Annulment question - a new one, I think


#1

I was listening to a Catholic radio station the other day and the guest was a priest who works with couples through the annulment process. One of the things he said was very troubling.

He was talking about a couple who may have married when the woman was already pregnant. I know that these circumstances are sometimes grounds for a petition for nullity on the grounds that the pregnancy takes away an element of free choice to enter into the marriage. So far, no problem.

But he said that a case for nullity can also be presented on the grounds that the marriage was celebrated on a different day or time than it would have been if the woman was not pregnant. This would seem to refer to a case where the couple was already engaged but moved up the date due to pregnancy.

Isn’t that a really big change in the thinking? What about a couple where one of the spouses is military and they choose a date based on that spouse’s assignment or deployment dates? Or a couple who has to choose a specific date because that’s the only date available in the Church calendar or the only date a parent is able to attend?

Does something as simple as changing the date or time of the marriage ceremony point to invalidity?

FWIW, this priest was advocating a major overhaul of the annulment process including doing away with the need to pursue nullity of a first marriage if the person had been in a second marriage for a long time or if one of the couple was not Catholic. So, I take what he said with a grain of salt. However, he seemed to be speaking from experience.


#2

Well, without having heard the program, I might speculate that the concern with “moving up” the date is the same as rushing into a marriage. Even an engagement should be a time to reflect on the decision you’ve made, and if that gets shortened for reasons beyond the couple’s control (pregnancy, deployment), they may rush into the marriage without having fully considered it. I would expect (as with all cases for annulment), whether or not it points to a nullity really depends on the circumstances. If you decided in January to move the date from September to August, seems less likely. If in March you suddenly had to move it from next February to the coming May, seems to be more of a case.

Just my two cents. As I said, I didn’t hear the program.


#3

No.


#4

In general agree with this.

The engagement period is part of the discernment process, not just for planning the wedding. That’s why pre-cana takes place during the engagement.

If a pregnancy drastically changes the date of the wedding, then it may interfere with the marriage discernment process.

For example: Let’s say a couple sets a 1.5 year engagement (exactly 18 months) and it’s now month 2 (engaged couple is set to get married in 16 months), but finds out they are pregnant. The bride doesn’t want to be visibly pregnant at the wedding, and they are trying to keep scandal down to a minimum, so they get married 2 months later, instead of 16 months later (getting married in month 4 instead of the planned month 18).

Assuming that the couple did very little, if anything during the first 2 months, one could argue that during those last 2 months, the couple was too focused on last minute wedding plans and getting ready for a baby, that they never gave the marriage discernment process enough attention - even if they attended pre-cana.

HOWEVER, if they were already in month 14 of an 18 month engagement and needed to push up the wedding by 2 months, I think it becomes a much harder to use the pregnancy as the reason for a nullity.

BUT, let’s keep in mind that there have been a number of weddings that are canceled the week of or day of the wedding. When the bride is pregnant, it makes it harder for bride or groom to cancel their marriage in that last week or at the altar.

So in closing, a pregnant bride could still be a reason why a bride or groom never calls off a wedding; hence making the marriage null.

I hope this helps.

God Bless.


#5

I can see possible nullity in cases of military service. I’ve got a lot of friends in the military and a few family members, too. Marry in haste, repent in leisure seems to be their motto. I know too many married and divorced people who married who and when they did because they were being deployed to a combat zone, sent overseas for a long period of time, or sent to the other side of the country and felt pressured to marry or risk losing their SO’s.

I guess what I’m saying is there is a big difference between being engaged and really planing on marrying vs every other type of “engaged” I’ve seen.

So, yeah, changing the date or setting one based on outside forces could point toward invalidity. Not always, of course, but for some couples…sure.


#6

I don’t think changing the date, in and of itself, would be grounds for nullity. However, if the couple decided they needed to get married RIGHT AWAY, without considering all of the factors that are important when discerning a vocation to marriage, that COULD be grounds for nullity. Lack of valid consent and lack of understanding of the nature of marriage are grounds for nullity. For example, if a couple only decided to get married because they were worried they would “lose each other” if they were apart too long, I would be questioning the validity of their marriage. If your relationship is so weak that you’re worried about losing each other, are you really ready to pursue a marital relationship?


#7

Hello,

I can understand this priest’s point and, sure, he can present the case. But, it’s not a simple matter.

To be precise, “grounds” are related to particular canons in the Code. For a premarital pregnancy situation, the typical ground would be stated in these or essentially similar terms: “is the marriage of A and B invalid due to a grave lack of discretion of judgment concerning the essential, matrimonial rights and duties that are to be given and accepted, on the part of A or B (canon 1095.2)?” Very basically, this means that the court is investigating whether or not a party was lacking in knowledge of marriage (its basic, essential nature), lacking in internal freedom due to internal compulsion (not an external force, that’s a different canon), and/or lacking in the ability to evaluate the aptness of marriage to that person, at that time (the ability to think along these lines: “our marriage at this time is good because of these facts and is a challenge because of these other facts”).

All adults are presumed to have this discretionary capacity. Sometimes, a premarital pregnancy can be a cause which leads to the effect of a lack of discretionary capacity.

In a concrete case such as what this priest presented, more is needed than the simple fact of the pregnancy, and a decision to change the date of the wedding, to prove that a person was incapable of marriage. If the couple had a good, normal courtship, and decided to marry with the support of everyone they know, a subsequent, premarital pregnancy may well be inconsequential. It may, in fact, be quite normal and expected for them to want to marry sooner. If the initial decision was obviously flawed, it is easier to see how the fact of a pregnancy might have made the party even less able to discern. The pregnancy is more proof of an incapacity but, by itself, it is not conclusive.

Again, all you can really say is that this kind of premarital pregnancy may be a cause which leads/contributes to a lack of discretion. My opinion is that, in general, a post-proposal pregnancy is going to be less important than a pre-proposal one. It is something the tribunal will consider, however, since it is a pertinent fact.

Dan


#8

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