Debunking 2 Myths About the Annulment Process


Do you understand the annulment process?

Every January there is a spike in emails I receive from people who have been away from the Church due to being divorced and remarried without going through the annulment process and receiving a declaration of nullity. They all ask me how they can be reconciled to their faith and begin receiving the sacraments again. I am always grateful to receive these emails because it’s obvious the Holy Spirit is working in their hearts and calling them home to the Catholic Church.

Inevitably, they have grave misunderstandings about what the annulment process is and its purpose, so I’d like to take this opportunity to explain a few of the most common myths people have about the annulment process.

1. First is the idea that the annulment process dissolves a sacramental marriage, which is false. Many people believe the annulment process is the Church’s way of saying, “We’ll forget about your previous marriage(s) and give you the OK to get a new one.” If this were the case, then all the rumors about the annulment process being just a “Catholic divorce” would be absolutely true.

The truth is the annulment process cannot dissolve a sacramental marriage — only death can. The annulment process determines whether or not a sacrament took place on the day of the wedding.

If the verdict rendered is the marriage was sacramental, then nothing can dissolve the marriage bond, no matter what a civil court or new spouse says. If the determination is that no sacrament took place, then the spouses are not bound to each other in the eyes of God… they never were. In this case, the Church renders a declaration of nullity or “annulment” — simply a statement of their findings. 

2. Second is whether Catholics remarried without receiving a declaration of nullity are welcome in the Church. Here is a segment of an email I recently sent to someone who asked why she should bother going through the annulment process after 21 years of re-marriage:

“You are welcome in your parish even though you remarried without receiving a declaration of nullity (annulment). You are welcome and encouraged to attend mass and other parish functions. What you are not permitted to do because of your remarriage is receive the sacraments.
 
The Church considers all marriages to be sacramental, meaning on the day of the wedding a bond was formed between the spouses and God that is unbreakable – only death can dissolve this bond. If one spouse leaves and obtains a civil divorce, the marriage is only viewed as dissolved by the civil authorities, not by the Church. And so a second marriage after a civil divorce constitutes adultery.
 
This is why the annulment process is in place — because the Church knows that, although a marriage can have all the appearances of being sacramental, often times there was something in the mix that prevented a sacrament from taking place on the day of the wedding (these possible reasons are called “grounds”). The annulment process gives a) the Church the opportunity to investigate what happened during the dating, engagement, and marriage periods, but especially what happened on the day of the wedding and b) provides much healing from that past relationship. You would be amazed at the emotions and hurt we are able to bury deep down and how it affects our every day lives.
 
Another common misunderstanding is that children of a marriage that ends in divorce are considered illegitimate if the annulment process declares that marriage null. This is not the case and should not deter you from participating in the annulment process. Canon Law clarifies this for us here:

Can.  1137 The children conceived or born of a valid or putative marriage are legitimate.

“Valid” refers to a sacramental marriage and “putative” refers to a marriage that is assumed or alleged to be a valid marriage so if the annulment process declares your marriage to be putative or null, your children are absolutely considered legitimate.

More importantly, children are a gift from God and can never “illegitimate.” To quote Fr. Edward Peters, JD, JCD, a canon lawyer, in his book 100 Answers to Your Questions on Annulments, he states:

“Babies are not illegitimate, no matter how illegitimate might have been the acts by which they were conceived. Babies are conceived in the image and likeness of God.”

I hope this helps any of you who have worried about these myths and may possibly have not considered the annulment process as a way to go. As always, I underscore the fact that along with gaining clarity and closure, the annulment process is a great source of healing.






38 Comments

  1. John-767131 February 23, 2012 Reply

    This comment is not intended as a judgment on the specifics of any one person’s annulment, but your essay is illustrative of one of the most problematic issues for divorced people who are using this site.
    First, you are unwittingly perpetuating the widely-held (and somewhat fairly held) belief that annulments are, in fact, Catholic divorces. There is nothing you wrote that implies how significant an action this is, but rather is written from the perspective of how easy they are to get, and how many of the obvious concerns are simply not concerns at all.
    The reality is the United States has become, as has been described, the annulment capital of the world, so much so that both Popes John Paul II and Benedict have described the explosion of these as a scandal and epidemic, and both have written extensive warnings on their commonness and ease of obtaining one. Neither of them are dumb to the ways of this country, and our unique ability to rationalize away matters of doctrine that interfere with personal happiness. They also are quite cognizant of how this epidemic has brought ridicule and disrepute to this church.
    Let’s be honest here–I’ll go out on a limb, but common sense will likely back up the assertion that the vast majority of these annulments, particularly after they are granted after 10 or 20-plus years of marriage and family, were done purely for expedience, and to enable good, decent Catholics to remarry in the Church and continue to participate in ALL facets of our faith. There is no point in quibbling with the numbers, because the Vatican both knows the numbers and plainly doesn’t like what it sees. And based on these numbers, the fact that they are making these warnings clearly shows they know what little fiction is being made.
    I add, parenthetically, that it is not accurate to suggest those without annulments are still “welcome.” If by welcome you mean that we would not be physically removed from the pew, then OK. But not participating in the sacraments is not by anyone’s definition “welcome.”
    I am not so cynical to say that these annulments are being granted for any other reason other than it is likely the tribunals simply may see before them two people who are in love and don’t want to be tossed into the “adulterer” category, and who want nothing more than to continue with practicing their faith in full. Because unlike the Vatican, these people are on ground level and have to deal with actual human beings. Most priests at the ground level actually do understand that the term “adultery” in this context is a bit harsh, and is not a real reflection of the more prosaic understanding of the term. They also must grapple with dealing with so many Catholics who are divorced and how to keep them in the fold and participating in the church.
    The bottom line? Simply perpetuating this scandal is not helpful. What is much more helpful, and certainly more difficult, is to address how divorced Catholics whose conscience does not permit them to play this little game, can reconcile their situation with remaining in this Church, and being welcome. Look, I am divorced, and have no “grounds” that don’t fall into what the Vatican believes are unfounded psychological reasons that are often proffered and rationalized, way after the fact. (A bad marriage, or one that just simply falls apart for reasons that occur after the sacrament is NOT a ground.) As a Catholic, I have to accept the fact that I am no longer welcome, as the ordinary meaning implies. If that’s the case, that’s the case. But please don’t continue to imply that there is some reasonably cost-free escape hatch for this dilemma because, at least insofar as the peculiar nature of this dating site is concerned, many of the members on this site would like a little more guidance than just saying trust the Holy Spirit, itself another convenient device to avoid making hard decisions and uncomfortable conversations with onesself.

    • Stephen-725391 February 23, 2012 Reply

      John, I have read your comment and have issues with the annulment process that are as deep as yours. I will be thinking about how to, in more detail add to your comment later, but I do think that a word is necessary about Lisa Duffy.

      Lisa’s story, to the extent that she has shared it here and at divorcedcatholic.com, her soothing and caring writing style, and the true desire to draw out the poison of the betrayal of divorce stopped me from digging myself deeper into the pit of despair, bitterness, hate and opening my spiritual eyes that God CAN be trusted. I believe that Lisa came to TRUST in God again and His plan for her was greater and happier than any thing she imagined. As hard as that is for this crusty, battered 63 year old to accept, God has a plan for me and that it is better than any thing I can or could imagine.

      Lisa, thank you! Stephen

      • Lisa Duffy February 25, 2012 Reply

        Dear Stephen,

        You are a true gentleman and your words are moving. Thank you!

        • Stephen-725391 February 25, 2012 Reply

          Lisa, I just wish God thought that and let me get on with my life. You truly won what you have, you are fortunate and deserve the happiness you fought for. Stephen

    • Lisa Duffy February 25, 2012 Reply

      Dear John,

      I respectfully beg to differ with you… there is nothing in my post that perpetuates a scandal. When I speak or write about the annulment process, my goal is to help an individual, not openly hurl criticism at the Catholic Church. There’s plenty of that, already.

      The Vatican has expressed its concern that there are too many annulments in the US and this is something we must look at. However, you state that “common sense will likely back up the assertion that the vast majority of these annulments… were done purely for expedience, and to enable good, decent Catholics to remarry in the Church and continue to participate in ALL facets of our faith” and I vehemently disagree with you.

      You use the phrase “vast majority” rather precariously and without having taken stock of other reasons why there are a high number of annulments, first and foremost being the fact that couples are grossly ill-prepared for marriage.

      The infiltration of pornography, addiction, abuse, contraception and unnatural sexual behavior is so rampant and so deceptive that it has turned our society and attitudes toward sex and marriage inside out.

      I’ve talked to many priests and marriage prep directors who readily point out that the majority of couples coming to the pre-cana classes or retreats are only there to please their parents or because it’s required to do so in order to be married at a particular parish. They are co-habitating, contracepting, and are personally disinterested in or concerned about understanding what the unitive and procreative aspects of a sacramental marriage are. But far beyond this unhappy fact lies other plagues of our society that create a severe disadvantage to forming a sacramental bond on the day of the wedding.

      Fraud (canon 1098) is one of them and is a frequent disqualification of a sacramental marriage. It often comes in the form of spouses with homosexual tendencies that have been kept secret, sexual abuse or rape that took place prior to the marriage that was not brought out into the open and discussed before the wedding, chronic addictive behaviors or mental disorders that were kept hidden, etc. – these are examples of problems can render a marriage that looks sacramental on the outside non-sacramental.

      So while it’s true that there are a greater number of annulments given in the US, I contend that the lack of preparation is a more significant factor in in this issue than abuse of the system is. And abuse of the system does not negate the process.

      That being said, I understand (because I’ve lived it) how painful and difficult it is to accept the fact that although you may have stood at the altar in a state of grace, with full freedom to give yourself, complete understanding of the responsibilities of marriage and full intention to make a life-long sacramental bond, your spouse may not have done so or may not have had the ability to do so.

      So my bottom line is this: Christ promised the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church which means that with all the scandals and abuses of the clergy and lay people, our Church is still the true Church and her teaching correct. The annulment process is part of this teaching and it is there specifically to help people who have been civilly divorced and live broken lives to understand what happened, find healing, and move forward to a new chapter in life with a clear direction: free to marry or not free to marry. Either way, God has a plan.

      This is why I believe the annulment process is a good thing and why I try to promote the truthful and healing aspects of it.

      • Stephen-725391 February 25, 2012 Reply

        Lisa, Where or who do one go to as a practical matter when you get the feeling that you have not gotten the full story. If it were a car accident and I had this feeling from the Insurance company, I wouldn’t ‘trust in the Holy Spirit’ that is would come out alright, I’d go to a competent attorney for the real scoop. I’m in the annulment process and I got that feeling. I’m not comfortable with how these people are operating, that sums it up. Any direction would be appreciated. Stephen

        • Stephen-725391 February 25, 2012 Reply

          Don’t get me wrong. I’m having trouble knowing how far I am supposed to go in things and when Trusting God takes over. I am terrified. I can’t afford to make a wrong move now because ….

          • Lisa Duffy February 26, 2012 Reply

            Dear Stephen,

            I understand what you are saying and please allow me to clarify: Action on our part goes hand-in-hand with trusting the God. I know only a little about your circumstances surrounding the annulment process so I cannot speak definitively on that, but I do know you have been through a lot and are very dissatisfied and frustrated with what’s happened.

            My suggestion to you is to make an appointment for a friendly meeting with your bishop. Explain your circumstances and all that’s happened and see what can be done from there to resolve your case and bring it to closure.

            God expects us to act while trusting that He will work all things for our good.

      • John-767131 February 26, 2012 Reply

        Dear Ms. Duffy,
        I appreciate your very thoughtful response to my missive, but I do feel compelled to clarify a couple of points in your rebuttal.
        First, it was not intended as another broadside against the church, as I like you, am somewhat protective of it, (for reasons quite possibly different than yours I must add.) I remain a lifelong Catholic, unlike many on this site who have a “Johnny-come-lately” ferver that is both off-putting and filled with the sanctimony and fanaticism that only comes with relatively new membership.

        If I was not perfectly clear the first time I chalk that up to my failure to articulate this complex point better. But I shall try to do so again now.

        The “scandal” I referred to lay in the Vatican’s sense that the prevalence of American annulments are directly related to the desire at the parish level to accommodate the needs of its divorced parishioners by effectively permitting what you described as the “rumor” of “Catholic divorces.”

        In order to make this accommodation, many of the proffered grounds for the annulments are precisely for the reasons you mentioned in your reply to me, which I hate to inform you, are not truly adequate grounds. You see, and the mistake many make, is that these grounds are specifically mentioned as NOT to arise AFTER the sacrament. Claims that one didn’t fully appreciate the vows at the time are specious and disengenuous, especially after pre-cana, regardless of what one was thinking when they attended the counseling, and you know it. It is far, far too easy to claim years after the fact, after the birth and raising of children, that now magically one recalls that perhaps they may have rushed into things or did so for what may now seem like the wrong reason. Here’s a stark example—two people get married because the girl got pregnant, an all too common occurrance. A few years later the couple concludes that they just are not meant to be husband and wife. Well, the good news is, they can divorce. The bad news? No annulment here, as the only reasons they could proffer would be that they got married for the wrong reasons.
        My ultimate point is that the rather extreme examples you cite may very well be grounds, but they needed to exist prior to the sacrament. Should for example, a husband become abusive, decide he’d rather live as a homosexual, or one party commits adultery, those do not serve as grounds. They serve as grounds for divorce, and there is a compulsion on many to conflate the two, but wrap these grounds for divorce into the cloak of some kind of “spiritual” deficiency that now is related-back to the day of the wedding as a “fraud.”

        The more powerful question for those who seek an annulment, especially after YEARS of marriage, is simply to do self-reflection: Am I, deep, deep down inside, “manufacturing” annulment grounds, and back-filling these to the moment of the receipt of the sacrament in order to both have another Catholic wedding and remain as a full-participating member of the church? Because a failure to do otherwise is to lie both to yourself and to God. Trust me, since many members here proclaim so adamantly how God knows all, He’s definitely going to know whether you are trying put one over on Him. And that’s a pretty big risk.

        Just so you know, I myself have never sought one. I won’t attempt to manufacture one. But, I think most of all I resent greatly the sense that so many of you think you are “better” Catholics, when many just seem to take advantage of a loophole to get on with your lives. Since I respect this Church, I have to live with them. But don’t, under any circumstances, make the ridiculous claim that divorced Catholics are “welcome.” We’re not really welcome on this site, despite my continued presence on it, and not welcome in the Church. But, so be it, as I know in my heart that is not truly the case. He won’t give a rat’s a** how many times I’ve prayed the rosary, or whether I think the mass should be said in Latin, or whether I’ve received communion in my hands or on the tongue. I’ve been Catholic my entire life, that’s not what this church is about. It’s about lying, and hypocrisy, and no amount of prayer, rosary, mass attendance, or candles lit will ever change that fact.
        John

        • Stephen-725391 February 27, 2012 Reply

          John,
          You state the following: “Claims that one didn’t fully appreciate the vows at the time are specious and disengenuous, especially after pre-cana, regardless of what one was thinking when they attended the counseling, and you know it.”
          So, I take it that the lack of a pre-cana meeting provides ‘lack of full appreciation of the vows at the time of making them thus a Declaration of Nullity should/must issue? I never attended or was it stated to me to be required. Is that what I’m hearing you say?
          Oh, by the way, the grounds for divorce is the mere statement of “irreconcilable difference” and those are so nothing that equating Lisa’s description of those psychological grounds to (my understanding) sustain declaration of nullity due to lack of competency (my words as I can’t at this time recall the actual buzz words of the canon law) on the part of the party(ies). Oh, by the way did you know the for a male under the age of 25 is presumed incompetent and a female under age of 23 is presumed incompetent to contract a sacramental marriage (at least that is what I have learned from a Jesuit’s article on the internet – my tribunal doesn’t find it necessary to share such basic information with us mere mortals.
          I really think that the book I quote from in this thread on Forgiving one’s self is something you should look to get. Stephen

          • John-767131 February 27, 2012 Reply

            Stephen,
            I think you’re all playing with fire here. So many of you are so fixated on these meaningless nuances, desperately trying to convince yourselves that these are not, in reality, “Catholic” divorces, but they are, and let’s all stop the BS. The Church will not countenance divorced Catholics to remarry, and I get it. It has been an issue they have struggled with for decades, they won’t yield to our basic human desires for love, and decided to take a hard line and since so many of us want to start over, find love, and not be cruelly labeled adulterers, we go through all kinds of legalistic gyrations that have no basis in reality to get through this. We’re not adulterers, we’re good Catholics, good Christians, but that doesn’t seem to be enough. That is why so many members here will be here forever, and never find love, find only heartbreak. Contrary to what the more conservative members think, Jesus will not abandon you, never, for this reason, may in fact think you foolish for thinking so. If he did, then what was the point? Lisa got lucky. The rest of us have to rely on more than just the Holy Spirit.
            I don’t want to seem mean or unenlightened. I would like you, myself, and the other members here to be happy. Its OK to be happy. I think we’re all here for the same reason, and I don’t think the reason is just to debate the finer points of Catholic doctrine.
            My very best to you.
            John

        • Lisa Duffy February 28, 2012 Reply

          Dear John,

          I know the discussion of the annulment process is an emotional one and everyone has an opinion. This is why I believe the discussion is important and should continue because as Catholics, we search for the moral value in everything, and the discussion helps bring forth the truth. So I appreciate your contribution and everyone weighing in on this issue.

          It is important to point out, though, that Canon Law is the ultimate authority, and so to say that “the proffered grounds for the annulments . . . which I hate to inform you, are not truly adequate grounds. . .” is again, a very precarious statement. You are saying that you know better than what the Church has prescribed.

          Nowhere in my post or responses was it ever stated or assumed that annulments were declared based upon circumstances arising after the wedding day. I specifically stated in my article the following:

          “This is why the annulment process is in place — because the Church knows that, although a marriage can have all the appearances of being sacramental, often times there was something in the mix that prevented a sacrament from taking place on the day of the wedding (these possible reasons are called “grounds”).”

          The grounds based on fraud certainly are valid grounds because there was a serious issue that took place before the wedding that rendered a person incapable of fulfilling the marriage responsibilities.

          The annulment process is not something everyone must go through and many choose not to. Not everyone who applies for an annulment receives a decree of nullity. And for those who do, some may unknowingly be victims of a clergy member abusing the system. But most people have received a declaration of nullity because it was proven by the canon lawyers and approved by the bishop that they truly did not have a sacramental marriage.

          You make an awful lot of broad assumptions based on your opinion… tread carefully.

    • Lori-635882 April 16, 2012 Reply

      John,
      I love my faith & it is very difficult dating….trying 2 find someone who lives their faith and goes to Mass.

  2. Lynea-297530 February 25, 2012 Reply

    People should not be even considering someone as “available” if the person is still married in the eyes of God and (His Holy Bride) the Church, or if he/she himself/herself is still married in the eyes of God and subsequently, the Church.

    • Lynea-297530 February 25, 2012 Reply

      The 9th Commandment: “Though Shall NOT covet thy neighbors wife (or husband).” To “covet” means merely to will to have it yourself, therefore, there was mortal sin by people who marry civilly who are already married in the Church in their hearts. While one might be able to get an annulment afterwards (emphasis on “might”), this process in itself doesn’t declare the marriage as SACRAMENTAL, just canonically legal. The blessings of God are through his Sacraments when the person(s) receive the Sacrament with no impediments. But in the case of marrying outside of the Church, there is not the Sacramental element to bless the marriage, where when one spouse does even just his/her duty or act of charity for the sake of the other, they also confer, through God, God’s blessings to their spouse. This is not received outside the Church, but the Church recognizes some marriages yet as still valid, while not being “sacramental”.

      • Lynea-297530 February 25, 2012 Reply

        Stephen wrote, “Lisa’s story, to the extent that she has shared it here and at divorcedcatholic.com, her soothing and caring writing style, and the true desire to draw out the poison of the betrayal of divorce stopped me from digging myself deeper into the pit of despair, bitterness, hate and opening my spiritual eyes that God CAN be trusted.”

        GOD can be trusted, but not teachers with itching ears. The path to hell is lined with good intentions. Divorce is difficult, but getting to heaven is impossible without the grace of God. One sins mortally against the supernatural grace of charity when they so much as covet another’s wife, and even if it is a person who is unmarried in the eyes of the Church, but you, on the other hand, ARE still married in the eyes of the Church, you have no right to presume on the grace of God while you put yourself in danger. It doesn’t matter what your friends say or what anyone else says to you (no matter how important they might say, God knows better and He has been clear on this and not confused the issue to make it “grey area”) — if you love God, you will want to keep His Commandments above anything and everything else in this short life. With God all things are possible, including to obey His Commandments. But God is also a ‘gentleman’, who will allow people to disobey Him, too, and even allow them to think that they can decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong, while presuming on the goodness and mercy of God (See: Genesis — and how Adam and Eve were tricked). When one has a desire in his mind and consents to entertaining that desire in his mind, even before any words or actions to consent, He has chosen evil over obedience to God. Obeying God should be one’s first thing on their list of things to be concerned about, not how to make God bless their decisions to rather disobey Him and make them legal in the eyes of the Church.

        Soothing words can come a dime a dozen, and there are many other things one can find distractions and consolation, but if you wish to know and love God, find, rather, your solace in the Sacraments — not by taking them for granted, but by recognizing the price that was paid for you to receive them, particularly, that Sacrament we call, the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar — Jesus Himself.

        • Lynea-297530 February 25, 2012 Reply

          CORRECTION for CLARIFICATION to my above response: “When one has a SINFUL desire in his mind and consents to entertaining that desire in his mind, even before any words or actions to consent, He has chosen evil over obedience to God.” Sin is not something relative in the sense that it exists only in the mind of the doer, but by objective principals. If one doesn’t know that a certain sin is mortal, then they are not committing necessarily a mortal sin, but they sin, none-the-less.

          Yes, it is difficult to know where to “draw the line” when you are in a dangerous spot to begin with, but take comfort in the fact that you don’t have to be in a dangerous spot. God doesn’t want you to take risks with the supernatural charity that Jesus suffered and died that you might have that aspect of supernatural life. Rather, when you are married (in the eyes of God), you should not be discerning anyone but rather looking to use any suffering as a means to union with the Suffering Savior. This spirituality where one is encouraged to take the easy route because it is less difficult, never mind the fact that it puts you in spiritual danger (courting while already being married), is not with the thinking of the Church (proper), but a new, dangerous, false ‘spirituality’ that propels one into a habits of mortal dangers. This is what often causes despair, because the soul is neglected, even inadvertently, while the body is never satisfied and the will is led by the body’s disorders. All the while, the world will tell you, “It’s ok: GOD will understand”.

          Humility will keep one out of despair, humility and True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ, as she is the one perfect creature of God who has more obedience than all the saints put together. Go to Mary, and she will give you the graces you need, by HER merits and despite your weaknesses, and help to conform your mind and body’s will to the will of your soul — which longs to be united to Christ. And since this is Lent, it would be remiss to not mention, find a good confessor and have him recommend some good penances. (Ones that are small, even, so that they can be done with the greatest frequency, do more to curb the will than larger ones where there is a greater risk of physical harm or spiritual harm for having failed at something not meant for you.)

          • Lisa Duffy February 25, 2012 Reply

            Dear Lynea,

            Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your knowledge of the commandments and sin, but not sure why you may have contributed those points here because coveting another’s wife or dating before receiving a decree of nullity were not points that were part of my article. I don’t think anyone involved in this conversation disagrees with what you have stated.

            As for not trusting teachers with itching ears, you are correct, I am not to be trusted, for I am a flawed and sinful human being. However, the information I put forth can be trusted because it is the teaching of the Catholic Church found in the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” and in the Code of Canon Law.

  3. Stephen-725391 February 26, 2012 Reply

    To Whom It May Concern: Wow! I remember from the biography of St. Louis De Montfort (sorry I don’t have the title), this Saint declaring that there where numerous paths to Heaven, BUT that the one, which this Saint (a Tertiary Dominican) advocated and preached was the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary as it was the straightest and surest path to Heaven. Point one – Even this Holy Saint whose life was spent preaching the straightest path to Heaven DID NOT discount nor condemn the other paths to Heaven. Along this same line, a book on forgiveness was suggested which I obtained and read – very helpful and surprising (which I shouldn’t have been since the author is an Irish priest). I am sure we have all heard the term: “Catholic guilt”. I sure have and feel that I am effected and affected by said same, but search as I have, I have never come across anything vaguely resembling it UNTIL I read Fr.Eamon Tobin’s How to Forgive Yourself & Others, Steps to Reconciliation, Third Edition 2006 from Liguori Publications.

    On pages 73 through 76, he discusses “Dealing With a Perfectionistic Spirit”. He describes this thus: “Sometimes a big obstacle to forgiving ourselves for our faults and failings is the presence within us of a strong perfectionist spirit or voice. The presence of such a voice will also make it very difficult for us to believe in God’s love and mercy. This is the inner voice that harshly condemns us for not being perfect. It holds up before us an unattainable standard.” Fr. Tobin continues: “Psychologists tell us that the root cause of this perfectionistic voice is a strict upbringing during which we received a long list of what good boys and girls “should” be.” “Usually God’s love and mercy were not emphasized. Instead children mainly heard of God’s judgment and punishment for those who failed to (rigidly) follow his ways.” I remember coming home (throughout the 8 years of Catholic grammar school) spouting the retort to my mother and father – Sister says, Sister says, Sister says. There were very few lay teachers at the time (1955 – 1963) in the Catholic schools of the San Francisco Archdiocese. In fact, when I was in the 3rd grade my teacher Mrs. Czranicki, the only lay teacher at St. John Vianney School in San Jose, California, was the FIRST and only lay teacher in that Archdiocese authorized by the Archbishop to teach Catechism. Talk about brain washing! But I digress. Back to Fr. Tobin: “Frequently, the “list of shoulds” (not all of which were bad) were internalized and became like “parental tapes” in our psyche. They told us what was right and wrong and exerted a great influence over our lives.” “We may have mistakenly come to that unfortunate conclusion [that God was a punishing God and not very loving] – a conclusion that would make it very difficult in the future for us to forgive ourselves and to believe in God’s love and mercy.” With that as a preface, the statement is then made which comes the closes to what I feel as ‘Catholic guilt’: “All of us who in childhood were so unfortunate to receive a ‘lot’ of “shoulds” from parental and authority figures [nuns] were set up to ‘not’ enjoy life too much.”

    It is no wonder that many ‘Catholic’ marriages of 40 and 30 and even 20 years ago end in divorce and annulments are now being sought to correct the sins of the parties to those unfortunate crimes against God’s creation – those parties, inclusive and nobody gets a “Get out of jail Free Card”, are the man, the woman, and the Church!. That’s right, the outfit that claims to be able to determine whether or not a Sacramental union occurred on the date of the vows, disavows any culpability in handing out ‘marriages’ and puts on the man and/or woman the heavy burden of proof rebutting the rebuttable presumption of valid marriage without knowing (canon law is on the level of the Income Tax code, I ought to know because I have a LL.M in Taxation from the Univ. of Florida) the basis, the grounds, and being able to discuss with your witnesses those things so that they can refresh there memories from 40 years ago and testify to those issues. I think the Holy Ghost would like some help in getting the facts to that human judge who will decide, notwithstanding the guy is a priest.

    There is much more, but for this, this is enough.

    Lisa, I don’t know the depths of your ordeal, I only hope and pray that God is as merciful to me as He has been to you. Stephen

    • Nina-525092 February 26, 2012 Reply

      I am in the process of filing for an annulment. It is true that some annulments are quite simple. Many are not – and many are denied. I think it is merciful of the Church to even have this process. Marriage was not in this state 100 years ago. I don’t think we can blame the Church. Catholicism in America has been greatly influenced by Protestantism – watered down and based on ‘feelings’ as opposed to objective truth. Even our seminaries have been affected. However, in the end, when I stand before God Almighty – I don’t think He will accept any excuses — especially anything like “the Sister’s said”, or “Father said.” We cannot plead ignorance either. Not at this point in time when everything the Church teaches is readily available at our fingertips and we *can* get the truth. And yes… God is merciful. Just, and merciful. I thank God for His Divine Mercy – He is there waiting for me, but I must have the humility to accept it.

    • Lisa Duffy February 26, 2012 Reply

      Dear Stephen,

      The number one reason I do what I do is because I know – without a doubt – that God doesn’t do great things just for me… He wants to and will do great things for everyone. Everyone, including you!

      • Stephen-725391 February 26, 2012 Reply

        Lisa, That is why I haven’t thrown up my hands and turned my back on this, mainly because of your inspiration and the pain you went through gives me hope. Stephen

  4. Deanna-558852 February 26, 2012 Reply

    Thanks Lisa for trying to tackle a confusing, emotional subject. Two questions I have…
    1) Is the US annulment rate higher because we divorce more in this country than others? Or perhaps, other countries with just as a high a divorce rate aren’t bothering to do “the right thing” by pursuing an annulment?

    2)It was stated in your article that a divorced non-annulled person can not receive the sacraments. I’m under the impression that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is still available to such persons. Maybe not complete absolution because of their cohabitating/non-sacramental marriage but for the other offenses that they seek reconciliation for.

    Whatever the answer, I encourage non-annulled remarried/cohabitating parishoners to continue to seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I believe it helps a person stay on the right track in staying connected to Christ.

    • Lisa Duffy February 26, 2012 Reply

      Dear Deanna,

      To answer your first question, I’m inclined to say yes because there are a lot of marriages that should never have taken place to begin with. It should be harder to get married and I hope pre-cana classes will up the ante on couples who are “in love.”

      To answer your second question, a non-annulled, divorced Catholic is welcome and encouraged to receive the sacraments as long as they have not a) remarried or b) are in an otherwise unchaste relationship (the latter applies to all of us, of course, divorced or not).

      • Stephen-725391 February 26, 2012 Reply

        In my case, I never met with the priest until I was at the alter, I was stationed in W. Germany and showed up for the wedding a couple days before. So without asking me first and counseling me before, What position does it take for this failure – so far it doesn’t seem to give a rip! Stephen

        • Lisa Duffy February 26, 2012 Reply

          Dear Stephen,

          My humble apologies, but I don’t know enough about your situation to comment or begin to answer this question.

          • Stephen-725391 February 26, 2012 Reply

            Lisa, Not expecting a reply, just venting frustration on this issue and the frustration that other things hanging fire are keeping this from moving forward. Stephen

      • Stephen-725391 February 26, 2012 Reply

        The second answer would seem to indicate that being in that state on the day of exchanging the vows would void and nullify those vows even before they were mouthed. Again, that was the situation and the Church doesn’t give a rip! Stephen

        • Lisa Duffy February 26, 2012 Reply

          The Church does give a rip! But it sounds like your tribunal is the entity giving you the run-around. I reaffirm my suggestion to make an appointment with your bishop to see how the situation can come to closure.

          • Stephen-725391 February 26, 2012 Reply

            Lisa, You know that suggestion has been in my mind for quite some time, not expressed anywhere though. I would not presume as to your thoughts, but in my way of viewing that suggestion is that IT is validation of Trust in God working in my life. I am fortunate, I count my blessing that I stumbled (or was lead) across you to ease this terrible pain I feel. Thank you. Stephen

      • Cate-291547 March 5, 2012 Reply

        Hi everyone,

        Lisa, you make an excellent point about pre-cana. I’ve gone to pre-cana two separate times over the past 6 years (long story) and can unequivocally announce that both were a charade. Both times, the places were packed with couples in love who got a free lunch and sat listening to some nice priest or parishoner make good-natured jokes for a few hours. We had to fill out a most inane questionnaire about our couple-dom; it was seriously not even on par with a standard relationship quiz on some random website or in a teen magazine.

        This makes it easy to declare that one party or the other was unaware of the true meaning of the sacrament that took place on the wedding day. I have to say, this most certainly does provide a loophole for the “cost-free escape hatch” referred to on this thread.
        ~ C

      • Cate-291547 March 6, 2012 Reply

        Hi Lisa,
        I really need some clarification on this:
        “a non-annulled, divorced Catholic is welcome and encouraged to receive the sacraments as long as they have not a) remarried or b) are in an otherwise unchaste relationship (the latter applies to all of us, of course, divorced or not).”
        Deanna was referring specifically to the Sacrament of Reconciliation … so are you saying that sinners can’t go to confession??

        • Lisa Duffy
          Lisa Duffy April 18, 2012 Reply

          Dear Cate – Yes, if a divorced Catholic has remarried without an annulment, he or she may not receive the sacraments of reconciliation or the Eucharist without the permission of their bishop; at the very least they must discuss their situation with their pastor before moving forward.

          - Lisa

    • Cate-291547 March 6, 2012 Reply

      d

  5. Stephen-725391 February 27, 2012 Reply

    To all and, especially, John:
    Fr Tobin said it all too well (see my quotes in this thread for the name of the book):

    “All of us who in childhood were so unfortunate to receive a ‘lot’ of “shoulds” from parental and authority figures [nuns] were set up to ‘not’ enjoy life too much.”

    God wants to forgive us, wants us to be happy here and with him in Heaven. As the Dominican Friar told me (he was the one who suggested that annulment should be considered) – in the end, do what you think best because in the end it will be between you and God.

    Stephen

  6. Juan-744060 March 17, 2012 Reply

    Thanks all of you for yours comments, my situation is that but my faith is with GOD not with the church or priest….about divorce MATTEO 19,1….what Jesus told us about that… the church said whoever wants the divorce needs to write a letter saying that she/ or he was not in love at the time of marriage(I am not frustrated about my divorce I just accept what GOD has for me and I trust some day HE will give some one with same faith)

  7. Stacey B. March 20, 2012 Reply

    I think some of the comments are a bit harsh , when you look at our culture in the last 35 years or more and how much the churches teachings on marriage and catechism were very watered down , how many of these people married by Priest’s were instructed improperly . Ignorance or niavity , is not something we can judge and people make mistakes in thinking things are right in fact they are not . Only in hindsight , and maturity , later on , do many see their error . Lets be honest , it wasn’t my stupid idea , to change the Mass in 1962 , and for people to run a muck in teaching Catholicism incorrectly . Priest , telling people that confession isn’t important , thats its okay to live together .. The church has made many mistakes here … Please don’t misunderstand me, I am deeply in love with my faith and the church and am obedient to the teachings before Vatican 2 … But I have enough brains and compassion to see truth too . Many catholics have been told error , and the teachings have been watered down . I have seen this by the hundreds and thats just my circle , thats not speaking of our entire country !!! So this is a huge problem , not just the for those who are seeking annulments .

  8. Tessa-694373 September 6, 2012 Reply

    Interesting…bottom line is people who were married in the Catholic Church and get divorce and did not get the marriage annulled are committing adultery and should NOT get mad at Catholics who have never been married just because they do not want/desire to date them…why should we get pulled into their adulterous ways…I wish they had a true Catholic online dating site that was for devout never married Catholic single people looking to marry a devout never married Catholic person…this CM membership seems to consist of 90% divorce men ( I can’t speak for the women membership) It is just sad and frustrating…

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