Annulment


#1

What is the best way to explain the lengthy annulment questionnaire? Many think its questions are too personal and the charge of a fee is ludicrous. How can I alleviate their concerns and explain the purpose of it all?


#2

I would suggest that the advocate be the one to explain things to the person pursuing the decree of nullity.


#3

I would remind them that less than 50 years ago, Catholics had to apply to the Vatican for an annulment. The average wait was five years and only one out of five were granted.


#4

I’d like to know the answer to this too. When I looked at the list of questions they seemed very intrusive.


#5

Wow! The Vatican! Good point and great reminder. Thank you.


#6

They are quite intrusive. I originally got my petition papers in January 2012. My husband could not deal with all of the information they were asking. Finally, my husband agreed as he knew that I was quite disappointed that I could not receive communion. That was the summer of 2013. It took awhile to get all of my papers together and just had them sent in. Now, we wait.

I am a cradle Catholic and returned home after being gone for a very long time. My mother was always religious, but none of us were.(five children) I was just too lazy to go to church. I adopted the belief, as long as I was a good person, that I did not need church. And, also, only prayed when I needed something.

This whole process is quite humbling.

My husband was married in Catholic church, although, he is not catholic. He was baptized in Orthodox church, but never received any other sacraments. His family was not a church going family. And, neither was his former wife’s family. They only married in church to have a traditional style wedding.

I was never married in church. I am wondering if these questions are asked prior to marrying in church.

I can understand the fee, as there are lawyers working on it. And, the fee can be paid in payments.


#7

Thanks for sharing! Good story. Don’t get discouraged. Satan would love that I’m sure!


#8

Hello,

I’m not sure where you heard this (your first statement). It’s not true. Of course, it was always possible to approach the Holy See for a judgment but the local diocesan tribunal could handle cases.

Dan


#9

Those filling for an annulment need to reminder that the process is equivalent to a trial. The process has the state side(the Church) auguring against the annulment and the defense side (the one asking for the annulment)
Each side is reconstructing the thought of the individuals at the time of the marriage to determine if the parties entered it understanding the doctrine of the church on what is a sacramental marriage for life.
The personal questions as well as the witnesses are necessary to develop a prosecution and defense augments and need to be personal in order to do so.
Often all they can go on is personal feelings.
As far as cost, for the diocese to run a tribunal cost money, salaries, office space, copies, computers and so on, it is either going to come from fees of it would have to come form other contributions, most likely Diocesan Service Funds. It is ludicrous to think the church should do this for free, it is worth every penny I would think to get one’s life back in order with the Church.


#10

Um, no, most dioceses did not have tribunals for this purpose. That all came about after Vatican II.


#11

Hello,

I don’t know what percentage of dioceses had functioning tribunals (if that is what you are getting at) but the statement that people “had to” approach the Holy See for a marriage nullity trial is not correct. The Holy See issued the Instruction Provida mater ecclesia in 1936, giving diocesan tribunals specific, procedural instructions on how to handle matrimonial cases.

Dan


#12

But as the article that I linked to indicated that very few American dioceses, to say nothing of dioceses in other countries, were equipped to handle matrimonial cases, despite the 1936 instruction. Thus, it is misleading to suggest that people could obtain annulments locally at that point, when on a practical level, most could not. This is widely known. It was not until after Vatican II that the vast majority of American dioceses began to establish court procedures for this purpose. Nearly all marriage cases in America went to Rome prior to that.


#13

Medical doctors routinely ask questions that “seem very intrusive,” too. Yet, they’re necessary in order to understand the state of the patient’s health.

The issue here isn’t intrusiveness. A tribunal is being asked to reach a determination of the state of mind of the couple on their wedding day – that is, whether they truly exchanged consent. In order to do so, they must ask some pretty sensitive questions; yet, if they’re being asked to make a determination about the couple on their wedding day, is there any other way to do so?


#14

Part of the process of marriage preparation includes an interview with a priest or deacon. In the course of that interview, similar questions are asked, with the intent of discerning whether the fiancees have an understanding of Christian marriage that matches the Church’s understanding. In the case of a proceeding for a declaration of nullity, the intent to reach a similar discernment is present; but, given the difference in circumstances (i.e., asking about an event (potentially) years or decades in the past), the particular questions that must be asked in order to reach an understanding are quite naturally somewhat different.

Hope this helps…

Blessings,
G.


#15

With regard to the fee, discuss that with your advocate. If it will cause an undue burden, there may be ways of setting up a payment plan, waiving the fees, etc.

With regard to the questions being to personal, that is absolutely true. But if the information is necessary in determining the validity of your marriage, you will have to answer it. I had to do so, though I was not happy about it.


#16

Hello,

I don’t see a link. I’d be interested to see it.

Dan


#17

To answer your questions:

  1. The information required. The tribunal needs to have specific grounds on which to grant a declaration of nullity. A declaration of nullity doesn’t “dissolve” the marriage (a marriage can only be dissolved if one or both parties was not baptized, and then only in specific circumstances). Rather, a declaration of nullity is a statement that in the eyes of God the marriage was never valid to begin with. There must be one or more reasons why this was so. Some examples include: being too closely related, being Catholic and marrying outside the Church without dispensation, being married already, not being of sufficient age, not understanding the nature of marriage, being coerced into getting married, being permanently impotent if the condition originated before the marriage occurred, not intending to be at least open to the possibility of children, not intending to be married for life, etc. Some of these things, obviously, you can prove on paper - those are usually fairly simple cases. However, some of the ones surrounding things like knowledge and attitudes are far more nebulous to prove - hence all of the questions. There must be sufficient evidence that something was fundamentally lacking. Think about it as a trial - just as a person is innocent until proven guilty, so the marriage is considered valid until proven otherwise (barring an obvious impediment that you can prove on paper).

  2. The fee. Where I live, the fee is $900 - and about $500 of that has to be given to the appeals tribunal. So the tribunal is actually making about $400 per case. They receive about 220 requests a year and grant about 180 declarations of nullity. Now, in the case of a basic request, you only pay $150 up front as a filing fee, and you pay the balance in installments later on, after they’ve gotten all of the evidence and after they’ve given you an affirmative decision. If you add to that the fees that they get from requests to dissolve marriages in the situations I’ve described above, we can probably assume that they make somewhere around $10,000 a year - and that may well be a generous estimate. (I don’t know how many requests they get to dissolve marriages - I’m guessing it’s not many as there are very, very specific requirements that must be met - and the fees for those cases are less than the fees for a formal nullity trial; in some cases where a declaration of nullity is required and the impediment can be proven “on paper” the fee is only $150 or there is no fee at all, depending on the nature of the case.) There are 7 people who work in that office: two case instructors, a defender of the bond, three judges, and an office assistant. Consequently they’re not even making $1500 per person per year - after they’ve paid the appeals tribunal. That’s without paying ANYTHING for things like office supplies, postage (most of the communication is through the mail), overhead for the office, etc. If a person is truly unable to pay something can usually be worked out.


#18

Some of the difficulty I think is that some dioceses have more intrusive questionnaires than others. I saw one archdiocesan form that only asked to give the reasons an annulment should be given per allowed reasons listed in canon law (they only referred to the numbered sections without spelling it out). There were no specific background questions. Other archdioceses have an extremely long and intrusive list.
Costs vary so much too. I don’t know if people are aware that they can file where they live now, where the spouse lives or in the place the marriage took place. So guess what, if I ever decide to get an annulment, I’m going for the Archdiocese that doesn’t charge because it’s covered under the bishops’s annual appeal funds.


#19

Sorry, here it is. Look at #7, sections d-f.

diocesefwsb.org/Tribunal-History


#20

Thanks. I think I’ve seen that before, actually, and wondered then who wrote it. I still wonder. Anyway, I’ve seen USA tribunal statistics from 1968 and the vast majority of dioceses had tribunals which were handling marriage cases (see CLSA Proceedings for 1969, pp. 149-155). Yes, they had (compared to the 1970s-today) few cases but they were judging them. For example, Chicago had about 150 cases waiting to be decided. Orlando, a diocese that was just erected earlier in 1968, had 5 cases. Etc.

Since there were obviously local tribunals judging marriage cases, I’m sticking to my disagreement with the statement that “Catholics had to” go to the Holy See for a marriage nullity trial “less than 50 years ago.” That’s all.

Dan


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