Why is divorce required before seeking an annulment?

I posted this question in the sacraments section and did not get a real answer, I had also posted it here before I read the rule not to post the same ? in several forums. Sorry. But it has been over five days so I am going to repost it.

I have a question on the philosophy behind the Church’s policy on annulment. I am a convert to the Catholic Church, 5 years ago. A good friend of mine followed me into the Church two years ago. She has always struggled with her marriage. Her three children are in college or beyond. Shortly after entering the Church she counselled with our priest and told me afterwards that the circumstances of her marriage are classic grounds for a declaration of nullity ( I have read two books on the subject and various other essays) She was date raped and manipulated her present husband into marriage by having sex with him and he married her due to guilt (he was and still is a strong Protestant Christian) and she was supposedly psychologically unstable due to the rape etc. so her consent is questionable. She seemed so excited at this news and eager to apply for an “annulment”. I told her she could not do that. The church only investigated marriages that had ended in divorce. She ignored me, sure I was wrong. She recently was propositioned by an attractive man at work. She was tempted but admirably resisted.
But the next time her husband was mean to her, 2 weeks later, she wanted a separation. Less than a month later she met with our priest to file papers for an “annulment”. I told her, again, she could not file unless there had been a divorce. I do not want her to divorce her husband. After meeting with our priest she told me she has met with a lawyer and is going to divorce her husband. When I asked her why she was not giving the separation a chance to see if they could work out her marriage she said “Because the church will not investigate my marriage unless I am divorced first”

So she is divorcing her husband in order to get an annulment! This just can’t be right! Can it? All of our Protestant friends are scandalized!

Originally Posted by Br. Rich SFO
Why on earth would someone want to seek an Annulment to a Marriage they are still actively involved in?

Because both she and her husband believe very strongly that marriage is forever. But, she wants out of the marriage and does not want to violate her belief that divorce is not acceptable. Therefore, she believed that if it was found that their marriage really wasn’t a true marriage in the eyes of God b/c the Church declared it null, it would free her to go through a divorce as a mere ratification of how her marriage was viewed by God.

And this brings me to the crux of my question. I know there are good and natural marrriages although not sacramental. So I want to know…How Does God view her marriage? or the marriage of friends of ours who IF they ever got divorced would have grounds for an annulment because one was married before so, the second marriage is adultery? Or another couple, one was raised Catholic and married a Jewish girl. Now they are both Protestants Christians. (Disparity of Cult)

I understand the whole idea of extending healing and grace to people whose marriages have ended in divorce but I do not understand the philosophical reasons that make it ok to declare a marriage null after a divorce but not seek a divorce in order to have the marriaged declared null.I agree that the latter is wrong. But why, philosophically?
Thank you so much. I would really appreciate an answer. I volunteer at my parish in RCIA-Inquiry and annulments come up occasionally. That is why I read the two books.
Thanks again,
Pam

Dear Pam,

This is a bit confusing. I’m not sure how Brother Rich figures in this. But I will continue to address this to Pam. Divorce is a matter of civil law. A Church annulment has to do with whether or not a sacramental marriage has taken place. I don’t know why you are so concerned about whether or not she gets a divorce when the matter of annulment is so much more important. She does indeed have reason to have the marriage annulled by the Church. If she has college-age children, she has had more than ample time to “work out her marriage.” If she has decided that she wants the marriage annulled, the choice is hers to make.

You say that you do not want her to divorce her husband, This boggles my mind. You are not the one who has lived in that unhappy marriage all those years. You ask “Why on earth would someone want to seek an annulment to a marriage they are still actively involved in?” Because she is still living with him does not mean that she is happy about the situation. You mentioned that she has always struggled with the marriage—That’s why!!!

That your Protestant friends are scandalized is surprising when one considers that most Protestant churches accept divorce for any reason and don’t consider marriage to be a sacrament in the first place.

As for the matter of having to obtain a civil divorce first, I refer you to Jim Blackburn’s recent answer on the Forum: forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=9420

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.