Question about an "Ask An Apologist" Q&A


Would the person still need to go through annulment process before marrying again?


It is not clear in that AAA post that the person with the question is asking about a Catholic or a non-Catholic.

Assuming that you in this post are asking about a Catholic who attempted marriage outside the Church without a dispensation and without any convalidation at a later date, then that person would have attempted marriage invalidly. There is no presumption of validity.

During the premarital investigation, *every person *has to show freedom to marry.

For someone never married before that is easy.

For a **Catholic **married and divorced with “lack of form” (i.e. as described above, outside the Church without dispensation) they have what is called a documentary case. In the US and Canada, they must submit relevant paperwork to the tribunal to be declared free to marry. It is not a decree of nullity (annulment) and it doesn’t take the same length of time. In Europe and other places, the procedure is different, but the result is the same-- a declaration of freedom to marry.

For a Catholic married in the Church, or non-Catholics married to other non-Catholics, for non-Catholics married to Catholics in the Catholic Church, and other various scenarios, the person is in what is called a *putative marriage *(one presumed to be valid). Therefore they do not have freedom to marry. Their freedom to marry would have to be determined through a nullity trial and declaration of nullity if there are grounds.

There are some other situations-- such as those married to someone who was married before, those who are unbaptized and may qualify for dissolution of the bond, etc-- but that is the basic information.


Yes, but not the usual long process.

This kind of situation is handled through an administrative process, often called an administrative declaration of nullity.

The parties need only prove that they were married in a ceremony without any dispensation from the bishop (or a situation where a dispensation/permission is not even possible, like getting married in a tourist “wedding chapel” by a civil official) and without any of the conditions that might permit such a marriage (like living in an isolated area where there’s no priest available for several months).

Just by way of example, this is from the webpage of the Archdiocese of Chicago:
6. How is a marriage declared invalid for a “lack of canonical form”?
Marriages of Catholics or the Orthodox which are invalid because of lack of proper form can be declared invalid through an administrative process. This normally takes place when one of the parties wants to enter into a subsequent marriage. The request for an administrative declaration of nullity is normally sent in by the parish priest with the rest of the marriage papers. The parish priest should fill out a form called “Petition for Declaration of Nullity for Marriage Attempted Outside the Church,” and submit it to the Office for Canonical Services, along with the baptismal certificate of the Catholic or Orthodox party, a copy of the marriage license and divorce decree from the previous marriages, and two witness affidavits which state that the marriage never took place according to the proper form.

A typical administrative declaration of nullity in the Archdiocese of Chicago would take about two weeks to obtain, once the necessary papers have been sent to the Office for Canonical Services.


Thank you both for your replies; you have answered my question clearly!


It is handled by the tribunal everywhere.


No, it isn’t. In Europe, it is handled at the parish level by the pastor.


The Code of Canon law is incorrect?



It’s not that the Code of Canon Law is incorrect. A defect of form is an administrative action, not a judicial one. Even when it is handled by a tribunal, that is at the directive of the local ordinary. The process does not need to be undertaken by a judge, and the bishop may delegate the authority to others – such as the pastor of a parish, as 1ke mentioned.


This is incorrect according to the code of canon law.


Ah, I see the issue now. Defect of Form (Canon 1686) and Lack of Form are not the same thing. It is quite common for people to use “defect of form” and “lack of form” interchangeably, but they are distinct things. (I used to do so too before I understood they are not the same thing). It is also not a documentary case. I call it an “adminstrative process” but really it isn’t that either. It’s not anything at all under Canon Law. It doesn’t exist.

Canon 1686 is speaking of a **defect **of form, not a lack of form, among other impediments. I suggest you read the entire Commentary on the Code of Canon Law regarding the Documentary Case, Canon 1686.

Lack of Form isn’t **anywhere **to be found in Canon Law under the Marriage Tribunal section. There is no judge, no respondent, no petitioner, no trial, no libellus, no appeal. **It isn’t a documentary case. ** It isn’t anything at all, canonically.

It is covered under canons 1066-1067, it is part of the premarital investigation only.

The ordinaries in the US have added some requirements for parishes to follow, as is their prerogative, but they are NOT canon law requirements.

The definitive instruction can be found in Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS). AAS, v. 76 (1984), p. 746-747 which states: The pre-nuptial investigation suffices to determine the invalidity of a prior marriage due to lack of canonical form; a declaration of nullity via the documentary process is not required.


Is there an English version of Acta Apostolicae Sedis online?


It’s published in Latin only.


Oops. I made this error and know better!


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