Grounds for Annulment?


For the sake of discussion, assume these ARE all the relevant facts.

  1. In 1981 a 22 year old Episcopalian man and his 21 year old Catholic girlfriend get the news that she is pregnant with his child. They are both living with their respective parents and neither of them is employed full-time.

  2. Despite the fact that they had had no plans to marry prior to this news, they decide to get married because they both grew up in families that believe that “that’s what you do” when a girl gets pregnant.

  3. The Episcopalian man has grown up in a household where there is the assumption that divorce and remarriage are an option if things don’t work out. He didn’t enter the marriage explicitly saying this, but it was part of his upbringing, and that’s simply the way he thought.

  4. The Catholic woman, presumably, understands the Church’s teaching regarding the indissolubility of marriage, but it’s not discussed during marriage preparation.

  5. They get married by a Catholic priest 2 months after the news that she is pregnant, following all the normal procedures (except, perhaps, a typical 6 month waiting period).

  6. About 1 month after the marriage ceremony they discover she is not really pregnant after all. The woman is devastated. It’s not clear whether she’s “devastated” because she will not have a child or “devastated” because she “didn’t have to get married after all”.

  7. From the earliest times in their marriage, the man has the distinct impression that his wife is putting a good face on things and is “trying to make it work”, rather than being glad they’re married.

  8. The marriage lasts 11 years, during which the man converts to Catholicism as part of a sincere religious conversion. The last 2 years involve repeated infidelity, drug use, alcohol abuse, etc., on the part of the woman. The man has always been faithful. But after it is clear that the woman has no interest in saving their marriage he files for divorce.

  9. The man is committed to remaining faithful to the Church’s decision regarding an annulment.

So, to summarize the evidence stated above:

A. There was a certain amount of pressure to get married, both from the objective circumstances of thinking she was pregnant, as well as family pressure to do the “right thing”.

B. At the time the marriage was contracted, the Episcopalian man really did not think or understand that he was entering a permanent union.

Would a marriage tribunal be justified in granting an annulment?

Again, for the sake of this discussion, please assume these are ALL the relevant facts.


Based on the information here, I would say yes, the marriage would be invalid. The couple did not marry because they wanted to, they married because they felt they had to. And, the man did not consider the bond permanent from the beginning.

I offer these insights based on a hypothetical situation and only the facts presented. If this is a real life situation disguised as hypothetical (which I suspect it may be), then I must add the caveat that all situations are different, and only a Tribunal can determine the validity of a marriage.



Our diocese has a link with Q&A on annulments…

The question for this annulment is whether they freely understood what their consent to marriage meant. However, I am also giving you another list in regards to marraige in the church.
These are the canonical impediments regarding marriage in the church.Appendix A: Individual Diriment Impediments
*]A.1 Canon 1083 (Lack of age)
*]A.2 Canon 1084 (Impotence)
*]A.3 Canon 1085 (Prior bond or ligamen)
*]A.4 Canon 1086 (Disparity of cult)
*]A.5 Canon 1087 (Sacred orders)
*]A.6 Canon 1088 (Religious profession)
*]A.7 Canon 1089 (Abduction)
*]A.8 Canon 1090 (Crime)
*]A.9 Canon 1091 (Consanguinity)
*]A.10 Canon 1092 (Affinity)
*]A.11 Canon 1093 (Public propriety)
*]A.12 Canon 1094 (Legal adoption)[/LIST]With all discussions of possible annulments, the couple must be civilly divorced already. The party requesting an annulment must speak with the priest in their parish responsible for getting the paper work started.
And finally the marriage tribunal will make the final analysis after all criteria is rendered to their authority.


Interesting situation. Probably grounds for serious consideration. Thinking one is pregnant and marrying for that reason limits free consent. There is an issue of coercion. And if the groom truly did not intend on making it permanent when he married, then that colors things too.


It is a real situation a friend of mine finds himself in. I did not mean to “disguise” it. I was simply trying avoid muddying the discussion by bringing in topics that I’ve already clarified with him.

There is more to the story than what I’ve presented, but it has nothing to do with the validity or invalidity of his first marriage.

After his marriage fell apart, my friend fell away from the Church for a while and got married again. He has 2 children from this second marriage, which ended in divorce, too. He has full custody of the children.

Over the years my friend has learned from his mistakes and has grown in his faith. He has recently reconciled with the Church. I’ve always been impressed with how he takes responsibility for his mistakes.

He has not considered pursuing an annulment until now because he was convinced his first marriage was valid. He has committed to living as a single man for the rest of his life, if that’s what is required. Recently, the thought that he may have to spend the rest of his life alone has become especially difficult to bear.

My advice to him has been that yes, he may have this great cross to bear, but he doesn’t know that for sure, and he should not assume that Jesus wants him to bear that cross until he gets an objective decision regarding the validity of his first marriage (the second one is a no-brainer).

I just wanted to know, based on the facts I’ve presented, whether my understanding of the requirements for validity (i.e., what constitutes a free choice, etc.) is consistent with orthodox Catholic sacramental theology regarding matrimony.


It’s not that he didn’t intend on making it permanent. He did intend to stay with his wife forever. Rather, he didn’t understand that marriage, by its very nature, is permanent, and divorce and remarriage is not an option if things don’t work out.


Even if one of us says it seems you have a case for a decree of nullity, your best bet is to take yourself to a priest or two and see what they have to say.


He really should pursue the declaration of nullity - it will not only clear things up for him, but allow him to live the rest of his life knowing what his options are, and living according to those options - either celibate, or available. But not knowing, and beating himself up over something he doesn’t know or doesn’t understand is no way to live. And I strongly believe this can impact the children if he is not truly happy and accepting of his situation from a totally educated position.

He needs to know. And the only way to know is to go through the process.

I always recommend this book Annulment - The Wedding that Was. It is a fantastic reference, and will help him through the process. It was invaluable to me when I went through it, and I still reference it all the time.



What Lizaanne said. That book helped me as well.


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