Marriage, annulment, validity, and Schrodinger's cat

This is a spinoff from another thread asking if most marriages are invalid.

  1. The Church Presumes all marriages to be valid.
  2. An annulment does not dissolve a marriage but rather proclaims it never was.
  3. Annulments only come into play after a couple has agreed to divorce.
  4. So, this is where the cat comes into play. A couple may not divorce but still be in an invalid marriage.
  5. I cannot know the future so, is it possible my fruitful, happy, and life giving marriage is invalid, hence does not exist, and the only way we can find out is to open the box (go through the annulment process?)

Is the cat (marriage) in the box alive (valid) or dead (invalid)?

But they won’t start the annulment process unless there has been a civil divorce. Since all marriages are presumed valid unless proven otherwise, clearly your marriage is also presumed to be valid.

Unless you were Catholic and married outside the Church without a dispensation, in which case your marriage is presumed invalid until proven otherwise by convalidation.

Yes, I know this. But the tribunal decides if a marriage is valid or not.

Look, a couple married 21 years. 3 kids, etc. adultery, Divorce. Apply for an annulment. Get annulment. Marriage was invalid for 21 years. It never existed. However, if that same couple did not divorce, they would not go through the annulment process and never find out the marriage never existed. But bottom line, it either existed or not. So how do we know if we are in a real valid marriage or not?

Well - certainly the couple have a valid civil marriage [this is the reason the tribunal will not consider the sacramental nature of the marriage until a civil divorce severs that reality].

The Tribunal only determines whether the marriage that was contracted was Sacramental in nature …

Consider this case … A couple married before a Justice of the Peace - the marriage lasts 21 years. 3 kids, etc. adultery … instead of a civil divorce the State issues an annulment because one of the parties had contracted a previous marriage unknown by the other - that was never severed - in other words - That person ‘thought’ their previous spouse had divorced then when they had not … thus they were not free to contract a second marriage …

The fact that the couple thought they were married,

The fact that 21 years passed

And three children were born

Or that one or both parties had sex with others during this 21 year period of a “presumed” marriage*** does not have any bearing ***upon the truth or reality that existed at the moment when they said “I do”

At this point in time - bigamy is not permitted in any of the 50 states - thus since one party could not validly marry - an annulment would be the “civil” decision - as a valid marriage never existed…

The Catholic Church presumes the marriage is valid unless the validity is questioned … one would expect the Catholic couple [or Catholic party if the other is a non-Catholic] functions from that same presumption - :shrug:

It’s confusing, for sure!

I like the way it’s explained on our archdiocese website.

**What is a Declaration of Nullity?
“A declaration of nullity is a decision that is made by the Church, which acknowledges that a couple never established the sacred bond of marriage.”

**Does an annulment mean that my marriage “never existed”?
“No. Obviously the couple was wed according to civil law and lived together, and possibly had children. They have a “history” from being together. It is presumed that both parties entered the marriage with good intentions. No one can deny that a relationship existed in some fashion, at least for a time, with its own joys and sorrows, its own hopes and disappointments. Good and bad memories will always remain. In almost all cases, a civilly recognized union was at least certainly present.”

Even if one or both parties entered into a marriage with imperfect intentions, imperfect understanding, or an inability to live up to the obligations of marriage there was still a civil marriage and a real relationship. The Church annulment has nothing to do with that. It has to do with the spiritual aspect of the marital bond and if that bond was established or not.

When I civilly married 20 years ago I did so with intentions against permanency, children, and fidelity. Obviously, it was not a valid marriage as understood by the Church. But my ex could have believed our marriage to be valid right up until the separation and divorce. I honestly don’t know how he viewed it then or now. We simply didn’t talk much about personal matters. Considering his behavior and his mental state, I don’t think he could then or even now enter into a valid marriage. But that’s another thread.

For purposes of this thread, let’s assume my ex entered into marriage with perfect understanding, ability, and intent. For him, the cat was alive. For me, it was dead. Perception makes reality. Which is why Tribunals exist. They look at both former spouses and determine which reality was real, for lack of a better way to phrase it.

With baptism the Church has a method if the baptism is questioned. A conditional baptism is given. What I am asking is if it is possible that many of us are going around thinking we have a sacrament or a marriage when we may not. The only way to find out is to open the box. :shrug: But you can’t open the box without killing the cat (divorce) Presuming is presuming and a fact is a fact. An annulment, once declared, is permanent. Those people could have presumed a valid marriage for years and been wrong. The sacrament that never was would not have left a mark on their soul. Or as is common, one party can not agree with the annulment. They can still view their marriage as valid. But it either was or was not. One could live an entire life in an invalid marriage. could they not, and not even be aware of it.

Here is where it is going to get real dicey. IN your answer from your archdiocees you can see that they make an effort to say that a civil marriage is a marriage. yet, with fay marriage legal in many places the civil marriage can have zero meaning in a Catholic perspective.

Every time the Church has given power to the state, it has backfired. This is no different. So, still, the question stands. How are we to know if the cat is dead or alive? The state cannot answer it, and the Church does not answer it until the state does…:shrug:

One way around this dilemma is to consider what His Eminence William Cardinal Kasper has said. The way I understand it, His Eminence Walter Cardinal Kasper has said that many Catholic marriage annulments are divorces in a dishonest way.

No the tribunal does not just determine if a marriage is sacramental. Sacramental marriage only exists when both parties are baptized Christians and yet the marriage tribunal will make decisions on the validity of the natural marriages of non Christians. This generally comes up when someone wants to be baptized in the Church or when a Catholic wants to marry a non Christian that has a prior marriage.

Marriages can be valid in the eyes of the Church without being sacramental. Non Catholics have valid natural marriages according to the Catholic Church. Even sacramental marriage ( which is the marriage of two Christians) doesn’t leave an indelible mark on your soul.

Yes that is true.

I completely understand your logic conundrum. I don’t believe we can know for certain (in this earthly life) that a marriage is valid. But sacraments are practical and not mere intellectual exercises. (And that’s a tough thing to swallow for people like me who tend to enjoy the theoretical more than the practical. The Church’s “presumption of validity” for marriages is more than just a probability determination; it’s also the permission to act validly married.

Even though it’s not the case that a putative marriage that breaks up will turn out to be null, it’s almost a given that a marriage (given no other impediments, yada, yada) in which the couple willingly stays together IS valid. In other words, we kind of have to trust that that a “good marriage” is proof of it’s own validity.

Or perhaps in this case you could say that a failure by either party to examine the box is strong evidence for validity.

I think you are tilting at windmills - two people marry … their marriage is whatever it is when they say I do plus the effort they continue to place on their relationship and the love they bestow on each other by their actions…

What good is knowing with certainty your marriage is sacramental if you think so little of your marriage vows that you would commit adultery …abuse verbally or physically beat your spouse …

If both people truly believe and act as if their marriage is made before God - as Bishop Sheen says Three to Get Married - then you should be at peace with the state of your Sacramental Marriage

If you’re able to ask the question, your marriage is probably valid. Invalidity is caused by ignorance.

  1. The Church Presumes all marriages to be valid.
  2. An annulment does not dissolve a marriage but rather proclaims it never was.
  3. Annulments only come into play after a couple has agreed to divorce.

All true.

  1. So, this is where the cat comes into play. A couple may not divorce but still be in an invalid marriage.

What if we assume that all invalid marriages (together with some valid marriages) end in divorce?

Therefore, if you remain married until death ye shall/did part, then your marriage was/is valid.

  1. I cannot know the future so, is it possible my fruitful, happy, and life giving marriage is invalid, hence does not exist, and the only way we can find out is to open the box (go through the annulment process?)

Assume that it is valid, and act accordingly. :love::love: :slight_smile:

Well, not all marriages.

I would say a decree of nullity is a finding that an impediment or defect existed in the exchange of consent. it doesn’t “proclaim it never was”.

Practically speaking, yes. Canonically speaking, no.

This is correct. It would be termed a putative marriage if entered into in good faith by at least one party. If one becomes certain of nullity one is obligated to correct the situation.

If you have no evidence that an impediment existed, consent was lacking, or a defect was present you have no reason to doubt the validity of your marriage.

No, it does exist.

This is not correct.

If for any reason you believe your marriage to be invalid, you can correct the defect of consent or intent yourself (unless it was lack of form, in which case public consent is necessary).

If a canonical impediment or defect is suspected or found, one can correct that as well.

In absence of these, you have a valid marriage.

No nullity process is necessary.

The marriage contract could be ultimately invalid based on error or deception, but there has to be some law in place to attempt formation of a valid union.

So what is “the only way we can find out”? Seems that it could be known by the subjective determination that actual matrimonial graces are working in the union.

It is because the marriage bond is indissoluble - for better or for worse.

Yes - I get that - but his point was in the certainty of the Sacramental aspect and how you couldn’t know unless you “opened the box” which I take is file for divorce and then an annulment … my point was - Sacramental or not - what difference would it make to you if you think so little of your marriage vows that you would commit adultery …abuse verbally or physically beat your spouse … regardless of the Sacramental reality …

The “Sacramental” Bond may be indissoluble - but that does not mean the couple have to live together nor stay civilly married … divorce - especially in cases of abuse is not sinful …

This topic is usually only brought up when discussing re-marriage - which the OP was not talking about - their entire discussion is on somehow having a certainty of the Sacramental reality before facing some tribunal investigation … or the need to obtain a tribunal investigation before the marriage fails … :confused:

I stand by my response - the OP is tilting at windmills - fighting a dragon that doesn’t exist … if both people take their vows seriously and live their lives as if “Three” [the Couple and the Holy Spirit] got married - they will have the certainty that they need. For better and for worse - as you say.

If the OP wants to live with some kind of maybe we are - maybe we aren’t attitude because at some later time - and if the marriage fails and an investigation is made a defect may be found … .well - what would that say about the maturity of the decision to marry :shrug: in the first place …

If this is about something

FYI - if you have not read Fulton Sheen’s book “Three to Get Married” I highly recommend it - while out of print in the 1990’s it was available in the early 2000’s and can be found in many parish libraries …

I do not know which thread you spun this from, but I asked these same questions a few weeks ago. So far, no one has addressed this difficulty. Yes, it is a logical contradiction. If a marriage is invalid, it always was invalid before and after the declaration of nullity. All the talk about presumption and good faith do not change this fact, or address the dilemma you present. These are practical matters that are used because of the Schrodinger’s cat problem. Another strange twist is that if one is living with someone in an invalid marriage (even though it is presumed to be valid) you would have an objectively sinful situation that could never be construed as a real or subjective sin because of the good faith involved. Therefore, since the Church allows communion based on the subjective good faith in a presumed valid (but invalid) marriage, could she not also allow this in others?

Ahhh yes! You completely understand the conundrum of the thread! I am so pleased that someone understands what I was asking!:thumbsup:

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