Saturday, September 19, 2015
Annulments: The "Get Out of Marriage Card" for Catholics

In recent days Pope Francis has made headlines by championing a new process of streamlining annulments in the Church under the intention of promoting mercy and reconciliation to the lost sheep of Christ's flock.

Unfortunately, this latest scandal to the indissolubility of marriage has undone decades of work by Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II to prevent annulments being nothing other than the "Catholic Divorce."  If divorce is not possible for a Catholic and with the number of annulments measuring in the tens of thousands each year, how is it that so many invalid marriages are allowed to be contracted to begin with?

Along with the grave error of homosexual marriage which I recently wrote on, the issue of annulments are a very pressing and grave concern.  If we fail to act, we shall certainly incur the judgment of God upon this very unholy and pagan world.

To start, let's examine the basics.

Q: What is an annulment? What is a divorce?  How are they different?

A: Fr. Peter Carota from the Diocese of Phoenix summarizes:
Up till lately, the Catholic Church has always upheld the Holy Bond of Marriage between a man and a woman.  That means that the marriage bond was indissoluble which means “till death do us part”.  But since the annulment process has been so liberalized and made easy since Vatican II, the marriage bond has been terribly weakened.
Many people refer to the annulment process as the “Catholic divorce”.  Annulment means that a couple go through a long process written questions, witnesses, canon lawyers and interviews to prove that there never was a marriage bond.   I am not saying that there is not sometimes true grounds for annulments, but I think the whole thing has to be seriously looked at and be sure that we are not going against Jesus’ admonition: “What God has united, let no one separate”.
Grounds for an annulment of the wedding vows can be:
1) Not wanting children, because the purpose of marriage is to have children.
2) Hidden drug and alcohol abuse (and probably other addictions) at time of marriage .
3) Infidelity before, during and after the marriage.
4) Immaturity to be able to make a life long commitment, like marrying at 17 and the marriage only last a very short time.
5) Forced to marry by spouse, parents or circumstances like pregnancy.
6) Physical or verbal abuse before, during and after the marriage.
Then there is also what is called the “Pauline Privilege” that deals with the conversion of an unbaptized spouse to the Catholic faith and the other unbaptized spouse does not support it.

Another whole very important area is the “Lack of Form”.  This is where a baptized Catholic gets married without a Catholic marriage.  This is for sure not a Catholic marriage and can be nulled.  A Catholic only is validly married when they have filled out all the papers, have permission from the pastor, have the marriage witnessed by a priest or deacon and two witnesses.   This only applies to baptized Catholics.

All other marriages between non Christians or non Catholics are valid and can not be nullified with out an annulment process.  This means that the non catholic spouse has to be willing to go through giving information for the catholic annulment process.  Most find this very annoying.  All marriages that take place outside the Catholic Church are valid because they are not Catholics and are not required to go by Catholic canon law.
Q: How have annulments changed since before Vatican II in the 1960s?

A: This picture illustrates how serious the situation has become.

From 1952 to 1955 there were a total of 392 annulments issued for the entire world.  This is seemingly in line with what an annulment is - it is a statement that a marriage was never validly contracted.  You would logically expect that few of the people who claim to live a married life are actually not really married.

But in 1997 there were 73,000 annulments issued worldwide!  It is simply ludicrous to believe that so many invalid marriages take place.  If they do take place, shouldn't one of the greatest concerns in the Church and society be limiting the number of these invalid unions?

Sources: What We Have Lost: And the Road to Restoration

Q: How have annulments changed under Pope Francis?  How do these changes attack the indissolubility of marriage and undermine the Sacraments? 

A:  Father Glen Tattersall of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter recently published a response to the actions taken just last week by Pope Francis to change the annulment process.  His response concretely summarizes the grave concerns of modern annulments.
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

Recent days have witnessed what I regard as a grievous blow to the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage, under the guise of mercy and the salvation of souls. Pope Francis has issued, motu proprio, new legal provisions for declarations of nullity of marriage. In the Latin rite, these provisions are contained in the Apostolic Letter Mitis Iudex Dominus Jesus.

I cannot deny the Pope’s power to promulgate these new provisions, but with all the respect that is due to his office, I find myself bound to question their appropriateness. It will be necessary to go into greater length in coming weeks or months, so today I will confine myself to the broad scope of the changes and my general concerns. 
Because marriage is instituted by God, and according to God’s law and man’s nature is indissoluble (an indissolubility that is absolute in the case of sacramental marriage), marriages must be regarded as valid until proved otherwise. The Church cannot annul a true marital bond, merely declare – after a careful and precise canonical process – that a given putative marriage, after all, is not real because the conditions for validity have not been met. This means that the truth about the validity of the marriage bond is the fundamental consideration proper to the juridical process of a tribunal. In discovering this truth, the Church through the tribunal provides a true pastoral service to souls.

The result of the new dispositions imposed by Pope Francis is to subvert this, and to establish as a priority instead the subjective interests of the parties. The most important novelties by which this is achieved are the general abolition of double judgment (by which cases are submitted to a second tribunal for a confirmatory judgment), the granting of wide powers to Diocesan Bishops to make their own determinations of cases, and the provision of a fast track process where both parties consent, and certain factors are present – a number of these factors, such as brevity of married life, having no actual bearing on any question of validity!

This is indeed a revolutionary decree, hurriedly draped up in a vague semblance of conservative legal form. Aside from anything else, it seems to me that declarations of nullity under these new provisions, potentially, will be so lacking in juridical integrity, and therefore in any corresponding moral certitude, that it may become impossible to distinguish a legitimate case of nullity from one without any real basis. The implications are obvious, and terrible. This, on the eve of a Synod that was supposed to dealing with such matters…. So much for collegiality!

Sincerely in Christ,
Fr Glen Tattersall, PP
Q: What is the Negative Effect of Annulments?

A: Lyle J. Arnold, Jr. in his article "Snookering the Indissolubility of Marriage" explains:
In a book dealing with the problem of divorce published one year before Vatican II, this paradox is pointed out: “Just when the post-Christian world has entered into an unparalleled period of hedonistic ideals, and of contempt for such unprofitable notions as a world to come, self-control, and penance, Catholics have emerged from their own private enclave to become more a part of the world around them than they had been for centuries." (Whom God Hath Not Joined by Claire McAuley (c) 1962 pp 5-6)

It was with this world of "hedonistic ideals" that Vatican II merged, not to remedy the problem, but to insure its success. Its objective was to promote and accelerate the engine driving this hedonism by adding the dynamism of the Church to it. One field where its effects were clearly felt is Catholic marriage. To destroy the indissolubility off marriage is to destroy the august benefits of the family. In the annulment process, practically any pretext has been accepted to end marriages and the result is that some 60,000 annulments a year have taken place.

An annulment made under the authority of Church is now a form of divorce in every way but name. The "Catholic divorce" is extremely harmful to the family and society. It hurts children as well as spouses, often induces applicants to misrepresent the past, and drives many away from the Church. It is a disaster.

In His Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:31-32), Our Lord expressly forbade divorce, but the Jews rejected this precept forthwith. Passing through the district of Peraea, we see Him assailed by His bitter enemies, the Pharisees, who nowhere leave Him in peace. Having decided to hasten His death, they were always on the watch for some “error” on His part so they could condemn Him.

They thought they had found one on the subject of marriage. With hearts of malice, the Jews posed this question to Our Lord: “The great lawgiver Moses allowed divorce and remarriage. Do You deny the validity of the Law of this man of God?"

Our Lord pointed out that Moses made this temporary concession because of the hardness of the Jews' hearts. He allowed divorce in some instances in the Old Law, but this temporary permission came to an end in the New Covenant. Thus, He reestablished the indissolubility of marriage in all its chaste beauty.
Indissolubility of marriage was the rule of law in the Catholic Church from the time of Our Lord until Vatican II, when the agents of Progressivism devised a method to snooker Our Lord's command, that is, to place the indissolubility of marriage in an almost impossible situation.

2 comment(s):

del_button March 9, 2016 at 6:22 PM
John Farrell said...

Does canon 1692 mean I need the bishop's permission to divorce - or that I do not need the bishop's permission to divorce?

del_button July 9, 2022 at 3:50 PM
Anonymous said...

Father Peter Carota's grounds for annulment are not accurate. Only numbers one and three are: intention against children and fidelity.

The other four "grounds" are used inaccurately by diocesan marriage tribunals along with lack of due discretion and psychological incapacities.

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