St Francis Q&A

Friday, August 10, 2007

Understanding annulments

Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus is the Eucharist are invited!!
In response to my May 7 post in which I wrote that “marital love (union b/w spouses) is analogous to the Eucharist (union b/w God and man)”, Anon asked, “So what then, if the union has been broken? How are you to ever again begin to think the act is one that is "holy" and "imitates God". What then?” Great question. It’s important that we understand the nature of the marital union based on what Jesus teaches in Mt 19:6: “what God has joined together, no human being must separate”. If a consummated, sacramental marital bond truly occurs, then it can’t be broken. This is what our Lord is saying here, and it’s what the Church – most recently with Pope John Paul II – has reaffirmed.

When married couples seek a permanent separation, the question is, then, did such a bond truly take place? In other words, was it a valid marriage? This is what the Church looks at with regards to the annulment process. Many people think that an annulment is a “Catholic divorce”; it is not. As excerpts from the following online article ( reveal, a declaration of nullity states that a valid sacramental bond of marriage never occurred in the first place. To view the full article, please click on the title of this post. One of the most significant points about the annulment process for all those who are unfortunately involved is made on the last line of this post: “it’s a great healing”.

“…Misunderstanding is due partly to the word annulment. The precise term is "declaration of nullity." A declaration of nullity is a judgment by the Church that what seemed to be a marriage never was in fact a true marriage. An annulment is not a divorce for it does not dissolve an existing marriage. A declaration of nullity is granted when it can be shown that some essential or juridical defect made a particular marriage invalid from the beginning despite outward appearance, despite even the good faith of the partners or the establishment of a family. It should be underscored that an annulment does not affect the legitimacy of the children of such a marriage.

Certain factors have brought about the considerable increase in Church annulments over the past decade. First and foremost, the Second Vatican Council fostered development in the theology of marriage by restoring the interpersonal relationship of the spouses as an essential component of marriage.

Secondly, advances in psychology have provided a deeper understanding of the complexity of both human decision-making and interpersonal relationships. Thus the Church has new insights for appraising a marriage. Marriage, after all, is the most important decision most people make, and marriage is the most intimate of adult relationships…

… marriage is effected by consent, freely and knowingly saying "yes" to all that marriage involves. Therefore, in considering a particular marriage, this "yes" is the key issue. Its validity may be considered in the context of two basic questions about consent.

First, when they said their vows, did both partners freely accept and clearly understand the lifelong commitment they were making? And secondly, at that time, did both partners have the personal capacity to carry out consent, to form a community of life with the chosen partner? …

…Many persons do remark how wrenching it was for them to recall and sort out painful memories. But they also find that it helped them to discover some meaning in the tragedy of a broken marriage. They appreciate their new insights about themselves and deepen their sense of values. This process can foster psychological and spiritual growth…

…A woman, forced into divorce to protect the welfare of her children, obtained an annulment and remarked that now she felt peace because she had "at least a piece of paper in my hand to prove to myself once and for all that I did try, that a marriage existed on paper only, that I did not fail in my duties as a Catholic, that the Church does understand..."

But the greatest benefit of the pain for many who have established a happy and stable second marriage is their return to the sacraments, the sometimes tearfully joyful reception once more of the Lord in the Eucharist, and the renewal of religious practice as a family celebration.
An elderly priest, after taking part in an annulment hearing, put it simply and poignantly:’It's a great healing.’"


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