Need help reconciling divorce and annulments


#1

I am having a hard time reconciling the Church's position regarding divorce and annulments. I understand what an annulment is, so I don't want this to turn into a discussion about defining what a valid sacramental marriage is.

My problem is that the Church teaches that divorce is wrong and unacceptable, but then they (at least in the US) require Catholics to get a civil divorce before seeking an annulment. Shouldn't it be the other way around? If someone feels like their marriage is invalid, shouldn't they be able to have the Tribunal decide that before they file for a civil divorce? I mean, if the Church decided your marriage was sacramentally valid first, then wouldn't you think fewer Catholics actually go forward with a civil divorce?

Any thoughts?


#2

The Church does not teach that divorce itself is wrong. Divorce is a purely civil thing, and has no impact on the sacramental nature of Marriage. The sin is if you divorce and then go and commit adultery or try to marry again.


#3

Before taking a case the judge is to try to restore conjugal living.

Can.* 1676 Before accepting a case and whenever there is hope of a favorable outcome, a judge is to use pastoral means to induce the spouses if possible to convalidate the marriage and restore conjugal living.

The tribunal uses divorce as a means to determine the point at which the marriage is irrevocably broken down and there is no hope of reconciliation. Unless and until a divorce is finalized, the judge cannot move the case forward. He is to, instead, encourage convalidation and the restoration of conjugal living.


#4

[quote="Aeden, post:2, topic:316949"]
The Church does not teach that divorce itself is wrong.

[/quote]

this is not correct.

The Church teaches divorce is a grave sin against the sixth commandment.

Divorce is not a sin when it is the only recourse for protection of a spouse or children (i.e., abuse, mental illness, or financial ruin).

The breaking apart of the conjugal life of the couple for other reasons certainly is grave matter.

See the Catechism section on the Sixth Commandment.

See also canon law on separation while the bond remains:

vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P45.HTM

[quote="Aeden, post:2, topic:316949"]
Divorce is a purely civil thing, and has no impact on the sacramental nature of Marriage.

[/quote]

While it is true divorce does not impact the sacramental or indissoluable nature of marriage, it is not accurate to say divorce is "purely a civil thing". See canons quoted above.

[quote="Aeden, post:2, topic:316949"]

The sin is if you divorce and then go and commit adultery or try to marry again.

[/quote]

Divorce itself is indeed grave matter.

vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P87.HTM


#5

Civil divorce legally breaks up a marriage before that marriage is determined to be sacramentally valid or not. The Church requires a civil divorce before you can file for an annulment. Civil divorce rips apart a family in so many ways. Then, if the Tribunal determines that you actually do have a valid sacramental marriage, how much harder is it to reconcile after you've been through the pain of the divorce process? If it is determined that the marriage is not valid, then the civil divorce is somewhat justified? I don't understand why this is the procedure. To me, it seems like the Church doesn't accept divorce yet they require it.


#6

[quote="1ke, post:4, topic:316949"]
this is not correct.

The Church teaches divorce is a grave sin against the sixth commandment.

Divorce is not a sin when it is the only recourse for protection of a spouse or children (i.e., abuse, mental illness, or financial ruin).

The breaking apart of the conjugal life of the couple for other reasons certainly is grave matter.

See the Catechism section on the Sixth Commandment.

See also canon law on separation while the bond remains:

vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P45.HTM

While it is true divorce does not impact the sacramental or indissoluable nature of marriage, it is not accurate to say divorce is "purely a civil thing". See canons quoted above.

Divorce itself is indeed grave matter.

vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P87.HTM

[/quote]

Thank you for correcting me, 1ke. Much appreciated.


#7

[quote="1ke, post:3, topic:316949"]
Before taking a case the judge is to try to restore conjugal living.

Can.* 1676 Before accepting a case and whenever there is hope of a favorable outcome, a judge is to use pastoral means to induce the spouses if possible to convalidate the marriage and restore conjugal living.

The tribunal uses divorce as a means to determine the point at which the marriage is irrevocably broken down and there is no hope of reconciliation. Unless and until a divorce is finalized, the judge cannot move the case forward. He is to, instead, encourage convalidation and the restoration of conjugal living.

[/quote]

I don't know why it should matter at what point the marriage is irrevocably broken down based on someone filing paperwork in a civil court of law. I thought annulments are determined to be be valid or not based on the state of minds of the spouses at the time of the marriage. For example if they knew what they were really committing to and had the capacity to do so.


#8

[quote="polki, post:7, topic:316949"]
I don't know why it should matter at what point the marriage is irrevocably broken down based on someone filing paperwork in a civil court of law. I thought annulments are determined to be be valid or not based on the state of minds of the spouses at the time of the marriage. For example if they knew what they were really committing to and had the capacity to do so.

[/quote]

Validity is not just based on the beginning of the marriage. You can enter into a marriage for all the wrong reasons, yet grow and change and it becomes a valid marriage. So if a troubled married couple comes to a priest, he needs to be encouraging fixing the marriage, rather than looking at the marriage to see if it is valid. Once a divorce has occurred, the couple (or at least one of them) has essentially said they are not willing to work on the marriage anymore, but while they are willing, it needs to be encouraged.


#9

[quote="Incomplete, post:8, topic:316949"]
Validity is not just based on the beginning of the marriage. You can enter into a marriage for all the wrong reasons, yet grow and change and it becomes a valid marriage. So if a troubled married couple comes to a priest, he needs to be encouraging fixing the marriage, rather than looking at the marriage to see if it is valid. Once a divorce has occurred, the couple (or at least one of them) has essentially said they are not willing to work on the marriage anymore, but while they are willing, it needs to be encouraged.

[/quote]

That makes sense. Thank you.


#10

[quote="polki, post:9, topic:316949"]
That makes sense. Thank you.

[/quote]

You're welcome! :)


#11

[quote="polki, post:5, topic:316949"]
Civil divorce legally breaks up a marriage before that marriage is determined to be sacramentally valid or not. The Church requires a civil divorce before you can file for an annulment. Civil divorce rips apart a family in so many ways. Then, if the Tribunal determines that you actually do have a valid sacramental marriage, how much harder is it to reconcile after you've been through the pain of the divorce process? If it is determined that the marriage is not valid, then the civil divorce is somewhat justified? I don't understand why this is the procedure. To me, it seems like the Church doesn't accept divorce yet they require it.

[/quote]

What you say here is quite true...but the problem may be that you are looking at the matter in isolation.

Every case is unique so keep that in mind as we move forward here.

First - I think that it is a mistake to say that divorce rips families apart. True divorce brings out many very negative things, but the family is "ripped apart" before they ever file for divorce.

If the Church is given the opportunity by the couple to counsel them...the Church will do all that it can to help the couple resolve their differences.

The Church will continue to work with the couple until they themselves "quit" the marriage...Thus - the civil divorce simply becomes the overt act which proves the marriage is not recoverable.

Then there are the many cases in which this does not occur for various reasons...Converts entering the Church after a divorce, non-practicing Catholics wishing to return to the Church after a divorce and remarriage etc.

In these (probably the majority) the Tribunal is presented with a "fait accompli".

In any case - the shattering of the family generally occurs long before the actual divorce - even before any formal separation.

Peace
James


#12

[quote="polki, post:7, topic:316949"]
I don't know why it should matter at what point the marriage is irrevocably broken down based on someone filing paperwork in a civil court of law. I thought annulments are determined to be be valid or not based on the state of minds of the spouses at the time of the marriage. For example if they knew what they were really committing to and had the capacity to do so.

[/quote]

Exactly, the argument presented earlier makes no sense at all given that a marriage is either valid or invalid at the time it's attempted, not later.


#13

[quote="polki, post:5, topic:316949"]
Then, if the Tribunal determines that you actually do have a valid sacramental marriage, how much harder is it to reconcile after you've been through the pain of the divorce process?

[/quote]

The Church does not necessarily expect reconciliation. See the canons regarding separation while the bond remains.

[quote="polki, post:5, topic:316949"]
To me, it seems like the Church doesn't accept divorce yet they require it.

[/quote]

See separation while the bond remains.


#14

Ultimately I would say that the tribunal could have set it up differently - but they chose to do it this way - and I think for good reason.

So long as two people choose to remain married (civilly) the Church assumes a valid marriage. Only after the marriage is demonstrated to be irrevocably broken does the Church entertain the possibility that it was not valid.

I wonder - if it were set up in reverse, how many people do you think would choose to stay married based on the church declaring the marriage valid (no possibility of annulment)?

It's an interesting thought.

Peace
James


#15

After failed counseling, I think it would be a good idea for couples who were married in the Catholic church to be able to know if their marriage is indeed valid in the first place, before seeking a civil divorce. If two spouses take the covenant of marriage seriously, but are in despair, it can be easy one or both to "give up" and "take the chance" of divorcing and then filing an annulment hoping that the Church will determine their marriage invalid. It is a **** shoot to be sure, but when you are in despair, those are the types of bad decisions people make.

If the Church could give some leeway of having civil divorce as being "optional" before seeking an annulment, maybe on a case by case basis, I think it would help those couples who are at wit's end to know that their marriage is indeed valid and they do not have an option of dissolving what God has joined. Maybe in those certain instances, those couples will decide not to seek a civil divorce. The way it is laid out now, civil divorce is necessary to determine if you marriage is valid, even though the Church is against it (divorce that is). Just food for thought.

I guess the answer is that every marriage should be treated as valid until after a civil divorce and then subsequent annulment process deems that it is not. I think I understand the whole civil divorce "requirement" better now, thanks to everyone's answers.


#16

I hear and read Catholics talk about how sinful divorce is, yet once someone gets an annulment, all seems to be kosher again. Well, that person is still divorced isn't he/she albiet civilly? I mean it's required by the Church, or else they wouldn't have even been able to get the annulment paperwork. So when Catholics talk about the sin of divorce, they must be including those who are annulled, because they went through a divorce in order to seek an annulment in the first place, because that is the required procedure. That makes me sad because this is what the Church has set up. Annulments = OK. Divorce = bad. But they make you do the "bad" before you can even find out if it is "OK".

Even though I understand all the wonderful reasoning and the answers that were given about why the process is the way it is, I still must disagree that it should be an absolute prerequisite to seeking an annulment. The sacrament is what should be given precedent, not the "civil union".


#17

[quote="polki, post:16, topic:316949"]
I hear and read Catholics talk about how sinful divorce is, yet once someone gets an annulment, all seems to be kosher again. Well, that person is still divorced isn't he/she albiet civilly? I mean it's required by the Church, or else they wouldn't have even been able to get the annulment paperwork. So when Catholics talk about the sin of divorce, they must be including those who are annulled, because they went through a divorce in order to seek an annulment in the first place, because that is the required procedure. That makes me sad because this is what the Church has set up. Annulments = OK. Divorce = bad. But they make you do the "bad" before you can even find out if it is "OK".

Even though I understand all the wonderful reasoning and the answers that were given about why the process is the way it is, I still must disagree that it should be an absolute prerequisite to seeking an annulment. The sacrament is what should be given precedent, not the "civil union".

[/quote]

We can go around and around about all of this but - it is what it is.

If you can come up with something that works better - I'm sure the tribunals would love to hear about it.

However - the place where we can get the most bang for our buck would be to beef up the Pre-Cana programs...Something that has also been extensively discussed here.

Peace
James


#18

If people are actually following what the Church teaches, they need ecclesial permission to separate in the first place-- and that is given for narrow reasons defined in canon law.

Nullity can only be taken up by the tribunal if there are valid grounds. And even if there are grounds, the judge is to urge convalidation as a resolution rather than a decree of nullity.


#19

I'm tiring rapidly of the double-standards regarding annulments vs civil divorce. My husband and I were both divorced and remarried before ever joining the Catholic church. Now, after the fact, there seems to be some doubt as to whether we should have been allowed to even join the church without annulments from our first marriages. We have been assured that both of our first marriages qualify beyond doubt for annulments, so it's just a matter of processing the paperwork which should take about a year. If our annulments are certain to be approved, why should it take a year? and why should we have to pay nearly $2,000. Makes me think it's more of a money maker than anything. I'm not playing the game.


#20

[quote="KateMcCormick, post:19, topic:316949"]
I'm tiring rapidly of the double-standards regarding annulments vs civil divorce. My husband and I were both divorced and remarried before ever joining the Catholic church. Now, after the fact, there seems to be some doubt as to whether we should have been allowed to even join the church without annulments from our first marriages.

[/quote]

I feel a great deal of pain in your post...I too needed an annulment and went through similar issues. It is troubling and painful.
That said, so far as I know there is no reason why you could not join the Church before your annulments were granted. There would only need to be the commitment from the two of you to "live as brother and sister" until the matter could be settled.

We have been assured that both of our first marriages qualify beyond doubt for annulments, so it's just a matter of processing the paperwork which should take about a year. If our annulments are certain to be approved, why should it take a year? and why should we have to pay nearly $2,000. Makes me think it's more of a money maker than anything. I'm not playing the game.

The time and cost factors are probably related to where you live.

If you think that it is about the money...I suggest you talk more thoroughly with someone in the know.

That said - please do not let this issue stand in the way of clearing this matter up.

It is a great healing - as I say, I have been where you are so speak from experience.

May God bless you on your journey.

Peace
James


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