I have searched the internet and CAF pretty thoroughly on the topic, and I know the basic answer: for a Catholic marriage, a prenuptial agreement (excluding widows and widowers making a document to protect their children in the event of their own death) is verboten. My questioning has more to do with how we think of it in the light of the fact that in America, despite having contracted a Catholic marriage, any divorce can be done against our will in a civil court. I haven’t seen this exact topic discussed anywhere, and I’m just curious.
I understand why the idea of any kind of prenuptial agreement regarding divorce is a logic fail regarding a Catholic marriage, so I’m not trying to rehash the Cathechistic reasoning. I understand that when we marry in the Catholic Church, we give ourselves over completely - lock, stock, and barrel. The Catholic Church does not believe in no-fault divorce; the Catholic Church does not believe that someone can be divorced against his or her will, and won’t grant that kind of verdict. Amen to that. Would that when Catholics attempted to end their marriages, it was a matter only for Catholic tribunals.
But it’s not. It’s a matter for U.S. courts who famously do not recognize the form of Catholic marriage, and this is the sort of sticky reasoning I’m curious about.
Let’s say that I’m a Catholic woman with many assets of her own acquired before marriage, committed to my marriage, and my husband one day walks out of the house and proceeds to divorce me in civil court. Well, in civil court he can do that and there’s nothing I can do to stop him, but to me - as a Catholic woman - I will consider myself married for the rest of my life. (Church and state are separate, as we all know. The Catholic Church, of course, is happy - especially when it comes to marriage - to make that distinction.) Even though I consider myself spiritually married, there would be no material support for me any longer. I might consider myself a wife, but that wouldn’t mean that the law would consider me a wife, and thus my husband could take a great deal of my money and leave me very badly off. I could believe that I deserve to not be abandoned in this manner - physically and financially - and the Church would of course believe as much as well, but that wouldn’t translate into anything enforceable in the U.S.
The Catholic Church, I know, does not approve of prenuptial agreements because they presuppose divorce, and there is no divorce in the Catholic Church. But this ignores the fact that there is also a civil agreement being entered into which operates with different rules.
My question, I guess, is why it’s spiritually wrong to create a document that deals purely with the civil contract that’s also being entered. There is no way not to enter that civil contract, even if you think it’s wrong - the Church in fact requires it for all marriages. I mean, if I’m getting married, it means I’m entering into two contracts: one Catholic, one civil, despite not agreeing entirely with the terms of the civil marriage - the prenup would be my way of altering that civil contract. Why would it affect my spiritual state if it’s so contractually separate?
By the way, would there be an ethical way to make a prenup, e.g. it could state that if a Catholic tribunal annulled the marriage or approved separation, then this hypothetical wife’s assets could be distributed, but if the husband in this case just walked out the door and pursued a civil divorce, then the prenuptial agreement would stand and the wife would keep her assets, as it would be under the aegis of civil courts?
(I’m not trying to pick a bone with the Catholic Church, which I love, and have chosen to obey fully! Please understand this. I am just genuinely very, very curious.)