Annulment vs. divorce

The Catholic Church teaches against divorce but isn’t annulment just a way around it? In other words you can’t divorce and remarry but we can just say your marriage was never legitimate and now you are free to marry. Do I have this idea correct?

Marriages aren’t just declared null because people don’t want to be married anymore, and the Church says “Okay, let’s just say it was invalid.” A marriage tribunal applies strict criteria with no guarantees of any particular result. At least that is how it is supposed to happen. Like all systems involving human beings the system can be abused, but the abuse of the system is not the system.

Well… it’s not that the Catholic Church teaches against divorce… it’s that Jesus does! The Catholic Church just follows Jesus’ teachings!

In other words you can’t divorce and remarry but we can just say your marriage was never legitimate and now you are free to marry. Do I have this idea correct?

I would say that you’re stretching it a bit too far. Let’s look at what’s really going on:

In Genesis, we see that God’s original plan about marriage is that it’s indissoluble (after all, in Gen 3, when we see that husband and wife “become one body”, that’s the height of an indissoluble bond!). But, in the Mosaic law, we see that a husband can give his wife a “bill of divorce”. Jewish rabbinic tradition was divided on this issue: does it mean that there has to be something immoral going on, or just that the husband is unhappy?

This is exactly the question that’s posed to Jesus. His answer? The concessions in the Mosaic law that allow for divorce were only there because of the hardness of peoples’ hearts – God’s original plan did not allow for divorce. At Cana, Jesus demonstrates his support for marriage – as Catholics, we say that He raised marriage from a natural union to a sacrament.

So, we see that marriage is a sacrament, and marriage is indissoluble. But, are there no exceptions to this assertion? No… Jesus mentions a particular exception: porneia. But, what does that mean? Non-Catholic Christian traditions assert that this means ‘adultery’; therefore, they allow divorce unconditionally for that reason. Looking at Jewish traditions, it’s possible that it might mean adultery, but also, it might mean ‘illegal marriage’ (i.e., consanguinity) or sexual immorality. The practical upshot is that sacramental marriage is indissoluble; but, in certain cases, divorce is possible – that implies that, if sacramental marriage is indissoluble, then dissolubility can only occur in marriages that aren’t sacramental.

So, this is where we find the Catholic position: if a marriage is not sacramental (either because the spouses didn’t attempt a sacramental marriage, or if – after the fact – it’s found that there was not a sacramental marriage), then it’s possible to declare this fact: it’s not a declaration of divorce, per se, but a declaration that, at the time of the wedding, there was a lack of sacramental character.

This is a very difficult proposition to prove, especially if the wedding is far in the past. So, it’s not quite the simple sleight-of-hand that you assert it is!

There’s one other consideration that’s important here: marriage enjoys the favor of the law. In other words, unless it’s conclusively proven that there was a lack of sacramentality at the time of the wedding, a marriage that was entered into in good faith (and seemingly validly) is explicitly presumed to be valid and sacramental.

Does this help?

Simplest explanation

Bible says marriage is a life long commitment that no man has the power to dissolve. So divorce is out of the question. However, there are cases where what is thought to be a marriage, isn’t. This is where annulments come in.

Divorce isn’t recognized by the Church as having the power to dissolve a marriage. It is purely a civil act. So, if people get civilly divorced for what God has brought together, they are still married, which means they cannot marry another, otherwise they will commit adultery.

Divorce says that where there was a marriage, there no longer is, but only applies under human law (civil authorities).

Annulment says the marriage never was. It is a declaration that because at least one of the people involved didn’t plan on committing to what is involved in a marriage at the time of the wedding ceremony, they were never really married.

Fixed that for ya… :wink:

Declarations of nullity have nothing to do with sacramental or natural marriages, an invalid marriage is neither.

A sacramental, consummated marriage cannot be dissolved. An unconsummated marriage can be dissolved in certain circumstances. A natural marriage can be dissolved in certain other circumstances. Dissolution of a marriage should be the topic of discussion here, because it is a way to break the bond of matrimony that is sanctioned by the Church. The Pauline Privilege and the Petrine Privilege are two methods of doing this.

It should be noted that a divorce must always precede an investigation of nullity or the dissolution of a bond. The Church (and Jesus) do not preach against divorce (which is not in itself a sin) so much as remarriage. While no-fault divorce is an injustice in our modern world, it is often necessary for married couples to separate, for example in cases of severe abuse where the abuser cannot be reformed, the victim and the children have a moral imperative to get away from the cycle of violence, while both spouses have a right to the equitable distribution of assets which can only be effected by a civil divorce.

Your fix is not accurate. The Church recognizes certain marriages as valid, natural marriages but not sacramental when one or both of the parties is not baptized.

Aah… but a valid, natural (but not sacramental) marriage can be dissolved and not declared null…! :wink:

Only in cases where the Pauline or Petrine Privileges can be invoked. Otherwise, a decree of nullity is required even for a natural marriage.

In a word, no.

No, you don’t.

One cannot “just say” their marriage was never legitimate. One must prove it by showing there was a real impediment to validity.

I suggest the book Annulment: The Wedding That Was by Michael Smith Foster to help you understand what a decree of nullity is and isn’t.

This is not correct.

The dissolution of the bond only applies in very specific circumstances and cannot always be used.

A natural marriage can in fact be declared null by the Tribunal based on impediments, just like any other putative marriage.

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