Question: Why is there a need for annulments? Haven’t divorcees already been through enough pain? Why make them go through more pain and paperwork?
Answer: Our Catholic Church teaches us about marriage; Among the many blessings that God has showered upon us in Christ is the blessing of marriage. His hand has inscribed the vocation to marriage in the very nature of man and woman. 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. “Annulment” is an unfortunate word that is sometimes used to refer to a Catholic “declaration of nullity.” Actually, nothing is made null through the process. 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. Exceptions to the last requirement must be approved by Church authority.
In fidelity to Jesus’ teaching, the Church believes that marriage is a lifelong bond (see Matt 19:1-10); therefore, unless one’s spouse has died, the Church requires the divorced Catholic to obtain a declaration of nullity before marrying someone else. The tribunal process seeks to determine if something essential was missing at the moment of consent, that is, the time of the wedding. If so, the Church can declare that a valid marriage was never actually brought about on the wedding day. Yes divorce is painful and difficult for spouses. What the Church’s purpose is for those requesting an annulment is to help in the healing of divorce through a process of steps that allow for finding closure. There are several types of annulments. Most are fairly easy to complete. It is the Formal Case that takes the most work and length of time. In the Formal Case, some people find that simply writing out their testimony helps them to understand what went wrong and why. They gain insights into themselves. Others say that the process allowed them to tell their whole story for the first time to someone who was willing to listen. The process takes patience and willingness to work with your Priest as well as the Diocesan Tribunal Office to make a case for annulment and then a determination. Yes it is a lot of paperwork for a Formal case of annulment but the hope is to create a detailed and exact case so the justice of God’s Church can resolve the issue with justice and fairness. We must pray for those going through Divorce and Annulments to receive the healing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.