Marriage

Divorce/Annulment

 Many couples wonder what, exactly, the Catholic Church teaches about important moral issues. Or perhaps you know some of the points but don't understand why the Church teaches as it does.

The Church believes that God, the author of marriage, established it as a permanent union. When two people marry, they form an unbreakable bond. Jesus himself taught that marriage is permanent (Matthew 19:3-6), and St. Paul reinforced this teaching (see 1 Cor. 7:10-11 and Eph. 5:31-32). The Church does not recognize a civil divorce because the State cannot dissolve what is indissoluble.

Although the Church does not recognize a civil divorce, divorced people still are full members of the Church and are encouraged to participate in its activities. Divorced Catholics in good standing with the Church, who have not remarried or who have remarried following an annulment, may receive the sacraments.

The Church understands the pain of those caught in a divorce. When divorce is the only possible recourse, the Church offers her support to those involved and encourages them to remain close to the Lord through frequent reception of the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist. Many dioceses including ours offer programs and support groups for divorced and separated persons. The North American Conference of Separated and Divorced Catholics and The Beginning Experience also offer networks of support. (For information e-mail: beinfo@juno.com or see http://www.beginningexperience.org)

A divorced Catholic who would like to remarry in the Catholic Church, unless your former spouse has died, will need to obtain an annulment. A divorced Catholic not married in the Catholic Church needs to obtain an annulment before he/she can marry in the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church respects all marriages and presumes that they are valid. The Catholic Church, for example, considers the marriages of two Protestant, Jewish, or even nonbelieving persons to be binding.  Any question of annulment must come before a Church court (tribunal). This may be difficult to understand, especially if you come from a faith tradition that accepts divorce and remarriage. Couples who find themselves in this situation have found it helpful to talk with a priest or deacon.

Once consent to marriage is exchanged, Church law presumes that the marriage is binding and valid. A declaration of nullity, commonly referred to as an "annulment", is an official declaration of a Catholic tribunal (court) that, according to Church law, a given marriage was not actually valid (and therefore not binding).

An annulment means conditions were present that made the marriage invalid according to Catholic Church teaching at the time a couple spoke their marriage vows.

A declaration of nullity does not affect the legitimacy of children. The laws of the Church state that children born of a presumed valid union are legitimate.

If you are divorced and want to consider the possibility of obtaining an annulment, contact the pastor or deacon. They can give you the necessary forms and explain how the process works in our archdiocese.