Is Catholic annulment really just reverse engineering of secular divorce?

Typically in secular or some Protestant marriages, if a spouse wants to leave, or has an affair, they get a divorce. The justification seems to be crime and punishment: adultery is a crime, divorce is the consequence.

Although Catholic annulment seems to be very similar, if not more thorough: if a spouse has wants to leave, the Church says that spouse was never capable of staying. Is that a fair assessment of annulment in practice?

The circumstances and consequences seem to be the exact same. Do we just have a fancy process and word for it?

Is practically every American Catholic marriage annullable since most if not all Americans likely do not have a proper understanding of marriage?

How do we distinguish between a person who had full knowledge of marriage but is freely choosing to abandon their wedding vows and a person who had insufficient knowledge of marriage? We can’t read their minds. Couldn’t they and their friends and family simply claim they didn’t know and we’d have to believe them?

No. It isn’t. At all.

No.

“Insufficient knowledge of marriage” isn’t grounds for nullity.

God can.

It sounds like you aren’t familiar with Church teaching on nullity, grounds for nullity, or the nullity process.

Is it *possible *for someone to concoct an elaborate fraud on the tribunal? Yes. Is it likely? No. It would take both parties colluding together with all their friends and family to do that. It’s very remote. Most who would go to such elaborate means would likely not pursue a decree at all. They would simply marry secularly.

John,

I think I’d disagree with your analysis both of Protestant justification of divorce and Catholic understanding of annulment!

The justification I see most often cited is an interpretation of Matthew 19:9. Many Protestant translations of the Bible render Jesus’ words as “no divorce except for adultery.” Under this interpretation, then, divorce is allowable not in a “crime and punishment” context, but rather, as a direct application of Jesus’ words.

Although Catholic annulment seems to be very similar, if not more thorough: if a spouse has wants to leave, the Church says that spouse was never capable of staying. Is that a fair assessment of annulment in practice?

No. Being “capable of staying” isn’t one of the grounds under which a nullity is possible. From the theological perspective, Catholics would look to Matthew 19:9 also, but would view it through a different interpretative lens. We would say that, in that context, Jesus meant “unlawful marriage.” In fact, that seems a rather common-sense way to look at it. If I told you that you aren’t permitted to do something whatsoever – except for one exception – well, it would start looking like the Monty Python “Spanish Inquisition” sketch, and its enumeration of exceptions. On the other hand, if Jesus is saying “this is unacceptable – unless it never really took effect in the first place”, that would make more sense, it would seem.

Therefore, the Catholic stance on nullity is that it is a recognition that the marriage was never valid in the first place. Canon law lists the reasons under which this might occur. “Incapable of staying together” isn’t one of these.

(One of the potential grounds, however, is “incapacity to assume the essential obligations of marriage.” This, however, speaks to a grave psychological or psychiatric condition, and applies in very few cases.)

Is practically every American Catholic marriage annullable since most if not all Americans likely do not have a proper understanding of marriage?

No. One potential ground for nullity is “ignorance of the societal nature of marriage.” This means, simply, that the person had no idea whatsoever of what marriage entails. It would only apply in extreme cases, usually involving a particular and absolute naivete.

How do we distinguish between a person who had full knowledge of marriage but is freely choosing to abandon their wedding vows and a person who had insufficient knowledge of marriage?

That distinction isn’t necessary, since “insufficient knowledge of marriage” isn’t really one of the grounds.

Couldn’t they and their friends and family simply claim they didn’t know and we’d have to believe them?

Not really. The counter-claim would come from the marriage paperwork, in which the priest or deacon who met with the couple discusses all these issues and interviews them, asking precisely these sorts of questions, and then has the persons sign the document, affirming their responses.

Then enlighten me. Thus the point of this thread.

Valid Catholic marriage:

(4) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; (5) they intend the good of each other
usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/annulment/

How is possible to determine those intentions? Wouldn’t it be reasonable for someone who doesn’t want to be married anymore conclude that they didn’t have the intention in the first place? If they want to leave their valid marriage and remarry validly in the Church, this is how.

Is it *possible *for someone to concoct an elaborate fraud on the tribunal? Yes. Is it likely? No. It would take both parties colluding together with all their friends and family to do that. It’s very remote. Most who would go to such elaborate means would likely not pursue a decree at all. They would simply marry secularly.

It’s really not that elaborate. One spouse wants to leave and remarry in the Church, thus says they never intended to be married. The other spouse disagrees. Families and friends could choose different sides. How does the tribunal decide?

God can.

Not the question. If you don’t want to answer, just let someone else do it.

There’s practically no difference. Maybe I used poor wording: you can say “action-consequence”. The adultery is the action, the divorce and dissolution of the marriage is the consequence. Before the adultery they were married, after the adultery (if they choose) their marriage has ended.

archatl.com/offices/metropolitan-tribunal/grounds-of-marriage-nullity
Grounds of Marriage Nullity:

  • Insufficient Use of Reason
  • Grave Lack of Discretion of Judgment
  • Ignorance of the Societal Nature of Marriage
  • Ignorance of the Sexual Nature of Marriage
  • Error About a Quality of a Person
  • Fraud or Deceit (act of deception)
  • Error Concerning the Unity of Marriage…

Etc…
/

All if not most of these seem absolutely impossible to determine. **Every validly married spouse could validly make these these claims, even truthfully. **

Not really. The counter-claim would come from the marriage paperwork, in which the priest or deacon who met with the couple discusses all these issues and interviews them, asking precisely these sorts of questions, and then has the persons sign the document, affirming their responses.

This doesn’t make it any clearer: just as they could have not fully understood their vows, they could have easily not fully understood the paper they are signing. Anyone can claim that they did not sufficiently understand something before they did it.

This all just seems to make the point further: Catholic annulment is practically Protestant divorce. We just have a convoluted definition for it that hopefully keeps married couples together more (although not working well since our divorce rate is higher than Protestants and equal to the general population).

No, they can’t.

Because you are reading words but not understanding them in context of the law of the Church. These words have a specific meaning.

Insufficient use of reason applies to profound mental retardation, insanity, and other types mental illness.

It is not a matter of claiming “I didn’t understand”. This refers to an **inability **to use reason. A mental state so profound the person cannot manifest consent.

Annulments are not an easy process.It takes time q and is very lengthy.I know of a few people from my parish,that while going through the RCIA process,their conversions were stalled because the annulments hadn’t gone through in time.

In practice, “I didn’t understand” seems to be the most common ground for divorce in American Catholics. They are probably not all retarded or insane. Please enlighten how common grounds are interpreted if you can, or common types of mental illness experienced by annulled Catholics.

You signed the documents. They had been explained to you. You were not mentally incapable of comprehending the meaning and intent of the documents. You have no case. To just say “I didn’t know what I was doing” does not change that.

If you enlisted in the Army could you get out just by saying you didn’t know what you were doing? If you bought a house or a car and signed a contract to pay by instalments could you get the contract annulled merely by saying you didn’t know what you were doing? Even with such contracts it takes more than your claim. You need to convince a court that it’s true, and that takes evidence.
In the context of Catholic marriage it takes much more. You would have to show you were in fact* mentally incapable of giving consent*.

Is it *possible *for someone to concoct an elaborate fraud on the tribunal? Yes. Is it likely? No. It would take both parties colluding together with all their friends and family to do that. It’s very remote. Most who would go to such elaborate means would likely not pursue a decree at all. They would simply marry secularly.

The spouse making the claim would have to prove they were incapable of giving consent at the time, not merely that they didn’t intend to do so.
The spouse making the claim would have to refute the documents they signed.
The tribunal decides according to Canon Law. This is not ‘he said, she said’. This is: do you have convincing evidence that you were at the time so mentally ill that you were not psychologically capable of giving consent?
‘I didn’t mean it’ is not going to get you anywhere.
‘I didn’t know it would be so hard’ is not going to get you anywhere.
‘I wish I hadn’t’ is not going to get you anywhere.
‘Look at all my relatives who say I should be allowed to get the annulment’ is not going to get you anywhere.

Grounds for divorce in an American secular court are not grounds for annulment in Catholic Canon Law.

As for ‘mental illness experienced by annulled Catholics’: your question seems to assume that ;mental illness’ is the only valid grounds for annulment and therefore all ‘annulled Catholics’ must have gotten their anullments on the grounds of mental illness. This is not the case.

Please provide a source for this claim.

Then they are making a case based on some other grounds, not insufficient use of reason. Canon 1095.1 is specific.

Proving such grounds requires examination by a psychologist/psychiatrist, professional evaluation, testimony by the professional, submission of records, etc. This canon deals with profound mental retardation, personality disorders, mental illness, and mental impairment. Not what you are claiming.

The mental impairment must be severe and pervasive.

I would suggest you get the Commentary on the Code of Canon Law or talk to a canon lawyer, because there is a whole body of ecclesial jurisprudence behind this as well as the historical canons of the Church.

If you can, please provide some common examples for grounds of annulment and specifically how they are determined (preferably not a book I have to buy).

One of the best resources I can suggest is indeed a book. It’s called Annulment: The Wedding That Was by Michael Smith Foster.

You can look for it on inter library loan. You don’t necessarily have to buy it.

I hope there is a book someone can recommend you.

If you know anyone with a personal interest in the topic, I would recommend them to a priest. Particularly look for one familiar with the topic, but it can be asked at the local parish first. I imagine that no two cases are the same. And most of us are simple laity, and certainly not canon lawyers.

Based on the annulled Catholics I’ve talked to and read about.

Then they are making a case based on some other grounds, not insufficient use of reason. Canon 1095.1 is specific.

Proving such grounds requires examination by a psychologist/psychiatrist, professional evaluation, testimony by the professional, submission of records, etc. This canon deals with profound mental retardation, personality disorders, mental illness, and mental impairment. Not what you are claiming.

The mental impairment must be severe and pervasive.

Why would you need a mental health professional to prove any of these grounds??

archatl.com/offices/metropolitan-tribunal/grounds-of-marriage-nullity/
Grounds of Marriage Nullity:

  • Insufficient Use of Reason
  • Grave Lack of Discretion of Judgment
  • Ignorance of the Societal Nature of Marriage
  • Ignorance of the Sexual Nature of Marriage
  • Error About a Quality of a Person
  • Fraud or Deceit (act of deception)
  • Error Concerning the Unity of Marriage…

and on and on…

I would suggest you get the Commentary on the Code of Canon Law or talk to a canon lawyer, because there is a whole body of ecclesial jurisprudence behind this as well as the historical canons of the Church.

Got anything that’s not in a book I have to buy? This info should be fairly easy to find but isn’t.

You can see why most people think Catholic Annulments = Catholic Divorce: the laity do not understand the annulment process in any depth. It might also be a reason why many Catholics divorce and don’t bother with annulment!

As online laity we should be able to explain the annulment process in some detail. I’ll try to find it in the abundance of spare time I have :rotfl: I’m surprised we have so many Catholic topics explained and defended in great detail online except this one.

No.

That is not a source sufficient to say it is the “most common grounds”.

Because you do. The grounds are that you lack the use of reason and as everyone here has already told you-- what the Church means by that is that you are insane, have mental retardation, a brain injury, a mental illness, a personality disorder, etc.

This requires evaluation by a professional. You do not file a petition for a decree of nullity on these grounds and simply say “I am mentally ill”. You have to prove it. You are under the mistaken impression that people can write whatever they want and the tribunal just stamps it approved. No, not so. Many cases require professional evaluation and testimony of a psychologist, therapist, counselor, etc.

It’s not the ABCs. It’s a complex legal topic. It requires a really thorough background.

If you refuse to accept the Church’s own definition of “insufficient use of reason” I am not sure what good a book would do you anyway.

You are trying to make the canonical grounds for nullity into something they aren’t. Your view is that someone just says “I didn’t understand” and “poof” they have an annulment.

In reality, using canon 1095 requires that a person have an actual mental disease or defect that makes them INCAPABLE of giving consent. And that underlying condition has to be proven by testimony, most times by testimony of professionals in the psychology field.

Your time is precious, but ours is apparently not.

I’ve done the research. I’ve read books. I’ve taken a class at my diocese. I’ve put in the time. Meanwhile, you want me to cliff note everything for you without you having to invest time and energy into understanding.

No thank you. My time is valuable too.

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