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October 02, 2006


In our situation the civil law is in these cases in harmony with the reality of the situation, and that sends the right message to the couple: You are now married--for real.

More like, "A subsequent annulment may discover you weren't really married in the eyes of Church, though you are married in the eyes of the law."


Brilliant as usual, Jimmy.

It is true that there is a distinction between the sacrament of matrimony and the natural institution of marriage, but they cannot be treated as separate, independent events. Matrimony is marriage in the ordinary human sense, elevated to a sacrament. A matrimonial union is always a marriage in the ordinary human sense, and any true marriage of baptized persons is always a sacramental matrimonial union.

Unfortunately in our increasingly post-human culture the perennial human institution of marriage is increasingly being seen alternately as a purely religious convention or else as state sanction for "domestic partnership," with the attendant push for recognition of same-sex "marriage." Lurking behind this dichotomy is the same confusion at work in Dr. Carlin's article regarding the essential unity of Christian marriage, irrespective of the question of state recognition.

Matt McDonald

"A subsequent annulment may discover you weren't really married in the eyes of Church, though you are married in the eyes of the law."


you hit the nail on the head. The true mixed message is the overwhelming approval rate of annulments in the US Church. The way most diocesan tribunals are operated it is presumed that an annulment will be granted if requested. All Catholics are aware of this, and so they can't enter marriage without knowing they have a good chance at an escape. This knowledge actually encourages an invalid marriage, even if an annulment is never sought.

We need to fix this problem (as the Holy See as repeatedly requested), it's causing tremendous damage.


The way most diocesan tribunals are operated it is presumed that an annulment will be granted if requested. All Catholics are aware of this

Clearly not, since (a) I am a Catholic and (b) I am not aware of this.

Nor do I have any idea how "all" Catholics, or even most Catholics, would have any basis for awareness regarding how "most diocesan tribunals" do or don't operate. Many Catholics have zero experience with any diocesan tribunal, and I'm guessing it would be a rare Catholic indeed who had much experience with more than one or two tribunals. So I can't think that very many Catholics know very much at all about how "most" diocesan tribunals operate.

How the tribunals actually operate is another question -- one which, like most Catholics, I'm not qualified to speak to. I wonder how qualified you are, Matt; certainly the incaution of your secondary assertion raises some question about the reliabibility of your primary assertion.

Be that as it may, even if 100 percent of all US petitions resulted in a finding of nullity, even that would not necessary prove that there was anything wrong with the tribunal process, until there was some way of establishing the actual rate of valid vs. invalid marriages in the US.

How do you know that the real scandal isn't in the tribunal process, but in the premarital preparation process, and that the tribunals are simply accurately finding that a whole lot of people are arriving at the altar without the requisite intention to contract a valid marriage? Perhaps that is the problem we have to fix.

Brother Cadfael


How do you know that the real scandal isn't in the tribunal process, but in the premarital preparation process, and that the tribunals are simply accurately finding that a whole lot of people are arriving at the altar without the requisite intention to contract a valid marriage? Perhaps that is the problem we have to fix.

I hear you, and marriage prep is no better than confirmation prep at many parishes, if not worse. But my recollection is that Pope John Paul II pretty much rejected that notion in practice. I could be mistaken, but I think it is laid out in his annual speeches to the Roman Rota.



The American Church counts for little more than 6% of the world Catholic population, but during 2002 over half – 57% – of cases for matrimonial annulment in the first instance brought worldwide opened in its diocesan tribunals: 30,835 out of 54,247


I repeat, those statistics by themselves mean NOTHING. It could be that cultural impediments to marriage really do result in more null marriages in America. It could be that they seek fewer marriages in Europe because they marry less to begin with, or divorce and remarry without bothering to get annulments.

Not that I quarrel with Brother Cadfael's point. I'm just saying.

Brother Cadfael


In his
2000 Address to the Roman Rota, for instance, the great Pope John Paul II states positively that tribunals are mistaken when they presume that contracting parties in a secularized society pervaded by strong divorce currents do not adequately intend for their marriage to be indissoluble. Generally, mistaken opinions about the goodness of divorce, the permanence of marriage, or attitudes or opinions opposed to the principle of indissolubility do not vitiate marital consent and are not sufficient grounds for a tribunal to declare a nullity. Canonical tradition and rotal jurisprudence, he says, have always presumed that the parties possessed the requisite intent, and require proof of a positive act of the will or a formal refusal to celebrate a sacramental marriage to declare a nullity.

In theory, I think you are correct because no one can really prove, with respect to any particular declaration (much less all declarations) that a valid marriage was wrongly declared a nullity.

However, in practice, since the burden of proof (as I understand it -- I am not a canon law expert and have no first-hand experience with the annulment process) is on the party trying to annul the marriage and the presumption is strongly in favor of the validity of the marriage, a 100% declaration of nullity rate would be darn near irrefutable evidence that a tribunal is not doing its job.


I recently formally defected from the Catholic faith as a result of divorce, my experiences in the tribunal process and with the actual practices of the Catholic Church which forced me to leave as I have.

Mr Akin and his friend Ed Peters, although both are very educated men, do not walk in my shoes and do not know the terrible reality of how the Catholic Church administers its laws and how it pastorally destroys marriages. They and most like them refuse to deal with the factual experiences of those of us who have tasted the whip of the tribunal. Thus they are not part of the solution but are part, willingly, of the problem (injustice).

Suffice it to say that although I have the two Rotal decisions in favor of our Sacrament, uselessly in Latin, my wife and her lover now for almost seventeen years are and have been accepted as good Christians since before we were divorced. My wife's lover was welcomed into the Catholic fold as he slept with my wife, with full knowledge of the local ordinary and the priests. My wife was counseled into divorcing me and seeking nullity by Catholic priests without any input from me regarding the situation. This is what the Catholic Church practices widely although not exclusively. They were given Communion in public until I threatened the local ordinary in writing with a Canonical action.

The Catholic Church lives a lie regarding marriage. It speaks from both sides of one mouth. The carnage with marriage will continue, I think, for a long time to come unless Rome excommunicates those who divorce unjustly, which it has never done to my knowledge. Catholics need to have a restored respect for marriage and for justice as well. Both are lacking in the Catholic Church. That is my personal experience. It is not theoretical. It is factual.


It is indeed a personal experience and I am sorry for your hardships. But I would add 2 things to what you said:

1) You said this was "practiced widely" in the Church, but unless you have data you did not reveal in your above post, you cannot say such abuses are widespread. I would not characterize my own experience with the annulment process in similar terms, however taxing it was. At times the words "beautiful" and "caring" came to mind. But both of us were so Catholic we would not have left the Church no matter the outcome.

2) Which brings us to my second point. Though I can sympathize with your difficulties I heartily recommend that you not use this moment of weakness in the servants of Christ as a reason to leave the Church.

This is because it is not a valid reason. From the revolt at Korah in Numbers and Deuteronomy, to the prostitutes in the temple in 2 Kings 23, to the disbelief of the doubting Thomas -- the failure of the servants of Christ to live the faith is never countenanced by God as a valid reason for going solo (or sola).

Remember the Church is not "forcing" you to leave. This is a conscious choice made by the exercise of your free will and is thus act you will be accountable for. No one is making that choice for you.

Tim J.

Karl, where do you see marriage preserved and respected MOST in the Christian world? In spite of the failings of some of our leaders, the Catholic Church is still the last, best hope.

Don't let your bitterness carry you away from the Truth. You have been given a terrible cross to carry, and I can't really counsel you from experience on that. But if you will carry this cross FAITHFULLY - trusting in the providence of God - it will make you a saint.

I could admire such a saint. I could draw great inspiration from such humility and courage. The Church NEEDS examples like that. I know I do.

Tim J.

I will pray for you, Karl.



Appeal your case to Rome. U.S. Tribunals hand out annulments like candy. And they rarely standup to appeal in Rome. It takes some time but I know people who are glad they did it. Their marriages were affirmed.


Karl: You have my prayers as well.

Also, don't forget that even Christ chose a "proto-bishop" whom He would later call the "Son of Perdition." Yet, He chose Judas nonetheless, allowing him to be among the Twelve and STILL He promised that "the Gates of Hell shall not prevail" against His Church.

Mary Kay

Karl, if I read your post correctly, you said that you have two Rotal decisions saying your marriage was valid and the local Catholic whoever has acted otherwise.

As painful as that situation sounds, please consider the wisdom in StubbleSpark's post. Just as the others in your situation will be accountable to God for their actions, so you will held accountable for yours.

The Crucifixion was not to remedy the common cold, but the deeply painful wounds. However painful your situation is now, Jesus has already been there. Don't make void in your life the effects of His Crucifixion. Hang in there, even with the difficulty.

So I guess you could call this a piece of unsolicited "tough love." Read the books of Hosea and Job and the lamentation psalms. If going to Mass seems too painful, pick up a copy of Shorter Christian Prayer and read Morning and Evening Prayer every day.

Find your back to the Church because as paradoxical as it sounds, that's where the healing will be. If the preponderance of families in a regular parish is too painful, see if there's a monastery or other religious community with Sunday Mass nearby.

As others have said above, you have the prayers of several people here.

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