Can't annulment tribunals dissolve valid marriages?


#1

I've heard it said a number of times, in different ways, that no human power can dissolve a valid, sacramental marriage. While this may be the Catholic teaching, I don't see how it can be squared with the Catholic practice of annulments. What are the impediments to an annulment tribunal or a priest dissolving a marriage that was in fact, valid and sacramental? Just because an annulment tribunal decrees that a marriage was not valid, that doesn't mean it actually wasn't. So it seems to me that there is the situation in the Catholic Church where people are having their marriages annulled, even though at the time of the marriage, it was valid. Then they re-marry, believing that this second union is valid, when objectively speaking, they're still married to their first spouse. As far as I'm aware, annulment tribunals are not infallible and are not guided by the Spirit. So what's to stop them from dissolving a valid marriage bond, either out of poor judgement, misinformation, or outright contempt for Church teaching?

I would like to have an adequate solution to my conundrum, as it is a big stumbling block for me in accepting the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded.


#2

Short answer: nope.:)


#3

[quote="Luigi_Daniele, post:2, topic:295141"]
Short answer: nope.:)

[/quote]

Hmm, I believe you gave the long answer. The short answer is "no".

:p


#4

[quote="jdconvert, post:1, topic:295141"]
I've heard it said a number of times, in different ways, that no human power can dissolve a valid, sacramental marriage. While this may be the Catholic teaching, I don't see how it can be squared with the Catholic practice of annulments. What are the impediments to an annulment tribunal or a priest dissolving a marriage that was in fact, valid and sacramental? Just because an annulment tribunal decrees that a marriage was not valid, that doesn't mean it actually wasn't. So it seems to me that there is the situation in the Catholic Church where people are having their marriages annulled, even though at the time of the marriage, it was valid. Then they re-marry, believing that this second union is valid, when objectively speaking, they're still married to their first spouse. As far as I'm aware, annulment tribunals are not infallible and are not guided by the Spirit. So what's to stop them from dissolving a valid marriage bond, either out of poor judgement, misinformation, or outright contempt for Church teaching?

I would like to have an adequate solution to my conundrum, as it is a big stumbling block for me in accepting the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded.

[/quote]

First of all, marriage tribunals do not disolve marriages. They investigate instances where there is some question as to whether a marriage was valid at the time it was contracted.

Tribunals are not infallible. They do use a very detailed process with an automatic check by a second tribunal so they are very precise.

Tribunals are, however, guided by the Holy Spirit. They are part of the Church's authority and responsibility to bind and loose.

It is possible that a tribunal reach a faulty decision. This could happen, for example, if one or both parties lie when completing their documents. But it's important to understand that the "default" position is that the marriage is valid. There is a defender of the bond. Unless it is clearly proven that a defect existed at the time of the marriage, the marriage is deemed valid.

So what if a tribunal errs? Sometimes, one of the parties is so convinced that the marriage was valid, the decision is appealed to the Roman Rota. It has happened that a decree of nullity is overturned.

But if noone appeals? Or a mistake is made? The couple is still free to re-marry unless they defrauded the tribunal. The annulment is not an automatic permission to remarry. That is a seperate decision (though usually determined at the same time). A couple could have been married validly, erroneously given a decree of nullity AND permission to marry. They can still act confidently based on the decision of the Tribunal. It doesn't mean the original marriage is disolved, it is just replaced in much the same way that a person can remarry after a spouse dies. Death does not dissolve the first marriage, it simply allows it to be replaced with a new bond.

It is similar to when a spouse is missing but presumed dead. The "surviving" spouse can be given permission to remarry. If the missing spouse returns, the re-married spouse hasn't done anything wrong.


#5

[quote="Friar_David_O.Carm, post:3, topic:295141"]
Hmm, I believe you gave the long answer. The short answer is "no".

:p

[/quote]

:D


#6

It is possible that a tribunal reach a faulty decision. This could happen, for example, if one or both parties lie when completing their documents.

An interesting point. Similar to a bad confession. Even when the piest gives absolution, there is no forgiveness of sin because the penitent lied or held back somting from the confession, or perhaps there was insufficient sorrow or imperfect purpose of amendment. In this case the peninent would have committed the addional sin of sacrelage. If one of the parties lied in the annulment process, that party would be living in mortal sin and may also have committed sacrelage.

:thumbsup:


#7

[quote="jdconvert, post:1, topic:295141"]
I've heard it said a number of times, in different ways, that no human power can dissolve a valid, sacramental marriage.

[/quote]

"...that has been consummated." a valid, sacramental marriage that has not yet been consummated may be dissolved. Just wanted to add that to your statement, so that it's more accurate. ;)

While this may be the Catholic teaching, I don't see how it can be squared with the Catholic practice of annulments. What are the impediments to an annulment tribunal or a priest dissolving a marriage that was in fact, valid and sacramental?

Like Corki says... although it's possible for an error in the process to occur, it's not highly likely (short of deliberate intent to deceive the tribunal which succeeds). The standard for tribunals is "moral certitude" -- the judge(s) must come to moral certitude based in law and fact that the marriage was invalid at the time that consent was exchanged. This means that no reasonable doubt in law or in fact can be able to be raised against the decision (i.e., either that there was inadequate proof to establish the grounds in law, or that there exists proof to the contrary of the decision). Could there be an error? Yes. Is it likely? Not often.

Just because an annulment tribunal decrees that a marriage was not valid, that doesn't mean it actually wasn't.

Can you give a potential scenario that you feel fits this assertion?

So it seems to me that there is the situation in the Catholic Church where people are having their marriages annulled, even though at the time of the marriage, it was valid.

That's quite an assertion! Is it possible that such (rare) cases exist? Yes, it's possible. How can you assert -- without attribution or proof -- that such marriages exist?

So what's to stop them from dissolving a valid marriage bond, either out of poor judgement, misinformation, or outright contempt for Church teaching?

poor judgment: as Corki mentioned, there's the tribunal of second instance -- every nullity petition that's granted automatically goes to appeal; at this appeal, the decision of the first tribunal is examined for errors. One would expect that any 'poor judgment' of a tribunal of first instance would be caught by the appeal process. Even if not, it's possible for the aggrieved party to file their own appeals, after the initial appeal is complete.

misinformation: if there's not "moral certitude" about the facts, then the tribunal is bound to deny the petition. in other words, to use an established phrase, "marriage enjoys the favor of the law." this means that, if you can't be sure that a marriage is invalid, then you must consider it to be valid and deny that particular petition. (Other petitions may be filed later, of course, if more complete and accurate facts become available.)

outright contempt: umm... so, you're suggesting that everyone involved in a petition for nullity would have such contempt for the process that they'd either throw the decision, or allow a judge to throw the decision and not appeal? that's quite an outlandish suggestion, don't you think?


#8

Agree for the most part. However this is mistaken:

[quote="Corki, post:4, topic:295141"]
It doesn't mean the original marriage is disolved, it is just replaced in much the same way that a person can remarry after a spouse dies. Death does not dissolve the first marriage, it simply allows it to be replaced with a new bond.

[/quote]

Catechism:

2382 .... Between the baptized, "a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death."

tee


#9

Yes. Isn't that what the Petrine and Pauline privileges are?


#10

[quote="jdconvert, post:1, topic:295141"]
I've heard it said a number of times, in different ways, that no human power can dissolve a valid, sacramental marriage. While this may be the Catholic teaching, I don't see how it can be squared with the Catholic practice of annulments. What are the impediments to an annulment tribunal or a priest dissolving a marriage that was in fact, valid and sacramental? Just because an annulment tribunal decrees that a marriage was not valid, that doesn't mean it actually wasn't. So it seems to me that there is the situation in the Catholic Church where people are having their marriages annulled, even though at the time of the marriage, it was valid. Then they re-marry, believing that this second union is valid, when objectively speaking, they're still married to their first spouse. As far as I'm aware, annulment tribunals are not infallible and are not guided by the Spirit. So what's to stop them from dissolving a valid marriage bond, either out of poor judgement, misinformation, or outright contempt for Church teaching?

I would like to have an adequate solution to my conundrum, as it is a big stumbling block for me in accepting the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded.

[/quote]

A valid consummated sacramental marriage cannot be broken. An annulment of a sacramental marriage is a declaration that it was never valid. The marriages with Church approval are presumed to be valid, but there may be a lie or unknown factor, such as an impediment, incapacity to consent, or a condition, or unwillingness, etc. An annulment may be contested, and many have.


#11

I too wonder about the Petrine and Pauline privileges. It has something to do with a Christian spouse leaving a non-Christian spouse, but that sure doesn't sound like a declaration of nullity because there are many valid marriages of Christians to non-Christians.

Can someone help explain the "privileges" and how they are not annulments yet still OK?


#12

[quote="surritter, post:11, topic:295141"]
I too wonder about the Petrine and Pauline privileges. It has something to do with a Christian spouse leaving a non-Christian spouse, but that sure doesn't sound like a declaration of nullity because there are many valid marriages of Christians to non-Christians.

Can someone help explain the "privileges" and how they are not annulments yet still OK?

[/quote]

Firstly, St. Paul says, natural marriages should be preserved if at all possible (1 Cor. 7:12-14, 16). But there are exceptions, given below:

The Petrine Privilege (non-Christian and a Christian, natural marriage) This is rare

The marriage between two non-Catholics, where only on is baptized, and the marriage between a Catholic and a non-baptized person, can be dissolved by the Pope in "favor of the faith". It is in the bible in Ezra 10:1-14, where Jews put away their foreign (pagan) wives.

The Pauline Privilege (two non-Christians, natural marriage)

A Pauline Privilege is the dissolution of a purely natural marriage which had been contracted between two non-Christians, one of whom has since become a Christian. It is based upon the apostle Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16.

Paul gives instructions (verses 12-16) concerning the case of a couple who have only a natural marriage. Sometimes one party to a natural marriage converts and becomes a Christian, which can cause the marital problems that Christians are expected to faces, see Luke 12:51-53, 18:29-30.

In verse 15, Paul says that if the unbelieving spouse refuses to live with the Christian partner, the unbeliever can be allowed to withdraw from the marriage.

So the Pauline Privilege may apply when the Church dissolves a natural marriage after one partner has become Christian and there is a just cause, such as the non-Catholic's refusal to live at peace with the Christian partner.


#13

[quote="Gorgias, post:7, topic:295141"]

Can you give a potential scenario that you feel fits this assertion?

[/quote]

My mind immediately went to the case of Joseph Kennedy II, who was initially granted an annulment from the Archdiocese of Boston, which was later overturned by Rome when his (Episcopalian) wife appealed it.


#14

[quote="jdconvert, post:1, topic:295141"]
I've heard it said a number of times, in different ways, that no human power can dissolve a valid, sacramental marriage.

[/quote]

Correct

While this may be the Catholic teaching, I don't see how it can be squared with the Catholic practice of annulments.

Why not? The Church does not "annul" valid sacramental marriages.

What are the impediments to an annulment tribunal or a priest dissolving a marriage that was in fact, valid and sacramental?

The system has in place practices and procedures to assure that they receive sufficient information and are able to understand and act appropriately on that information. These practices and procedures are in accord with canon law and the Tribunals themselves are legitimately instituted ministries of the Church...
So long as the Tribunal does - in fact act properly on the information obtained...they have not erred in any way - they have not annulled a valid marriage.

Just because an annulment tribunal decrees that a marriage was not valid, that doesn't mean it actually wasn't.

For all intents and purposes...and with the authority of the Church behind them - Yes it does mean that the marriage was, in fact, not valid.

So it seems to me that there is the situation in the Catholic Church where people are having their marriages annulled, even though at the time of the marriage, it was valid.

Now - this is a different aspect that involves more than just the tribunal....It is important to recognize this fact.

As others have pointed out - someone COULD provide false or fraudulent testimony to the Tribunal. The Tribunal would then make a correct ruling based on the information provided. In such a case, the tribunal has not erred and the decree of nullity is valid.

Then they re-marry, believing that this second union is valid, when objectively speaking, they're still married to their first spouse.

So long as a person has acted honestly and forthrightly with the Tribunal system - even if there was some irregularity in the process - they would incur no sin by remarrying. They would have followed Christ's instruction in Mt 18:15-18. They took the issue to the Church and then they listened to the Church. The Church "loosed' it on earth - it is "loosed" in heaven....
Now - if a person knowingly acted dishonestly with the tribunal system and that person remarried....then THEY are sinning...first by lying to the Tribunal and then my remarrying. But the problem lies with this person and not with the tribunal.

As far as I'm aware, annulment tribunals are not infallible and are not guided by the Spirit.

This is not true...Tribunals are valid offices of the Church working under guidelines, procedures and practices all established by the Church through canon law. As such the tribunals carry the authority of the Spirit guided Church.
Of course there ARE sinful individuals...but that is a different subject.

So what's to stop them from dissolving a valid marriage bond, either out of poor judgement, misinformation, or outright contempt for Church teaching?

Tribunals are composed of three judges...Making "poor judgement" and "contempt for church teaching" difficult things to impose...
Add to this that each decision is forwarded to a second tribunal in another diocese for review - they must concur with the first...So there are six judges in two tribunals involved before a decree can be issued.

As for misinformation - this could be a problem but it would be very difficult for any one person to lie on the questionnaire and get away with it.

I say this as one who has been through the system.

The questionnaire - More than 40 questions dealing with every aspect of the marriage from courtship to divorce. The person applying fills out the questionnaire...They supply the names of at least three witnesses - who likewise fill out a similar comprehensive questionnaire. The Ex-spouse is contacted and offered the chance to participate. They are likewise asked for witness names (at least three).

All of this information - all of these answers - would need to be consistent. Get someone lying in the mix and it will most likely stand out like a sore thumb...and the Tribunal could not rule until the discrepancies were resolved.

I would like to have an adequate solution to my conundrum, as it is a big stumbling block for me in accepting the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded.

Hope this helps clarify a little....The system is well safeguarded.

Peace
James


#15

[quote="Vico, post:12, topic:295141"]
Firstly, St. Paul says, natural marriages should be preserved if at all possible (1 Cor. 7:12-14, 16). But there are exceptions, given below:

The Petrine Privilege (non-Christian and a Christian, natural marriage) This is rare

The marriage between two non-Catholics, where only on is baptized, and the marriage between a Catholic and a non-baptized person, can be dissolved by the Pope in "favor of the faith". It is in the bible in Ezra 10:1-14, where Jews put away their foreign (pagan) wives.

The Pauline Privilege (two non-Christians, natural marriage)

A Pauline Privilege is the dissolution of a purely natural marriage which had been contracted between two non-Christians, one of whom has since become a Christian. It is based upon the apostle Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16.

Paul gives instructions (verses 12-16) concerning the case of a couple who have only a natural marriage. Sometimes one party to a natural marriage converts and becomes a Christian, which can cause the marital problems that Christians are expected to faces, see Luke 12:51-53, 18:29-30.

In verse 15, Paul says that if the unbelieving spouse refuses to live with the Christian partner, the unbeliever can be allowed to withdraw from the marriage.

So the Pauline Privilege may apply when the Church dissolves a natural marriage after one partner has become Christian and there is a just cause, such as the non-Catholic's refusal to live at peace with the Christian partner.

[/quote]

Thanks Vico. So a question to all -- the descriptions given by Vico seem to indicate that these are valid marriages that the pope can dissolve (a natural marriage is valid, though non-sacramental, right?). So it actually sounds like the title of this thread is answered with a qualified "yes."


#16

[quote="surritter, post:15, topic:295141"]
Thanks Vico. So a question to all -- the descriptions given by Vico seem to indicate that these are valid marriages that the pope can dissolve (a natural marriage is valid, though non-sacramental, right?). So it actually sounds like the title of this thread is answered with a qualified "yes."

[/quote]

No, because annulment tribunals do not dissolve marriages. They cannot change what "is". They can only determine what "was". Only the Pope can dissolve a valid marriage and, even then, not a Sacramental one.


#17

[quote="Corki, post:16, topic:295141"]
No, because annulment tribunals do not dissolve marriages. They cannot change what "is". They can only determine what "was". Only the Pope can dissolve a valid marriage and, even then, not a Sacramental one.

[/quote]

Right. The Pauline Privilege allows the dissolution of a valid marriage by 2 non-Christians. Petrine Privilege allows the dissolution of a marriage of one Christian and one non-Christian. In both cases the marriage is not Sacramental, although still considered valid.


#18

[quote="Corki, post:16, topic:295141"]
No, because annulment tribunals do not dissolve marriages. They cannot change what "is". They can only determine what "was". Only the Pope can dissolve a valid marriage and, even then, not a Sacramental one.

[/quote]

Right -- my mistake. So to re-phrase: tribunals cannot dissolve a marriage.
But the pope CAN dissolve a valid marriage. Right?

That seems contrary to the absolutist statement that a marriage is unbreakable!


#19

[quote="surritter, post:18, topic:295141"]
Right -- my mistake. So to re-phrase: tribunals cannot dissolve a marriage.
But the pope CAN dissolve a valid marriage. Right?

That seems contrary to the absolutist statement that a marriage is unbreakable!

[/quote]

The "absolutist statement" was in reference to a valid, sacramental marriage. Even the Pope can't dissolve those. The Pauline/Petrine privalege cases are valid non-sacramental marriages.


#20

[quote="surritter, post:15, topic:295141"]
Thanks Vico. So a question to all -- the descriptions given by Vico seem to indicate that these are valid marriages that the pope can dissolve (a natural marriage is valid, though non-sacramental, right?). So it actually sounds like the title of this thread is answered with a qualified "yes."

[/quote]

I think the dissolutions go to Rome. The non consummated cases go to the Roman Rota.

Canon 1142 A non-consummated marriage between baptised persons or between a baptised party and an unbaptised party can be dissolved by the Roman Pontiff for a just reason, at the request of both parties or of either party, even if the other is unwilling.
Canon 1143.1 In virtue of the pauline privilege, a marriage entered into by two unbaptised persons is dissolved in favour of the faith of the party who received baptism, by the very fact that a new marriage is contracted by that same party, provided the unbaptised party departs.


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