First posted 2 yrs ago - decree of nullity granted but confused

Hello everyone! My first post on this subject was just a little over 2 years ago. You have been helpful through this process and now the following is an update as well as some questions.

Just to re-cap, my then boyfriend in 08’ (now husband) filled out the paperwork to receive a decree of nulity in April 08’. It took a little over 2 years and my husband received a letter from the Tribunal stating that in July, 2010, that the nullity has been judged as proven in the eyes of the church. I have many a question so please be patient :slight_smile:

First question is the letter makes no sense to me and maybe I can get some input here on this forum. It says exactly “This letter is formal notification that the Rev. Judges of the Tribunal have handed down an AFFIRMATIVE decision and the nullity of your previous marriage has been judged as proven in the eyes of the church, HOWEVER, the judges request that a marriage assesment and counseling sessions take place before you plan a Catholic marriage or convalidation” Ok, I understand that part and know that it is not uncommon for this type of request BUT then, the letter continues and says “Your involvement in the Readiness Marriage Assesment does not automatically indicate permission for remarriage and there shall be no plans on your part for a Catholic marriage or convalidation until you have received a FINAL AND FAVORABLE decision from the Tribunal” NOW I’M CONFUSED? Isn’t this letter stating that the decree was granted in the first sentence?

Second question. We both have been non-practicing Catholics (me longer than my husband). My husband filled out the paperwork to possibly get a decree of nullity in April 08’ so if we both decided to go back to the church and marry, it would not be an issue. We were married in a civil ceremony in December 09’. Now, in the church’s eyes, we are living in sin BUT we have attended mass and started a couple months ago (we do not go to communion). We have received a letter from the church we attend asking us to become members. My question is if we become members during this process of counseling to see if we will get the FINAL AND FAVORABLE decision, won’t it look bad cause we are living in sin (civially married) or will they see it as a good thing that we are serious about returning to the church and making things right?

I apoloigize that this post is long, for I need some advise as well as some light on my confusion in the Tribunal letter.

Thank You!

Without knowing the particulars of your situation, but it seems reasonable for a person or couple to register as members of a parish even if they are still in the process of getting their lives in order sacramentally.

Thank you for your reply but you never know what these counselors are looking for. One persons’ professional opinion (in this instance, a counselor) in our circumstance, can decide our religious future.

I am still confused about the letter though. I have read it a couple times and still cannot understand it.

AmyMarie,

Every decision of a marriage tribunal is automatically appealed to the next highest tribunal. Until this “court of appeals” reviews the decision (and agrees with it), the parties are not yet free to marry in the Church. In practical terms, the decision of the diocese is automatically appealed to the archdiocese. The decree of nullity is not “final” until this appeal tribunal comes to the same conclusion as the first tribunal.

Please understand that what I wrote here is nothing more than an explanation of how the procedure works.

The “Readiness Marriage Assessment” and the automatic appeal are two seperate issues.

On the other issue: since you are both Catholics you are already members of your local parish. The letter you received is an invitation to register at what is already your parish. Since you intend to marry sometime in the future (assuming everything is in-order) it’s a good idea to register as soon as possible so that you have a longer relationship and attendance record at your parish.

Thank you for the explanation but some of the wording and sentences in this letter BLATENLY say that this annulment is final. Such as, and I quote “By this enclosed letter, you have been informed that an annulment has been granted by the Catholic church. However, while your previous marriage is no longer an obstacle to a future marriage IN THE CHURCH, the judges require evidence that a future marriage on your part will be a stable and permanent one”

You stated “The decree of nullity is not “final” until this appeal tribunal comes to the same conclusion as the first tribunal.” Then why is this letter saying it has been granted?

I dunno but am I being difficult? Am I making any sense or is my confusion valid?

Since I can’t read the entire letter, I can only ask a question.

Does the letter itself say “Final Decree…”? I’m not trying to be funny here. It’s a very serious question. Are the actual words “final decree” in the heading or in the text of the letter? I don’t know since I don’t have the letter in front of me.

Edit: Does it have the words “Definitive Sentence” instead of “final decree”?

I just checked the Archdiocese of Philadelphia webpage since I notice that you’re in Penna. Here’s a link to a very brief summary archphila.org/tribunal/601.html

Note that the first time the parties are notified is in step #9–the “First Instance” decision. Step 10 is the “Second Instance” that’s the automatic appeal.

Since you’re in Penna.: If you’re outside of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, then your own diocese would be “first instance” and Philadelphia would be “second instance.” If you’re in the Philadelphia ADiocese, then Philly would be first, and the Archdiocese of Baltimore would be second.

Yes, the decree was granted (and I’m sure your diocesan tribunal would not inform you of this until the appelate tribunal came to the same conclusion), but your answer is in the second post I’ve quoted below. The judges require evidence that a future marriage on your part will be a stable and permanent one. Your husband was already found to have been too immature to have given consent for his first marriage. The tribunal does not want you both to have to go through that again.

Second question. We both have been non-practicing Catholics (me longer than my husband). My husband filled out the paperwork to possibly get a decree of nullity in April 08’ so if we both decided to go back to the church and marry, it would not be an issue. We were married in a civil ceremony in December 09’. Now, in the church’s eyes, we are living in sin BUT we have attended mass and started a couple months ago (we do not go to communion). We have received a letter from the church we attend asking us to become members. My question is if we become members during this process of counseling to see if we will get the FINAL AND FAVORABLE decision, won’t it look bad cause we are living in sin (civially married) or will they see it as a good thing that we are serious about returning to the church and making things right?

Welcome home!

I don’t think they’ll be asking you your marital state. Though you may want to tell Father, and perhaps you can get into marriage prep post-haste! :smiley:

FrDavid 96;

No, I do not see anything like that. So if it doesn’t say anything like that then it is not final? That is very deceiving and I believe cruel. It says one thing and means another. I guess the Catholic church does not like ‘explaining’ to their members exactly what is going on and gives them ‘false hopes’.

So, basically, this letter includes ‘white lies’ such as “an annulment has been granted by the Catholic church”? and “The nullity of your previous marriage has been judged as proven in the EYES OF THE CHURCH”?

So, I can tell my husband that this letter is basically saying that once they get the conselors’ report and the judges AGREE that we are stable enough to be married in the eyes of the Lord, only then it is final? And that the statements made in this letter about the annulment being granted by the Catholic church is false? :eek:

What are we to think?

The court of first instance does notify the couple. Either party has a right to appeal this decision, so they must be notified.

See the link I posted to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, #9.

I didn’t think the petitioner was notified until the decree was final but I could be wrong.

Sometimes the Tribunal grants a decree of nullity but places restrictions on remarriage. That appears to be the situation in your husband’s case. This is what I found on one diocesan website:
“In some cases, there may be conditions which either or both parties must fulfill before a Catholic Church marriage can take place. The Church wants to be reasonably certain that the same factors that caused the invalidity of the previous marriage are no longer present.
In some cases, for example, the Tribunal might require professional counseling or evaluation by a priest or counselor to verify that both parties are properly disposed for a successful marital union.”

AmyMarie,
This is why it’s vital to sit down with your own pastor and speak with him personally about this. It’s difficult enough to explain in-person, but on the web it’s a thousand times that.

No one is lying. Everything is already contained in the letter–I am merely trying to explain the words to you because it’s not written in everyday language since it is after all a legal document.

I’m trying to explain that the condition to marry again (the counselling part) is NOT the same thing as the automatic appeal (tribunal of second instance). The second tribunal reviews the decision of the first one. This is automatic, and happens in every case. That’s why your letter reads “…until you have received a final and favorable decision…” That’s the “final decision” that I’ve been mentioning (aka the definitive decree).

The “final decision” with regard to your declaration of nullity is seperate from the condition to do the Readiness Marriage Assessment. I think you’re confusing the two (and I can see how that is happening). Although the two issues are certainly related when it comes to your future marriage, one has nothing to do with the other when it comes to the declaration of nullity.

Yes, both parties must be notified of the decision of the tribunal of the First Instance because they both have a right to appeal it (not to mention that they have a right to know the decision no matter what else). That’s why we pastors have to have a final/definitive decree before going forward with a future marriage. Those words are essential: it has to say “final” or “definitive.”

Ok, I think I understand now. He was given an annulment which means his past marriage was seen as never taking place or there were circustances brought forward that made the marriage invalid. But, if our marriage is to be ‘convalidated’ in the Catholic church, we will need to go to counseling and proof needs to be submitted before we are granted permission.

WOW…It has taken 2 yrs to get to this point and it looks like it might take another year or so on top of that? Crazy!

I’m concerned that you’re still combining two seperate issues. The counselling for a future marriage has nothing to do with the annulment (not in the sense of changing the annulment).

The appeal (to the tribunal of second instance) is automatic. Based on what I read here “…until you have received a final and favorable decision…” that leads me to think that the letter you have is from the first, not the second tribunal. Since this is apparently the first notice you’ve received, that only further reinforces that. The key words you are looking for is “final decree” or “definitive decree” Unless you see those words, regardless of what it might seem (at first) to say, then it isn’t the final decree.

Just wanted to add that yes, we do live within the limits of the Archdiocese of Phildelphia and this letter is from them. So I take it now that we have this letter saying that an annulment has been granted by the Catholic church is incorrect. Becasue it now has to be sent to Balitmore (Second Instance) apparently along WITH the counseling records in order to get a final decision.

All in all, the Archdiocese should say what they mean and mean what they say. Saying your annulment has been granted and is seen as such through the Catholic church, again, is wrong because it really isn’t!

AmyMarie
This gets into the subtleties of canon law. Please bear with me here. Yes, the annulment was granted (the letter is true and correct), however before you can proceed with a future marriage, that annulment has to be reviewed (appealed) by the Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Please understand that I’m saying the same thing the letter is saying; I’m just putting it into different words so that someone who hasn’t had formal training in how marriage laws work can understand it.

Yes, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia issued a decree of nullity–that’s what you received. However at the present time, that decision is under appeal (not because of anything you’ve done, but because it’s automatic). Your intended husband cannot get married in the Church until the appeal of that decision is finalized. That’s what the letter is telling you.

Please though, take the counselling issue out of the picture, at least for the moment. The Court of Second Instance (Baltimore) does not decide whether or not you can get married in the future–they only look at the past marriage (of your intended husband) to make sure that the anullment process was done correctly*. Please believe me that you are confusing the issue of the appeal with the issue of the counselling for a future marriage–in order to understand what’s happening here, it’s essential for you to seperate these two issues.

  • technically speaking, they do review this part of the decision, but discussing that part, at this point in the conversation, will only cause further confusion–a lot of confusion. For the sake of conversation, let’s just say that they aren’t looking at the counselling issue and leave it at that.

Fr Dave’s advice is on the money, just want to add that when your husband filed he worked through his pastor at the time, and that pastor should be the one answering his questions. If you are now in a new parish, this is the perfect time to make yourself known to the new pastor, have him review this paperwork with you, since he is the one that will be guiding you from now on as you prepare for marriage (you are not yet married at all, of course, as you know). This face to face conversation is vital. You both need pastoral counselling separately and confidentially, but you also need the “couples” interview because as you already know these things take time, and he is the one to get you on track. Welcome home. the grace waiting for you is immense and a cause of great joy.

I thank you kindly for your patience and taking the time to make me understand in LAYMAN terms.

So, as of right now, my husband received an annulment of his previous marriage through the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. With receiving this letter, does that tell him that it is now on it’s way to Baltimore for appeal/finalization or is it in limbo with no forward movement?

You said, I quote, “The Court of Second Instance (Baltimore) does not decide whether or not you can get married in the future–they only look at the past marriage (of your intended husband) to make sure that the anullment process was done correctly*.” Ok, so this is where counseling is being required through the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and they then make the decision upon our conseling sessions wether a marriage (convalidation) will be a stable and permanent one. Baltimore has nothing to do with being invloved as to wether we can or cannot get our marriage convalidated.

I am asking because the paperwork my husband received needs his signature to release all personal records about this ordeal to the counselor. This paperwork is also to schedule counseling sessions with someone in our area. I suppose we can wait a bit before scheduling counseling sessions due to these being 2 separate issues. It might take another year even before we get a final decision from Baltimore. WOW…3 yrs is a long time.

Am I getting it now? :shrug:

It’s on its way to Baltimore. This is the standard procedure. That’s why I posted the link to the Tribunal at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Please see that link. Here it is again archphila.org/tribunal/601.html
Right now, you are at step #9.
Step #10 is in the future, or might already have begun. As I’ve been saying, this phase (step 10) is automatic.

You said, I quote, “The Court of Second Instance (Baltimore) does not decide whether or not you can get married in the future–they only look at the past marriage (of your intended husband) to make sure that the anullment process was done correctly*.” Ok, so this is where counseling is being required through the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and they then make the decision upon our conseling sessions wether a marriage (convalidation) will be a stable and permanent one. Baltimore has nothing to do with being invloved as to wether we can or cannot get our marriage convalidated.

Basically, yes.

At this point, Baltimore is only looking at the annulment procedure which Philly has already decided–in an effort to ensure that everything was done properly.

At this point in the process, whether or not you do couselling, or even whether or not you have any intention to marry is simply not relevant to the Tribunal in Baltimore. They are looking at the past, not the future. Having said that, they (Baltimore) might either agree or disagree with the condition of counselling, but that’s beside the point. The condition for future counselling has nothing to do with whether or not that first marriage was a valid one, so it has no bearing on whether or not the annulment which you’ve received will be declared “final.”

I am asking because the paperwork my husband received needs his signature to release all personal records about this ordeal to the counselor. This paperwork is also to schedule counseling sessions with someone in our area. I suppose we can wait a bit before scheduling counseling sessions due to these being 2 separate issues. It might take another year even before we get a final decision from Baltimore. WOW…3 yrs is a long time.

Am I getting it now? :shrug:

Given the fact that the Tribunal of Philadelphia sent you forms to sign to initiate the counselling process, you should go ahead and sign these as soon as possible (if you do indeed consent). Unless the Tribunal of Philadelphia is telling you to wait to sign the papers, then you should not wait (again, if you consent).

FrDavid96;

Well, both me and my husband want our marriage to be convalidated and, therefore, have no choice but to consent. This is now considered a requirement in order to get to the point of consent to be married in the Catholic church. The Tribunal does not know he remarried civilly and not of their interest. Neither is it to the counselors, therefore, the only obstacle is to make it right with God while we make our journey home. Anotherwords, they do not need to know he married civilly while we were not practicing Catholics…only that both of us are working on making it right.

Thank you! :slight_smile:

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