Is Pornography a ground for annulment?

I am in counseling now to get better and to heal, my husband is addicted to pornography and more so there are other issues in our marriage . I spoke to a Canon lawyer about my case, he said that our marriage can be annulled based on my husband’s condition that seemed to exist even before our marriage, but I forgot to ask him if pornography is also included. My husband’s addiction existed even before the marriage and I thought it will change but instead it got worse that he blames it on me. Anyhow, I am just curious if it’s included.

I doubt that the use of pornography is itself an impediment to marriage, but any pre-existing addiction can be, especially one which is not known or understood by the other partner.

Maybe not an ‘impediment’, per se, but (under certain conditions) it might certainly preclude ‘consent’.

Since the OP is trying to heal her marriage, nullity isn’t on the table. If, at some point, the marriage fails, then she might consider asking the question; prior to that, however, the question of ‘annulment’ isn’t even a consideration.

The bolded part is key here. Forgive me if you already know this, but it must be said (even again and again) so that no-one is led to believe something that isn’t true: nullity concerns itself with things that were true at the time of the wedding, not something that happened later — what happened later is important, but in a different way: namely, as a visible proof of what had already been going on earlier. This is not a mere technicality but an expression of God’s and the Church’s rejection of divorce while not wanting to hold people to vows that weren’t made freely (e.g. because without sufficient knowledge or without sufficient power to freely make and express their will in the matter, or outright fraud or coercion etc.).

As far as the timing is concerned, your husband’s condition would qualify.

Now the next thing to consider is whether the type and gravity of the issue can make the marriage null.

Generally, the issues that make marriages null tend to be related to the very ‘essence’, core of the marriage. This means not a fancy notion of full perfection (as some Catholics are led to believe) but in fact a very basic standard. The essence of marriage comprises: fidelity (no other men/women), indissolubility (forever, not for as long as it works etc.), openness to children, and — a more difficult one to analyse but still present even in the legalistic disputes and eloborations of lawyers — the good of the other spouse (which is not unimportant but rather difficult to define and translate into specific terms).

I would not be as optimistic as your lawyer about this, and, frankly, if your lawyer really said something to the effect of ‘yeah, sure, can be done’, I’d be worried about the lawyer’s knowledge and skills and attitude. It might be easier to obtain a nullity decree in some courts than others, but such a decree surviving an appeal to Rome would a whole different story.

Perhaps matters would be easier if your husband had concealed his addiction from you in order to trick you into the marriage (canon 1098, fraud), but otherwise it would be extremely different to link it with simulation (canon 1101) or with one of the psychic incapacities from canon 1095 — one would actually need to prove that an addiction to pornography precludes the addict’s capacity for staying faithful to his spouse, or to build a robust construct relating to the good of the spouse (bonum coniugum), which is very difficult to do and would also be very difficult to convince the judges to accept.

Make no mistake: a spouse’s addition to pornography is an awful thing and can wreck a marriage — but whether it can make a marriage null — as in never really contracted — is a different matter.

My semi-educated guess would be that a really controlling addiction, one that really took away the person’s ability to act and think for himself, would stand some chance, but even then it would be very difficult. It would be easier in local courts than in Rome, where it would be really, really difficult.

I’m practically certain that the difficulty of living with a porn addict itself would not be considered a sufficient ground of nullity by Rome.

Get a second opinion from a different lawyer, and make sure the one you ask is not someone who could be described as a liberal type or an airhead. Choose a sober type that sticks to the facts and has a realist bone in his body, who really knows the stuff and doesn’t have his own agendas.

Helpful reading:

Please note that quite a lot of people — including real canon lawyers, even judges, and certainly quite a few of posters here in these forums — operate from some kind of romantic notion that if the union isn’t perfect (or capable of achieving perfection), then it’s invalid. That’s not true; in fact, the opposite is true — the standard for validity is very minimalistic, really not that hard to achieve. Rome (the Roman Rota, i.e. the highest court for marriages) is reluctant to grant or sustain nullity decrees and follows very strict interpretations in psychic-related cases.

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