On the Political Thread “Kerry Living in Sin?” Several people were discussing the fact that Kerry is divorced. One person said that just because he had children didn’t mean he wasn’t a candidate for an annulment. What are the reasons allowed for an annulment and how can one be allowed with children involved?
An annulment (more technically, a degree of nullity) means that there never was a valid sacramental marriage that existed between the two people.
The status of the children is NOT changed. Children are assumed to be legitimate, just as marriages are assumed to be valid. If a marriage wasn’t valid, but was entered into in good faith, the children are as legitimate as if the marriage were NOT valid–this is a matter of CIVIL LAW here. Remember, the CIVIL marriage will still be valid in the sense that all civil effects will hold–a divorce will be necessary, the wife and children will still have positions of legitimacy. It is the SACRAMENTAL marriage that is being examined in the case of a petition for nullity.
Here’s an example. Suppose a man and a woman marry in the Catholic Church. The marriage is assumed, like all marriages, to be valid. BUT. . .10 years and two children later, the husband announces that he has SSA (same sex attraction) and wants to divorce the wife. It then transpires that at the time of the marriage he KNEW he had SSA but felt somehow that marriage would “cure” the SSA, and that, deep down, he felt that even if it didn’t, he would just leave anyway.
Was the marriage a valid one? It certainly seems that the husband did not truly intend to make a full commitment to his wife. And, indeed, if the wife had known of the SSA, she would most probably not have married the husband.
There exist several grounds for annulment in this scenario. This isn’t a simple “for better, for worse” scenario. And the fact that children were brought into the world does not make an “iffy” marriage somehow iron-clad valid.
A slightly different scenario: A man and woman marry in the Catholic Church. He and she go through the difficult early years, then later they “grow apart” and decide to divorce. They part amicably. Would there be an annulment here? Most probably there would not. “Growing apart” is not usually grounds for annulment. In fact, we all “grow apart” from each other as much as we “grow towards” one another–it’s part of the “cycle of life”. There don’t seem to be any psychological factors here which indicate the couple was unaware of the realities of marriage, or didn’t have free consent. They just “drift away”.
You can go to the Canon Law forum on EWTN for a general overview of reasons for grounds of nullity. There aren’t many, and it isn’t a “Catholic divorce”.
But whether a couple has children or not, or whether they were married for a certain number of years or not, has NO BEARING on an annulment/ degree of nullity. Either a valid marriage existed, or it didn’t; anything else has no bearing on it.
WOW, good question AND good answer! I had been wondering the same thing since my aunt and uncle got a divorce and are working on an annullment.