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Question for Roman Catholics about annulment

post #1 of 54
Thread Starter 
I'm not Catholic, but I have a question about a situation with a RC woman in my community. There is something about it which I find slightly fishy - I don't know who the fish is though.

The woman in question was married and got a divorce. She hasn't got an annulment, but has remarried in a civil ceremony. She is not allowed to recieve communion. So far, no suprises.

She has been told that she could probably get an annulment, but apparently this would cost a lot of money, more than she can afford. Is this usual? I can see that there is administration, and a divorce costs money too. But on the other hand, if the marriage was never really valid, then wouldn't the church owe it to her to find that out? I have heard that North Americans have a lot of annulments and wonder if this is part of the issue. (In fact I know a man who sat on the local board (I don't know the proper name) that dealt with annulments and it was actually one of the things that led him to leave the Church.)

What I find really fishy though is this: Her 2nd husband, also Roman Catholic, IS allowed to receive. The rationale, apparently, is that he was never married before. But if she is still officially married to her first husband, is he not committing adultery or at least living in sin, so to speak? It seems to me the priest at the local church must be misinterpreting things. Or am I totally misunderstanding the nature of annulment?
post #2 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluegoat View Post
I'm not Catholic, but I have a question about a situation with a RC woman in my community. There is something about it which I find slightly fishy - I don't know who the fish is though.

The woman in question was married and got a divorce. She hasn't got an annulment, but has remarried in a civil ceremony. She is not allowed to recieve communion. So far, no suprises.

She has been told that she could probably get an annulment, but apparently this would cost a lot of money, more than she can afford. Is this usual? I can see that there is administration, and a divorce costs money too. But on the other hand, if the marriage was never really valid, then wouldn't the church owe it to her to find that out? I have heard that North Americans have a lot of annulments and wonder if this is part of the issue. (In fact I know a man who sat on the local board (I don't know the proper name) that dealt with annulments and it was actually one of the things that led him to leave the Church.)

What I find really fishy though is this: Her 2nd husband, also Roman Catholic, IS allowed to receive. The rationale, apparently, is that he was never married before. But if she is still officially married to her first husband, is he not committing adultery or at least living in sin, so to speak? It seems to me the priest at the local church must be misinterpreting things. Or am I totally misunderstanding the nature of annulment?
Hello!
I am unsure of the cost of an annulment, so I can't respond.
The Communion thing though- Her current DH is not currently married and is engaging in marital relations with a married women whom he is living with- sounds like sin to me! I think the local priest is misinterpreting.
It is best if the two of them cease sexual relations and live as brother and sister until her annulment is completed and their marriage can be convalidated.
post #3 of 54
Former RC (Current Lutheran) here...

Annulments are costly (fees starting in the thousands), and sometimes denied. It doesn't make any sense that one can take communion and the other can't though...
post #4 of 54
My dh had his first marriage declared invalid (it did not have to be annulled because it did not take place in the Catholic church and the couple had no plans to practice). The case still went to the Tribunale, and there was still discovery. It was 20 years ago, and I don't remember how much it cost, but it can't have been painful or we couldn't have afforded it. I know it was nowhere near $1000.

Did the new husband actually hear from a priest that he is allowed to receive communion, or is he interpreting for himself? It seems pretty clear to me that he is not in a Sacramental marriage, and should not be receiving.

In our situation, everyone and their dog had an opinion or a story about how things worked, and it wasn't until we made an appointment and actually sat down with a priest that things became clear. If this information is what she is getting from her parish priest, maybe she should make an appointment with another priest and see if the information is different. At least she will know what her options truly are.
post #5 of 54
My xh and I went through the annulment process befor we were married becuase he had been married before. He wasn't Catholic, but I was and we wanted to get married in the church.

We spent a couple of hundred to get the process started, then a few months later were told that he didn't need the annulment becuase while he wasn't Catholic, his ex wife was and they weren't married in the church, rendering their marriage invalid.
So, we were married in the Catholic church a year later. Then, about 7 years ago, we divorced. I had drifted away from the Catholic faith for other reasons so didn't worry about an annulment at the time.

Since I remarried a while back, and now have two little ones with DH, I went through a phase where I thought I might be being called back to the Catholic faith. I looked into annulment again, but one of the things that held me back was the cost along with the strong possibility that it wouldn't be granted anyway. The whole notion of the annulment process (marriages being valid or not on a technicality, basically living in sin even if the earlier marriage was invalid until you pay your fee and do the paperwork, the status of the children of an invalid marriage, how to tell your current spouse and your kids that since the annulment was denied, you must break up your happy home and either be single or re-unite with your ex just so that your soul isn't in jeapordy, etc...) is one of the things that pushed me away from the Catholic faith.
post #6 of 54
According to the sources I've read and the people I know who have obtained decrees of nullity, the tribunal typically asks for a few hundred dollars. In some areas they may ask more than $1000, but to my knowledge this is not widespread. Many parishes have some money set aside to help pay for the annulments of those who cannot afford to do so themselves. A good priest is eager to help his parishioners get back into a state of grace and will aid them in finding the means to do this.

Many priests have taken it upon themselves to distort Church teaching on this issue because they feel the real teachings are too difficult for people to handle. Such priests will tell people in invalid marriages to go ahead and receive communion while continuing to live as husband and wife. This may account for this one couple's confusion. Or perhaps they did their own research and misunderstood what they read. Either way, they are definitely mistaken about the husband being "allowed" to receive.

(FTR, I'm an atheist, but learning about Catholic teachings has been one of my special interests since childhood.)
post #7 of 54
I don't know the exactly answer to the original question but I do have to admit that if I was him, I would not receive communion. It could be many reasons he is doing that. Maybe the priest doesn't know, or probably he is thinking that the woman IS officially divorce only that is waiting for an annulment, or the priest is very lay back. Not that I see the last one a correct act but you never know.
post #8 of 54
The husband in question should not be receiving Communion according to Church teaching.

As for the cost of annulments, that can vary greatly, but I have known a few people that have gotten annulments and the cost was not at all prohibitive.
post #9 of 54
Can I ask a piggyback question? DH and I were discussing annulment not today (er, not for us, that is!), and he was surprised to hear a marriage could be annulled after having a child. But I know a woman who had her first marriage annulled after having four. So does her annullment mean the children are technically illegitimate/conceived in sin? Annulment means the marriage was never really a marriage, right? Or not?
post #10 of 54
You know, people ask that question often. I don't know exactly how to answer except to say that there is no difference in the Catholic faith between a child born within marriage or outside of marriage, the child is a child The Church just is not into the whole "illegitimate" thing. (I am sure someone's very devout Catholic Grandma Sue calls children illegitimate all of the time, and that someone has a brother who has a priest who did, etc., but, I don't know that it is in the catechism... ykwim?)

I would think that if you have sought an annulment, asking the Church to declare that your marriage was never a valid Sacramental union, and if you had sex within that "marriage" you would be aware that you would then have to confess that "outside of marriage sex", but- in the faith, there is no sin, beyond the sex, in having a child. Am I making any sense?
post #11 of 54
Yeah, that makes sense - don't worry, I didn't think it was Catholic doctrine to drown children for being illegitimate. My Catholic FIL didn't know when I asked him, so I thought I'd ask here.

Does it ever happen that two people got married, thought they had a valid Sacramental union but found out later (due to a technicality or whatever) that they didn't? In that case, would they be considered to have been living in sin, or would it not count as living in sin if it was unwitting? As in, would they have to confess? Not sure if that situation's even possible under Catholic law though.
post #12 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post
Does it ever happen that two people got married, thought they had a valid Sacramental union but found out later (due to a technicality or whatever) that they didn't? In that case, would they be considered to have been living in sin, or would it not count as living in sin if it was unwitting? As in, would they have to confess? Not sure if that situation's even possible under Catholic law though.
It's possible. I know of a situation in which a parish priest told an engaged couple that a civil marriage would be acceptable. They were married in the courthouse, believing that the marriage was valid in the Church because the priest said so. He was wrong, of course, and the couple was later advised to seek a convalidation (get married in the Church).

I think most priests would conclude that unwitting fornication does not need to be confessed but if the couple were to resume having relations after finding out that their marriage was invalid in the eyes of the Church and before having the marriage convalidated, that would be considered sinful and should be confessed.

Also, if the couple had a hunch that their priest had misguided them but they deliberately decided not to try to find out the Church's true stance on the matter (lest it be inconvenient to them), that would be something to consider, in terms of moral culpability.
post #13 of 54
Yes, my BIL was "married" to a woman who was already married. He was not guilty of sin, in that he had no idea she was married. He had an automatic annulment.
post #14 of 54
As long as we're playing the "what if" game...
This is something I've always wondered about.
If someone is married in a protestant or other type of non-Catholic or Orthodox Christian church and decided to covert (or re-convert) to Catholicism is their marriage considered valid/sacramental according to the Catholic church?

What about another non-Christian religious wedding ceremony, like if a couple was married in a Jewish/Hindu/Muslim/Buddhist etc. wedding ceremony and later decided to become Catholic, would they be considered not really married? Would they have to get married again
post #15 of 54
I have a question too, what if someone goes through the process, pays the fees, and at the end, the annulment isn't granted? From what I understand, there's no guarantee, in fact, it is hard to get one. What happens to the persons current family?
post #16 of 54
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by athansor View Post
I have a question too, what if someone goes through the process, pays the fees, and at the end, the annulment isn't granted? From what I understand, there's no guarantee, in fact, it is hard to get one. What happens to the persons current family?
I believe that they aren't supposed to have a current family until the annulment is granted.

I don't know that they are hard to get tough, I say something in the news recently about the Pope wanting to tighten up annulments in North America. The message seemed to be that people were beginning to think it was almost impossible to have a real marriage.

Re. the question about accepting marriages by other denominations, I don't know about the others but I am sure an Orthodox one would be accepted.
post #17 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluegoat View Post
I believe that they aren't supposed to have a current family until the annulment is granted.

I don't know that they are hard to get tough, I say something in the news recently about the Pope wanting to tighten up annulments in North America. The message seemed to be that people were beginning to think it was almost impossible to have a real marriage.

Re. the question about accepting marriages by other denominations, I don't know about the others but I am sure an Orthodox one would be accepted.
I think you're right, and it would probably not be a problem if someone was constantly in the Catholic faith, but if, as in my case, someone left the faith, remarried, had kids, and then started wondering about having the first marriage annulled, what would happen if the annulment was denied? I know it's not that unusual of a situation.
post #18 of 54
in response to the questions regarding if people lived in sin if later they had married it was annulled. the way I've seen it explained is that if you *unknowningly* took part (such as you didnt know the other had previously been married) that you had not *sinned* they had (because they knew of the situation) but if you in your heart believed that the marriage was true according to the church that it technically isnt a *sin* per say if you where repentenent and tried to make it right say. if you believed in your heart that your marriage was true and valid in the eyes of the church and you lived the bounds of your marriage vows that you shouldnt be faulted for the sins of another. Sorry its hard to explain.
post #19 of 54
ok another what if . . . .what if one person converted later, would they be denied the Eucharist for not being in a sacrimental marriage or do converts get exceptions?
post #20 of 54
When I went through the annulment process, the fee was greatly reduced due to financial hardship and they also let me make payments.
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