Does the way annulment works result in de facto divorce?


He or she means that your reception of the sacrement of marriage is dependent on the interior disposition of your would-be spouse. Which is true.

My issue is that that seems… bad. (To put it nicely. Incoherent also comes to mind.) But it is church teaching, and exactly the one I’m struggling to understand.


Well given that marriage by definition is about 2 mature persons freely consenting to join why is this strange or unusual that defects in either party “rupture” the bond for both regardless of the others innocence?

Original sin is based on the same notion of contamination due to passive solidarity and not active fault. We individualistic moderns always seem to have difficulty with this ancient concept.

We even have a word for this…we say OS is contracted not committed. Not so strangely, marriage is also called a contract.


But the teaching that the last number if years or decades of someone’s life was all a lie… ouch. I’m with the apostles. “Then it is better not to marry.”

I will never trust someone that much


Noone said it was a lie on the side of the innocent party.
Nor may have it been a lie on the part of the person at fault.
But it is the very nature of immaturity (the main cause of annulments) that we dont know what we do.

Annulments arent granted for no good reason at all.


That is what he (I) meant. And that is the root of your discomfort.

Marriage is awesome. I readily admit that I will never have absolute certainty that my marriage is valid, as I cannot get into my wife’s head. I am fine with that. Trust God.


Boy, that’s tough. But if I was gonna quit because the Church is tough I’d already be gone.

It seems natural that we suffer because of other people’s sins, but this case is quite extreme.


A spouse cheating does not de facto mean the spouse never intended to be faithful at the time the marriage was made. While it might point to something to investigate, one would actually need to reasonably demonstrate that the intent was lacking at the time the marriage was made for an annulment.


Of course. I’m aware of the basics at play here. My question is closer to: Do most people in that circumstance end up getting an annulment if they seek one? (And if so, why do some Catholics get on their moral high horse about divorce and remarriage. Many Protestants only allow remarriage in such similar serious circumstances, and it seems that semantics asside the net results are the same or similar.)


Some people get on a moral high horse about many things.

This does not mean it is a position to be replicated!


I believe you are mistaken unless you have an authoritative source.
I have never discovered one in my years of searching.
Nor is that the Catholic definition of “fornication”.
You have defined “a human act of fornication” not “fornication” per se.

The “matter” of a human act is rarely defined by the interior apprehensions or deliberateness of the participant. That is taken care of by the concept of culpability - not by redefining the matter itself.

Hence such couples are technically fornicating (defined as sex between those who are not married before God). However they were in good faith so no culpability attaches at all.

Is it adultery if my wife’s twin sister tricks me when she stays over for the summer?
Yes it is, technically. However it is fully non imputable because I was completely unawares.

You will not find a Catholic definition of “fornication” that includes full knowledge and consent as part of the very definition. That is added on afterwards when we look at whether it was a complete “human/moral act of fornication”. Fornication is but the object or “matter” (a grave one at that) of the human/moral act. I believe you have confused the two.

Non imputable, by definition, means awareness or consent is defective to some degree and the act is not a full human/moral act. It may not have been a “human act” act all if I was blind drunk or totally ignorant of its true nature. Where there is no human act there can be no personal sin.
Hence non imputability, non culpability.

Was Oedipus in an incestuous relationship when he unbeknowingly married his mother?
Yes he was. But it was fully non imputable.

The “matter” of a human act is its object which not surprisingly is “objective” and cannot be re-defined simply by the views or deliberateness of the agents involved surely?


I think you might be misunderstanding here.

In the case of a declaration of nullity, what the Church is saying is that there was no marriage covenant. She is NOT saying that this couple never had anything.

Clearly, there was a relationship. There was a wedding. There was a conjugal life. There may or may not have been children born as a result of that union.

What the Church IS saying is that in the eyes of God, a valid marriage covenant did not exist. The couple DID have a marriage under civil law. They had a legal contract. As I’ve said, they had a relationship, they had a life together. The Church is NOT saying that none of that ever existed or that it wasn’t worth anything.

My husband has a declaration of nullity from his first marriage. He entered in good faith, his ex didn’t. (Neither was Catholic at the time and she didn’t really understand the nature of marriage, as she described to him afterward. She confirmed her beliefs about marriage to witnesses who testified in the nullity process. They also married primarily because she was pregnant.) As the last sentence suggests, there was a child born as a result of that marriage - my stepdaughter. The Church never said that Hubby and his ex never had a relationship. Rather, what they said was that the nature of that relationship was not a marriage covenant.

When Hubby and I married (initially civilly, later sacramentally) we made darn sure we knew EXACTLY what we meant when we said our vows. We didn’t live together before marriage, but we made sure that we knew exactly what we wanted and exactly what marriage was about before we took that step.


Strictly speaking not. To have conjugal life one must be validly married.
But we know what you mean and yes that was good because presumably both of you thought it to be so at the time.

Though it must surely have had cracks in hindsight - otherwise how could there be an annulment?


You seem to be more concerned over the word “fornication” than the human reality it customarily means in the Bible and in Church prohibitions.

Do you really believe your unfortunate past situation is what is customarily envisaged by condemnatory use of that word? Come on!

Aviation engineers don’t get upset that airplane blackboxes are bright orange and always have been.
Its just a word and there are all sorts of reasons why words don’t match the reality.

Your case is one such “contradiction”. Noone believes you committed anything ;like the same “fornication” as prostitutes at a parlour. The only thing the two realities have in common is 11 letters of the alphabet.

Such upset is understandable but I think it caused less by religion but more by a personality type that tends to perfectionism or takes surface impressions too seriously or literally. Something which many of us are often susceptible too. God bless.


I agree.

I think so.

I am not sure why there is so much reliance on semantics, except to get around what Cardinal Kasper has said.

It seems so. The statistics indicate that marriages that are dissolved today would not have been dissolved in times past. In the recent past you had up to 60,000 marriages in the USA annulled per year, whereas in 1929, you had fewer than 10 marriages annulled in the USA.

I agree with what Cardinal Kasper has said that many annulments are really only Catholic divorces, but in a dishonest way.
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery.”
And yet, Catholics seeking an annulment must divorce first.


First of all it’s not clear to me if you’re using the general “you” or not. I’m not in this situation but thanks for your concern :slight_smile: I’m single never married. Just trying to understand the way this works. I’m tired of feeling like a mouthpiece when I defend the church teaching and would rather understand it and assent on a deeper level.

I was debating another poster who took issue with my use of the word “fornication”. Fornication is fornication whether the person is responsible for grave sin or not. I’m not trying to heap condemnation on anyone. I know it’s a really sensitive issue.


A valid point. I am perhaps being over dramatic. That said, coming back to someone possibly decades latter and saying “the marriage you thought we had isn’t real” is still pretty rough isn’t it?


Gulp. That’s certainly looks bad… Thanks for the opinion/info. If you happen to have a direct source for that, that’d be cool. Even though it confirms my suspicion I don’t want to just take someone’s word for it.


Go to National Catholic Almanac St. Anthony’s guild
Catholic Almanac St. Anthony’s guild
Our Sunday’s Visitor’s Catholic almanac
there is one edition for each year.
and there is
The Official Catholic Directory
Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae
Also check out Canon Law digest 1943.
One interesting datum is that the number of Catholics has increased from 654 million in 1970 to 1.3 billion in 2016. But the number of marriages between two Catholics has decreased from 3.3 million in 1970 to 2.2 million in 2016. The number of marriages between a Catholic and a nonCatholic has also decreased by one third during that period.
Here are the world wide statistics (not just USA)
Catholic Law digest 1943


Yes I agree with you in one sense, but clearly not another.
Perhaps it is a matter of emotional or spiritual maturity to handle the intellectual dissonance.

Apologies if this is not your situation.

PS One cannot really be “not responsible” for grave sin. “Grave matter” or "grave “matter” is more correct.
Where there is no responsibility there can be no “sin” because “sin”, as Magisterially clarified in the last 50 years or so, is always intended.

So the 10 Commandments is not really a list of sins (or even mortal sins though this was the old way of speaking) but a list of grave disorders. As the CCC says: it specifies grave matter.

Personally I do not think that sex between a couple in a putatively valid marriage is a “grave disorder” even if it is called fornication.

Many Cardinals at the last Synod said much the same thing re the language of adultery (for couples in a second happy marriage who for technical reasons cannot get an annulment and are sexually active):

However, he continued, it is still “a new situation of marriage” in which a couple is living together and “There is love, there is commitment, there is exclusivity, it is forever.”
He urged against using the language of adultery, generally drawn from the words of Jesus that one who divorces his wife and marriages another commits adultery.
Cardinal Kasper said that “to tell them that’s adultery, permanent adultery, I think they would feel insulted and offended.”
“Such a sexual relationship within a couple has also its positive values, it’s not only its negative values,” he said, rejecting the idea “that every sexual act is sinful” in such situations.
The most important thing, the cardinal said, is to accompany individuals where they are at, realizing that we are fallen beings and none of us loves God and neighbor fully as we are called to."

He was not the only Cardinal to say this.


The disintegration and break up of a relationship is usually rough.

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