Would this be grounds for an annulment?


#1

This question has been running round and round in my head for the last few weeks. I've tried to get in touch with our local Tribunal, but so far without success. Our local priest has been really tied up with Easter stuff and I won't get a chance to catch up with him until after the weekend. But in the meantime I would really love some advice and prayer (sorry - big introduction! :blush:)

The background is that I was previously married. My ex and I were married in a non-denominational protestant church. We were both baptised Christians, but not Catholics. We had 2 children and the marriage broke down (well, it never really got off the ground to begin with - but that's another story) and we separated and subsequently divorced.

I met my current husband who is a Catholic, though at the time we met & married he hadn't attended mass - except for a few rare services - for some time. He had never been married before. We were married in an Anglican church by an Anglican priest with a Catholic deacon in attendance to give the blessing. I honestly don't know if the deacon knew I had been married previously because my husband had had all the contact with him, and I only met him on our wedding day (literally at the altar!).

My husband is now becoming serious about his faith - and I am also seriously considering joining the church. One implication of that I have realised is that I probably need to have my first marriage annulled for my current marriage to be recognised by the church.

My question is this: Would the fact I was previously married in a Protestant church be enough grounds for an annulment? Or is it going to be more complicated than that?


#2

Hm . . . did your current husband have the bishop's permission to marry outside the Catholic form? I would think so, since you had the deacon there, but I would check on that. There should have been some marriage prep done, so the status of your first marriage could have been examined then. :(

You would have to speak with the tribunal about your first marriage. It's probably going to be more complicated than just that you were married in a Protestant church--Protestants can contract valid marriages.


#3

We had 2 children and the marriage broke down (well, it never really got off the ground to begin with

That’s a contradiction, the purpose of marriage is to have children, if it never got off the ground, how can you have two children??? Seriously, this sounds like an act of convenience to leave, rather then a valid reason.

You have some tough soul serching to do on this one, I very much hope you absolutely have changed and are with your current husband forever, no matter what, marriage is NOT to be taken lightly.


#4

If I have appeared to take light of the matter, it is only because this is a public forum and I feel it inappropriate to go into the horrible details of my previous marriage and the breakdown. I also don’t feel that that’s relevant to my question. Please don’t judge my reasons for leaving the marriage without getting the facts. Judging people without any basis to go on but a poorly worded comment is very hurtful.

I did not leave my previous marriage lightly - but I believe I did the right thing and would do it again no matter whether or not I am able to be married again. It was the only way to ensure my and my kids safety. I object to your comment that I need to have “changed”, because again you are making judgements about a situation you know nothing about.


#5

With the caveat that I am not a canonical expert (canon being the laws of the Catholic church,) the marriage between two non-Catholics outside the Catholic Church is as valid as the marriage of two Catholics who are married inside the Church. This is because marriage is a sacrament the two spouses give each other when they consummate the marriage, regardless of faith.

In other words, an annulment would only be possible if their marriage did not fulfill the same criteria as a Catholic marriage. Such an annulment could only be determined by a tribunal, and if you did not get your first marriage checked for validity before your second marriage, I do not think your second marriage is valid. That is, unless your first marriage had an obvious obstacle to validity, such as that your first husband had been married before etc. I would definitely get this checked by a tribunal, and most people here on CAF would recommend that you and your current husband live like brother and sister until you got this sorted out, so that you do not live in sin now that you have become aware that there is a chance you might be doing so.


#6

You will need to go through the process of having your first marriage reviewed for validity by the Tribunal.

Your civil husband, if he married in the Church or with dispensation, will have to do to the same. If your husband married outside the Church without dispensation, he will have to go through a much shorter paperwork process to recieve a form that says he is free to marry due to defect of form in the first marriage.


#7

Are you sure the Catholic deacon was a validly ordained deacon with faculties to witness marriage. Often there are “rent-a-priests” (or deacond) who say they are Catholic (and may be former priests) who will witness marriages, but they are not valid in the eyes of the Church. Even if you didn’t need an annulment (which it sounds like you do need one) before any Catholic clergy would witness a marriage you would have to be interviewed by a preist or deacon (both of you) and attend pre-cana and your prior marriage investigated to see if it was valid or not. It does not seem that this happened with your marriage.


#8

Ignore Prodigal. That lacked charity.

The Church presumes all marriages done between baptized Protestants are valid, unless an investigation into the marriage reveals that the inherent components to make a marriage valid were lacking AT THE TIME THE VOWS WERE SAID.

Both parties must have intended the marriage to be Indissoluble, Exclusive and Open to Children.

There cannot have been impediments to validity that would interfere with a full and free consent to marriage by both parties at the time of the vows. (That is why the Catholic Church does not do shotgun weddings. Too much coercion and rush to get married before a baby is born. How free is the choice really?) Full consent can also be compromised by immaturity on the part of one or more of the spouses, substance abuse, and a pschological incapacity to be married and fulfill the duties of a spouse.

This is why you absolutely need to meet with a priest and be prepared to have your full previous attempt at marriage looked at. If I read between the lines and there was abuse there, that could play a huge part in the decision of a tribunal as it speaks to psychological incapacity by your ex. Be prepared to present witnesses, medical and counsellling records if there are any and be prepared to have to relive in tremendous detail in written form the courtship, engagement, marriage and unravelling of the marriage. Your diaries, letters, and other evidence will be important. It will be very difficult to relive it, but you will find healing in the process and come away with a lot more truth and clarity about things, yourself, God and other people.

Good luck.


#9

I don't want to contradict Liberanos, but full consent is not needed for marriage to be valid. Minimal consent is needed for marriage to be valid. Marriage is invalid when even minimal consent isn't given, such as when a person is totally incapable, i.e. not the master of his actions, e.g. can't discern or comprehend marriage by reason of being reduced to the state below that of a normal person past puberty or is psychically *incapable *of being faithful or accepting children etc. I agree that you need to contact your priest and then the tribunal because we here are not qualified to answer your questions with regard to your specific situation (and you shouldn't try to apply our general answers to your specific situation on your own even if we were qualified).


#10

No, non-Catholics have no requirement to be married in a particular form-- i.e. in a church, by a priest, etc, unless their own religion imposes a form upon them (for example, the Orthdox Churches have form requirements and the Catholic Church recognizes them).

So, the fact that you were not married in the Catholic Church is not grounds for nullity, because neither of you were Catholic at the time of your marriage and therefore not bound by Catholic canon law.

The investigation would be a full tribunal investigation. I suppose you would consider that “more complicated.”

It sounds as if your first marriage had some serious issues. You are right, this is not the place to discuss them. The right place is with your parish priest, who can assist you in beginning the process of applying for a decree of nullity.

I suggest the book Annulment: The Wedding That Was by Michael Smith Foster to help you understand the Church’s teaching more fully.

It sounds to me as though something is not kosher regarding this deacon that supposedly attended your wedding to give a blessing. Neither a Catholic priest nor deacon can witness an invalid attempt at marriage.

You and your current spouse would have had to attend Catholic marriage preparation, complete freedom to marry paperwork (which, at that point your previous marriage would have become evident and nullity would have been brought up at that time) and then if you were declared free to marry after a nullity investigation, your spouse would still have had to receive permission for a mixed marriage from the bishop and a dispensation from Catholic form since you aren’t a Catholic and were married in the Anglican church.

I highly doubt that this could have all taken place without any involvement on your part (especially not an investigation into your previous marriage). So-- someone, somewhere cut a corner, missed something, or there is something your spouse is not telling you about what he disclosed to this deacon-- or as someone mentioned, the deacon was acting outside the Catholic Church authority.


#11

[quote="Lightbee, post:4, topic:193394"]
If I have appeared to take light of the matter, it is only because this is a public forum and I feel it inappropriate to go into the horrible details of my previous marriage and the breakdown. I also don't feel that that's relevant to my question. Please don't judge my reasons for leaving the marriage without getting the facts. Judging people without any basis to go on but a poorly worded comment is very hurtful.

I did not leave my previous marriage lightly - but I believe I did the right thing and would do it again no matter whether or not I am able to be married again. It was the only way to ensure my and my kids safety. I object to your comment that I need to have "changed", because again you are making judgements about a situation you know nothing about.

[/quote]

Seriously, the fact remains, you say that there never really was a marriage in the first place, yet you "still" decided to have two children within it. What gives here is how people get into these, then decide, having kids are going to be something to do on the side, not the primary purpose of it. If the marriage really wasn't there in the first place, why did you have kids within it, if you had enough insight into this, where there really was something there, had kids, and then things turned out badly in the end, tha'ts another story. You are contradicting yourself with the statement, tha'ts the point being made here.

I tell people what they need to here, not what they want.

Let's go over the marriage vows here.

For better or for worse...

How much counseling did the two of you have, how much prayer was put into it. You say he was abusive, how so? How earnest were you to seek help, or was this inconvenient and found it easier to divorce instead? Did you actually court before you got into either marriage? You know, really getting to know the person without the artificial move forward with physical contact, to know their family as well, spending time with them over a long period of time, or was it just a decision the two of you made blindly?

Most women that end up in an abusive relationship are actually the cause, either through enabling it, or their own personalities push any normal person into reacting negatively, "bipolar types are masters at this one", what is it that you did which you could have done differently to achieve a different result? Were absolutely all resources exhausted, all of them, this includes getting his family involved, if they refused, then you would have known of this prior to committing to marriage.

I worry about your current marriage, seeing you falling into the same mistakes too often made by our society. I talk to divorced people all the time, in almost every single case, there is at least one vow that's broken, and largely it's the woman that's not willing to admit it. Do you need examples of these?


#12

Most women that end up in an abusive relationship are actually the cause, either through enabling it, or their own personalities push any normal person into reacting negatively

Wow, and here I thought it couldn't get anymore uncharitable.


#13

What you say is not only wrong, it’s dangerously wrong. It contradicts the advice that a marriage and family therapist or a priest would give.


#14

your are quite right, this is not the place for that discussion, and you are quite right that anyone who sincerely feels his marriage was invalid, Catholic or not, may petition the canon law tribunal of his Catholic diocese for an investigation and judgement, once the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

Make an appointment with the parish priest to start the process. There may be other facts you are not aware of or have forgotten that actually make this less complex than it appears. You can also find out for sure exactly what steps need to be taken regarding your current marriage.

The fact that you are moved to do so now is the work of the Holy Spirit and even if it requires much patience, frustration and prayer you will probably find in the long run this is a healing process. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain, and it is an act of love toward your Catholic spouse to do all in your power to assure he remains in good standing with the Church.

It is not the fact that your previous marriage was to a Protestant that would make it invalid (unless you yourself were baptized Catholic) but the circumstances pertaining at the time of the marriage that prevented valid consent from being exchanged. What happened after the marriage is not relevant unless it sheds light on conditions that existed at the time of the contract. Start thinking about witnesses who can testify to circumstances pertaining at the time of your first marriage. You do not have to contact anyone directly, but witnesses who can support your view of the case will be the key to how long this takes.


#15

[quote="prodigalson12, post:11, topic:193394"]

Most women that end up in an abusive relationship are actually the cause, either through enabling it, or their own personalities push any normal person into reacting negatively, "bipolar types are masters at this one", what is it that you did which you could have done differently to achieve a different result?

[/quote]

It is interesting how abusive spouses often blame the victim for their actions. There is NOTHING anyone can say or do (outside of life being threatened) that validates an abusive spouse. Of course it takes two to tango in any relationship, and any marriage that ends in divorce the probability of it ending being due to only one individual is close to zero. But blaming women for their being abused in my opinion is unconscionable. It is not serving the Lord's interest or propagating the Gospel.

I will pray for you prodigalson.


#16

What is wrong with you? Women don’t cause themselves to be abused. They may not fight back well enough, but they didn’t start it. And you’re asking if it was “just convenient” for her to leave an abusive relationship? What exactly do you expect an abused woman to do? Just keep taking it?


#17

Based on the very little you have said here, I don’t know whether or not you actually have grounds for an annulment. Because you & your ex were baptized Christians who married in a Christian Church (neither of you being Catholic), the Church assumes that this marriage is valid.

So, you would have to prove that something was amiss at the time of your vows. This might be something like marrying under pressure of an exiting pregnancy or financial problems or immigration issues, one or both of you having an affair at the time of the vows (doing so after the vows wouldn’t count), one or both of you refusing to have children, one or both of you not being fully prepared for the marital commitment, lack of consummation in the marriage, and all sorts of other situations.

Whatever the grounds are for an annulment, they have to be true as the vows are being spoken. A sin against those vows later (such as adultery) harms the marriage but doesn’t “undo” the vows. As the Bible says, “What God has joined together, let no man separate.”

The only thing to do is to sit down with a priest and go over all the details of your preparation to marry and the marriage itself to see if you can uncover some reason why that marriage might not be valid. Then you will have to assemble the proof (such as testimony from witnesses) and apply for a decree of nullity. So yeah, it’s going to be a complex process.

In the meantime, it seems that your current marriage is invalid. Your husband, as a Catholic (practicing or not) would have had to secure dispensation to marry you in the non-Catholic Church, and this would not have been granted with your previous marriage assumed valid. I’m afraid this is a very serious situation, and for your husband to return to full communion with the Church, I’m pretty sure he must either live apart from you or (if you have children with him), you can live “as brother and sister” until the situation is resolved. I hope for the sake of all of you that there is some just cause to declare your first marriage null.


#18

Thanks so much to everyone who replied. Its definitely not a cut and dried issue, and I can only assume God has brought us to this point for a reason (as to the outcome - that’s yet to be seen).

We meet with our local priest 2 weeks from today and he’s going to put me in touch with the right person at the Tribunal. Please pray for me for strength to endure this process, and for openness to the outcome whatever it is. I must confess that I’m very scared about how this is going to go, but I’m still staying the course.


#19

Oh! And just for anyone who’s worried - my current husband and I have agreed to live as “brother and sister” until the annulment stuff is sorted out.


#20

Great! Praying for a good outcome for you .


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