Annulment

Annulment

Ever growing in our Catholic households is the reality of divorce and remarriage.  In the parishes that I have been assigned to in the past nineteen years, I have come across numerous Catholics living double lives. They live and breathe right alongside other Catholics in the pew without being noticed and no one being the wiser to their marital situation.  They have expressed their spiritual pain to me in not being in full union with the Catholic Church.  They desire full union, but are not sure how to go about obtaining reconciliation with their larger Catholic family.  They have heard of the word annulment, but that sounds like a code word for “Catholic divorce” - and what does it mean about their children?

What is an annulment?  An annulment is a declaration by a Church tribunal (a Catholic church court) that a marriage thought to be valid according to Church law actually fell short of at least one of the essential elements required for a binding union.  For a Catholic marriage to be valid, it is required that 1) the spouses are free to marry; 2) they are capable of giving their consent to marry; 3) they freely exchange their consent; 4) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; 5) they intend the good of each other; and 6) their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister. 

I am not a canon lawyer, even though I have had classes in canon law while attending seminary.  What is canon law?  Canon Law is the name for the Catholic Church’s order and discipline, structures and rules and procedures.  They have been collected in a code.  A code is a single collection of all the laws of a community in one place, promulgated by a legislator.  The first Code of Canon Law was promulgated in 1917. and it wasn’t until 1983 under St. John Paul II that a revised Code of Canon Law was promulgated.  Every Diocese, including the Diocese of Gaylord, has a tribunal where the Code of Canon Law is applied to not only in marriage cases, but in other matters of church affairs. 

What is the tribunal of Catholic Church investigating in an annulment case?  They are investigating the sacramental legality of whether a valid marriage took place.  If a valid marriage took place, then it is the responsibility of the individual to petition the Diocese where they reside to investigate the validity of the Sacrament.  This can be a long process - up to a year in some cases.  I typically encounter annulment cases with couples who are seeking marriage.  Normally one of the couple has a previous marriage that needs to be investigated. 

I should point out that even individuals who are not Catholic and weren’t married in the Catholic Church often times have a valid marriage.  How is this possible?  Since Vatican II recognizes the baptism of our Christian brothers and sisters, it also recognize their marriages as valid from their particular Christian traditions.   A valid marriage is between two baptized Christians.

I want to help those individuals and couples of our parish who desire full reunion with the Catholic faith.  I want to meet with you and hear your story, and discover together whether we can make a difference and resolve your situation.  Please make an appointment through the parish office.  I have assisted numerous couples in writing the necessary paperwork.  Please don’t allow your fear of poor writing skills to detour your participation in the annulment process. 

Pax Vobiscum

 

 

From the Desktop of Father James

Weekly bulletin article from the pastor.


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