Just can't shake the feeling that annulment = Catholic divorce


#1

I know there is a topic titled “Annulments” that I have posted in before, but that really does seem to be mostly to support those going through the annulment process. So perhaps this topic will wind up moved to some other forum, but my issue really isn’t with the theology and canon law aspects of this. I understand that there are obvious examples of invalid marriage such as one “spouse” being already married, one “spouse” who went into marriage never intending to be faithful, a “spouse” hiding that they have same-sex attractions, etc.

However, it does seem to me that the average Catholic who applies for a Decree of Nullity really doesn’t care about whether their marriage is trully null, but does so with an attitude pretty similar to when they filed for a civil divorce, that the process is merely paperwork required in order to remarry in the Catholic church. Indeed, a wish to remarry seems to be the main reason people apply for annulment, often already having a prospective marriage partner in mind for marriage attempt #2 (or even #3, #4, etc). It seems that posters who report their marriage are headed for divorce in CAF are encouraged to apply for annulment as a matter of course “since you never know if you’ll meet someone else in a couple years and wouldn’t you want to know that you’re free to marry that person?” It also seems many people see no moral problem with dating a civilly divorced Catholic, I guess as long as no sexual activity occurs, and that the situation of “waiting for an annulment” to set a marriage date is extremely common and not seen as scandalous at all. It also seems most who apply for annulment expect to get one, almost have an entitlement mentality about it, and would be shocked and surprised if it didn’t come through.

It also seems scandalous to me that it is common knowledge that annulments are easy to get in some locations and hard to get in others, that even on CAF people are encouraged to “tribunal shop” (even though “priest shopping” is discouraged for other family issues such as contraception).

Or is the true scandal that it is too easy to have a Catholic wedding that does not result in a valid marriage? Since if Catholics have an entitlement mentality about annulment, that is probably even more so for weddings. Even if one priest refuses to marry a couple because he honestly thinks their marriage attempt will be invalid, it’s easy to go find another priest that will. I get the feeling that many Catholics enter marriage knowing there is a good chance it will end in divorce and annulment, not death. They see the process as merely an attempt at a valid marriage that may or may not be successful. Isn’t that pretty close to the way the secular world sees marriage?

I just can’t shake the feeling that while annulment is justifiable on a theoretical level, on a practical level, the fact that annulment is so easy to get results in a modern Catholic culture where marriage is NOT “until death do us part”, and with marriages where the bride and groom know there is that escape hatch available. It also seems very cynically convenient that if a couple gets married not understanding the supposed permanent nature of marriage, that by itself will make the marriage null. I wonder how many couples get married thinking “well we can always get a divorce and apply for annulment if it doesn’t work out”. If that turns out to be most couples, it seems that no matter how Catholic apologists justify it, annulment for all practical purposes is “Catholic divorce”.


#2

I think the last paragraph sums it up pretty well. We complain that it’s too easy to get a divorce these days, but based upon some stories about marriages here on CAF, I think you may have hit the nail on the head with your comment about it being too easy to get married in the church. As one priest puts it, “It took me six years to get her (the church) to say “Yes.” Who’s job is harder [the married couple] or mine? Your’s is, hands down. But who has the tougher preparation?”

I will grant you that “Catholic Divorce” is more about attitude rather than reality and for many, it’s only to allow them to get married again. However, for some, it’s a way to get closure on a very painful part of their life.

This analogy is not much different in my opinion than the discussion on whether or not NFP is Catholic Contraception. At some point, we need to stop trying to judge others on what we think is in their hearts and leave that to Christ.


#3

I am sorry but I have only seen one or two people on here ever suggest "Tribunal Shopping." I also am just as scandalized by that when I see that and I have seen others members jump on that. What I have seen that you may be confusing is the appeals process mentioned - that is not Tribunal Shopping that is appealing - I have seen refiling on different grounds. Yes, you can do that if you did not file correctly or did not have all of the information.

I am sorry but I am one of those people that is using it correctly - I am going through a divorce based on abuse, a phsychological condition that was never disclosed, my husband being involved in the occult, him cheating on me while we were going through Pre-Cana and after we were married which makes for a defect of consent as he never meant to be faithful, and him being drunk when he took his vows. I was married for a year and a half. It will take me at least that long to get the anullment. I am NOT dating - nor will I unless I get the anullment. BTW- his ex-wife is even supplying a statement on my behalf because she did not even know we were engaged or married when he was sending her naked pics of himself. So do not tell me that it is a Catholic divorce when I may die single due to his lies because he wanted my money to start his business.

Did you ever stop and think for a minute that some of the reason that people on CAF worded the advice get your anullment now in case you meet someone later - was to meet someone where they were at in their faith journey so that they could experience that healing and at least be released from the adultery part of their dating that they were already doing and would not be talked out of before they got themselves into worse trouble. Also at that point the tribunal would have been in a better position as trained clergy and pastoral associates to explain what their status in the world was at that point in person and not on the internet.

Maybe it would be better if you asked each of these people when they made these comments why they would say them instead of opening insulting threads such as this one.


#4

I think the problem is with young people in our culture who think along the lines of “fast food” for everything. Instant this, and instant that. They jump through whatever hoops they think they need to to get whatever desired results they think they want. Many go into marriage without a CLUE what it entails.

An annulment, remember is not a divorce. The Church won’t grant an annulment unless the couple is divorced already. But, all an annulment says is that the Sacrament of Marriage never really took place, based on the specifics at the time of their marriage with regard to quality of consent and ability of both parties to live a sacramental married life. There could be other considerations, but those are the main two.


#5

If you lived with someone, then broke up, would it also be divorce? No, because there never was a marriage, right? That's what the annulment process attempts to determine. In spite of all the trappings of a Church wedding, it is the two souls who enter into the Sacrament. The Sacrament requires truthfulness on the part of both participants for them to be joined as one flesh. It one is unwilling, or untruthful in those vows, there is no marriage, in spite of the physical appearance and the ceremony. But, neither is there sin on the part of the other, since they lived in good faith that the marriage was valid. We must resist the natural temptation to complicate things.

American annulments are high because the level of 'non-marriage marriages' is high. The civil divorce rate likely parallels the Church annulment rate simply because our culture is one that produces immaturity and self-centeredness - which is inconsistent with and opposed to Sacramental marriage.


#6

When you look at some of us who have got annulments, are divorced, or in miserable, depressing marriages, you might think that annulments aren’t given out enough!

Your post strikes me as borderline arrogant.


#7

I have read your posts before, and your case is not what I was referring to at all. When posters come on CAF and explain specifically why they believe their marriage was not valid, then I wouldn’t dare question that. I am speaking about the general state of marriage, civil divorce, and annulment in the Church (well, the US Church) today.

Did you ever stop and think for a minute that some of the reason that people on CAF worded the advice get your anullment now in case you meet someone later - was to meet someone where they were at in their faith journey so that they could experience that healing and at least be released from the adultery part of their dating that they were already doing and would not be talked out of before they got themselves into worse trouble.

I really don’t remember reading this advise given to people who were divorced (or separated) and already dating. I am talking about advice given to people who are still in the process of divorce, or even trying to decide whether they should file for divorce or not. Such topics usually get multiple replies advising the OP that if he or she files for divorce, the next step should be to talk to a priest about getting an annulment too. Many such posters state that they do NOT want to get married again and then get the “well you never know, you could meet someone” response. I know there are practical reasons the Church requires a civil divorce to be complete before the annulment process starts, but it does seem to contribute to the mindset that divorce and annulment not only could but should go hand-in-hand.

Maybe it would be better if you asked each of these people when they made these comments why they would say them instead of opening insulting threads such as this one.

I did not mean to insult anyone. However, the annulment issue is something that I really have had a problem accepting. There just seems to be something…well, not quite corrupt, but very legalistic about it, it reminds me of criminal defense lawyers getting someone off based on some legal technicality. It almost seems that the Church has come to accept annulment as a “back door” way to accept divorce, and hence the impermanence of marriage, as a reality, without having to say that they’re changing doctrine. Which makes me doubt the doctrine to begin with.

I actually don’t have this problem with NFP, though newbetx brought it up. I can see a definite difference between NFP and ABC. However, in the case of NFP, all personal testimonies I have read indicate that the difference is quite apparent in practice, not just in theory. That is is very difficult, almost impossible to practice NFP with a contraceptive mentality.

However, in the case of annulment, while I have read many personal testimonies of cases where there does seem to be a serious case for annulment (sometimes even secular annulment), I have also read, and seen in RL, of many people who see annulment as just a legal concept, a technicality, etc. They don’t really seem to believe it as a concept, but they see it as a convenient means to another end, such as marrying someone else, or being eligible to take Communion.


#8

Just can't shake the feeling that annulment = Catholic divorce

Well then, I guess you just need to work on that don't you. Because you are very wrong, and need to educate yourself and truly understand the process and intent of the Tribunal.

~Liza


#9

I’m sorry you had this experience, and it certainly sounds like you are using it correctly. However, the problem with annulments in general is not the annulment but the wedding. It is scandalous that you, with all of the reasons that you have for an annulment, ever got married to that man in the Church at all. Like divorce, the best way to ensure that the number of annulments decreases is to be a lot more careful about the weddings. Unfortunately there are gifted liars and cheats out there, so it can’t always be helped.

It is no insult to you to say that some people treat annulment as “Catholic Divorce.” Not everyone who tries to get an annulment is doing so with grounds as good as yours. Tribunal shopping, regardless of its discussion on this forum, is something that does happen. I believe that it used to be a lot worse, and there was a time when of 50,000 annulments granted annually worldwide, 40,000 of them were happening in the US. A person could be forgiven for thinking that the only difference between some annulments and divorce is that you have to pre-date the “irreconcilable differences” to the day of the wedding. However, I believe it has improved noticeably since then.

The fact that you indicate that you may “die single” depending on the outcome of the annulment process indicates that you have a very correct understanding of the process and what it means. That is a great blessing from God. For me, I was married and divorced during the time I was away from the Church, and when I returned (not understanding anything about a “Declaration of Absence of Form” which is what I eventually got), I knew that it was possible that by returning to the Church I was putting myself in a position where I might never be allowed to marry again. It was extremely painful, but I had to trust God, just as you do. In the unlikely (given the reasons you stated) event that your petition for a declaration of nullity is denied, one thing I can tell you for certain sure–God loves you more than anyone, and knows what is best for you better than anyone (including you) and he will use whatever circumstances happen in your life to help you on the road to eternal joy in Heaven, beside which the pains of this life will shrink to nothing, since even remembered pain becomes joy in His presence.

However, some people are not blessed with the correct understanding of Catholic marriage, and do in fact do things like date and become engaged, with the wedding waiting only on “when” the annulment comes through. Then if the declaration of nullity is not issued, they just go and get married in a courthouse or a Protestant church or something, sometimes leaving the Church for decades, and sometimes continuing to receive the sacraments while committing adultery with their current legal “spouse.” If people had a more real understanding that when they left their spouse, it was with the distinct possibility that they were committing themselves to life-long celibacy, they might be more careful before deciding to divorce.

If there are a lot of people who are giving the advice that people should “get an annulment” in case they meet someone, that is bad advice. They should be advising people to see if it is possible that their marriage was invalid, by investigating the possibility of getting an annulment. The verbal shorthand of just saying “get an annulment” is very dangerous because it implies that it is all just “ask and have.”

To the OP, part of the problem from what you see may be that kind people want to encourage others to hope for an outcome that allows them to be reconciled with the Church and receive the sacraments, without having to leave a current “spouse.” It is unfortunate from the standpoint of any unmarried people who may be reading it, and from the standpoint of any people reading it who are in troubled but valid marriages.

I knew one woman who was left by her husband of 10 years and the painful annulment process (to see whether his unwanted desertion meant that the rest of her life would have to be spent unmarried), took almost 5 years. During which time, of course, he had remarried civilly and didn’t much care about the outcome. She knew the whole time that it was very possible that the answer would come back “no.” It can be heartbreaking.

On the other side, it can be heartbreaking when a spouse, after say 25 years of marriage and a number of children, successfully gets an annulment, meaning that the majority of the other spouse’s life, and the entire lives of the children, have been lived with the major incorrect belief that the two spouses were actually married.

Nope. No matter how many people think the world is flat, it is still round. The number of people thinking the world is going to end tomorrow will not affect whether the world ends. Likewise, the number of people who get married while lying to the priest about their understanding of marriage and expecting an annulment as a matter of course, does not affect the truth of what a declaration of nullity is, or of what sacramental marriage is.

–Jen


#10

[quote="ToeInTheWater, post:1, topic:216940"]
If that turns out to be most couples, it seems that no matter how Catholic apologists justify it, annulment for all practical purposes is "Catholic divorce".

[/quote]

For what it's worth:

The Church doen't give or grant annulments. All it can do is declare a nullity exists.

And my question to you is: How would you handle annullments in a culture of killing?

Just curious.


#11

I highly recommend you get the book Annulment: The Wedding That Was by Michael Smith Foster to help you understand this topic.

An internet forum can only get you so far in trying to understand a topic, with the tendency to wander all over the place, and the high probability of inaccurate information from random people.


#12

[quote="1ke, post:11, topic:216940"]
I highly recommend you get the book Annulment: The Wedding That Was by Michael Smith Foster to help you understand this topic.

An internet forum can only get you so far in trying to understand a topic, with the tendency to wander all over the place, and the high probability of inaccurate information from random people.

[/quote]

Does that book have statistics? b/c I would wonder 1) what % of practicing Catholics are married in the Church, 2) what % of them get divorced (I've heard 50% is too simplistic), and then 3) what % apply for annulments and get them, and on what grounds. I don't feel I have enough information to understand this discussion.


#13

Actually, Catholics have a 21% divorce rate (lower than average). Catholic couples who use only NFP and not ABC have an even lower divorce rate. Annulments and divorces would be the same number, possibly the divorce rate slightly higher than annulments due to 1) couples who choose a civil divorce but still remain validly married in the Church, or 2) annulments not being granted.

Perhaps the pre-marital workshops should be longer, adding more counselling to see if marriage is the right decision (based on love rather than lust or pregnancy or some other factor where they feel like they have to get married).


#14

Well, I don’t know a single person who found the annulment process a cake walk and easy to get. I went through the process and found it much more distressful than the actual divorce I was forced into. I even thought about suicide at one point because the process is so painful and I felt so powerless.

I do know a lot of Catholics who in fact have been so turned off by the annulment process that they feel the Catholic Church really has no place for them, and so have gone off to other non-Catholic churches once their decree of nullity was granted. Sad, yes, but true.

I know other Catholics who will not even bother with an annulment because they don’t want to go through the horrific grief of recalling the marriage break down yet again.

Really, the question should be: why is divorce so easy to get, particularly no-fault divorce? Many Catholics (and non-Catholics) are abandoned by their spouses, so who can blame them if they decide to go through the annulment process to see if there is any hope of companionship in the future?

Being divorced can mean being lonely, especially in a world where most people have companions to share their time with. Being divorced is financially draining, especially if there are children to raise and only one income to do it on. I can see why economics would force some people to look for a companion to help defray the costs. In the good old days when spouses would die, most people would waste NO time in getting a new spouse because of economics.

Lastly, in our youth-obsessed and sex-obsessed culture, I see many adults who have never matured and lack the necessary personal skills to stay married for life. Hence, the high number of annulled marriages.

Getting that decree of nullity is not a card to freedom. Quite often, there are conditions put on the decree that require a parish priest’s approval before nuptials can go ahead.

Btw, I am divorced, annulled and NOT looking to get married any time soon, let alone date anyone. I don’t want to risk being put through the annulment process again.:rolleyes:


#15

I really don't remember reading this advise given to people who were divorced (or separated) and already dating. I am talking about advice given to people who are still in the process of divorce, or even trying to decide whether they should file for divorce or not. Such topics usually get multiple replies advising the OP that if he or she files for divorce, the next step should be to talk to a priest about getting an annulment too. Many such posters state that they do NOT want to get married again and then get the "well you never know, you could meet someone" response. I know there are practical reasons the Church requires a civil divorce to be complete before the annulment process starts, but it does seem to contribute to the mindset that divorce and annulment not only could but should go hand-in-hand.

Yes these things should go hand in hand. Because you know what years down the line when you are lonely and you do meet someone and those hormones kick in and you begin to wonder if you did have a valid marriage or not is not the time to start the process. I believe that is what they call an occasion of sin - better to know and be done with it once and for all then live your life one foot in and one foot out. Now which sounds like a more positive way to put it. You might me someone down the line or better to live one foot in and foot out.

I'm sorry you had this experience, and it certainly sounds like you are using it correctly. However, the problem with annulments in general is not the annulment but the wedding. It is scandalous that you, with all of the reasons that you have for an annulment, ever got married to that man in the Church at all. Like divorce, the best way to ensure that the number of annulments decreases is to be a lot more careful about the weddings. Unfortunately there are gifted liars and cheats out there, so it can't always be helped.

I don't know what you think I have been through but I went through over a year of Pre-Cana counseling in the Church with the same deacon that confirmed him that did not manage to put it all together either until he had me and his ex-wife sitting there in the same office with him comparing facts with each other. So before you go calling it scandoulous we are talking about someone who took the FOCUS test with one woman "in the name of saving his marriage and possibly convalidating" so he would know how to fake it with the next one. May I suggest since you are new here before you go throwing stones like that some since some us actually have gotten used to each other you do a search and look at our past threads. God bless.


#16

I had a conversation about this with one of my kids (11) awhile back. He expressed the opinion that people ought to get married late in life, so they’re less likely to have a divorce. I told him it does not quite work that way. So he asked what does make a marriage last?

I told him there were a lot of things, but mostly these three:

  1. That both people were grown-ups. By this, I made it clear that I didn’t mean a certain age. I mean that the people no longer thought their whole life was about them, that they didn’t think the world revolved around them, and that they had the ability to do what they promised to do, that kind of thing. This is why, I explained to him, his grandma and grandpa could get married at 18 and 21 and stay married 60 years, while other people marry at 28 and 31 and get divorced. His grandparents were grown-ups when they married. Although you are more likely to be grown up when you’re older, becoming a grown-up is not automatic, and being grown up is necessary to be married.
  2. That both people had decided that they were going to stick it out, no matter what. There had been a couple renewing their vows at our parish recently that joked, “We never considered divorce, only murder.” That’s a joke, but it means that they had decided they were in it for life. (My mother used to use the same line.)
  3. You take care of the marriage, of the basic friendship, of the other person. This doesn’t happen by accident. You have to make it a priority, and not let other things get in the way.

Then he ventured that Catholics must stay married better than other people. I told him that this was unfortunately not the case. Just being baptized and saying “I belong to the Church” but not making it part of your life does not make it less likely that you will divorce. If you really make the faith a big part of your life, if you have a relationship with God and with the other people in the Church, if you pray together, that makes a difference. The grace doesn’t just come when you get your baptismal certificate, though. You have to tend to your relationship with God in order to be open to God’s grace that is going to help you carry out your wedding vows.

The thing is, #1 and #2, if the lack is serious, can be reasons for nullity. You can’t have a valid marriage unless you have 2 actual grown-ups capable of making a commitment who really do make a commitment. You can ruin a valid marriage by failing in #3, in which case by all rights a divorce should not lead to a decree of nullity, but I think that #1 is the big reason not only for the divorce rate, but for the number of annulments. There are a lot of profoundly immature people out there. There are a lot of people who buy society’s teaching that you have to hold back a big chunk of your self for yourself. Self-centeredness (aka self-realization) is the prevailing religion. That attitude is profoundly contrary to valid marriage. It is a wonder that marriage is doing as well as it is.

The fly in the ointment that keeps the heirarchy from stepping in and reining things in is that Catholics have a natural right to marry each other, recognized by canon law. The burden of proof that two Catholics of marriageable age will not have a valid marriage by reason of immaturity is on the priest who wants to refuse to marry them. As long as Catholics are reaching chronological adulthood without reaching spiritual and emotional adulthood, I think we will see a very high rate of annulments. The Church may be at fault in terms of sufficiently challenging the faithful to grow up and pursue true maturity, but I don’t think that is the fault of the tribunals. They just survey the wreckage and say, “Yep. There was never a chance. This thing wasn’t built to take off and land. This wreck was almost guaranteed from the time it took off.”

Mixed marriages almost always receive permission, as well…keeping more Catholics in the Church, but with a higher divorce rate. As for reasons for nullity, if the refusal to be open to children is original, it renders a marriage null. That is much more common in these days of family planning via birth control; that is, that one spouse can harbor a specific limit on how many children are going to be welcomed. If you’re in that marriage, this withholding of consent is not a technicality.

IOW, considering the prevailing conditions in societal attitudes and emotional health, including those among Catholics, a high rate of invalid attempts at marriage that end in divorce with a subsequent attempt at marriage is predictable. The only question is how bad it truly is. Some tribunals may be too lenient, but I don’t think it is reasonable to suppose that they are the source of this problem.


#17

Very well put Easterjoy. And I apologize if I was abrupt above. Sometimes when you are removed from a situation it is easier to stay cooler.


#18

Hi ToeintheWater

Let me put it to you this way…

I personally feel incredibly proud and blessed to belong to a Church which is prepared to go to the trouble of analysing a couples personal circumstances in such a way that it will in effect show both God’s mercy and justice in making a call on whether a marriage is suitably anulled or not.

I feel proud to belong to a Church which will not simply remarry people after they have gone through a civil divorce without a care in the world as so many churches out there do.

I feel proud to belong to a Church which implements the value reflected in the vows one makes both to one’s partner and to God on the day one promises to be faithful to that person until “death do us part”.

You seem to believe that virtually any divorce is likely to also end up as an annulment. That is most certainly NOT the case.

The Catholic Church upholds the vows of marriage, but at the same time we are very blessed to have a means whereby that same Church will look closely at those cases where a valid marriage has in fact never been entered into, and implement its loving mercy on those who have fallen victim to whatever form of abuse or failing of their partner.

Are there other Faiths around the world which do the same?

Blessings to you.

Patrick


#19

ToeInTheWater, I have the same feeling and I have been around here for a couple of years. I just wanted to let you know that you're not alone.


#20

To the OP:

Annulment isn't Catholic divorce and even if many people don't understand it or try to abuse the process, saying/thinking a duck is a goose doesn't make it so.

If a marriage never took place then it is a spouse's right to have it declared as such. Even if some people apply for an annulment with a "just in case", "better try my luck" mentality, the Tribunal is very serious about how the investigation is conducted. They have a serious responability to not declare void something that is valid - remember "what God has joined together let no man put asunder". Our Church would NOT be so disrespectful to the law of God to arbitrarily declare null something that God really did create.

Say a prayer to the Holy Spirit then start studying what the annulment process really is. God will help you shake that feeling. Don't let thoughts of how other people view or use the process obstruct your view of the truth.

God bless you.


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