Annulment is the common name for a decree of invalidity of a marriage for Catholics. After an investigation by a Church tribunal, if it is proven that the parties’ original marriage promises were invalid, then the marraige itself is null.
Those who marry as the Catholic Church understands marriage must promise
openness to children,
sexual fidelity, and
“orientation towards the good of the spouses*.”
Because Mary’s Advocates works to reduce unilateral no-fault divorce, the question of validity of a marriage is important. For those who have no reason to believe their marriage is invalid, the resources below will help them exercise their rights as a Respondent.
In no-fault divorce, one party can force divorce on the family, though the party wanting to keep the family together has done nothing grave enough to justify permanent separation of spouses. When the family splits, the party wanting to keep the family together would be pleased to meet with those expert in helping couples improve their marriage. Commonly, the party wanting divorce refuses to cooperatively participate and blames the other. For those who chose Catholic marriage, the reasons justifying permanent separation are very limited.
If, in fact, a valid Catholic marriage never occurred, the reason for invalidity is relevant to the determination of a fair, just, separation plan. The Church has competence to judge whether a separation plan is in accord with divine law. The canon law for cases of invalidity show that the Church has competence to remind the parties of their moral and civil obligations toward each other and their children (Mitis Iudex c. 1691 §1, CIC c. 1689), which are commonly undermined in civil divorce court. If a party is mentally ill and incapable of consenting to marriage, the tribunal can prohibit person from entering a new marriage (vetitum).
To see further discussion, read conclusion of paper “The Current Marriage Crisis in the Light of the Original Creation and the Code of Canon Law” by Bai Macfarlane.
Questions Readers are welcome to send questions to defending marriage e-mail discussion group, or contact Mary’s Advocates directly.