Saturday 18 April 2015

Marriage Divorce Annulment

A few months after Joanna Hill was introduced to George Lomas by Father Ignatius, the couple fell deeply in love.

One evening they visited Father Ignatius in the Parish House, and after they had settled down to tea and biscuits George said:

“Father, we have some good news. Joanna and I are in love and we would like to get married. We hope you’ll do the honours, so to speak.”

“That’s good news for you two,” said the priest gently, “but there’s some difficulty with me officiating at your wedding.”

“I don’t understand,” said Joanna somewhat concerned at the news.

“You are divorced Joanna,” said Father Ignatius in his gentle voice, “the Catholic Church does not recognize your divorce. You are still married and therefore you cannot marry again in Church.”

“What do you mean?” said George, “she is properly divorced in Court.”

“Yes, that may well be so,” continued the priest, “that’s a civil divorce, but unless the marriage was annulled by the Church she is still married. The Church bases its teaching on the words of Christ: ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her: and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery,’ ”

“But that’s crazy,” interrupted George raising his voice a little, “are you saying that if I, as a single man never having been married … if I go around with various women, you’d forgive me in Confession. But if she marries me you’re accusing her of the graver sin of adultery?”

“Joanna was married in a Catholic Church, this one I believe, to a Catholic man, and her being Catholic,” explained the priest still maintaining his composure, “this being the case, and seeing that the marriage was not annulled by the Church, then she is still married in the eyes of God and the Church.”

“Hold on a minute,” George interrupted again, not noticing for a moment that poor Joanna was wiping her tears silently, “you said she married in a Catholic Church. So if she had married in an Anglican Church, or any other church, you would not have recognized the marriage?”

“That is strictly true,” said Father Ignatius, “if Joanna as a Catholic had married in an Anglican Church without the permission of the Catholic Church, and without the presence of a Catholic priest, then that marriage would not have been valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church. It then follows that her civil divorce would not have been recognised either and in all probability she would have been able to marry again in the Catholic Church.”

“This is totally mad,” said George getting a little angry, and still ignoring Joanna, “she married at 19 Father, and divorced her husband when she was 22. She was a mere child when he walked out on her and left her holding the baby … literally.

“That was over ten years ago Father. At the time she hardly cared about the Catholic Church. She was really distraught at having been abandonned by her husband and the last thing on her mind was to seek annulment. She tried to get her life together again and raised a baby on her own. Anyway, from what I hear annulments can take a long time and are worse than the Spanish Inquisition ...”

“George … stop it …” Joanna cried loudly.

“I’m sorry love,” he replied holding her hand gently, “I hate to see the Church … our Church … mistreat you so!

“I’m sorry Father for getting angry,” he apologized to the priest, “but you can see our dilemma.

“For whatever reason, regardless of who was innocent and who was at fault, this young couple in their early twenties divorced in a Civil Court.

“Is the Church seriously suggesting that Joanna cannot be intimate with a man for the rest of her life? Or else you’ll accuse her of adultery? Is that reasonable Father?

“Or do you want her to come to confess every time the two of us go to bed when we’re married?”

“Stop it … stop it …” Joanna cried loudly, “this has gone too far … I want to go home …”

She stood up and made her way out of the room followed by George.

Father Ignatius followed them silently to the front door, not having the chance to explain himself or the Church’s position.

The couple married in the Civil Court three months later.


  1. It's complicated enough--without this can of worms. I could write a book, Victor!

    1. I understand Lulu. Sometimes divorces happen and one party is entirely innocent. The Catholic Church sometimes makes it very difficult for that innocent person to get on with their lives.

      God bless.

  2. Hi Victor! Wow, this is probably more common than I will ever know.
    A friend of mine has a daughter who wanted to marry a man who was not Catholic, but was married in the Catholic church before. He was willing to go through RCIA, and get an annulment.
    The annulment was getting nowhere, and it was coming up to Holy Week. The pastor (God love him) told them to write a letter to the Tribunal and tell them that the young man wanted to enter the church on Easter Sunday. He did all the work, and was to be married the next weekend.

    The Church expedited the paperwork after realizing the originals were lost. It usually takes three meetings to grant an annulment, but they did it in one. Sometimes, prayers are answered. He received his sacraments on Easter, and married in the Church the next Saturday.
    Does our church miss the ball? Oh yes. But sometimes it tries really hard too.

    1. It's good to know that in this case the Church expedited the paperwork and the couple did get married; Ceil. Sadly this is not always the case.

      I have researched our rules/dogmas before writing this post, which is based on real life. Usually it takes a long time for annulment to take place. Especially if, as in this case, divorce happened years ago (when the lady was 22 with child) and the husband, after divorce, has vanished and cannot be found. He cheated on her after her pregnancy and they divorced. She was too upset to get on with her life and raise a baby, to seek anulment at the time.

      In any case, what reason is there for annulment? A couple married, one partner cheated, and they divorced. This is not enough for the Church to grant annulment.

      So in effect, the Church is saying the young lady, now 32, cannot find love again or have other children because she would be commiting adultery. No wonder, in real life, they married elsewhere and left the Catholic Church.

      Did you know that, had she married in an Anglican (or other denomination) Church; and there was no Catholic priest there, (not even as a guest), then the marriage, and the subsequent divorce would not have been recognised by the Catholic Church; and she'd be free to marry in the Catholic Church?

      This seems odd to me. However, if a Catholic priest was a guest at the wedding and did not take part in the ceremony, the wedding in the Anglican Church would have been recognised and she could not marry again without an annulment.

      As you say, our Church does drop the ball sometimes, and create a lot of hurt in the process. I know of several such cases in real life. I'll write a similar story here soon.

      God bless.

  3. So sad Victor. Relationship issues and our handicap in dealing with them largely distract many from Christ and His Church. O Lord help us!.

  4. I don't know if the story is true, but if it is, it is a sad commentary on how many Catholics dismiss the most basic Catholic teaching on Marriage. A vow is a vow... if the couple had all the intention to honor the 3 bona of marriage at the time of saying "I Do" in the presence of a priest - whether they be 19 or 29 - then a valid Catholic marriage was made. Doesn't matter if it fell apart a week, a month or 20 years later. If they divorce and then remarry sans annulment, they put themselves at enmity with Christ and His Church and put their immortal Soul in grave danger. Truth doesn't change, especially the Truth that came from Our Lord's own mouth. It isn't always pleasant and palatable, but it remains the Truth nonetheless...

    1. Thank you David for your well considered comment.

      I wonder how Christ would say in such circumstances. The couple married at age 19 and had a baby. The husband cheated on the wife and left her with the baby. They divorced, she being totally innocent. Would a loving Christ condemn her to a lifetime without love and more children?

      What grounds are there for annulment? Is the Catholic Church (of whom I am one) saying that all marriages not conducted in a Catholic Church are adulterous? Had the marriage at age 19 been conducted in an Anglican Church (or other denomination) the Catholic Church would NOT have recognised it; and hence would not have recognised the subsequent divorce.

      I have researched this and this is my understanding of our Church's position.

      God bless you.

  5. Victor, Love your response to David's comment. In response to David's - if adultery is a sin...a grave sin as you put it, and we know that one sin is not comparatively 'bad' over another, are they not all grave? Do we not all put our souls in danger when we sin? Why call out this sin or any other. Is this not what mercy and grace and forgiveness is for? Of course we do not keep sinning once we accept the gift of Christ, but for those that don't fully know this gift, I would have to think this is what Jesus' message is all about. He did come to call this sinners, did He not?

    1. Thank you Kim for visiting me and taking the time to comment.

      I feel very uneasy about the Church's say as to who can get an annulment. The grounds for annulments are very limited and in the case I've described, the young lady would not be able to marry again in a Catholic church. And should she marry again elsewhere she would be commiting adultery and possibly risk excommunication from the Catholic Church.

      God bless.

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