Dishonesty enough to end marriage?


From what I’ve learned in the US at least, it is a requirement across all diocese that a civil divorce decree must be obtained before one may seek an annulment. The reason? To make certain the Church is not helping deadbeats “annul” their families without giving them civil recourse to the legal system! That would amount to abandonment.

There are many, many people in just the situation you describe…civilly divorced but sacramentally still in marriages that have been upheld. If they divorced to protect themselves, children, or financial assests, they’re totally in line with what the Church teaches.

We may receive the Eucharist and we are still full members of the Church. We just may not remarry unless our previous bond is found to be null.


You’re right, I think I was seeing it from a “civil” perspective since she did get a “divorce”, but you are absolutely correct. If the marriage wasn’t valid to begin with it never existed…so essentially there should be no “divorce” or “end” of the marriage, but since there are the legal and sacramental aspects we have to look at it in two different ways…I think:shrug:.


When I spoke with my priest about trying to get an annulment I asked if I could start the process before my divorce was finalized and he said I could not. He explained that one of the reasons we cannot start the process without legal finalized divorce papers was because the Church could be charged with alienation of affection or interference with the divorce itself, etc. So in order for the Church to protect itself from the legal aspects of a divorce they stay out of it until a divorce has been granted.


another thing that i find hard to reconcile with is that we were together in the physical sense, right? how can you just say now that the marriage was not valid?

it makes everythign so confusing… i think i am just beating a dead horse here sometimes… over and over… :frowning:


Millions of people have been ’ together in the physical sense’ without benefit of marriage. That does not mean that they were married. For a marriage to be ‘complete’, a physical union must have been made, but this itself is not sufficient for a marriage to be entered into.

For a marriage to be valid, both persons must have freely made the covenant, and at the time that they made the covenant (commitment), they must have intended for the marriage to be permanent and exclusive, and to bring forth new life (children). And then they had to consummate. If the full intent to make a true marriage was not there as the vows were said, then in reality the attempt to consummate the marriage did not succeed. If the conscious intent was to lie when asked to say the vows, the marriage obviously did not happen.

However, if the full intent was there when the vows were read, and one or both of the spouses subsequently stumbled and failed to live the commitment, the marriage is still valid. That happens to every marriage. We are not perfect, we fail to fully live the commitement. But we are still married.



Well you know, I had two babies…I wouldn’t want to think that they are not valid or didn’t come from a valid marriage, but they didn’t, in a way.

I see it like this, I entered the marriage validly, I had every intention to be faithful and married to this person until death did us part…I have come to find out that he did not have the same frame of mind that I did. I did what I was supposed to do the way I was supposed to do it…so my side of it was true and therefore my children came into this world in what I believed was a valid marriage and to me that’s all that matters.

Now I want to be completely free of him which is why I am seeking an annulment not because I want to marry someone else at this moment, but because I want to be free to do so if and when He decides it’s the right thing and time for me. Also, everything is fresh in my mind right now, the witnesses have it fresh in their minds now…what if He doesn’t put that person in my life for years and when I decide to try to get an annulment then my mind isn’t as sharp or my witnesses disappear or die? Why put off something that can be done today for tomorrow? By the way, I did get advice and input from different priests, that’s how I arrived at this decision.


does it mean that the person who did not mean the vows was living in sin?


A person who fradulently enters marriage [when they said the vows they did not mean them] commits grave sin.

If the other party intends to enter into a valid marriage and is victimized by fraud, they have no culpability.

Dan Grelinger


The reality of validity or nullity of marriage is independent from the civil estate under secular laws. A decree of nullity is meant to be granted when a marriage is null and challenged by one spouse (or by promotor iustitiae if warranted), not under any other circumstances.

There are many, many people in just the situation you describe…civilly divorced but sacramentally still in marriages that have been upheld. If they divorced to protect themselves, children, or financial assests, they’re totally in line with what the Church teaches.

If separation is not sufficient, then yes. If separation would be sufficient but divorce is obtained, I ask why. Let’s not talk about somewhere in the US where separation doesn’t deal with custody. Let’s take a theoretical situation in which separation and divorce differ only in the ability to remarry and the legal pronouncement that the marriage is over. So far as the sacramental marriage persists and the goals of protection of self and children are achieved, there is no need to provide or obtain the ability to remarry civilly, or to obtain a pronouncement that the marriage is dissolved. I don’t see why people who are sacramentally married should be able to be named unmarried by the secular law if it were only a matter of name.

We may receive the Eucharist and we are still full members of the Church. We just may not remarry unless our previous bond is found to be null.

That is correct, but again, let’s consider a jurisdiction where separation is sufficient to protect oneself and the children and divorce only names the marriage over and opens way to new marriage: why obtain divorce as the further step instead of contenting oneself with separation, which is exactly the state of matters in the eyes of the Church?


Yes, but that shouldn’t lead to a split between civil and canon law reality. If divorce provides means of protection separation doesn’t, then yes, I agree with everyone. But if the difference is only that the marriage is pronounced over, then I don’t see why it should be sought. It’s not like it kills half the marriage, while the other half (the canon law reality) remains married. Strictly speaking, valid sacramental spouses after civil divorces shouldn’t even be referred to as exes. The result is that while the ban on remarriage is respected, the sacramental marriage is sometimes regarded as broken or finished. The fact is that the marriage itself persists, not just the impediment to future marriages.


There was a relationship, but the fact there was a relationship doesn’t mean there was a valid marriage. If you entered into that marriage in good faith and fulfilled all the requirements of form you were conscious of, and you were not conscious of any impediments, then you have nothing to blame yourself for, and children from such “putative marriages” are considered legitimate by canon law. Thus you can say the Church recognises good faith and makes the distinction between an honest attempt and an honest mistake - or getting shortchanged by the other party - or own fault. If there was no valid marriage, it doesn’t mean you were at fault it any way.


I see what you’re saying:newidea:, yeah the bulb just went on:D . Then what do you suggest we call ourselves? You know, when people ask, what do you check on forms etc. I don’t see how that would work very well anyway because I find it hard to believe that separated couples would still consider themselves married and respect that.

There are many, many people who are only separated and start dating…people almost expect you to start dating right away even if you’re not even “divorced” much less annulled. I see what you’re saying though and if or some reason I was not granted an annulment then I would live my life as a married woman in the eyes of the church and a divorced one in the eyes of the State (still living as a married woman).


What you call yourselves depends on what you are asked. If the question is one of civil concern, then you provide your current civil state of marriage (single, married, widowed, divorced). If a potential suiter asks if you are married, (and your marriage has not been declared annulled) then you say that you are married, but separated.

Beware people’s expectations. Sometimes people wish the best for us, sometimes people just ‘expect’ us to act selfishly. In today’s ‘world’, expectations around marriages and sexual conduct is highly suspect.



This makes alot of sense, now when you are annulled do you also say that? For instance, “…so are you married?” then do I answer “I’m annulled…or I’m single…or I’m divorced, etc?” What would be the appropriate answer to a question like this?

I also agree with your comment about what people expect from us when we’re recently separated/divorced. I’ve been told by many people, well meaning I’m sure, “…get out there, you’re still young…don’t worry you’ll find someone, etc, etc.”

Just the other day I was asked out by a young man who knew a bit about my situation. I was flattered:o, of course, it feels good to be asked out, I hadn’t been asked out in years. I thanked him and told him I was flattered, but that I was a married woman. He then asked for clarification, he thought I was going through a divorce. I clarified for him that I was going through a divorce, but I was married in the Catholic Church and unless my marriage was nullified I would always be married in the eyes of God, and I fully intended to respect and follow my faith’s teaching.

It took alot for me to be specific about why I was turning him down, I didn’t want him to think I was some religious fanatic. I think it was the Holy Spirit that gave me the courage and wanted me to be a witness to what obedience is.

He surprised me when he said he completely understood and RESPECTED me and my faithfulness to the Church. He went as far as saying that I was an inspiration, that I had inspired him to do the right thing always. I was humbled by his comments, I certainly wasn’t trying to inspire anyone:blushing: .


I think the chance is bigger with separation. Especially if divorce is possible, but separation chosen.

As for what I’m saying, just to make sure, I’m saying that the benefits divorce provides are one thing and they are legitimately pursued sometimes, but acting on a desire to call oneself divorced rather than married, I believe that would go against the teaching of the Church against divorce - in spirit if not the letter.

There are many, many people who are only separated and start dating…people almost expect you to start dating right away even if you’re not even “divorced” much less annulled.

That could be cheating, actually. Even if it couldn’t be called so, it still shouldn’t happen. Of course, I realise a 20 years overdue nullity proceeding with an obvious impediment or defect of consent is different from finding company when separated, but still. However, I’m a 24 years old student who’s never been married, so I would hate to be disrespectful by plaing an authority in the matter.

I see what you’re saying though and if or some reason I was not granted an annulment then I would live my life as a married woman in the eyes of the church and a divorced one in the eyes of the State (still living as a married woman).

I would go for separated in the eyes of both, if possible, since there’s no need to make it easier for the other to remarry and no right to call the marriage over for me. I assume your state makes a larger difference between divorce and separation than just the dissolution of the legal bond of marriage and cessation of legal impediment to future marriage. However, if the only difference were merely the right to remarry (obviously not used by a Catholic in good standing), I believe it would even be wrong to seek divorce for some psychological benefit of calling it over. Now, if I wanted to challenge the marriage in the diocesan tribunal and that required a divorce, I’d go for divorce. But in those jurisdictions where separation allows the same benefits as divorce but keeps the couple married, I think divorce is wrong in so far as there is a “divortive” spirit, like something along the lines of calling it over at least in the eyes of the state if the Church won’t so grant.



Really, the theory of it doesn’t interest me, I know my circumstances and if I think I can help answer some questions for someone in similar circumstances, I try to. I’ve got what you call real world experience in this realm. :slight_smile:


i completely agree with you and thanks for your help cecilia97…:slight_smile:


I am new to this site and I have been searching for a thread like this because I am headed toward the same territory. I will be 30 in August and right now I am an emotional trainwreck over my marriage and it has triggered all my painful memories of a long history of emotional abuse and trauma that I experienced before I met my husband. There are so many things I need to let out right now that I am sitting here overwhelmed, typing with tears clouding my vision of the computer monitor. You all have clarified a lot for me regarding anullment.

I’ll try to condense this for now, but I want you to know that I searched for this site initially with the sole purpose of finding out how anullments work and how quickly I could get one. I am still passing through different emotions on what has been said. Anullment was almost a foreign word to me until recently and certainly at the beginning of my marriage.

Here is the sweet: He swept me off of my feet, was charming and a gentleman, handsome, extremely intelligent and painted the most wonderful portrait of himself as willing to be a faithful, trustworthy, honorable, honest and responsible companion to death do us part.

Here is the sour: That last part - what he had me believing (until I was too far into the marriage and too stuck to get out fast) due to his covering up and hiding of his true self from me- about being a faithful, trustworthy, honorable, honest and responsible companion- WAS A SMOKESCREEN.

He has been unfaithful mentally, emotionally and physically. He thinks that withholding something is not the same as lying therefore perfectly acceptable. His philosophy is actually to never admit to anything, deny and make counter accusations.

I have compromised and lost so much and I can’t do it anymore. I too want an annulment once I do get the divorce so that I can be free of the what I feel is poison and dysfunction to me and my kids. Even after all that has happened, I have offered to give him the house and work with him as much as possible on visitation with the kids but he is giving me so much grief and doesn’t want to get divorced. I can’t help but feel that it’s because it’s cheaper to keep me. My heart, my self-esteem, my health – my whole life as it is right now seems to be in ruins. In the beginning, even though I had doubts and concerns, there was no one else on earth I wanted to be with but him. I know that I am going to need counseling for a while to get through this and my children will probably need it to help cope.

I am hoping that an annullment won’t be hard to get. I honestly did not know that you had to be divorced first. Is there anything in the meantime that the Catholic church can grant me that is the same as legal seperation would be?

I know I must sound like I have dropped my basket and honestly, I feel like I have had a mental breakdown most days. I am so lonley and there is no one who can relate to me. As I sit here I am worried that I won’t even be able to function at work here in just a few hours. I can’t sleep, I have gained a ridiculous amount of weight and I’m having to live here with him until something is final. I have had to file bankruptcy because he told me he had been handling the finances last year and he had let things go to the point I could not save it. He has financially ruined me. I am so sick over this whole situation that I feel nauseated most days. Right now I’m so upset I could throw up.

I need someone to turn to. I feel like I’m trapped in concrete. If there is anyone who can be kind enough to overlook my hysteria and offer me some advice and/or encouragement, please respond.



The theory may not, but the theology should. For example, whether a marriage really ends or whether it does not, is a theological matter. A sacramental marriage never ends and it’s never dissolved once consummated. Obligations coming from that sacramental marriage remain even after the civil marriage is dissolved because the civil divorce does not affect the sacramental marriage. By the civil law, such a spouse is an ex. But sacramentally and under canon law, the person is not an ex, it’s the current - and until death. Therefore it is not proper to view a sacramental marriage as finished at any point both spouses live. This is not abstract theory, this is the reality. :slight_smile: No amount of experience changes reality because experience is only a reflection of reality and does not constitute it. :wink: Similarly, in civil law, your experience with marriage does not change the binding marital laws or your civil estate. It only lets you know how things feel or contributes to your knowledge. :slight_smile:

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