yet the costs are small in comparison! Yet the tribunal costs are the ones you hear griped about the most.... Humans are strange creatures, eh?


#11

[quote="agp2176, post:1, topic:181388"]

Lessons learned:

1) Again, I do not advocate doing things as we did. Our circumstance was unique. We consulted with our pastor and he cautioned us about what we did, but stated that it was on our souls if we strayed. We recognise the grave occasion for sin as well as scandal against the church and the sanctity of marriage. We thank God for the courage and strength he gave us in maintaining celibacy.
2) The process is long, but it does work. There will be times when you feel like nothing is happening, but just as marriage is serious stuff, so too is the work that the church must do through to determine nullity.
3) It does a cost a bit. Consider the cost of attorneys in divorce. In a sense, while not to say annulments are Catholic divorce, you are in the hands of a court of canon law making a legal judgments and the advocate is effectively your attorney. You're not buying an annulment as some charge. If you can't afford it, work with the diocese.
4) Your ex may be the biggest jerk in the world, but is still afforded the benefit of the judgment. It may be conditional, as should your ex decide to remarry in the Church they may be required to prove that their intentions are genuine.
5) Love each other. Lots of bad stuff comes up. There are a lot of tears. Pray the rosary together

I hope our story helps

May Christ bless all of you!

Tony

[/quote]

I agree with these except in our case, number 4 seems to be somewhat false. My husband's ex did the same as your wife's. However after she found out we were married in the Church (and she herself is remarried) (about a month and a half after the official decree was received by us) she called the tribunal and wrote the bishop saying she was denied defense (which overturned the initial decree and thus nullified our marriage). Now we're waiting on her to defend herself as she demanded (which, according to our pastor, she hasn't). She's passed the response date the tribunal requested of her. So now we're waiting to see what will happen next (though the Tribunal has not made contact with us, just our pastor has been asking about the progress behind the scenes).


#12

Dear Tony, congratulations to both of you and may God bless your marriage abundantly!

Here's what struck me in your post:

There's no dedicated internet forum to help with annulments.

Could it be that the closest thing to such an internet forum, with global outreach, is right here on CAF, in the "Family Life" sub-forum?

As grueling as Tony's and his fiancee's, and some other people's experiences described here have been, the situation is yet MUCH WORSE in other parts of the world, such as in Hungary and Romania, European countries that I'm familiar with. Even though those parts of the world had been Catholic for more than a thousand years (well, Eastern Orthodox Churches and Protestant denominations are also present), the Catholic Church has badly let down its members and has shown an appalling LACK OF MERCY towards Catholics who found themselves in dire straits. I will even go as far as to suggest that many Catholics fell away from the Church for this specific reason. And when I talk about lack of mercy, I don't mean hand out annulments like candy to the children. I mean the attitude by which the Church has shut itself up in an ivory tower, and failed to inform people about the very existence of Marriage Tribunals, invalid marriages, and decrees of nullity!

When my mother separated and divorced my father (between 1972-1975), our parish priest condemned her, to the point of refusing to address her by her maiden name, once the civil divorce was complete and my mother changed her last name back to her maiden name. Even 10 years after the divorce, our parish priest still addressed my mother using the last name of her former husband - he simply refused to acknowledge the reality of my mother's civil divorce. Needless to say, nothing good came out from our priest's actions. It went far beyond a failure to inform my mother about her option to address a Marriage Tribunal and petition for a declaration of nullity. My mother never wanted to date or marry anyone after her divorce. That was never an issue. But our priest, and Catholic parishioners, tormented her by accusing her, ironically, and letting my father off the hook and enboldening him to persist in trying to cause more hurt to my mother. I mean, there was probably no time in that whole marriage when my father wasn't cheating on my mom, and finally one night he simply chased us out of my mother's house, drunk and with a knife in his hand. My mom and her two children (my sister and I) took refuge at my aunt, and we couldn't return for almost 3 years, until the civil divorce was finalised and my father was legally evicted. And during all this time, incredibly, the parish priest and some parishioners passed a negative judgment on my mother, for "giving up on her marriage". My father, who is one of these narcissists, felt all the more enboldened to resist and drag out the process of divorce, essentially so that he could stay longer, for free, in my mother's house. The Church not only didn't help my mother during this time, it condemned her and played on the hand of my father and aided his dirty games. My mom, and our family, never left the Catholic Church because of this experience. But many others will... They will fall in the arms of Protestant or Eastern Orthodox Churches, because they permit divorce... And even today, in 2010, if you are an average Catholic in that part of Europe, and if you are not internet-savvy and proficient in English, and lucky enough to find out this information online, you will never learn that such thing as a Marriage Tribunal, or a Petition for Declaration of Nullity, even exists! :(

I understand that in God's grand design, suffering has a redemptive value and it ultimately leads to the victory of God's Kingdom. Tony's and his fiancee's story will hopefully motivate people to take steps to escape from Satan's trap. Escaping from an abusive and invalid marriage, as well as seeking healing and perhaps being open to obtaining a decree of nullity and contracting a new valid marriage, after an invalid marriage ended in civil divorce, are such steps and actions that will release someone from a trap, from a web of lies, and will alleviate suffering. Although suffering itself has a redemptive value, it is my understanding that the Church's role is always to show mercy and alleviate suffering. However, there's no mercy, and no justice, in hiding information and shutting the doors of Marriage Tribunals from people.

I feel very strongly about this. The Church badly failed my mother during her separation and ultimate divorce from my father, there was no mercy in the representatives of the Church, and unfortunately this is still the case in certain regions of Europe. I have to say, the USA is a MUCH better place in this respect than the Eastern European regions of Hungary and Romania that I'm familiar with. And although most posters on CAF are from North America, CAF clearly has a global reach. CAF does a good job and a VERY NECESSARY job, helping and informing people not only from the USA and Canada, but from all over the world, with respect to invalid marriages and annulments.


#13

Dear Joseph Varga,

Thank you for sharing your mom’s story. What a shame. I’m so sorry she and you all had to endure that pain.

If it is any consolation, I came back to the church after a lengthy marriage and divorce and found my parish priest very open and helpful. Actually filling out papers so the can declare the marriage invalid.

I hope God showers you all with Grace for the hardship you endured for lack of support from your priest. God Bless you and your Mom.


#14

[quote="PAboy57, post:13, topic:181388"]
Dear Joseph Varga,

Thank you for sharing your mom's story. What a shame. I'm so sorry she and you all had to endure that pain.

If it is any consolation, I came back to the church after a lengthy marriage and divorce and found my parish priest very open and helpful. Actually filling out papers so the can declare the marriage invalid.

I hope God showers you all with Grace for the hardship you endured for lack of support from your priest. God Bless you and your Mom.

[/quote]

PAboy57, thanks for the kind words! May God bless you abundantly and sustain you, too, on your journey! :)

Actually, God did shower my family with many graces, in spite of the hardships. In addition, time can truly heal the hurts and wounds. My mom and aunt were blessed with a strong faith, and they did a good job passing on that faith to us, my sister and I. Mom is now 81 years old, our aunt who took us in is 85. We the children also stay in touch with my father, visit him regularly, and pray for him daily. It's not our place to judge him, and my mom raised us to respect our father. Thus, we pray for him, and also for the repose of the souls of the neighbors and fellow parishioners who attacked us at the time! :thumbsup: I truly hope to see and meet all those people in Heaven one day! In addition, we naturally pray for our deceased parish priest's soul and participate at Holy Masses said on the anniversaries of his passing away. He was actually a very good priest in many respects, despite his mentioned shortcomings. :p Basically, he did an excellent job teaching and preparing us kids for our First Communions and Confirmations, and he aptly managed the parish and helped keep the faith alive in the middle of an atheistic, totalitarian Communist dictatorship which was hell-bent on erasing even the memory of God from the face of this Earth! :eek: :D So, he fought that, and quite sucessfully - because Communism fell in 1989 in Eastern Europe, but God's Church, and our local parish in my native city, are still there! :p

As far as I'm concerned, I feel a duty not to forget that some other people might be experiencing similar tragedies and difficult circumstances today as my family experienced back then. I just try to be aware of my surroundings and offer a helping hand and some comforting words where needed. :)


#15

Good luck on your upcoming wedding and marriage. The best things in life take work and are worth waiting for.


#16

Wow, Joseph. What you wrote is certainly true. A relative of ours, cousin and family, pulled out of the Catholic Church because of how they treated a female member of their family for a similar reason. Personally, I was called a name by one priest, and a second threw me out of confession when I was looking for help. Fortunately, I have found that there are caring priests out there, but the small scars these two left from many, many years ago, still remain. It must have been unbearable pain for your Mom, and God bless her for keeping the faith during that time. She endured so much. My own children have a difficult time with their faith, particularly as my DH was recently given a negative verdict on nullity (which DH will be readdressing when he regains strength from recent health issue). But, in truth, they are quite upset with the Catholic Church, and are not as strong as you. You and your family are truly remarkable for having gone through this. You are apparently a very loving and caring son. I pray you will all be well.


#17

As the original poster for this thread, I wanted to post some follow-up. My wife and I are now in the “advent” between the declaration of nullity and have our marriage convalidated. To re-cap, we both are previously married to others and are now divorced. My annulment was a summary annulment due to defect of form. Her’s was the more formal tribunal annulment. We married in a civil ceremony in 2007 and have remained celibate, practising abstinence as we await teh day of our convalidation.

There was a vetitum (or prohibition) placed by Vancouver on my wife’s declaration. This was resolved simply via a letter from our Pastor attesting to her suitability to enter into another marriage. This may not describe it exactly, but the vetitum was lifted and the declaration was issued to our pastor with the freedom to marry.Unfortunately this took from the beginner of March until the beginning of April due to Lent, Easter, and vacation.

This places us in the advent stage – the journey from annulment to marriage. We have had to begin gathering bits and bods such as baptismal certificates, etc. My baptismal certificate did not indicate my confirmation, as it took place in another parish, so that had to be fixed. My wife’s paper for all that was simpler as she was baptised Anglican in 1960 and came into the Catholic Church in 2007, so we gave that confirmation certificate.

Then there is getting a copy of my annulment. It seems to have gotten lost. It was declared in September 2008. So, the priest who did all my stuff has advised me to have our current pastor request a duplicate.

Oh and then there are the forms – in our case MA and MB. I don’t know if these are the same everywhere, but the MA is questionable about us as candidates for marriage – questions such as ‘are you marrying of your own free will’, ‘are you open to life’, etc. The MB is a similar for two witnesses from each of us. For my wife this will be answered by either of her parents and her sister. From me, this will be either of my parents and my aunt.

Then there is producing our marriage license from the civil ceremony. That was easy.

Final – marriage prep classes. Gulp! Our pastor was unsure if the diocese would require this for us. And the last series of the year starts next week … and that’s it for two months! I called the diocese and they said that they would accept private meetings with our pastor to be sufficient. I do not know what he will provide in this regard.

These final weeks are truly Advent-like as we are filled with hope, but also Lent-like as they feel a bit penitential. I’ll be honest and say that we are both chomping at the bit to stand before God in the church and have or marriage sanctified. But we are both offering up this time of longing, this agony of waiting, for some special intentions such as the youth of our world who have no guidance in life and the poor souls in purgatory. My feeling is that if this suffering, this longing can purify them and end their suffering, then it is so worth it and I’m willing to accept it.

This whole experience has brought us very close, and filled our hearts with Holy Spirit. I am in awe of the majesty of marriage. The care that Holy Mother Church takes in ensuring that a marriage has a good framework is incredible. I am struck with one thing about that, and it is the fact that we have been given the tools, the talents as where. We must now put them coupled with our faith in action.

God bless

Tony


#18

Nice to hear from you, Tony. I’m jealous! DH and I were made stronger throughout this whole ordeal which will be restarting hopefully shortly. Did you have a canon lawyer’s help? Seems like you’re knowledgeable with the laws.

LaLucia started a thread called “Annulments”. We’re trying to keep up with everyone on that thread by sharing, giving hope to one another, and prayers. We’d otherwise get lost in the shuffle of numerous threads.

I am happy for you, and can understand how you feel as we’ve been waiting a long time as well.

God bless.


#19

Debbie and I will pray for you and DH as well as all other couples and single people on this journey. We didn’t have a canon lawyers help. I’ve just been doing a LOT of research, and asking questions. I know that there’s stuff I left out too! So anyone with questions or discouragements too can PM me and I’ll see what I can fine in the backrooms of my brain.:slight_smile:

Oh this is good! I wish I could get our story merged into that thread. I may post pointers to my posts here over there.

God bless

Tony


#20

Hi, again, Tony. We had ordered numerous books online, mostly from Amazon, before the first application went in. Obviously we missed something along the way. However, I recently noted a book called New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (Hardcover), and I was wondering if you used that as part of your research. I was reading some of the excerpts last night, and they seemed very good, though I’m not sure just yet if I want to spend the $55; the paperback is at a much lower price, but it says “study guide” and I don’t know if it’s a condensed version. I may still order. Other than that, I’ve recently been reading information from Cormac Burke. If you have any other good reading suggestions, please forward my way. We’ve got a long road ahead. Thanks for your prayers. FMN


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