Annulment question...

And no - this is not a bashing of the practise, but a question regarding it:

Would the children of a marriage that had been annulled be considered “illegitimate” by the RCC, since they were born as the result of fornication?

My reasoning is as follows:

P1: An annulment (at least that’s how I’ve understood it) proclaims that there never was a marriage in the first place.

P2: Sex outside of wedlock is (rightfully) considered fornication.

Conclusion: The parents had sex outside of wedlock, they fornicated, and the children were the results of said fornication.

What are your thoughts on this?


The Church does not consider any children ‘Illegitimate’. They are gifts from God. :slight_smile:

A declaration of nullity implies that the marriage was a natural marriage rather than a sacramental marriage. So the children would be the result of a natural marriage.

The difference is in a sacramental marriage, sacramental graces are given to the couple that would not be given in a natural marriage.

No. This is not Church teaching. A decree of nullity does not state a marriage never existed in the first place, certainly a marriage existed civilly. A decree of nullity states this marriage is not canonically valid.

Children born of a valid or putative marriage are legitimate (Canon 1137 of Canon Law).

A putative marriage is a marriage entered into in good faith by at least one party that is subsequently found to be invalid.

This isn’t accurate. The Church does distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate:

Can. 1137 The children conceived or born of a valid or putative marriage are legitimate.

Can. 1138 §1. The father is he whom a lawful marriage indicates unless clear evidence proves the contrary.

§2. Children born at least 180 days after the day when the marriage was celebrated or within 300 days from the day of the dissolution of conjugal life are presumed to be legitimate.

Can. 1139 Illegitimate children are legitimated by the subsequent valid or putative marriage of their parents or by a rescript of the Holy See.

Can. 1140 As regards canonical effects, legitimated children are equal in all things to legitimate ones unless the law has expressly provided otherwise.

This is not accurate either.

A natural marriage is the term used to describe a valid marriage between two unbaptized persons, or a baptized and unbaptized person.

A sacramental marriage is a valid marriage between two baptized persons.

A declaration of nullity states that the marriage is invalid.

This is accurate. However, whether or not a marriage is sacramental depends upon the baptismal status of the spouses. A natural marriage-- marriage between the unbaptized or one baptized/one unbaptized-- is perfectly valid.

Thank you for your answers :slight_smile:

There was something in the last post, that I’d like to ask a follow-up question to:

The quotation from canon law (I assume?) seems to distinguish between illegitimate children, children who later become legitimate due to their parents marrying, and legitimate children, born in wedlock.
The two latter groups are, as far as I could read, of equal status - but what of the illegitimate?

Are there positions, places, tasks within the RC church that cannot be held by illegitimate children, for the sole reason that they are illegitimate, for instance?

So I guess my question is: What are the consequences of being an illegitimate child?

/LDK :slight_smile:

The idea of illegitimate and legitimate is not relevant in the USA as we kicked the aristocracy out at the revolutionary war (die! you British dogs!!!). It is relevant in answering the question “who is next in line to the throne?”

Under the older codes of canon law, illegitimacy barred a person from receiving Holy Orders, religious vows (brothers, sisters) and from offices such as Cardinal, Abbott, etc. The impediment could be dispensed by the Holy See.

This was a response to the immoral conduct of clergy resulting in illegitimate children. These children would often be given benfices and investitures by their prelate fathers. Of course this was scandalous and immoral. The Church sought to reform both the moral conduct of the clergy AND the nepotism running rampant in many areas. Thus, the restrictions on Holy Orders and religious men/women in the case of illegitimacy and the need for dispensation from the Holy See.

These things have long since passed into history, therefore in the new code of 1983 the restriction on Holy Orders was suppressed.

The language about legitimacy was left in the Code for two reasons:

(1) To underscore the importance of the Sacrament of Matrimony and emphasize the responsibilities of parents towards their children.

(2) Because in various times and places countries in some cases deferred to Church law in the realm of marriage law, nullity, children. This was true in countries were Catholicism was the State religion or in places where civil law did not adequately cover marriage law. I don’t know if there are any places that still defer to Church law-- but I suppose the Church didn’t want to leave some sort of ambiguity or gap in the law.

So, the Church left these canons in place, but basically they don’t have any canonical impact at this point.

Thank you. Now I know why “fixers” of documents in the Philippines made such a living out of turning illegitimate children into legitimate ones. Women have found out years later that their government considered them married when there are no “common law” provisions as a result of a “fixers” work hit databases as records began to be computerized.

A “fixer” could not have made illegitimate children into legitimate children nor unmarried people into married people in the Catholic Church.

A “fixer” seems to be a person who bribes, forges, or otherwise obtains false or altered civil government documents-- perhaps birth certificates and such. If a “fixer” forged documents used in the Filipino government, I don’t see how that has anything to do with the Church. And, moreover, a person who uses a fixer gets what they deserve-- I read a few articles on them and they are criminals.

Of course they are criminals. but leaving open a possible church position for a child is the first time I have actually seen an advantage of having a birth certificate without the “illegitimate” overstamp. A motive for taking the risk of commiting a crime.

Investigations are generally not done to keep sacraments from being performed is my understanding. Do investigations beyond presenting a birth certificate happen when a family or single parent take their child to be baptized? They are not refused if the wedding was civil and not in the Church. They are not refused if the mother is unmarried.

A baptism could indeed be delayed if there were doubt about whether the child would be raised Catholic, and the canonical situation of the parents might be taken into account, even still today.

The investigation regarding church office would be done at the time the *candidate *applied for entry into seminary/novitiate/Holy Orders. The investigation would include the sacramental records of the parents and the child’s birth records. I don’t think that the Church would rely merely on the whether there was a stamp on the birth certificate. It would look at whether the parents were married validly in the Church, too. I still don’t see how forging government records would help the person.

And, there is no need for these forged documents, as I stated, a dispensation could be received even in cases of illegitimacy.

Sure but we are talking about people willing to risk jail. Will they depend upon the ability to get a dispensation or is it a motive to fix the odds in their favor? Civily there is no advantage. This subject is the first advantage I have seen of having a birth certificate without the illegitimate stamp.

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