Help me explain the assumed contradiction

Let me first off state that it is not my intention to post this in such a way that is meant to shed light on some sort of fallibility of the church. My post is sincerely driven by a need to understand my faith and come to peace with some of the issues I am currently dealing with in respects to my faith, the Catholic religion, my mortality and ultimately my eternal salvation.

I realize that I have posted my concerns regarding this issue to some extent in another post but the focus was not the same as it was there. What I am talking about is that I had posted another thread regarding annulment and some of my questions were answered there. I also sought out advice from Fr. where I attend mass.

Ultimately I am still battling for peace on this issue, mostly because of two points, the greater one being that of my eternal salvation, but the other is in not having grown up as a Catholic and therefore don’t have the knowledge some others do of our faith. (Baptized Catholic, family converted to Lutheran at young age, then finally confirmed Catholic about 5 years ago.)

It has been explained to me that I am not living in perpetual sin with my wife, because she and her ex-husband had gone through the process of annulment and was granted one on the basis of lack of due discretion. While this is still hard for to come to terms with, I am certainly praying for peace on the issue. Yes… it has been explained that the Church is the ultimate authority over these matters and to rest assured that if they say her original marriage was invalid, then it had never truly taken place and therefore is null (nullified). Okay…

So, with that out of the way, let me now get to the heart of the matter. If her first “marriage” was performed in the Catholic Church, was blessed by the CC, and both of them had undergone scrutiny to ensure that both indeed were entering into a valid marriage (the standard marriage counseling required by the CC), then:

Either the CC was wrong when they allowed them to be married (did not do the due diligence to ensure that they should be getting married) or they were wrong when they agreed to the annulment (because their marriage was truly valid).

How is it possible that they were right both times?
Are these not mutually exclusive?
To me, someone had to be wrong in one of those instances and if it is the former, then I am indeed living in perpetual sin.

P.S.: I did read the annulment papers and it was clear that my wife was simply entering into marriage just because that is what she was supposed to do and really did not think it was the right thing to do. On top of that, her ex had a completely dysfunctional family to say the least. Her entire family said that she should not be marrying this man. So I can easily see how the annulment decision was reached. I am more able to now to see how God would not want two people to marry (and thus be a valid marriage) if there was no love involved, which there was not. According to my understanding, these “events” or “circumstances” must be present before the marriage, and thus argues for invalidity of the marriage. But as I stated above, I am still struggling with that issue and praying that I come to accept that the CC can make such decisions and that I am not living in sin.

Thank you.


I think you misunderstand the role of the Church in the marriage.

Its primary role is WITNESS. Through its pastors, it also has a secondary, but very important pastoral role (giving advice, maximizing preparedness, etc.).

Its role is never as guarantor to God and the world that the marriage is valid. The only ministers of the sacrament are the couple and God who joins them.

Therefore the Church never declares that any given marriage is valid (though it presumes validity, if it is celebrated in a Catholic Church between Christian spouses).

I hope this helps!

That makes more sense. To be honest, I guess I am one of those who, through my spiritual journey, has tried to understand scripture but without the proper “framework”.

I can certainly see how two drunk people in Vegas who meet and then decide to stroll into a church would not enter into a valid marriage, or if one of the parties knew all along that he (or she) was simply going to “mess around” anyway with other people. And I can see that if two people who did truly enter into marriage with a loving stance, and then years later one of them cheating, this is not grounds for an annulment, and that the marriage should still be valid.

I have been trying to study scripture, because I so often hear that, “how can one be knowledgeable of one’s faith if one does not read the Bible?”, which of course makes sense. But then on the other hand, I hear people say, “don’t read it because all you will do is confuse yourself.”, of which I am the latter.

Like I said, I never went to Catholic school, studied deep into the faith or read scripture, so I am making huge errors along the way as I grow.

Understanding that what the Church declares is authoritative and ultimately derived from God’s word and thus is acceptable, is a very difficult thing for me at the moment. My constructs before were much different, coming from a Protestant background. Even Fr. told me that now that I am growing more deeply in the faith that I am seeing myself for the sinful person I am and this is just part of the process. A painful one yes.

So it make take time for me to come to terms with it, because as we all know, once we die, that’s it, no going back, and we either spend eternity with our Lord Jesus Christ, or we rot in the pits of Hell. So I want to be as holy as a man as I can by loving Jesus as much as I can and removing as much sin from my life as I can, and following and trusting in Him, because the repercussions of misunderstanding God’s Word is eternal.

I think you’re doing an awesome job. To take the responsibility to educate one’s conscience more fully is one that most people neglect in deference to the cares of the world. It leads to a lot of sin. One way to form your conscience is to ask questions on these forums. Another is to keep an open mind. Another is to trust in God and his Church even when something doesn’t make sense. I’d say you’re nailing these 100% - again, that’s awesome! Even if you get it wrong, the desire to please God is very commendable. Thanks for sharing.

You will not find that the Church ever condemned reading the Scriptures, if it did it would utterly negate Scriptures themselves.
Now it is also important to understand that sometimes it is very hard to fully comprehend the Scriptures. They are the word of God and sometimes they convey multiple messages that one needs to discern.
Remember this passage from the Acts of the Apostles in New Testament to illustrate the point:

Acts Chapter 8
8:27 And rising up, he went. And behold, an Ethiopian man, a eunuch, powerful under Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasures, had arrived in Jerusalem to worship.
8:28 And while returning, he was sitting upon his chariot and reading from the prophet Isaiah.
8:29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Draw near and join yourself to this chariot.”
8:30 And Philip, hurrying, heard him reading from the prophet Isaiah, and he said, “Do you think that you understand what you are reading?”
8:31 And he said, “But how can I, unless someone will have revealed it to me?” And he asked Philip to climb up and sit with him.
8:32 Now the place in Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter. And like a lamb silent before his shearer, so he opened not his mouth.
8:33 He endured his judgment with humility. Who of his generation shall describe how his life was taken away from the earth?”
8:34 Then the eunuch responded to Philip, saying: “I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this? About himself, or about someone else?”
8:35 Then Philip, opening his mouth and beginning from this Scripture, evangelized Jesus to him.
8:36 And while they were going along the way, they arrived at a certain water source. And the eunuch said: “There is water. What would prevent me from being baptized?”
8:37 Then Philip said, “If you believe from your whole heart, it is permitted.” And he responded by saying, “I believe the Son of God to be Jesus the Christ.”
8:38 And he ordered the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch descended into the water. And he baptized him.
8:39 And when they had ascended from the water, the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him anymore. Then he went on his way, rejoicing.
8:40 Now Philip was found in Azotus. And continuing on, he evangelized all the cities, until he arrived in Caesarea.

A couple of notes here, the eunuc man was not an illiterate, in fact we are told he is a powerfull man overseeyer of the kingdom’s treasure “the secretary of the treasury”.

If this learned man needed help in understanding an Old Testament passage is it possible that we also need some guidance in doing the same?

Who should we turn to in order to better understand the Scriptures?
A self appointed interpreter or perhaps better to ask the successors of Philip?
Would Jesus leave us without help in understanding the Scriptures like HE gave the eunuc?

Hope you ponder on this points and come to the conclusion that HE left us THE Church, as the Pillar and foundation of our faith that we may fully understand the Scriptures and grow in our path to holiness.

I think one thing that could help you understand scripture is to get the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible. It has helped me tremendously.

Peace, Mat

I think you don’t understand one thing–God is not up there waiting to punish you for making a mistake because of your lack of knowledge. Some things are objectively wrong and sinful, but if you truly are in a learning stage (as we all are) and do not truly understand that what you have done is sinful, you do not carry the guilt of sin. You cannot accidentally send yourself to hell. You have to purposely reject God and His mercy.

Even if your marriage was not valid, and you were unaware of it, you would not be living in a state of perpetual sin and be punished for it. Only if you became aware of it and continued to live in that state would you be guilty of sinning. I think you need to read the Catechism on this, and talk to your priest. It sounds to me that you may have a touch of scrupulosity about sinning (although only you know for sure, I am just going by your words) and could use some spiritual direction about this.

NO one is expected to fully grasp everything about our faith. Consciences take years to be informed and developed. Faith grows and matures. God is patient. I have found for myself that keeping my mind and eyes on Jesus Christ and His mercy, love, and forgiveness rather than allowing myself to experience anxiety about my sins and imperfections helps tremendously. This does not deny sin, but it keeps it in it’s proper perspective. It does not have to overwhelm me. And confessing them allows me to accept God’s forgiveness and grow away from them.

You cannot change yourself. The Holy Spirit dwells in your soul, and it is He who will transform you and show you the way. He will lead you in your faith journey. Allow that to happen. The more you surrender to God who dwells in you, the more peace you will have.
Cultivate an awareness of the Holy Spirit in your life–pray every day for Him to transform you. Relax and enjoy your relationship with your Creator. God does not want us to be anxious.

Thanks CB. I started to realize that I should accept the fact that the council’s decision to declare her previous marriage null because if they have made countless other decisions regarding this matter with the same result, then they would also be damning many others to Hell because they were wrong. And I started to think how could God do this? And it didn’t seem right. I believe Christ is our Savior, the Way, Truth, the Life. How could I believe this and be condemned to Hell because of some errant decision made by a bunch of fallible men? It didn’t seem right to me. I prayed, because I could not work, drive, sleep. My eternal salvation rested upon an answer to this concern.

If they are inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the HS can’t be wrong, then their decisions were guided by Him and thus it can’t be wrong. If it can’t be wrong, then I am not in a state of sin. I must believe that what the Church teaches is what God teaches and cannot be wrong. So thus, I can’t be sinning because it is not sinful to be with my wife based on the points above. God wouldn’t damn me to Hell over this technicality. If He did, then all of the rest of the Church would also have to be wrong, because if it were wrong on this, how could it be right on anything?

And to your point that I am scrupulous. Yes. But this didn’t develop until I started to develop a longing for a deeper understanding of my faith. As that developed, (as stated), I realized how sinful I truly was, and how this hurts Jesus. As I went from the Protestant understanding (believe in Christ as Savior and be saved) to much more. But at the same time, not knowing the Catholic faith very well, and with really no one to guide me through the speed bumps, I have taken much of it way too far and off into left field I think. All the “rules” and such.

But yes, I do worry that while I have eliminated many sinful actions, my thoughts are where the devil knows he can manipulate me. I still don’t understand if I am truly lusting. (as you know… if you lust in your heart, you have committed adultery)… I ask myself, okay, so I saw a pretty woman, then looked away in order to not sin, but then looked again, was that lust? There are hundreds of scenarios in my head that I go through that I think, yup, that was lust, but don’t know if they really were.

I’ve prayed that this too shall pass and I will become more holy and these thoughts will eventually disappear, and that I will truly know if I have committed “thought lust”.

But I am scrupulous in other areas too and I attribute that to being new to this phase of my spiritual journey. Above all, I cry tears of joy knowing that in Christ all things are possible, and that if I trust Him above all else, he will prevail and I will be with Him in heaven because He died to save my soul.

I will pray for you. Scrupulosity is a great burden and is spiritual bondage. Becoming more aware of your sins as you grow in Christ is normal in Christian growth, but when it gets to the point of being scrupulous and placing a burden on your spiritual life, and causing you to doubt and become obsessive, it needs addressed. You probably know this. Please find a spiritual director or confessor who can guide you in this before it takes over your life.

I have a great deal of concern for scrupulous people because I have a 12 year old granddaughter who is ADHD and is developing obsessions and scruples, and it is so depressing to see how the poor thing worries so over sin and going to hell and getting fat. It scares me. She is receiving medical treatment for this and her parents are very good with her both spiritually and mentally, and she is very close to the Church and God, but it is painful to watch. Please pray for her. God bless you.

4. Declaration of Nullity
The declaration of nullity must be carefully distinguished from divorce proper. It can be called divorce only in a very improper sense, because it presupposes that there is and has been no marriage.

When I am trying to understand Catholic Moral Theology I look up the subject in the Catholic Encyclopedia. The section quoted above is from a discussion on ‘Divorce (in Moral Theology)’ at It may not be what many Catholics want to hear.

I think bbentrup hit the nail on the head. The Church doesn’t declare validity of marriage. It only presumes validity.

However, individual priests are supposed to question the couple to minimize the chances of an invalid marriage. In practice, it’s often neglected which is why there are so many annulments. This has become something of a scandal. It’s one possible area that the synod on the family might address soon.

Just for the record, I think when you refer to the “successors of Philip” you mean the successors to the apostles, who would be the bishops. But the Philip in this passage is not the apostle Philip, but the deacon Philip.

I don’t know if that matters, but just thought I would clear up any misunderstanding.

The Church does not undertake a thorough examination of the circumstances and intent and capacity of people who come to it seeking marriage. It is a largely superficial process that aside from some readily confirmable facts and observations, accepts the intent as expressed to the priest. This is much the same with all the Sacraments. For example, the priest may issue an absolution, but if the heart of the penitent is not genuine, or there is not contrition and commitment to not sin, then the sins are not forgiven.

You may not like this, but it is how it is. A marriage ceremony may take place in a Catholic Church, with a Priest officiating, when, in fact, no genuine marriage takes place.

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