Marriage concern


#1

Greetings,

I’ve read countless posts here about marriage, inter-faith marriage and anullment. I know all the basic concepts and have read the details of the Catholic church’s policies and rules. After all that, however, I still have a question that I know someone here can help me with.

My wife and I have been married almost 27 years. We have raised a number of children (we now have a grand daughter as well). At no time has there been a cause for either of us to consider divorce.

I am a Reformed believer, that is to say I belong to the Presbyterian Church of America (not the big old liberal PCUSA, we are a small conservative denomination). For many years, so was my wife. Several years ago, much to my dismay, she began a journey that ended with her leaving the church and joining the Catholic Church.

I’m not here to debate or raise issues of faith, though. I’m here because there is one large issue on which we cannot agree. She claims I do not know the teaching of the Catholic Church on this, but I believe she is just not hearing me.

Since we were both unmarried and both had been baptized in a Trinitarian manner and we were married in a church, I know the Catholic church presumes our marriage valid. I’m not questioning that part.

My belief is that due to the fact that she got pregnant at 17, and we were married very quickly after that, she could - if she chose - get a decree of anullment. I know she would first have to divorce me and only then pursue the decree; I’m not even suggesting that she wants to do that. I know she does not. It just bothers me.

It’s not even a completly rational thought, I know. I’m looking down a path that she does not want ot take, but, at an emotional level, I am upset that this couse is even open to her. My church expressly forbids me to divorce her, except for adultry - again, not that I’m looking to divorce her. I am just forbidden and she is free to make a choice. It bothers me.

I’ve asked her to have our marriage blessed; even though I believe going to Mass is a sin for me, I would go and get the marriage blessed just to remove this topic from discussion. She has always refused to do this.

The real issue is how she just dismisses my feelings as irrevelant because she would never divorce me. Well, she would also never leave the Reformed faith and join the Catholic church, something we talked about early in our marriage as a thing we could not accept from each other. So, to me, every choice she has ever made is on the table.

The issue of anullment is really secondary, I know. The root cause is my fear that every choice she has ever made open for re-investigation. Still, on this one small thing I need to know. If she divorced me, she has probable grounds to believe a tribunal would rule in her favor. Getting our marriage blessed (convalidated?) would remove this possibility.

Thanks for any help.


#2

It is not really that way. Your concern is her leaving not whether religion can prevent that. But since you are asking a specific question I probably should try to answer it.

  1. Can she complete a civil divorce and apply of annulment through lack of canonical form? Yes, but this is really irrelevant because she had to leave first. So whether the annulment decree is granted or not she would be gone.

  2. Would a convalidation stop that ? No, it would make the annulment more complex because she would have lost the canonical form version.

  3. You did not mention a Radical Sanate which better fits your scenario that is when the Catholic Church accepts your original marriage as valid.


#3

If you can get a copy of Rome Sweet Home by Scott Hahn, I would recommend reading that.

He explains his conversion story and it is riveting.
I don’t understand why going to mass would be a sin for you, but I don’t know much about the various forms and reforms of protestantism. I know John Calvin broke with the Catholic Church and the main tenet of the faith was predestination and the ‘elect’.

So what difference would it make if you sinned by going to mass, if you are predetermined to go to heaven or hell by your being a reformed?


#4

I can see why your wife isn’t really into the idea of pursuing convalidation, when you state that you feel going to mass is a sin :frowning:

And no, a convalidation wouldn’t completely rule out that she could successfully petition for a decree of nullity in the future, it would just make it more improbable.

Have you considered sitting on on the RCIA process, just to gain better insight into the faith? I bet this would make your wife feel better about the idea of a convalidation. As I mentioned initially, that “going to mass is a sin” thing really stings; it certainly ended a relationship or two with me. I ended up deciding it would be impossible for me to be with anyone who wasn’t Catholic, given the awful mispercetions about the church.

Just my .02.


#5

Sounds like she was baptised other than Catholic- non-Catholics do not get to utilize “lack of form”; so it sounds like either way, they’d have a “formal case” (tribunal).

edit to clarify: she was not Catholic at the time of marriage; therefore, can not use “lack of Canonical form”, as she was not bound by Canon law at the time of the marriage.


#6

Why is going to mass a sin? So talking to a priest about this is out of the question, right?


#7

To those of my faith, the Mass is heresy. I’m not going to specify why, it doesn’t matter. I’m not here to call people heritics or castigate the Catholic Church. I do believe that my wife, as well as many other Catholics, is a called and chosen child of God, redeemed and make Holy in the sight of God.

I could talk to a priest, but I don’t know any. I know how overwhelmed most priests are and talking to an outsider seems to be a lot to ask of them. That’s why I came here.

As you can tell from my email, I do have issues with the Catholic Church. Not Catholics themselves, however. My wife knew this many years before she converted (she shared them at the time) so none of this is a surprise to her. We’ve dealt with her going to Mass and how the remaining children are going to be raised. Mostly we have some level of peace over the whole situation. I just have this feeling that I can’t get rid of - and, I want to.

I lost a lot when she converted. I can no longer serve my church in the roll I was called and ordained to serve in. Even that, however, is a more minor issue in my head than this.

I hate the way this makes me feel and the way it colors my view of my wife. It is the casual dismissal of my fears that most hurts. Even a small effort on her part would mean the world to me.


#8

Please keep this in mind: it may not be “casual dismissal”; not seeking that convalidation very well could be a conclusion she has come to because you view the mass as a heresy. Perhaps her heart holds out the hope you’ll be called one day to where she is. After all, the terms of the convalidation require your unwavering support of your children (now or future kiddies, and remember that children can come at all times in various fashions) to be raised in the faith as well. I would ask you; do you feel ready to make that sort of commitment to her, and to the Catholic church? I think that might be the unspoken “biggie” here.


#9

Under no circumstances would the children ever be taught the Catholic faith. On this we’re in agreement. While she has rejected my faith, she understands that I am still the spiritual head of the household and the children are only to be taught by me. I would face discipline from my own church for even allowing it. Again, the reasons are not important.

She knows that I would never leave the faith. Scott Hahn is a man I view as a horrible example in this. He was of my faith and he left. My current pastor was once his supervisor and I know much about him. I cherish my faith and thank God for giving it to me. To give that up would be to no longer be me. I’m sure many of you feel the same way of your faith.

It was my understanding that I would not have to agree that the children would be brought up in the Catholic faith. This is only something she would have to promise to do to the best of her ability and I would be witness to that. Given that she has no ability to do so, she is not required to go further.


#10

I completely understand where you are coming from, as far as your love and devotion to your faith.

However, a convalidation requires of you the same commitments as if you were being married initially in the church. And there is a requirement that children be brought up Catholic. Or atleast, my personal experience of this has been, it is a non-negotiable.

So, in a nutshell, that might be why she is not interested in pursuing a convalidation…because she knows it isn’t possible.

Your last two sentences, FWIW, crushed my heart.


#11

I am by no means a canon law expert, and I certainly would not presume to speak on behalf of a marriage tribunal, but I don’t believe that your wife would have any basis for an annulment simply on the facts that she was 17 and pregnant when you were married. There is much more to the issue than that. The Catholic understanding of marriage is that it is a sacrament effected by the parties, i.e. the “two” who become “one.” A valid marriage is one in which the parties enter into freely and without compulsion, fully (foresaking all for the spouse), faithfully (in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, etc.) and intending to be fruitful, accepting of children. Absent any of those essential conditions of consent, the marriage would be susceptible to a declaration of invalidity, which in essence is a determination that a marriage never existed.

As you say, the Catholic Church would presume your marriage to be valid. Any party challenging the marriage would be required to establish that one of the elements of consent was absent. Again, there is nothing in your fact statement which would presumptively give your wife the right to an annulment merely because of her age or pregnancy or the proximity of your marriage to her pregnancy. Remember that the mere possibility of an annulment does not presuppose that an annulment is available. The Church’s presumption is in favor of the marriage, not in opposition to it. There is no favor given to a Catholic individual as against a non-Catholic. No one can “get” an annulment (pardon the Jewish pun) simply by asking for one.

As for the blessing of the marriage, you both obviously believe that you were married before God and that what God has bound, no man can put asunder. The “blessing” of a marriage by a Catholic priest adds nothing to its validity. It may remove questions whether the marriage ceremony was licit, but such a question does not arise in your case since neither of you was Catholic and your ceremony did not presume to conform to the Catholic rites. Consequently, there are no objections to be lifted by blessing the marriage. If you were to enter the Catholic Church, perhaps a blessing might be appropriate as an acknowledgment by the parties of their understanding of the importance and essence Christian Marriage and its role in the Church, but, as you say, the Church already presumes the validity of the marriage and you were not bound by Catholic Canon Law in matters of form and conformity to rite. Moreover, the mere blessing of the marriage would not to any degree remove the possibility of an annulment. Remember, that an annulment is a declaration that a marriage did not exist ab initio. The only operative time period is the date and hour when the marriage took place. Nothing anyone does prior or subsequent to that time can render the marriage valid or invalid.

In all charity, my counsel would be to take your wife at her word that she has no intention of divorcing you or of attempting to obtain an annulment. Why question her faithfulness merely because she has made a journey you have not? You state that your church forbids divorce except in cases of adultery, yet do you know that the Catholic Church provides for no exception to the bonds of marriage?

Be at peace, brother and surrender your fears to Christ at the foot of the Cross. If you trusted your wife when you were married, why begin to question her fidelity now? Has her journey toward Christ which brought her into the Catholic Church interposed such an impediment to your faith that you would be caused to question her commitment to your wedding vows so many years later? As for every choice she has ever made being “on the table,” that is obviously impossible. It may have an impact on the choices you make in the future, but the past is in the books and immutable. Would you really hold her journey of faith to the Catholic Church against her? I understand you may be grieving in some degree, but she is not lost to God by her journey. Indeed, as you might understand, I would say that she has come to an ever closer union with Christ in His Church. Perhaps the answer isn’t so much to worry about whether your wife has some right to an annulment, which you acknowledge as secondary, but to investigate the Catholic Church and your own prejudices against her to find out just what your wife found so attractive that she would risk your peace of mine. No journey of faith is without pain, no life without the Cross to bear. Pray for understanding. Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

God Bless you.


#12

Hi Chosen :wave:

I’m so sorry that this is such a difficult situation for your family. I can understand how you would feel so uncertain about everything you and your wife had planned on and agreed about in the past, with her making such a big change in her life. It must be difficult for her as well. It sounds like you have a great wife - someone who has helped you raise several great children, honors you, and most of all, loves the Lord. I would imagine that the journey that has led her to the Catholic Church has not been easy for her either. What a wonderful testament to her love for the Lord, to follow Him even when it is not easy or comfortable. As you said, she is a blessed child of God. I will pray for you and your wife, that the Lord will pour out his Grace on your family and give you peace.

God Bless,
Bella85


#13

not true, she has been receiving false or incomplete information, or is not understanding that what she has been told relates to a general circumstance–the Church will ordinarily delay a marriage if there is an appearance of force, such as a pre-marital pregnancy, until it can be determined there is genuine consent and basis for valid marriage. It is NOT true that everyone who married under such a situation automatically “qualifies” for an annulment, or that because of that situation, their marriages was automatically “invalid”.

as you have no doubt noted in other threads on this topic, and this one is no different, much of the information offered by well-meaning participants is contradictory, that is because much of it is just plain wrong.

The only way you and your wife will learn what applies to your specific situation is to sit down with her pastor (not the DRE, not the catechist, nobody but the priest in charge) for a frank discussion of the circs surrounding your marriage. It is her right to have the complete teaching and reassurance, it is your right to have an explanation of what the newly-Catholic party believs and practices as it affects your fmaily

For one thing annulment would not even be on the table unless and until the marriage had irretreivably broken down without possibility of reconciliation, would would generally mean a civil divorce at least.

If the statement of facts is full and complete (which is really not possible or desireable on this forum) you are correct the Church considers your marriage valid (and sacramental if you were both baptized at the time) and there is no need for blessing, convalidation or anything further. In my experience there is usually more to the story, which you would discuss together with her priest if she still has questions or doubts, but this is a general application. Each marriage situation is unique so there may be other factors in your case to consider. She deserves to have her mind at ease.

The danger signal here is that once either party to a marriage start using words like “divorce” and “annulment” that is a warning there is some issue that must be addressed and resolved, and I hope this discussion motivates you both to do so.


#14

Thanks for all the thoughtful responses. They are indeed helpful.

Like I stated a number of times, no one is mentioning divorce. Neither one of us wants it or expects the other to start down that path. We’re committed in that manner.

I guess part of my problem stems from being a reader of posts here for over two years. I see post after post about how easy it is to see someone has a case for anullments. It seems that every troubled marriage post here comes with a few people giving good reason why it qualifies and others chiming in on how their anullment process went. I did not think, until reading here for so long, that anullments were so easy to get. I use easy in the relative term as I do not mean to sound like they are handed out like candy at a parade. I know that many cases do not qualify, but, a lot more seem to qualify than I expected.

Frankly, from an outsider’s opinion, I’m much more content with the teachings of my church about divorce only being an option for a party who has been abandoned or is the innocent party in an adultry situation. I can easily make a Biblical agrument on those. To me, anullment is the second biggest complaint I have against the Catholic Church. I dislike the (relatively) easy path and the ability to suddenly declare that one party lied - either explicitly or implicitly - at the alter.

My daughter married a catholic man. She was married in a Catholic church by a priest. That priest conducted a background check like she was applying for a Top Secret clearance. How anyone could go back and claim that someone “lied” in some manner (I use lie to mean any reason, except for form, that would lead to a anullment) and give her husband grounds for an anullment if they divorced. Still, I’ve read many, many posts where people talk about anullments. It breaks my heart to see a marriage declared invalid; to think I could even be part of something like that makes me grieve deeply in spirit. It would be like saying my life has been a lie since we were married.

Still, your kind words have given me some measure of peace.

Also, I do not mean to indicate that any of this information comes from my wife. She is adament that she has no grounds for an anullment. She is also adament that she would never divorce me. She knows the teaching of her church on this. I do not mean to cause anyone to think otherwise.

Mostly, it’s my time here, reading posts and threads over the years that had caused me to reach such a troubled state.

Thread types I’ve read over the years include:

Men cheating - anullment
Men with pron - anullment
Man or women not wanting children - anullment
Someone not willing to engage in sexual relations - anullment
Someone not willing to use NFP - anullment
Domineering person - anullment
Controliing husband - anullment
Lying about finances - anullment
Unwilling to work - anullment

I’m not saying every thread of this type leads to someone saying there is an anullment waiting to happen, but it does occur in threads like these. I fear that every Catholic holds out that “get out of jail card” for that very reason. I know it’s not true, but if you step outside yourself and read some of these objectively and without participating, you’ll see a scary picture emerge.

As for the argument about bringing up the children in the Catholic faith, I really fail to see how anyone can believe that it would be good for the children to learn equally about both faiths and make their own decision. We know, from a statisical sense, that children raised like that usually reject both faiths. I am strong in my faith, I am well versed in the theology of my faith and I am the husband and father. It is my Biblical duty to instruct my children. This is a problem in inter-faith marriages; there is no shared solution, just a win for one and a loss for the other. Unless someone is asking me to reject my faith, then asking me to raise the children in the Catholic church is unreasonable. If the shoes were reversed, I know that you would agree.

He (or she) who has the power to destroy something holds all the power. To me, in my own troubled and hurt spirit, the anullment card feels like that to me. I want to get past it; I need to get past it and some of the well thought out responses here are helping. Thank you.


#15

While somewhat off-topic, I believe that the perception that an annulment is easily obtained is exaggerated. Understand, when you base your perception on those responses to posts on a forum such as this, you will not obtain accurate data on annulments. Each diocese maintains its own tribunal and each tribunal executes its obligations in accordance with the Bishop’s guidance and canon law, so certainly results will vary from diocese to diocese. There is no central Catholic practice and procedure when it comes to annulments.

On a more tragic note, I would suspect that if there is any truth in the charges that the annulment process is walk in the park, this is the fruit of poor catechesis since the early 1960’s. People married who did not know their faith nor their obligations in marriage. Many fell prey to a sexual revolution which served only to objectify people and render sex sterile (from which so many of our society’s ills have been spawned, many of which you cite in your post). In short, the number of annulments granted is evidence of a profound lack of faith in which a genuine affection and desire to know the faith with its joyful and humble adherence to the Church’s teaching has been substituted with a “cafeteria” approach in which one takes what he likes and discards what is inconvenient.


#16

The power to destroy, as you put it, does not lie with either spouse in an annulment process, but with an independent tribunal. Don’t trip over this illusory threat any longer, no matter how easy it sounds.

Peace


#17

I do hope you consider sitting in on some RCIA classes- just for the experience and learning. Several of the “Declaration of Nullity” items you have listed are false; some are because the marrying party would have lied to the Church at the time of their vows, and absolutely this can happen in spite of what you called a “top secret clearance” type check (as Catholics, for example, we must be “open to life”, and agree to that before the marriage). And always bear in mind: very little is assumed. The Church in the nullity process has a Defender of The Bond…the defender of the marriage. It’s tough to get a Declaration of Nullity (we don’t actually call it an “annulment”.) And it is a sloooow, laborious, and frequently emotionally painful process.

Catholicism is one of the very, very few places where a divorce and subsequent remarriage has any impact on your status. If you remarry, without your previous marriage being declared invalid, you’re not eligible for sacraments, including the Eucharist. I don’t know any protestant faction that takes marriage that seriously. (I could be wrong, of course.) I think the final “straw” that got me out of an Episcopal pew was when a parishoner testified to the wonderfulness of the parish, and how they’d helped support and nurture her through three divorces. That was it for me.

Your wife loves you, and knows your marriage is valid. So, as mentioned earlier, try to be at peace. And for what its worth, I don’t think an internet forum is the best place to glean info…especally when your wife probably knows a pretty good priest :smiley: and I bet he’d be glad to allay any concerns.


#18

I know much of this in my rational side. Still, this issue haunts me and hurts deeply. I have been looking for my wife to listen to me, understand that this is an issue for me and - thus, is a problem for both of us. I wanted her to talk to me about it, teach me, show me, guide me - anything but dismiss me. Since she won’t do that, I’m trying to find either a ceremony or a rhetorical argument that will make me able to put this behind me.

Many of you will never be able to even understand what I’m talking about. I get that; I even can see that myself. I also know there is more to this than anullment. It is the totality of her conversion process and the human carnage that it left behind. This issue is just the one particular item I believe that I stuck all my emotional issues behind.

I’m smart and logical; still, there is part of me that is just wounded and irrational and wants to be tended to kindly and with patience.


#19

Chosen,

I can definitely see your point of view regarding the annullment process, especially given the stance of your particular faith. I sometimes wonder myself if those who tell people in troubled marriages on these forums that they have grounds for an anullment are well-meaning but misinformed. I know that each case is different and evaluated individually, but usually things like lying about finances, unwillingness to do NFP, domineering personalities, pornography, unwillingness to work, etc. are not grounds for an annullment in and of themselves. But you are right, many people coming to this forum for advice with their troubled marriages are sometimes told otherwise.

I’m glad that some of the responses here have helped you. I will continue to pray for you and your wife, that you find peace in this situation where you feel hurt.

Blessings,
Bella85

“So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7


#20

When I said “especially given the stance of your particular faith”, I meant the stance your church has on marriage - which is a good thing. When I reread my post that sounded a little unclear and I just wanted to be sure you knew what I meant. :slight_smile:


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