I am currently dating a man who was previously married outside the Church. Since he was a baptized Catholic and was not married in a Catholic parish, after receiving his divorce, he received from the Church a certificate to remarry due to the “defect of form”.
I know the law of the Church. I understand that officially he is free to pursue a sacramental marriage. I know he has had a profound encounter with Christ. He’s an amazing, godly man. However, I can’t help but feel a little troubled…
I know that I’m being over scrupulous, and I know this is a very Protestant way to think, but when Jesus was asked about divorce, He didn’t mention Defect of Form. I doubt either that there was that concept in the early centuries of the Church (please correct me if I’m wrong). The serious nature of Jesus’ words give me pause for thought…
Do I just have to trust the Church on this one when she says that he is indeed free to marry? :shrug: Any words of council will be much appreciated.
I would have faith in God and the Church. I trusted the Church when annulling my first marriage and today I am proud to be in a Christian marriage with my second wife. Doubt may lie before your path, but if you believe that God has a plan for us all, you were meant to pursue this individual. Enjoy the journey, you can’t control fate and the final destination will present itself to you.
The “defect of form” means he never was married to start with. It’s not that he was married, then because of defect of form is no longer married and so is free to marry. It’s that he tried to get married, but it didn’t happen because he didn’t do it right.
But yeah, Jesus didn’t issue, so far as I know, any explicit guide as to when an attempted marriage is an actual marriage, and it is up to the Church to work out, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, how to handle such matters. But while trusting God and His Church is generally the way to go, I wouldn’t put the “just” there, in the sense of trying to trust without addressing why you find it troubling to start with - if you find it troubling, I would read more about annulments and marriage law and the like in an attempt to understand it. But it does boil down to that part of the binding and loosing is making rules that govern this sort of thing.
Honestly, I think it’s because I was a bit of an annulment snob. I could explain the Catholic teaching on annulments, but I never thought that I’d date someone whom it affected directly. It’s a little different when it’s your soul is on the line…
Yeah, that’s the funny thing. Church authority was a really important factor in my conversion from Protestantism. I can trust the Church to choose the canon. I can trust the Church to teach about the divinity of Christ…yet with regards to my dating life I have an issue! :shrug: I guess I find it easier to trust on those other issues because those other declarations had the full weight of infallible Church authority, whereas a declaration of nullity… what protection/authority does that have exactly?
My marriage was annuled and I was told directly that it’s not an “infalliblie process”; mistakes are made both ways. Given the long process of witnesses etc you are also relying on people to tell the truth; and the truth is also in the eye of a beholder. People don’t always have the best motives sometimes and know what to say to either get their marriage annulled or to make it difficult for that to happen.
I have talked to each person in a couple about their marriage given I have this degree of nullity and it’s like two different stories of one marriage.
So I can understand your concern. It’s a little bit like taking a leap of Faith. If you don’t feel comfortable I would not pursue it too much because it’s not fair to the other person if there is a lingering doubt about the declaration of nullity.
Jesus said to the Apostles in Mt 18:18…
18Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Jesus used the term “Church only twice in the Scriptures - both times in Matthew and both times connected to the authority to bind and loose 'Whatever”.
Do you believe Jesus? Then believe His Church.
Now having established this authority - look at what the Church has declared. The man was NOT MARRIED before God (Sacramentally). There was a defect - in this case a defect of form.
The matter was brought to the Church - the Church spoke on the matter and now it is up to us to “Listen to the Church” (Mt 18:17)
Yeah, I can see that. It is worth expanding on the infallibility thing though: the principles behind annulments are part of Church teaching and regard faith and morals, and so the Church has the same sort of authority in articulating these principles as it does in others.
The practical application of these principles in each individual case is not under infallibility (it could be derailed by fraud or similar). The case you describe is incredibly simple, as you say, but even if it weren’t as simple a case as defect of form, the fact that the declaration of nullity isn’t infallible doesn’t mean that if it were wrong somehow that you would be endangering your soul in treating it as correct - recall the three conditions for mortal sin. Unless we have special knowledge of the particular circumstances that the tribunal didn’t have AND we are trained to evaluate such (and, and, and, see jimmyakin.com/2005/07/annulments_infa-2.html), then we can trust the tribunal, and so even if they are wrong and one of the people is in fact married, then in dating/attempting marriage with that person “full knowledge” isn’t present and so there is no mortal sin.
And again, we don’t have to second guess tribunals. They are the competent authority, and we can trust them unless there is explicit reason not to, in the same way that we don’t have to go to college and get a couple different engineering degrees and then study every single aspect of a blueprint for our car before we drive it, or our roads before we drive on them. So we should generally assume they did it right, and we know that if by some rare circumstances they didn’t do it right and issued a false declaration of nullity, then we are not sinning by trusting it and acting as though it is right - our souls are not on the line in that sense.
But again, you may know all of that too. I can definitely understand feeling uncomfortable at first, even if there isn’t really any reason to be so (especially in such a relatively simple case as this) - human uncomfortableness isn’t always reasonable. Once we realize that we have no reason to be uncomfortable, we simply have to decide and discern when we are willing and able to push past such uncomfortableness, and whether we think it is worth it.