Discourse on the Catholic Marriage Annulment Process.

Vic Biorseth, Wednesday, June 10, 2009

First, the Church does not prohibit, per se, separation or even divorce. A married couple is encouraged to strive to resolve differences and rise above difficulties, but when all that fails separation is not out of the question. Particularly in cases of abuse, it may be the only solution. What the Church frowns on is, not separation or divorce, but rather, re-marriage after such an event. It is of vital importance to individual souls, to families and to the larger culture that the marriage covenant be very strongly protected. The Church – as exemplified by the leadership of Rome – has done a very good job of that over the centuries. But, the Church – as exemplified by most American dioceses and archdioceses – has done a less than exemplary job of it. (In my opinion.)

(Note: divorce itself is gravely sinful if not sought and procured on moral grounds. See the discussions / dialogues below this article.)

Perhaps as a good beginning I might copy in here one of my class assignment papers from a “Tribunal Training” class I took in the Athenaeum of Ohio LPMP program. It was my response to an essay type question.

… Direct Quote …

Is a declaration of nullity really just a Catholic form of divorce?

It appears to be moving in that direction. Zwack, in particular, doesn’t seem to make any bones about it; the goal seems to be to get all (or as many as possible) divorced Catholics a declaration of nullity or dissolution. He actually boasts about the 8000% increase in granted annulments between 1968 and 1978, and the exponential rise in applications and the rise in the percentage of successful cases.1

The entire first chapter is devoted, point by point, to shooting down objections to the process. The point is well made that all cases have already been through the civil divorce process, with the implication that, since the divorce has been granted and is final, the Church ought to accept that fact and get on with bringing the Catholic ex-spouse back into full communion with the Church. But, I wonder, how many times: just this once, or, maybe, in the unusual case, twice? What does this trend train us to do, what does it teach our children, and where does it culturally lead us? Does a culture – or a nation – have a soul?

As I see it, the problem is at the other end – the marrying end. It is not a good thing that now just as many Catholics as Protestants and others get divorced and remarried. Because others make easy compromises with the world, must we? I do not see these trends as good for individuals or for families – the family being the primal social unit – or for societies. If we don’t work to reverse the trend, no one will. We have seen the results of non-Catholic ministers and worshipers who get divorced and remarried, and divorced and remarried, and divorced and remarried, because “it just didn’t work out,” or “sometimes these things just happen.” It seems a bit odd that, since Vatican II, the Church has increasingly stressed the covenant aspect of marriage during the same time frame that Catholic civil divorces began to rocket. (At least in America.)

Some of the cases are heartbreaking; they show a definite need for a good, just process. But others, to my untrained eye, appear frivolous, and mainly a challenge to the procurator or advocate to painstakingly seek out some mundane point of canon law and some twist of interpretation to gain a favorable advantage for the petitioner. On occasion, they do injury to my own personal inner sense of justice. The two impotence cases2 in Decisions, for instance, troubled me somewhat. In the first case, the man purposely and will fully obtained a vasectomy for the sole purpose of circumventing procreation, and it was decided that, since even a vasectomy has a certain failure rate, the case for impotence was not proven. In the second case, the woman was, through no will of her own, incapable of conceiving because she lacked the requisite ovaries and other items, although she (probably) wanted children, and the marriage was declared null on the grounds of her impotence. And both of these cases were in spite of Canon 1084 § 3: “Sterility neither prohibits nor invalidates marriage, with due regard to canon 1098.”3 And in neither case was any spouse deceived about the condition of the other. The first case seemed to me to be a matter of intention against procreation, and my inner sense of justice indicated that both of these cases should have been decided differently.

If any aspect I’ve learned about so far leads in the direction of “Catholic Divorce” it must be the newer usage of Psychological Grounds. Psychology directly opposes Christian teaching in a number of areas, the most obvious being, of course, the notion of sin. Annulment4 goes into some detail outlining how psychological grounds for lack of due discretion or lack of due competence are becoming increasingly popular. They are, apparently, simultaneously easier to “prove” and more difficult to challenge. In the section explaining how these grounds are “broadly applicable” it is recommended that they be used any time one doubts they have a case on any other terms. But, one wonders, what, exactly, is the proof? If someone is not clinically ill and being treated, if they are free and operating in society and not institutionalized, their reported conduct may still be remotely analyzed by an “expert” who is well trained in all the psycho-babble buzz-words that are so difficult for others to refute. All one needs is one of these experts to testify, and the Tribunal is unlikely to question his or her opinion.5

Granted that I may be grossly overstating the case, the opportunity for abuse is still quite clear. And I don’t like the numbers. The “last resort” grounds, to be used only when there are not other grounds, has become, in the last decade, representative of 80% of all granted formal annulments in the US.6 Recognizing that there are legitimate cases in which someone winds up married to a truly ill or disordered person, it does not seem to follow that anything like a majority of divorce cases involve such illnesses or disorders. What seems to be manifesting itself is an increasing loss of social sense of family, commitment, responsibility, compromise, duty, sacrifice and honor. If other cultures in which marriages are pre-arranged and the spouses never see each other before the wedding have a divorce rate near nil, then, perhaps we are merely spoiling ourselves, and our culture, with one easy compromise after another. Is it mostly a mental problem, or a moral one? We need to turn our faces back to the Lord.

1Annulment: Your Chance to Remarry Within the Catholic Church; Joseph P. Zwack; pg 5.
2Decisions: Lawrence G. Wren, Janet Passerne and Marc Finch; pg 1, and Salvatore Anhinga and Ruth Bocian, pg 5.
3The Invalid Marriage; Lawrence G. Wrenn; Pgs 7 and 13.
4Annulment; Joseph P. Zwack; Chapter 3.
5Ibid; pg 47.
6Ibid; pg 39.

… End Quote …

What American trends in the Catholic Annulment Process tell me reaffirms the old saw about how any compromise with the world leads to more compromises with the world, and that each successive compromise gets a little easier, until one day we look up and find that the world is in command of us. Some things cannot be compromised without being destroyed. Marriage is one of them.

The Numbers Tell the Story. The number of Annulments granted by the Catholic Church in the whole world between the years 1952 and 1956 was: 392.

Prior to Vatican II the only psychological grounds for annulment were those that showed that one of the parties lacked the faculty of reason, to the extent that they could not properly perform the act of will required to understand and properly consent to the requirements of the marriage contract. This rather extreme degree of the lack of reason had to be shown with certainty.

When the Church began recognizing other “psychological grounds” for annulments in 1970, the numbers began to rocket. The American total for 1968 was: 338. The number in 1978 exceeded 27,000, an increase in excess of 8,000%.

The numbers continue to increase. The numbers through the 80s:

1984 - 36,461
1985 - 53,320
1987 - 60,570
1988 - 50,000
1989 - 61,416
1990 - 62,824

There is definitely something wrong with this picture.

Some have postulated that the 1983 changes in Canon law relating to the annulment process had a second dramatic affect, again boosting the numbers of annulment cases both filed and approved. It became an increasingly popular new path to Catholic marriage annulment in America. Specifically, Canon 1095 is claimed to have had this affect.

Canon 1095 – They are incapable of contracting marriage:
§1. who lack the sufficient use of reason;
§ 2. who suffer from grave lack of discretion of judgment concerning essential matrimonial rights and duties which are to be mutually given and accepted;
§ 3. who are not capable of assuming the essential obligations of matrimony due to causes of a psychic nature.

One such notorious use of Canon 1095 involved the U.S. Congressman Joseph Kennedy. He sought and received from the Archdiocese of Boston an annulment of his marriage to Sheila Rauch Kennedy, on the grounds of “lack of due discretion.” This annulment was granted in Boston in 1997. The congressman and his wife had met during her senior year of college, and they had known each other for nine years prior to their marriage. Then, after 12 years of marriage and two children, he “discovered” her mental incompetence.

Mrs. Kennedy, apparently not so mentally incompetent, wrote a book about the ordeal titled Shattered Faith criticizing the Church for granting this annulment. She was right. The Vatican overturned the Kennedy annulment in 2005. In my opinion, the Vatican should look very hard at Canon 1095, and at the whole notion of “psychological grounds” for a Catholic marriage annulment.

And, of course, at the motives of a majority of America’s bishops. The real problem is probably loose (at least) or biased and/or devious (at worst) interpretation of Canon, law more than the Canon law itself. The diocesan or archdiocesan bishop bears ultimate authority and responsibility here.

Marriage Defined.

The two most significant purposes of marriage are the unitive and the procreative. The Sacrament of marriage “unifies” the two parties into one communion; from that point on, throughout life, they act and react to the world together.

God instituted marriage between a man and a woman: “ … male and female He created them.” Gen. 1:27.

God’s first words to man and woman, after blessing them, were, “Increase and multiply, and fill the earth.” Gen. 1:28. This is our first prohibition against artificial contraception.

Our Lord Jesus Christ raised marriage between a baptized man and a baptized woman to a sacrament.

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church;" Eph. 5:31-32.

Our Lord Jesus taught the indissoluble nature of marriage.

”And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" He answered them, "What did Moses command you?" They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away." But Jesus said to them, "For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery." Mark 10:2-12.

”Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” Luke 16:18.

”To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) -- and that the husband should not divorce his wife.” 1 Cor. 7:10-11.

By Canon 1055 we know that a Catholic marriage is both a contract and a sacrament. The agreement and the intent of the baptized parties to join in marriage form the matter of the contract; the vows, liturgy and so forth provide the form of the marriage covenant. Marriage is ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring. No matter what any civil authorities might say about it, the married spouses, through marriage, assume primary if not sole responsibility for the education, care and well being of their own offspring.

The form of a marriage between two Catholics includes taking place in a sacred space, meaning a Catholic Church, before a priest or deacon, and with two witnesses. The normal marriage liturgy is part of a Mass, right after the liturgy of the Word and the homily. If it is a mixed marriage where one party is baptized but not Catholic, the marriage liturgy takes place outside of Mass. If you want to be married while sky-diving or scuba-diving or some such thing, then you are not serious enough about the sacrament itself or the sacredness of the covenant for a Catholic marriage.

Matrimony – marriage – is, by its very nature, an exclusive union between one man and one woman, and the bond of marriage lasts for the couple’s entire earthly life.

Catholic Annulment Defined.

An official Catholic Church “Decree of Nullity” is a formal finding by a Church Tribunal that – on the day that the marriage vows were exchanged – some essential element required for a valid marriage was lacking. It refers very strictly to the day the vows were exchanged, and to no other date. If someone goes insane or something on any later date, that has no effect on the validity of the marriage on the date the vows were exchanged. The vows include the words “for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; till death do us part.” No matter what happens later, we are bound by the Sacrament of marriage, and by the true value of our own word, to keep the vows of marriage, for life. Period.

Effects on Children.

A declaration of nullity of a marriage has no effect whatsoever on children born of the marriage. The children are never considered anything other than perfectly legitimate children of married parents, for life. It is held that whatever factor(s) contributed to the finding of the Tribunal were not known at the time of the marriage, and the parties to the marriage were perfectly free to consummate the marriage and to legitimately live together as man and wife, and to have and raise legitimate children. If the factor(s) contributing to the finding of the Tribunal had been known at the time the vows were exchanged, the marriage would not have taken place.

Impediments to a Catholic marriage.

After a Catholic marriage, some pre-existing impediment to the legitimacy of the marriage may be discovered. For example, a married sailor may be lost at sea. After some years, when he is presumed dead, his widow remarries. Some years after that event, the sailor is discovered marooned on some island, and is returned to his home and family. Now it is discovered that the current marriage had a pre-existing impediment in the form of a previous marriage; the second marriage is thus invalidated, or nullified due to the pre-existing impediment.

If you think that example is far fetched, crazier things have happened.

Some Catholic marriage impediments:

  1. Non-age -
    As of November 1983: female 14, male 16.
    As of 1917: female 12, male 14.
  2. Impotence -
    Inability to consummate the marriage by intercourse (cannot marry; if in doubt, may marry.)
  3. Ligamen -
    Prior bond – bound by prior marriage(s), until prior marriage(s) null or dissolved. Any second or subsequent marriage is invalid.
  4. Disparity of cult – (only applies to Roman Catholics)
    Dispensation required to marry a non-Catholic.
    Married a non-baptized person.
    Mixed marriage – Catholic marries baptized non-Catholic.
    Must have proper form - a sacred place; a priest or deacon, two witnesses.
  5. Sacred Orders.
    Priests or deacons bound by the sacrament cannot marry.
  6. Public Professional religious vows – cannot marry validly until dispensed.
    (Private vows are not an impediment to marriage.
  7. Abduction.
    A man cannot kidnap a woman into marriage.
    In Eastern code, a woman cannot abduct a man.
  8. Criminal act.
    You and intended spouse cannot murder present spouse in order to marry.
  9. Consanguinity – with blood.
    Can never marry siblings, ancestors or descendants.
    First cousins only with dispensation.
  10. Affinity.
    May not marry ancestors or descendents of past spouse.
    May marry siblings of past spouse.
  11. De facto relatives.
    Regarding co-habitation, or, common law marriage, where recognized in civil law:
    Cannot marry ancestors or descendents.
  12. Adoption.
    Cannot marry someone who has adopted you or you have adopted.
    Cannot marry adopted siblings.

The Fornication Impediment.

”It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.“ Matt. 5:31-32.

”And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery.” Matt. 19:9.

The above quotes are from the RSV, my favorite version. In the Douay-Rheims, which is an exact interpretation from the Latin Vulgate, the only version ever blessed by a Church Council, the word “unchastity” is rendered “fornication.” I believe the Greek rendering is “fornication.” (Correct me if I’m wrong.) In all likelihood, our Lord was speaking about fornication rather than adultery, and He certainly knew the difference between the two. The sinner commits the sin of fornication only before he or she is married, and the sinner commits the sin of adultery only after marriage. So what our Lord was talking about here was the discovery that a spouse was not a virgin at the time of marriage. He or she had committed the sin of fornication.

If a party intended to marry a virgin and only a virgin, and would not marry a non-virgin, and discovers after the marriage that the other party was not really a virgin at the time of marriage, there may be grounds for nullification of the marriage. This is a very rarely used reason today. In the primitive Church everyone was assumed to remain virgin until after marriage.

Adultery some time after marriage is not, in and of itself, grounds for nullity. If, however, it may be shown that adultery was present at the beginning, as in an affair that began before and continued after the marriage, that might show the intent of the offending party in another light, and it may indeed present grounds for nullity, since unity was not an intent of one of the parties at the altar. Unity requires the exclusion of all intimate relationships other than with the spouse.

The Pauline Privilege.

We have the enigmatic quote of our Lord from Luke, in which He speaks of division and fire rather than peace. It is because of the New Covenant which He is establishing, and the new “Way,” the Way of the Lord.

”I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Luke 12:49-53.

To this day, nobody likes a Jesus freak. In that day, it brought much more severe division, among Jews, as well as among Romans, Greeks and other pagans, because a new religion was being born. Imagine a child, or a wife, or a servant coming home to an orthodox Jewish household and announcing that they had just been baptized into a new religion, a religion not familiar to anyone else in the house. They could well be thrown out of the house. Our Lord and His Gospel became a cause of extreme division in the first century and afterward.

If a non-Catholic divorces a Catholic, or one who seeks to become Catholic, and the reason for the divorce is the Catholicism of the spouse, then the Catholic spouse has grounds for nullity of the marriage. The non-Catholic must be the one who initiated the divorce. To quote St. Paul:

”To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) -- and that the husband should not divorce his wife. To the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace. Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife? Only, let every one lead the life which the Lord has assigned to him, and in which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.” 1 Cor. 7:10-17.

The key verse is verse 15: “But if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace.”

While it is preferred that they remain together, if the non-Catholic initiates and accomplishes a divorce, the Catholic spouse has grounds for nullity.

The Petrine Privilege.

Petrine Privilege may be applied only to a non-sacramental marriage, i.e., a marriage between a baptized and a non-baptized person, which has been terminated by divorce. For a just cause, the Holy Father can “dissolve” such a marriage “in favor of the faith.” Dissolution of the bond will not be granted to a Catholic whose non-sacramental marriage had been properly dispensed from the disparity of worship (disparity of cult) impediment.

The Petrine Privilege involves, rather than a declaration of nullity, a dissolution of an otherwise valid marriage, and it may only be approved by the reigning pope. Obviously, since only one man on earth may approve them, these cases are exceedingly rare.

The Petrine Privilege involves the circumstance where one spouse is un-baptized and the other is baptized. The un-baptized spouse must have remained un-baptized throughout the entire duration of the marriage. In this circumstance, if either spouse wants either to 1: become Catholic, or, 2: marry a Catholic, that spouse may apply to Rome for a papal decision in favor of the faith.

If the petitioner is the un-baptized spouse or was validly baptized into another non-Catholic but Christian Church, he or she must either wish to be baptized or received into the Catholic Church, or to marry a baptized practicing Catholic.

If the petitioner is a baptized Catholic who was married to an un-baptized person, he or she must either wish to marry a baptized Christian or promise to marry a baptized Christian in the future.

Petrine Privilege involves highly technical and complicated cases requiring deep immersion in Canon law and precedent. It requires petition directly to Rome and an ultimate decision by the Holy Father himself.

The Annulment Process.

The Purpose of filing for an annulment is to enable a petitioner, whose prior marriage(s) ended in civil divorce or dissolution, the right to marry in the Catholic Church.

Any Person, Catholic or not, baptized Christian or not, whose prior marriage(s) was/were terminated by civil divorce or dissolution may petition the Church for a declaration of nullity. The person who initiates the process is called the petitioner, and the former spouse is called the respondent.

The Petitioner must have some geographic relationship to the archdiocese or diocese where the petition is filed. It may be:

  1. where the wedding took place;
  2. the residence of the respondent;
  3. the residence of the petitioner;
  4. where the most evidence may be collected.

The petitioner bears the obligation to prove the case, through responses on the proper questionnaire(s), necessary documents, names and addresses of the respondent and all witnesses.

The respondent has the right to present his or her side of the case, and may appoint a priest, deacon or qualified lay person as procurator, who may assist the respondent in understanding the process, and who may defend the respondent’s rights. If no attempt is made to contact the respondent the annulment process itself will be made null and void.

The cost varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In many cases there is no charge; in others, it is minimal. In many, either the diocese/archdiocese, the local parish, or both, may defray part of all of the cost. Last time I looked, in the Cincinnati Archdiocese, a simple lack of form case cost $35, and the cost ran up to $400 for a Petrine Privilege submitted to Rome. The fee for a formal declaration of nullity was only $300, although the actual cost to the archdiocese was considerably higher than that; sometimes as much as $1,200. If any psychological evaluation is required, the petitioner is asked to bear the cost.

Petitioners with financial difficulties should make them known to the Tribunal at the beginning of the process so that alternative arrangements may be made.

The time required for the whole process will be a minimum of 12 to 18 months, and the time will depend heavily on the complexity of the case, and the work load of the Tribunal. Note that some cases cannot be proved. No date for another wedding may be set until an annulment is final.

The process begins at the parish. A priest, deacon or qualified lay expert will discuss the case with the petitioner, and go over the initial biographical facts of the case. Before the case can go to the Tribunal all civil records of all marriages and divorce/dissolutions involved must be provided. These are always available at the courthouse(s) where these public acts are recorded. The priest / deacon / lay expert may appoint or become your procurator, who will eventually present your case to the Tribunal. All communications between petitioner and Tribunal must go through the procurator of the case because of the complexities involved.

Petitioner must fill out a Form F-100, the standard questionnaire for annulments, which has 44 questions that must be answered. The answers must be clear and make sense to the Tribunal. Simple yes or no answers are often not that helpful. It is advised to do one or more “rough draft” F-100 forms for your procurator to go over with you before completing a final one. The F-100 to be submitted should be typed or printed legibly in dark ink. Many people will be handling and reading this form. Some petitioners have taken as much as three months to complete a final F-100. It is very important to get it right.

Documents, Witnesses, Professionals. All facts presented on the F-100 are regarded as allegations until proven. Petitioner is required to submit names, addresses, phone numbers of the respondent and a reasonable number of witnesses who know the facts of the case. (Minimum of 2 or 3, maximum of 6.)

Any involved psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, priest, minister or other professional can make statements via the “professional release” forms provided with the F-100 form. These forms release the professional from professional secrecy, and the Tribunal will only read their statements if one of these signed forms is provided. One can be copied and supplied to each professional whose input is needed.

Petitioner alerts witnesses that the Tribunal will contact them. Witnesses are asked to give complete, unprompted and truthful statements to the Tribunal. They may be contacted by mail or by personal visit. The normal contact is made by mail unless there are problems such as blindness or other inability to read and/or write. All witnesses supplied on the F-100 witness sheet will be contacted. This is typically the most time consuming part of the whole process.

Confidentiality. The F-100 and all other forms, documents and testimony attendant to the process are held in strictest confidence. The Tribunal is bound by oath to keep all contents strictly confidential.

A Protocol Number is assigned by a Secretary who is a notary and who handles all mail. The Secretary makes the documents official by stamping them on the date they arrive. The Secretary investigates to see if there are any other correspondence on file for the parties in the case, and assigns a protocol number, which, from this point on, must appear on every piece of correspondence relating to the case. No exceptions. If the protocol number is not on any correspondence it may be lost. The Tribunal handles, potentially, thousands of cases per year.

A Case Director / Auditor is assigned to your case. The Case Director guides the case through its various steps. People who gather necessary information are often called auditors or instructors. The Auditor prepares and sends proper questionnaires and cover letters to the respondent, witnesses and other persons listed on the F-100.

The petitioner may be asked to re-contact someone or to seek someone’s cooperation.

Evaluation and Review. At this point the Tribunal will determine if there is a valid ground for the action. The case is reviewed for its merits. A judge or a panel of three judges and a defender of the bond, who will argue for the validity of the marriage, will review the case. The purpose is to find if there is any valid ground for a declaration of nullity. All marriages are assumed valid; they must be proven invalid.

Procurator(s) may be notified if further information is required; other witness testimony may be called for if it is important to complete understanding of the marriage. A psychological evaluation may be requested.

Withdrawal of Petition may be recommended by the Tribunal to the petitioner if there is insufficient proof for the case of nullity. Documents will be kept on file as the case may be reopened if further information becomes available. The petitioner can request a formal decision.

The formal hearing, known as the joinder of issue, then takes place, in which the judge(s) make a formal decision. The judge(s), defender of the bond and representatives of the parties are present on an as-needed basis. The parties themselves may attend, but normally do not, as this is strictly a procedural hearing and they have already given their testimony.

A judgment is rendered and the case is declared concluded. The defender of the bond writes a brief; the procurators of one or both parties may also be asked to write briefs as advocates. Once these briefs are completed, the decision of the judge(s) is written up in a sentence. The parties and the procurators are then notified of the results of the decision.

Due to the serious nature of the matter, an approved annulment only becomes final after the case has received the two independent affirmative decisions required by law. Therefore, an affirmative decision will automatically be sent on to the appeal court for a second formal hearing.

A negative decision may be formally appealed by the petitioner. It normally takes about three months between the decision of the first formal hearing and the appeal court decision, although all cases are different.

Freedom to marry within the Catholic Church is allowed only after the second affirmative finding from the appeal court. A letter of notification will be sent to the petitioner, the respondent and their procurators. This is a very important document that should be safe-guarded; the fact of an annulment is proven through it.

The finding of the Tribunal was that there was a valid ground for the declaration of nullity. This could mean that one of the parties had an impediment to valid marriage that may still exist. Any such impediment, such as untreated alcoholism, extreme immaturity, etc., must be removed before that party is free to marry in the Catholic Church. Also, any civil affects of the first marriage remain unchanged. For instance, any court ordered child support from the first marriage remains a legal obligation. All legal obligations to the first union must be satisfied before undertaking any new obligations.

All decisions can be appealed to the Rota in Rome.


Elsewhere in this website, and at the top of this webpage, I have taken issue with the way Catholic annulments have been handled in America. My concerns are not so much with the formal process or with the law as it exists as with the perceived looseness of interpretation enabling what I believe are unnaturally large numbers of affirmative decisions. I suspect that Europe has the same problem.

There are numbers of deeply wounded, disaffected Catholics, and even Catholics who have left the faith over this issue. Some of them have contacted me through this website. The thing is, although we can say that children of nullified marriages are unaffected by this, many such children consider themselves somehow de-legitimized by this legal process, and many deeply wounded spouses cannot get over the fact that the Church actually nullified their marriage of umpty-ump years and X number of kids. A bad decision here can have devastating effects on innocent people.

I wonder how many times the real motive for annulment was hidden and another one “found.” I believe Catholic marriage annulment, when invalidly done, hurts people, and culture, even more than divorce does.

Pray for the wounded. Pray the pope and the bishops. Pray for justice.


Sarcastic Acronym Hover-Link Footnotes: For the convenience of those readers using devices that lack a mouse, these footnotes are provided for all webpages, in case any webpage contains any hover-links. (If you don't have a mouse, you can't "hover" it over a link without clicking just to see the simple acronym interpretation. Click any footnote link to see the acronym and a detailed explanation; "Hover" the mouse over it just to see the simple interpretation.)

SLIMC1 Secularist Liberal Intellectual Media Complex
GESGOEAEOT2 Gradually, Ever So Gradually, Over Eons And Eons Of Time
PEWAG3 Punctuated Equilibrium's Wild-Assed Guess
TTRSTF4 Them There Real Scientifical-Type Fellers
TTRSPTF5 Them There Real Smart Perfesser-Type Fellers
TTRSJTF6 Them There Real Smart Journalistical-Type Fellers
SNRTACBT7 Surely No Right Thinking Adult Could Believe Today
STNSEACPB8 Surely Today No Serious Educated Adult Could Possibly Believe
WDN9 We Don't Know
BMDFP10 Baboons, Mongrel Dogs, Filthy Pigs and ...
HBAACOTE11 Human Beings Are A Cancer On The Earth
ACLU12 Anti-Christian Litigation Union
FLORMPORIF13 Flagrant Liar, Or, Mindless Parrot, Or, Innocent Fool
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TTRSCBTF20 Them There Real Smart Catholic Bishop Type Fellers
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Date: Sat Jun 20 21:34:17 2009
From: Karl
Email: City

You are just another of a precious few voices in the wilderness, Vic. But it is nice to "hear" your "voice" anyway.

I have pretty much gave up the battle. Now I am pushing for my "defection" from the faith to be "officially" recognized.

Pray for me.

Date: Sun Jun 21 23:45:34 2009
From: Confused

To Karl:

I’m confused. Are you pushing for a final decision, one way or another, on a marriage annulment?

Date: Mon Jun 22 05:23:22 2009
From: Vic Biorseth

To Whomever:

Note that a separation, civil divorce or civil dissolution is not a sin. Divorced people still stand in the state of grace or sin in which they stood before the civil divorce. There is nothing pertaining to divorce itself that precludes full membership in the Body of Christ and full participation in all of the Sacraments.

(Note: see the dialogue below – divorce itself can be gravely sinful if not sought and procured on moral grounds.)

Completion of a civil divorce or dissolution is an absolute requirement before a declaration of nullity from the Church may be applied for by either party.

The only reason to file such a request is the desire to remarry someone other than the original spouse, within the Church, after having a previous marriage ended by civil divorce or dissolution.

It is only the act of remarrying or cohabiting with someone other than the original spouse in the absence of a declaration of nullity that one separates oneself from grace and from the Sacraments, via the sin of adultery. The problem is that, even in Confession, the priest cannot grant absolution for the sin unless and until the sinner permanently ends the adulterous cohabitation.

Advice To Young People: Look very carefully and meditate upon the words of the Marriage Covenant. Discuss them with your fiancé. Listen to your fiancé. Listen to your mother and your father. Listen to the mother and father of your fiancé. Talk to your priest, together and separately. Words have consequences. If either of you are not ready for this very serious life-long commitment, then don’t make it. If and when you say these words, then you must do everything in your power to keep them, for the rest of your earthly life.



Date: Fri Jul 03 11:11:30 2009
From: Sheryl Temaat
Location: Monument, CO USA

"Affects on Children." above should be "Effects on Children. Excellent article; I've not read it carefully, but you've got it right.

"The Church" effectively bastardizes children through its invalid annulment process, then argues that they are legitimate. I don't think the children care anymore what "the Church" says. And by "the Church," I mean the dissenting church, not the one, holy, apostolic Catholic Church of all time.


Date: Fri Jul 03 15:33:06 2009
From: Vic Biorseth


Thank you; I have corrected the error.

I think we are in total agreement.



Date: Fri Jul 03 12:52:39 2009
From: Mark Feliz
Location: Colorado Springs, CO USA


When you say that the Church does not prohibit divorce or separation are you taking into consideration CCC 2384-2385? It's little known to the Roman Catholics I speak to. Priests make the same statement you make, but fail to provide the full picture. Partial truth is so dangerous!

Canon Law 1060 also states that a marriage is presumed valid unless PROVEN invalid (paraphrased). These two official positions ought to be preached from the pulpit, don't you think?

To the tribunals and Bishops in this country please teach these truths in any reference you make to the divorced and separated brethren like myself. Bishops I beg you hold your judicial vicars feet to the fire when it comes to marital validity. You don't want them to exercise compassion at the expense of truth, do you? The very definition of "love" and "marriage" is at stake.

I have a heck of lot more to say about this, but I am committed to making my child support payments on time; off to work I go, I owe,I owe.

Mark Feliz

Colorado Springs

Date: Fri Jul 03 15:51:47 2009
From: Vic Biorseth


Yes sir; I am taking paragraphs 2384-2385 into account, along with paragraphs 2383 and 2386; but you make a good point. Perhaps I should have hit this point in more detail. Let’s look at that whole section:

… Direct Quote …


2382 The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble.174 He abrogates the accommodations that had slipped into the old Law.175

Between the baptized, "a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death."176

2383 The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law.177

If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.

2384 Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery:

”If a husband, separated from his wife, approaches another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery, and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another's husband to herself.178

2385 Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society.

2386 It can happen that one of the spouses is the innocent victim of a divorce decreed by civil law; this spouse therefore has not contravened the moral law. There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried to be faithful to the sacrament of marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage.179

175 Cf. Mt 19:7-9.
176 CIC, can. 1141.
177 Cf. CIC, cann. 1151-1155.
178 St. Basil, Moralia 73,1:PG 31,849-852.
179 Cf. FC 84.

… End Quote …

People who have contacted me on this issue have been assumed, by me, to be the “innocent victim” in the divorce situation. I have no way of really knowing when or if that assumption is correct. My initial assumption is based upon the theory, which may be incorrect, that one party wanted out of the marriage and one party did not. And that the one who sought the divorce in the first place may have had an ulterior motive, such as, another intended spouse. It may not always be that the one who sought the divorce is the sinner and the one who didn’t want the divorce is the innocent victim. Particularly in any case involving spousal abuse or child abuse, the one who sought the divorce may be innocent.

Only the actual spouses, and God, know all the real details that lead up to the separation. This is an issue that wrenches the heart of the honest and faithful spouse. At the same time, it is an issue that is frequently involved with lies on the part of at least one party.

If there was one single point of contention that turned me sour against the process during the Marriage Tribunal course, it was the seeming wish to satisfy the wishes of the petitioner, almost at all costs. The a-priori assumption seemed to be that the petitioner is the injured party. And when the initial ground for annulment was not proven, the procurator would seek other grounds, including grounds not originally even imagined by the petitioner.

I simply cannot believe the numbers of annulments granted on so-called psychological grounds as being truthfully representative of a full 80% of all annulments, and I cannot accept how the numbers of all annulments have rocketed since the use (abuse?) of psychological grounds became popular.

I’m not from Missouri, but you still have to show me.



Date: Sat Jul 04 09:57:02 2009
From: Bai Macfarlane
Location: Westlake, Ohio

Comment: Hello Vic,

In your opening paragraph you wrote: What the Church frowns on is, not separation or divorce, but rather, re-marriage after such an event.

This is not the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church – especially in a civil environment that welcomes no-fault divorce.

If by divorcing, a spouse is not in the state of grace, the Church does frown. Abandoning marital life with for no moral reason is a grave sin. Approaching divorce court without first having permission of one’s bishop is a violation of canon law. Having an adulterous, or sexually active relationship outside of marraige is a grave sin; if one has no firm resolve to stop sinning, one is not prepared to confess the sins.

The Compendium: Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that divorce, which goes against the indissolubility of marriage, is a grave sin opposed to the sacrament of Matrimony; and the physical separation of spouses is allowed when for serious reasons their living together becomes practically impossible (Sec, 347: Sec. 348). The Catechism of the Catholic Church, describes divorce as immoral and a grave offense against nature. It also makes a clear distinction between a spouse who has been faithful to one's marriage and is unjustly abandoned compared to a spouse who "through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage" (par. 2384-2386). Canon 1060 in the Catholic Code of Canon Law requires that all marriages shall be presumed valid until proven otherwise. In Pope John Paul II's 2004 address to the Roman Rota, he explained how sin can be the cause for family breakup and he cautioned that a marriage is not assumed to be invalid because one or both spouses failed to uphold their duty; "... in accordance with human experience marked by sin, a valid marriage can fail because of the spouses' own misuse of freedom" (Sec. 5).

Catechism section 1649 teaches in some cases, living together becomes practically impossible and in these situations "the best solution would be, if possible, reconciliation."

To understand if a divorced Catholic is in the state of grace, it must be determined whether one has a legitimate reason to separate. When the Catechism describes cases in which living together is practically impossible; it reference sections 1151-1155 of the Catholic Code of Canon Law (CCC par 2383, Canon enclosed). The code specifies licit reason for separation: if an innocent spouse is betrayed by an adulterous partner; if an innocent spouse is in grave danger of soul or body caused by the other partner; if children need to be protected from a parent who puts the children in grave danger of soul or body; or if an abusive spouse makes the common life unduly difficult. The Exegetical Commentary of the Code of Canon Law, which is recommended by the President of the Pontifical Council of Legislative Texts, defines the conditions in which "grave danger of soul or body" and "unduly difficult" situations provide licit reasons to separate:

For separation due to physical or moral cruelty to be lawful, the following conditions are necessary:

  • it must be grave, such that it makes common life dangerous for the spouse or children;
  • it must be repeated, because if it were merely occasional, it would not create the fear for future common life, which justifies the separation;
  • and separation must constitute the only means of avoiding the danger involved in common life (canon 1153, p.1585).

Most divorces in the United States do not occur because of these moral reasons described in the canon law. According to a 1988 Gallup poll cited by Mike McManus's work, Marriage Savers, 5% of divorce plaintiffs seek divorce because their spouse is physically abusive, 16% seek divorce because their spouse is a substance abuser, and 17% seek divorce because their spouse committed adultery (McManus 123). The remaining majority of divorces are sought for other reasons, and people seeking divorces for these other reasons have no moral grounds to be separating from their spouse.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, "For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: 'Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent'" (par. 1857). Canon 915 teaches, "Those ... who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion." A spouse who chooses to separate with no licit reason is named a "malicious abandoner" in the Exegetical Commentary Code of Canon Law (1585).

The Catholic Code of Canon Law, Section 1692, limits the circumstances in which it is allowable to even approach the civil court. The canon describes an ecclesiastic process that considers the "particular" circumstances of every couple, and describes when one can approach a civil court for the "merely civil effects of marriage." The Code of Canon Law Annotated, which is recommended by the President of the Pontifical Council of Legislative Texts, explains how canon 1692 specifies the ecclesiastic process that is a "necessary precaution, which prevents the fostering of [government] trials whose judgments violate precepts of divine law, to the detriment of the spouses and with the risk of scandal to others" (Instituto Martin 1324).

The civil divorce routine violates the precepts of divine law because it does not recognize adultery and abandonment as faults. Civil divorce does not acknowledge that an abandoner or abuser has a lifelong responsibility to uphold the "informing principles that constitute the general guidelines for spousal behavior." [...] "Matrimonial life must not involve a detriment to the corporal or material good of the other spouse." [...] "One spouse must not cause the other any detriment to his or her spiritual well being;" [...] "one must not cause any harm to [children's] material or spiritual wellbeing, immorally or culpably" (Instituto Martin 1572). The innocent party and the children should be protected.

With no-fault divorce, children are ordered to regularly leave the parent who wants to keep the family intact, regardless of the negative effect on children's spiritual well being and the "due maintenance and upbringing of children" (canon 1154). Children in traditional families lose full time, stay-at-home parenting. Property is equally split between an innocent spouse and the one who destroys his or her marriage, regardless of the financial devastation this causes to the children or innocent spouse. The innocent spouse often has to pay support for the upbringing of children in a household in which they are not allowed to live. The Exegetical Commentary Code of Canon Law explains that separation should be "an institution for the prevention of future evils for the innocent spouse and children" (Instituto Martin 1570). According to the Church's understanding of separation, when one has been unjustly abandoned, "with invocation of the concept of malicious abandonment, there is an attempt to declare guilty the spouse who has maliciously been absent and to obtain the legal declaration of separation for the one who has been abandoned" with the intent of "specifically protecting compliance with every conjugal and family duty, and penalizing their omission" (Institudo Martin, 1585-1586). Custody, alimony and support orders typically invoked by civil court violate the precepts of divine law, and civil divorce or separation decrees are licit for Catholics only in limited circumstances.

Professed-Catholic information on the Internet needs to clarify the difference between those who separate for moral reasons and those who force divorce for immoral reasons; otherwise websites give the impression that all divorced Catholics are in a state of grace.

Bai Macfarlane
Mary's Advocates

Date: Sat Jul 04 11:52:12 2009
From: Vic Biorseth


First, may I wish you a happy and blessed Fourth, and may we celebrate many more.

You are quite correct; I could have chosen my opening words more carefully. See the submission above from Mark Feliz and the response; divorce, in and of itself, is indeed potentially mortally sinful. In many if not most cases, at least one party is probably innocent of any sin. What should be emphasized is that, whatever brought about the separation in the first place, remarriage and/or cohabitation with another party, after divorce, is also gravely sinful. Again, marriage preparation and understanding of what the covenant means is of vital importance to single people before they enter into the sacrament.

I have included a parenthesized comment after the opening paragraph as follows:

(Note: divorce itself is gravely sinful if not sought and procured on moral grounds. See the discussions / dialogues below this article.)

You bring up the most important of the dangerous social trends brought to us by the social / societal secularization process that is and has been under way in our culture and our civil law for far too many generations now. No Fault Divorce makes about as much moral sense as I’m OK – you’re OK divorce, or, let’s just be friends and run around with other partners divorce, or, oh, what the hell divorce.

Which goes right along with no fault auto insurance. It is no longer insurance against merely an auto accident. It has now become “insurance” against my own impulse to get mad at someone and just ram his car. Who cares? We have no fault insurance now. Ain’t America wonderful?

What we are looking at in the secularization movement is an effort led by Marxists, organizations like the ACLU12 , the Democrat Party, the SLIMC1 , leading academics everywhere, show-biz and celebritwittery to gradually eliminate our common national Judeo-Christian Ethos. What is despised by the Left is our common sense of right and wrong; the foundation of our Constitution and our civil law.

A National Ethos – a common sense of determining right from wrong – is where our majority religion meets our civil law and civil government. Morality comes out of religion, not out of government. Our government serves the people, not the other way round. Representative government needs to recognize and be subservient to the ethos of the populace represented. To do otherwise is to move a whole nation straight into blatant immorality.

I have elsewhere referred to this socio-political trend as a movement from our current and historical Judeo-Christian Ethos to a new, foreign, lower ethos, such as the ethos of BMDFP10 and the Democrat Party.

Thank you for your insight and all the detail. Your website marriage civil “contract” is totally new to me; at first blush it looks like a strong move in the right direction.



Date: Thu Oct 08 21:22:09 2009
From: Sher
Location: Beaumont/ CA/ USA

Apparently my devoted Catholic Father decide[d] the children were included in the annulment as he ignored his first 4 young children for the next 50 years while he made "new children" with his second wife and gave them his love and everything else ... after seeking love and approval the past 50 years plus ... we are requesting an annulment from our Father ... who continues to pay his way in the Catholic Church. Enjoy him

Date: Fri Oct 09 05:32:08 2009
From: Vic Biorseth

General Note:

The hard experience of victims more clearly illustrates the results of broken marriages than any ranting, editorializing or philosophizing could ever do.

All around us in society today we see the negative results of easy divorce and easy annulment. Both should be rare in a stable society; when they are common, the larger society itself is unstable. The family is the primal social unit; as the family goes, so goes the larger society. Nothing should be strengthened more, in both ecclesial law and in civil law, than the marriage covenant.

Divorce and annulment sow seeds of bitterness, and most often Satan reaps the bitter harvest. Easy annulment is very nearly the opposite of evangelization, and easy divorce is very nearly the opposite of uplifting culture.

Even when rare, and even when done for valid reason, divorce and annulment are not uplifting, but dividing and degrading, of families and of the larger culture. It is not good for the Church, and it is not good for America.

Please pray for Sher and her family, for the Church, and for America.



Date: Thu Oct 15 18:27:20 2009
From: Karl

Dear Vic,

You might find the website of Monsignor Cormac Burke a good read, particularly a new section which involves a book, soon to be published, involving a debate he had regarding "Married Personalism".

Here is the link:

Perhaps you can post on it?

Best Wishes.

Date: Thu Oct 29 18:15:37 2009
From: Dave

Dear Vic,

I paid my wife over $77,000 in alimony and as soon as the alimony stopped she then filed for an annulment through the Catholic Church and got it approved.

If she received alimony for 3 years, couldn't I try and get my money back considering she is now stating we were never married?

Would the civil court recognize the annulment in the Catholic as legitimate or would I need to go through the civil court?

Thank you.

Date: Thu Oct 29 18:41:02 2009
From: Vic Biorseth


I’m no attorney, but I would say no, that won’t fly. There is a divorce (no pun intended) between the ecclesial court and the civil court, and never the twains shall meet.

In the civil court, you got the state required license and were legally married, and your civil divorce settlement addressed that civil law situation.

In the annulment case, an ecclesial court found some impediment to the marriage and declared it to have been invalid according to Church law. That impediment may or may not be considered an impediment in the civil law in whatever jurisdiction the divorce was adjudicated. Whether it was or not, a civil court would have to make that determination, because an ecclesial court decision is not binding in civil law and has no affect on any civil court decision.

My guess would be that you would be wasting time, effort and legal fees pursuing the possibility because the civil court would only consider the civil law that applied, and not the ecclesial law.

Church law and civil law are two different animals. If I’m wrong in this, I’m sure some American attorney or Catholic canon lawyer will point it out soon enough.



Date: Sat Oct 31 15:11:58 2009
From: Bernie
Location: San CArlos, CA USA


It was interesting to read about the annulment rationalization of the Church. My father divorced his first wife before marrying my mother, a strong Catholic. He attempted to get an annulment and the story goes that a priest knocked on the door of Dad's first wife to have her sign some documents to start the annulment process. Some sixty plus years later we look back and laugh at her response to the priest. Before slamming the door in his face she used some rather colorful language to tell him and the Church where to go.

Of course as a child I never understood why Dad and Mom could not receive the sacraments as they had been married out of the Church. When I did understand it I felt the Church was hypocritical as it came out that those who had the $$$$$ were able to get their annulments. I never accepted the action and truly believe it is not what Christ wanted. It has been bastardized by the Church intelligentsia.

Date: Sun Jan 17 07:52:25 2010
From: John
Location: Hemet, CA USA

Vic thank you for this page. I am a sometimes frustrated man. I am involved in ministry and with the grace of God, that has grown since my wife left me to live with another. We were married twice civilly and the 2nd time was in the church. She intends to pursue an annulment as soon as the civil divorce is final. My frustration is that I do not believe that the grounds exist. With that said I am painfully aware that she will likely receive the annulment even though she left and she currently lives with another. Sadly we are fighting over custody rights of our youngest. We have a six year old as well as a 23 year old and eighteen year old. I have already accepted that God's will is to be done and that may include an annulment that I don't agree with. I will abide by the Church's findings and seek the knowledge to understand our churches decision. I of course pray that I am able to accept a decision either way and should she change her mind that I would be ready to receive her. We have known each other for 27 of our 43 years so I'm quite sure there is nothing about me she did not know. She will be seeking psychological reasons and I understand that it's easy to do it that way.

I thank you for this breath of fresh air so that we lay can read and understand. I am sure that I was unjustly left but God through the Holy Spirit has led me to a sense of forgiveness and love as we work through this season. I include you in my prayers and again thank you. This page is one of hope in that the reading helps the reader to know that he is not alone but there are others with similar questions, concerns, pain and relief.

Date: Sun Jan 17 10:30:28 2010
From: Vic Biorseth


Thank you, and you are in our prayers also. Regardless of any legal machinations or worldly outcomes, know that there is a purpose behind all of this, trust in God and let your consolation be in knowledge of the ultimate Truth that underlies everything.



Date: Sun Mar 07 01:36:43 2010
From: Glenn
Location: Tucson, AZ

Hi Vic,

I hope that you can help me here. I was born and raised Catholic, but upon joining the Army shortly after high school, I fell away from the faith.

In 1989, I began cohabitating with a woman who bore me 6 children. I was with my children's mother for 16 years. During that time we were never legally or religiously married.

In 1998, I returned to the faith, but she refused to accept any part of it. Ultimately, we separated.

Now, some 5 years later, I have found a wonderful Catholic woman who is dying to be a godly mother to my children and a wife to me.

However, her brother says that, since my kids' mom and I lived together in a "natural law" relationship, I must get an annulment.

Again, Vic, I emphasize: We were never married in a religious or even civil ceremony. We lived together, but were never legally married in any way, shape or form.

Do we still have to get an annulment? BTW, I live in Arizona, a state which does not recognize "common law" marriages.

Thanks and God Bless you.

Date: Sun Mar 07 05:52:54 2010
From: Vic Biorseth


It is difficult trying to read between the lines from a distance. If the entire period of cohabitation you were shacked up in Arizona, and if Arizona does not recognize common law marriage, then you were not married in civil law. Ecclesial law, however, is not that clear in my layman’s mind. I’m sure it will come up if you seek Catholic marriage, because it may present as a preexisting impediment to a new Catholic marriage. You need to talk to your Pastor and/or your Bishop or his representative well ahead of time.

While it is not clear to me what the Church would say about all this, what my mind and heart say is that you treated this first woman and your children exactly as if you took her to wife, and you kept her in that status for sixteen years. In my non-clerical, non-ecclesial, strictly lay opinion, that makes you married. You were a grown man and you knew full well what you were doing.

Now, you have another woman who is “dying to be a godly mother to my children and a wife to me.” That seems to imply that the first woman has abandoned her children, or somehow is now to be out of the picture as far as their future is concerned.

See the section on the Pauline Privilege. If she was the one to initiate the separation, and the sole reason for the separation was your Catholic faith, you may have grounds for nullity.

Begin with prayer, reflection and repentance.

To all younger readers, note this well: life decisions have consequences.



Date: Fri Apr 16 22:43:59 2010
From: Steve
Location: Ashtabula, OH U.S.A.

I have been divorced for almost 19 years. I am a Catholic and my wife, at the time of marriage, was a practicing Methodist. She initiated and obtained a civil divorce from me on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, which stemmed from our differences in religious beliefs and practices. This is the first time I have read about the Pauline Privilege. Does this sound like grounds for nullity in my case?

Date: Sat Apr 17 08:16:36 2010
From: Vic Biorseth


Probably not; but that’s just a first-impression guess on my part. It would seem that you both knew about each other’s religion before the marriage. I always thought that the Pauline Privilege meant to address the situation where one spouse converted to Catholicism after the marriage, and the other spouse could not abide it.

However, a strict reading of Paul’s quote, as follows:

“But if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace.” 1 Cor. 7:14.
might indicate otherwise. Have a talk with your Pastor.



Date: Sun Apr 18 12:32:08 2010
From: Steve

Thanks Vic.

I have read more about the Pauline Privilege since sending my inquiry. I too have gotten the impression that you have cited. I will take your advise and talk with my pastor.

Have a great week and God's blessings to you.


Date: Wed Aug 18 02:32:46 2010
From: Tom
Location: Southwest, USA

I am so grateful for this long and detailed page about marriage, divorce and annulment. (Sadly, I am writing to request that you modify your web page: please remove people's email addresses. Unscrupulous people scour the web for such addresses so they can bombard them with junkmail.) Honestly, your page has answered so many questions I had, and the careful quotes and references are extremely valuable. I totally agree with your position on easy divorce. What's so hard to understand about "What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder."

Date: Wed Aug 18 05:55:18 2010
From: Vic Biorseth


You are most welcome; It is gratifying to know that it is of some use. Annulment seems to be one of those topics round which there are always more questions than answers.

Regarding email addresses and location addresses, note that those are “optional” fields that do not have to be entered. Nor do you need to use your real name. Once upon a time this site had a public option and a private option for questions or comments, and if you didn’t want to be identified on-line, you used the private option. But most people chose the private option, and the sheer numbers of private email dialogues just got to be too much for me to handle.

So now there is a comment/question opportunity at the bottom of each page on this site, and all dialogues are now public. If anyone wishes to not be identified, that’s fine. But there are some who do not mind being contacted privately by others who frequent this site.

The only “automatic” info my site captures is the date and time of your submission and the IP address of the computer used (which actually provides more information about your Internet Provider than it does about you.) Nobody but me ever gets any information from any submitter on this site.

My site also gathers statistics about internet accesses to this site, and I find it very interesting - stunning, in fact - that so many foreigners from all over the world are so interested in American and Catholic topics.



Date: Fri Aug 20 23:01:22
From: TeresaMSAT

My husband was Episcopalian when I married him. We were married by a Methodist minister. Now, my husband got an epiphany and is now converting to Roman Catholicism. As a former Roman Catholic, I was ecstatic. However, after being told by the priest that we would have our marriage consecrated after his confirmation, we were asked if we were married before. Naturally, my husband said no. But, I was married before in the RC church and I never shared this with my husband of 23 years. Is it necessary to have my marriage consecrated? Is an annulment necessary?

Date: Sat Aug 21 06:05:10 2010
From: Vic Biorseth


Yes, to both questions. Marriage is a one-time shot, for life. Your first marriage presents an insurmountable impediment to the validity of any following marriage.



Date: Sat Sep 18 09:49:49 2010
From: Martha
Location: Nova Scotia,Canada


Congratulations on your lucid coverage of the topic. One aspect you did not cover however concerns the propensity of clergy to use the so called "internal forum" regarding those who have applied for but who have not been granted an annulment. I speak from experience having been the respondent in a case dating back eight years now. My husband eventually withdrew his petition but married civilly anyway using a Justice of the Peace. A priest friend of his was in attendance at the ceremony and I understand offered a "blessing". The area where this all happened [and is still happening] is small and my husband is well known to all including clergy. He and his new "wife" attend Mass and Eucharist regularly and no one blinks although the facts are known. If I accidentally turn up at the same Mass as they happen to attend, I leave at the earliest possible moment and am so distracted that I am indisposed to receive the Eucharist at that time.

I know the internal forum solution is bogus and I expect my husband of 30+years,who is a well educated man also must suspect this also but is supported by misled clergy anyway. This always reminds me of Tim.4;3"for there will come a time when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but having itching ears, will heap up to themselves teachers, according to their own lusts"

I pray daily for all the victims of bogus annulments and the mindless bishops and clergy who promote them in the name of The Almighty.

Date: Sat Sep 18 17:19:19 2010
From: Vic Biorseth


Quite frankly, I had never heard of such a thing. Quick internet research was very educational. The case as you describe it sounds absolutely bogus, and if so, mortally sinful for all involved, especially the priest.

From what I have learned in an admittedly short time, the correct form is exceedingly rare, and involves something like the ancient oath of “virginity” taken in Biblical times. It means that the couple invalidly married would remain together, but not living as man and wife – meaning, no sex. This was addressed once by Benedict XVI, back when he was Cardinal Ratzinger.

It also seems that the incorrect form is not so rare, although I never heard of it before. This is where a liberal priest in a liberal diocese wants to not loose congregants “just because” they are knowingly living outside the norms of Catholic doctrine, and so he grants this “internal forum” blessing or whatever, and everybody goes about his happy way. Come one, come all, get your eucharist, with a small e, right here. It’s almost as casual as a coffee klatch.

This is more horrible than anything I have encountered thus far. We would appreciate any further input on this subject from anyone else out there. Please pray for Martha.



Date: Sun Oct 10 21:26:16 2010
From: Linda
Location: Annandale, New Jersey, USA

While I admire your devotion to the Church, I must point out the following: The magisterium of Holy Mother Church teaches that a marriage is a sacrament. A sacrament is an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace. No matter how long a couple may live together, without the vows (the outward sign of the sacrament), the grace of the sacrament has not been bestowed. Therefore, Glenn has received no sacrament, and does not need an annulment to marry in the Church.

Secondly, as for Dave, shouldn't it be mentioned that justice demands fair treatment to his ex-wife? If she deserved alimony because she has become dependent on him financially as a result of their relationship, should he really be trying to use the Church's decree of nullity to escape this? Please, let us not allow scrupulosity to the letter of canon law to excuse us from Christian charity.

Third, regarding the internal forum, Vatican II allows for the Catholic individual to follow his conscience. If a Catholic believes himself or herself to be in a marriage that is not valid in the eyes of the Lord, this individual is responsible to act accordingly. What if witnesses to the facts which would prove nullity have died? What if abuse, a premarital pregnancy scare, or an addiction were hidden from everyone, hence precluding the possibility of witnesses to support the petitioner's claims? The individual and God know the facts. If the individual has done all possible to obtain a declaration of nullity, only to be denied for lack of witnesses, the inner forum allows him or her to go on with life in the peace of Christ. Would you require the individual to return to the spouse whom he or she believes is not truly his or her spouse in the eyes of Christ? That would violate the petitioner's conscience.


Date: Mon Oct 11 05:29:12 2010
From: Vic Biorseth


Re Glenn: Sorry, but the Church does indeed recognize civil and non-sacramental marriages. If you are married by a local Justice Of The Peace, and you later divorce, if you wish to remarry in the Church, you will need a declaration of nullity first. I suppose this might be true if you were married by a witch doctor. It is most certainly true in cases of common-law marriage. I cannot settle this Arizona matter from Ohio, and you cannot settle it from New Jersey. It can only be decided by the Bishop in Arizona, and no one else.

Re Dave: I suppose a personal sense of justice and fair treatment to his ex-wife should be mentioned; if so, thank you for doing it. In complete fairness, it might also be mentioned that she might be about to do all this again, for profit.

Re the Internal Forum (not the Inner Forum): From my admittedly limited and recently acquired knowledge of this form of annulment, it is designed and intended to be granted:

  1. In exceedingly rare circumstances;
  2. A temporary state for a period of time preceding normal annulment;
  3. Usually involving needs of small children regarding a stable family life;
  4. Requiring the couple to live a celibate life for the duration.
I have seen nothing regarding the inability to obtain testimony from anyone, the unavailability of witnesses, or the good old fashioned “I can’t think of any other way to do this” as being valid grounds for nullity.

In what Vatican II document are we instructed to just follow our own conscience in such a matter?



Date: Mon Oct 11 22:30:21 2010
From: Linda
Location: Annandale, NJ


Thank you for your response.

First, do all states recognize common law marriage? If no vows were exchanged, how does one define marriage? Your argument could be used to claim that all couples who live together, even if a marriage ceremony never took place, must get an annulment before marrying a different partner.

Second, I did not propose that inability to produce witnesses was grounds for annulment. What I meant is that a couple who does have grounds for annulment may not have shared their troubles with anyone. Therefore, they may have an invalid marriage but no one who knew enough about it to witness to that fact. Does the lack of witnesses mean that a couple who are truly not married in God's sight must stay together and pretend they are? Is it right to be intimate with a person to whom one does not believe he is validly married?

Finally, Vatican II aside, is it ever right for a person to violate a well-informed conscience? Yes, there are always the possibilities of rationalization and subjective opinions. However, a devout individual who has regularly followed Church teaching and simply never told anyone of his marriage troubles may actually know more of his situation than the Church can ascertain except through his own testimony. When that testimony is not deemed enough and annulment is denied due to lack of witnesses, might this be the time for a person to live according to what he knows but cannot prove?

Looking forward to your reply,


Date: Tue Oct 12 05:41:34 2010
From: Vic Biorseth


Let me see if I can cover all the bases here.

  • Do all states recognize common law marriage [in civil law]?
    -- No.
  • If no vows were taken how does one define marriage?
    -- By acting and giving appearances as if being married.
  • Do all such fornicators living as man and wife need to get an annulment?
    -- They need to look into it only if they later seek Catholic marriage to another partner. In that case, they may need an annulment.
  • Re “pretending” to remain married in violation of a newly developed conscience:
    -- The Church does not preclude separation for a valid reason. If no marriage of any kind was involved, it should be easier to stop fornicating than it was to begin. It should be easier to un-shack up with someone than it was to shack up with them in the first place.
Actions have consequences. The Church does not require evidence for nullity for no reason. A serious matter requires serious deliberation upon ascertainable facts, and not the ramblings of someone who suddenly goes public with unverifiable claims, after years of silence. If all of us were free to just follow our own rainbows we would soon degenerate into a randomly oriented, aimless people. It is the Gospel and the doctrines of the Church that makes it Catholic, and it is following the teaching and the rules that makes us Catholic.

Marriage is important. It is the foundation stone of the family. The family is the foundation stone of society. When we tamper with marriage rules, we tamper with the bedrock of it all.



Date: Tue Oct 12 22:51:10 2010
From: Linda
Location: Annandale, NJ

Our communication leads me to believe that you adhere to Church teaching regardless of the temporal difficulty it may entail. So I'd like to hear your "take" on my situation. I've been advised by several priests, both in counseling and in the confessional, that I most likely am not in a valid marriage. Here's the [situation]:

I married 25 years ago at age 23. My engagement was more difficult than that of anyone I ever met. My fiancé developed depression, which led him on frequent occasions to act unaffectionately and insensitively toward me. I worried that we could not have a good marriage. I wanted to break the engagement, but I feared that this would worsen his depression. Also, he insisted that God wanted us to get married. I had mild pressure to marry from my father and other family members, who loved my fiancé but did not know of his depression. I myself was the child of divorced parents, and never felt quite accepted in my town and my parish because this was so rare in the 1960's. I dreaded breaking an engagement and looking like my mother, who had divorced my father.

As short as 7 days before the wedding, I deeply regretted the engagement and wished ardently that I did not have to go through with the wedding. I honestly did not feel that canceling the wedding was an option. It seems ridiculous to me now that I ever was so intimidated by society and by my father and relatives, but at age 23, it seemed I was just paralyzed. I went through with the ceremony.

Once married, I did all possible to be a good wife, even to the point of obeying my husband when he was unfair. There was mild physical abuse early on in the marriage, and later verbal, emotional, and financial abuse. The children were abused verbally to the point that I feared them telling their school teachers what their father had said to them. My youngest son recently asked me if he could please be treated nicer by his father during his last year at home before college. I was not allowed to have a job, join PTA, participate in church activities, or even choose the friends I wanted. My father's inheritance to me disappeared into an account in my husband's name that I cannot access.

For 23 years, I kept thinking, the only things keeping me here are the kids and the vow. Now the children are grown and gone. After telling my story to several priests both in and out of confession, I am told that my troubled engagement and trepidation about taking the marriage vows, so close to the day of the wedding, probably imply insufficient consent to make the vow of so long ago valid. The fact that my attempts to make a good marriage did not succeed seems to be further evidence of the "psychological factors" which some modern Catholic clergy cite as grounds for annulment.

I told only one person of my troubles 25 years ago, as I was embarrassed and humiliated to be starting off marriage in so poor a circumstance, and terribly afraid of appearing to my society to be like my mother, who had been estranged from me since my early childhood. I do not know if this one witness would even speak for me in front of a marriage tribunal.

Do you agree with the assessment of the priests who have advised me? And if my one witness will not speak for me, what am I to do?


Date: Wed Oct 13 18:21:42 2010
From: Vic Biorseth


What you have described is a classical example of what I have been so hard on in this article, which is,

Canon 1095 – They are incapable of contracting marriage:

§ 2. who suffer from grave lack of discretion of judgment concerning essential matrimonial rights and duties which are to be mutually given and accepted;

The problem is for any objective observer to try to, A: determine if the story is true in all particulars, and, B: determine whether personal timidity to this degree qualifies as a grave lack of discretion. Two very difficult things for any outsider to consider with any certitude of arriving at a good decision.

Alternatively, if you applied Canon 1095 § 2 to your husband rather than yourself, then, if your husband was never treated for depression, and there is no outside testimony regarding it, that again poses a serious problem.

You should absolutely put your fears aside and speak to the witness of 25 years ago. What could that hurt at this point? At least you could settle that point for yourself. Unless your husband was treated for depression, the only witnesses other than yourself are that witness and your children.

I don’t think any good Bishop would grant an annulment on the word of one against another, and nothing more.

First of all, a declaration of nullity is not even an option until after a civil divorce has been accomplished. I am not recommending that you file for divorce, but if you simply cannot abide the situation, then you might consider a trial period of separation, if you have someplace to go and some source of sustenance. If you have no intention of remarrying, you have no need of an annulment.

Are you sure there is no hope for the marriage?

It sounds like you have born your cross very well thus far, Linda; don’t loose track of the ultimate destination. My wife found your story heartbreaking; we are praying for you. Prayer makes even the unbearable bearable, by bringing our Lord closer. Don’t’ give up on the Lord; He will never give up on you.

Anyone else out there have anything to add? We would deeply appreciate any input from priests, deacons, brothers, sisters, canon-lawyers or whatever. Sometimes I feel as though I’m wading out into a river too deep for my waders, as a mere layman here. I pray for the right advice and the right words, but I haven’t been through seminary; all I know I picked up on my own, and sometimes that is just not enough.

God bless.



Date: Fri Oct 15 14:42:17 2010
From: Martha
Location: Canada

Internal Forum.

"Sometimes it is suggested to individuals or couples that they can resolve marital issues concerning a first marriage in the "internal forum." This means essentially in the confessional or in the privacy of their conscience. Someone who is divorced and remarried will be told that they do not have to seek a Decree of Nullity to validate the present marriage, rather being convinced in their own conscience that their first marriage was invalid they can return to the sacraments. This is not, however, the case. Marriage is not a private affair but a social institution, one safeguarded by the Church according to the will of Christ. The Holy See has ruled out the internal forum solution as a valid way of resolving marital validity questions. Such issues must be submitted to the Church's canonical processes (a marriage tribunal)".

The above quote was the answer given in response to a question posed to Colin B. Donovan who is a moral theologian at EWTN.

The "Internal Forum" you described in an earlier reply [Sept. 18]is indeed the legitimate form and is summarized in the following Q&A from David Jensen who is a catechist and apologist from Colorado Springs.In reply to the question he first discusses it at some length and then concludes with a four point summary which is quoted below the query.

Q: I've heard that instead of receiving an annulment, there's an "internal forum solution" that allows re-married Catholics to continue receiving the Sacraments without having to get an annulment of their prior marriage(s). Is this true?

So, yes, there is an internal forum solution, and it is:

1) You are first obliged to repent of your past sin.
2) Next, you are obliged to separate. But for serious reasons, you can remain together if you live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.
3) You are obliged to receive sacramental absolution in the Sacrament of Penance.
4) You are obliged to receive Holy Communion so as to avoid giving scandal (eg. where your irregular marriage is unknown)

The following excerpts are from a letter to the bishops of the Church written in 1994 by then Card. Ratzinger;the complete text of which is available on the vatican website.



7. The mistaken conviction of a divorced and remarried person that he may receive Holy Communion normally presupposes that personal conscience is considered in the final analysis to be able, on the basis of one's own convictions(15), to come to a decision about the existence or absence of a previous marriage and the value of the new union. However, such a position is inadmissable(16). Marriage, in fact, because it is both the image of the spousal relationship between Christ and his Church as well as the fundamental core and an important factor in the life of civil society, is essentially a public reality.

8. It is certainly true that a judgment about one's own dispositions for the reception of Holy Communion must be made by a properly formed moral conscience. But it is equally true that the consent that is the foundation of marriage is not simply a private decision since it creates a specifically ecclesial and social situation for the spouses, both individually and as a couple. Thus the judgment of conscience of one's own marital situation does not regard only the immediate relationship between man and God, as if one could prescind from the Church's mediation, that also includes canonical laws binding in conscience. Not to recognise this essential aspect would mean in fact to deny that marriage is a reality of the Church, that is to say, a sacrament.

Hope some of this helps.

Blessings on your work.

Date: Fre Oct 15 19:58:33 2010
From: Vic Biorseth


Thank you so very much!



Date: Tue Nov 09 12:33:53 2010
From: KB


Seems like you have become quite the expert on an annulment. I have a couple of quick questions. I am wondering -- I was married for seven years, the last two of which I was separated from my former spouse. The marriage involved much physical and emotional abuse and the emotional abuse started before we were married.

I know the fact the physical abuse and death threats during the "marriage" are insufficient facts to prove that we were not living a married life as St Paul might describe.

But how relevant are facts like: He couldn't have children and that possibility was withheld from me? That is obviously not the reason that we were civilly divorced: we were civilly divorced because I didn't feel safe living in my own house.

Prior to marriage as well, he was told by a therapist when he was 17 that he would abuse his future wife if he didn't seek counseling to learn to control his anger. Is that relevant?

Also, is that fact that he was diagnosed as bipolar relevant? What if he wants to hide that fact from everyone and so you don't really have a witness to that fact even if sat in the psychiatrist's office while he was being diagnosed (and prescribed lithium)?

Date: Tue Nov 09 18:09:08 2010
From: Vic Biorseth


Right; annulment addresses conditions on the day of the marriage only.

Impotence is an impediment to valid marriage.

Also, if it can be independently verified that your spouse had a serious mental disorder before marriage, then that may also be a recognized impediment to valid marriage.

Talk to your Pastor.



Date: Tue Feb 22 04:17:49 2011
From: Kate Ditchfield
Location: Edmonton/Alberta/Canada

I will be very frank with all here who blog on this site. Despite what everyone here knows or thinks they know, God the holy trinity knows all, sees all, and is all. They are of all understanding and are divine mercy. I am in the process of filing for a divorce, and I have one daughter. I was raised very well in a Catholic home environment, and wanted to instill the same values and morals within my own family. My husband was lukewarm when I met him. LOL he did not even know what his religion was before our pre-marriage course. We done everything, and tried everything to save our marriage. We endured many things in our years together. Heart breaking things. Things that no young couple should have to endure. It seemed as though the harder things in our lives became the closer I became to God the further away he became to me. It was as though he resented me for something. We were both in the military for 10 yrs. Both of us endured much harassment and demoralization. I developed mental illnesses from my service, and many physical ailments. I began to realize that because of how bad I was treated at my old job I was never aware of how bad my husband treated me. Funny eh ... Never clued in until I left the military, and went home to see my family for a while, and then returned after a few months. I returned with hope for a new and happy life. Free from the overbearing shadow of our old lives made anew. As soon as we stepped off the plane there was a fight. Then fight, after fight, after fight ... I did everything in my power to make it better, and all I received in return was insults, and degradation. The last few straws was the emotional abuse my husband subjected my 3yr old little girl too. The next one was making fun of my religion, and telling me that my praying wasn't doing me any good. The final straw was him insulting me and degrading me in front of my daughter, and then she being at that impressionable age mimicking every insulting word back at me. Completely unaware of what she was actually saying. Then he kicked me out of the house, and would not let me have my child, because apparently I was a flight risk ... lol It is truly laughable.

I am writing this in explicit detail, for the simple fact that I do not want anyone here to labor under any misapprehensions about myself or my divorce situation.

(1) Who are we to limit the mercy of God. It is infinite.
(2) Judge Not, for one will be judged in accordance to how they judged others.
(3) What you so to the least of my brethren, I will do to you.

I do my best to incorporate these religious values into my life. I firmly believed in my youth that divorce was wrong, and that it won't happen to me. Although in this world it is a necessary evil. If anyone has ever done research on custody, and divorce in Canada, they would have come to the understanding that the person who files first shows to the court that they adamantly want to be in their child’s life. Especially if you know that you can be fair with time sharing and the spouse cannot. Your best chance at primary custody is to file first. Nevertheless we do not live in St. Paul's time. I have read and understand most of the Bible. I understand that it is written with the inspiration of the holy sprit, and that the word written is not his own, but God's. Agree, or disagree as I might ... but who am I do that ... he is God. If divorce is wrong than so be it. God alone will judge for only he can really know who I am. You can never build enough steps to reach heaven, but there is no way that I would ever go back to a marriage like that.

Date: Sat Apr 02 15:11:13 2011
From: Lady Alby
Location: New York, USA

I just read this and I completely understand the last part about feeling de-legitimized. My mom is here talking to her friend about petitioning for an annulment. Apparently parents don't know the effect this has on their children no matter how old they are.

Date: Fri May 13 07:22:48 2011
From: Vic Biorseth

To all: when you pray for healing of our nation, pray first for healing of marriages, and for healing of individuals injured by marital problems.



Date: Fri May 13 07:37:14 2011
From: Vic Biorseth

To Martha, and all:

I wonder if Bishop Raymond Lahey, former head of diocese of Antigonish Nova Scotia, recently convicted in civil court on child pornography charges, is the same Nova Scotia bishop who permitted scandalous applications of the “internal forum” to allow divorced and remarried couples unlimited access to the sacraments in the diocese.

Is this the same guy?



Date: Mon Oct 17 00:30:06 2011
From: Don't erase MY sacrament E-mail Address.
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Thanks for all this great information in one place! I have been doing a lot of research to oppose my ex-husbands application for Nullity. I am currently reading "Shattered Faith" which is a great read. I have become skeptical about any authentic help that I will receive from my appointed advocate and canon lawyers don't seem to exist here in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I was hoping that someone reading this may have some suggestions. I have been receiving help from,

They have been most helpful...


Date: Mon Oct 17 01:45:48 2011
From: Respondent
Location: Winnipeg, Canada

Yes, that's me!

Respondent trying to save my sacrament ... It angers me that as a way to attempt to "reconcile" people to the church (which is really bribing them to stay in the Catholic Church", that the RCC has compromised a core belief that marriage is a sacred bond that is until death.

I was grateful to find this site, it is really very informative and Vic you seem quite knowledgeable in canon law. I have only two weeks of research under my belt.

I have read some of "Shattered Faith" that you referred to, it is well written and very interesting.

I have been receiving help from an organization:

I am a bit disheartened and really doubt that I will receive any legitimately unbiased help from my appointed advocate ... as far as I can see, the requirements for competency of Tribunal haven't even been met.

These are the criteria: (canon #1673)

  1. the tribunal of the place in which the marriage was celebrated;
  2. the tribunal of the place in which the respondent has a domicile or quasi-domicile;
  3. the tribunal of the place in which the petitioner has a domicile, provided that both parties live in the territory of the same conference of bishops and the judicial vicar of the domicile of the respondent gives consent after he has heard the respondent;
  4. the tribunal of the place in which in fact most of the proofs must be collected, provided that consent is given by the judicial vicar of the domicile of the respondent, who is first to ask if the respondent has any exception to make.

The answer is no to all 4 ... and I wasn't even asked if I "had exception".

We only have 2 Tribunals in our small city and he (my ex) chose the one that the church he currently attends (that of his common law girlfriend). It is not in the community that they live in, it is in the community she used to live in.

I did include this in my letter to the Tribunal which I will send registered mail this week.

The whole process is frustrating, draining and flawed! I'm sure that he will get the annulment he desires even though we had a legitimate marriage that produced 3 children. I'm a bit confused as to how they will actually discover if we had discretion at the moment of our vows ...

The Petition spoke of communication problems before and during our marriage and that he thought that similar backgrounds and values would be enough to produce a good marriage. Any idea exactly where he is going with this?

Does anyone know of any canon lawyers or advocates in Manitoba Canada?

Thanks for the ear and blessings to all

Date: Mon Oct 17 06:27:39 2011
From: Vic Biorseth


Be not afraid.

It’s too early in the process to tell where he’s going with this, but it sounds like he started out on his left foot. The important thing at this point is to calm down with prayer, and commit yourself to a slow, steady, one step at a time action through the process.

Be not afraid.



Date: Wed Dec 21 09:11:56 2011
From: Unnamed

Why would anyone need to resort to internal forum if they have in fact withdrawn to chastity from supposedly illicit relations? Does not that chastity itself allow full participation in sacraments?

And why would our Lord wish any of His beloved children to be sentenced to the living hell of being legally and sacramentally beholden to a spouse clearly bent on their own, their spouse's and their children's destruction? Obviously, a mentally ill person should be cared for, but as a full marriage partner? How does that serve society and the family? How does the tragedy of allowing an evil and destructive person to head a family trump the good that might be done by freeing the innocent party to marry another decent Christian, Catholic human being and so create a truly strong family? Is it a question of "fate?"

And as to marriage, divorce, annulment...the Church admits sacraments are truly between the individual and God...that theoretically two people on an island, so to speak, could licitly marry without the oversight of a priest, because marriage is between two individuals in the sight of God, and the Church only "officially" validates the bond.

In the same way, annulment does not sever the marriage bond, but only officially validates what is already true. And Church representatives are fallible. And only the two participants in the marriage really ever know what happened, witnesses or no. God gave us free will. Does that not also imply responsibility? Are we not ultimately responsible for our own choices? If we "resort" to "internal forum," are we not accepting ultimate responsibility for our own eternal fate?

And are not priests involved in annulment not also accepting personal responsibility for "official" decisions that are not only life-altering, but ultimately eternal? Does anyone dare turn over decisions that so affect their life on earth and eternal soul to fallible fellow human beings?

I ask this as a 51-year-old woman baptized Catholic as an infant, not yet confirmed, who was married in a Methodist church to a previously-married non-practicing "Christian." I have lived a celibate life and not divorced for 15 years. Obviously annulment would not be difficult for me. But my heart goes out to all those who face the issue, including the love of my life, an amazing man who has been slowly dying in a disastrous 30-year "marriage" and who will probably never seek relief. We cut all ties shortly after realizing (and never discussing) our feelings, and although we share many friends in common will probably never see each other again or ever have even a real conversation.

Date: Wed Dec 00 12:45:46 2011
From: Vic Biorseth


That’s a lot of questions at one time; I don’t know if I can handle them all.

Regarding “withdrawing into chastity” and full participation in the Sacraments, you would have to talk to your pastor, perhaps in the confessional, about the particulars of the case.

Regarding the destructive spouse questions – separation, at least, is indicated in such a case. Divorce and custody of children are decided in civil court; there is nothing any Church Tribunal can do about that. Divorce must come before annulment.

Regarding the marriage on an island example – Catholic marriage is public, not private, and the form must be followed (a holy place, a priest or deacon witnessing, etc.) Cohabitation may be recognized by the Church as establishing a state of marriage, but it would not be a Catholic marriage.

Regarding the do-it-yourself Internal Forum annulment outside the established procedure – no, that is not accepting responsibility; it is avoiding it.

The words we say aloud before all gathered witnesses at the altar of God are among the strongest we will ever say in our earthly lives:

"Do you take ___ as your lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish until death do you part?"

That means in good mental health and bad mental health; it means accepting such things as Alzheimer’s or other dementia. In cases of physical abuse or dangerous behavior, obviously separation, at least, is indicated. It may mean divorce. But it does not automatically mean annulment will be granted.

We have to take the bad with the good in this life.



Date: Tue Dec 27 05:46:03 2011
From: Vic Biorseth

Note to all:

If you wish to not be identified in your submission, leave your email and location information blank, and use a pseudo-name rather than your own name. Whatever you put out here gets published.

The CONTACT ME private discussion option has been eliminated, because I just can’t keep up with all the private dialogue threads.



Date: Mon Feb 13 17:40:12 2012
From: Sam
Location: Illinois

I am a 68 year old man who was married in the church and divorced after 14 years. Several years later I married outside the church but, sadly, that also ended in divorce. My question is, with no intention to remarry at my age, Am I barred from the Sacraments? I wish to return to my faith but feel as if I'm a pariah and will die with no prospect of salvation. Where do i stand?

Date: Mon Feb 13 20:40:33 2012
From: Vic Biorseth


All you have to do is make a good confession and receive absolution. If you are living single you are not living in sin.

Welcome home.



Date: Thu Apr 12 00:09:38 2012
From: Lill

I have been married in the church for 21 years. My husband has told me he regretted marrying me 3 days after our wedding plus many, many verbally abusive things pretty much on that scale. I told him everything about me before we were married yet he kept leaving holes in his life story which I would question. I was at a low point in my life at that time to boot. Any way after 21 years, I find out he had he had physical and mental disorders before we married. We have gone through 9 marriage counselors which keep saying he is a verbal and mental abuser. Then he stops counseling. He has also forced me to live celibate for up to 4 years at a time. The only reason I haven't left him is because of our 6 kids. If I did leave, he would make it so unbearable for them. He is very vindictive and to be honest I am afraid of what he would do physically to me even though he has never even raised a hand against me so far. I do not plan on ever remarrying but strongly feel the need for an annulment to keep him away from me permanently. Is this acceptable?

Date: Thu Apr 12 06:09:31 2012
From: Vic Biorseth


I’m not sure that an annulment is what you would need to keep him away from you permanently. It might take something from a civil court to do that. Talk to you priest first, then you might want to talk to an attorney.



Date: Wed May 09 12:15:30 2012
From: Amiee

Hi Vic,

I am the respondent in an annulment petition in its first stages. Do you know of any literature I could read on the history and procedures regarding psychological grounds used in annulment cases? I wish to defend my marriage. Thanks.

Date: Thu May 10 06:59:11 2012
From: Vic Biorseth


Unfortunately, no – I no longer trust or recommend course or reference material from the Athenaeum of Ohio.

Does anyone else out there have any recommendations for Amiee?



Date: Thu Aug 02 13:01:06 2012
From: The sad wife...

I am so confused. I am the ex-spouse and non-Catholic married within the Catholic Church. My ex-husband chose to end our marriage while we had two children under 4. Our baby was 18 months old. I never thought about annulment until I realized that he will never be able to take communion again. I also know he is dating, and I believe still taking communion. I loved and adored my husband. Yes, at times I could have been a better wife. Perhaps, more understanding or tolerant. Perhaps a better person. I know that my family most certainly had concerns about our marriage on our wedding day. And yes, it was in the open as his family and mine argued in the vestibule of the Church moments before the wedding. I am aware of this because our Priest told me about it. And he mentioned his concerns, and that family interference was an issue that we discussed at PreCana. My situation is complicated. And rather than stating that family interference caused our marital issues, my then fiancé and husband also traveled constantly for work. This rendered him unable to bond with me or our children and ultimately allowed his family to affect our marriage. And separate him from his little family with me. I will always miss the man that I wanted so dearly to marry ten years ago. But I do know the phone calls, the conversations about our ability to last - literally occurred at our wedding. In our beautiful Church, and even at our reception. I was treated coldly by all of my extended family. And wasn't even spoken to in our marital home the morning after our wedding. I was shunned. But I was also already married. And I took those vows to heart. It breaks my heart that we ended up where we have. I am just not sure what I should do to make my heart right with all that has happened.

Date: Mon Sep 04 20:50:47 2012
From: Vic Biorseth

Sad Wife:

I just re-read this, having updated the page to SBI! 3.0, and realized I never responded. I apologize. I think at the time I had no words for you, and perhaps thought someone else might have something to say. In any case, I never got back here after posting your comment, and nobody else did either.

I know you’re not Catholic, but the best advice I can give you is to talk to a Catholic priest – preferably an older one who has heard it all. This is not any attempt at proselytizing; it’s just that the best advice I have ever received and the best advisors I can recommend come from that quarter. Just ask one if he has time to just talk.

We are praying for you.




Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Updated this page to the new BB 2.0 - SBI! 3.0 release.
LOVE this new release!



Date: Wed Dec 26 02:41:48 2012 
From:   santosh
Location:   uk

Marriage UK - Imperial Visas

The Marriage UK or Spouse Visa allows a non-EU individual to move to the UK and live with their UK settled spouse. Not fulfilling all the immigration rules outlined for The UK Marriage Visa.

Keywords: -

Marriage UK
Location: 2nd Floor Cygnet House,
12-14 Sydenham Road Croydon
Telephone: +44 0203 627 4777

Date:  Wed Jun 12 15:43:37 2013
From:  David blackwell
Location:  London UK

I enjoyed your article. Where did you get your figures for the 1960s from. I would like to get figures for the same period for the UK. I am a canon law student in London.

Thanks in advance

Date:  Thu Jun 13 06:36:48 2013
From:  Vic Biorseth


Getting to the answer to that simple question turns out to be a daunting task.  I am looking at multiple milk-crates containing all the material from my old Lay Pastoral Ministry Program course work taken many years ago; it's in there somewhere.  Most of the Catholic demographic and statistical data came from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati here in Ohio. 

Start with your own diocese or archdiocese, and besides your Bishop's website, look for websites of any Catholic teaching institutions within the diocese.  When you find annulment numbers, you will probably find them for the whole country, not necessarily broken down by geographic area or diocese. 

You will find numbers doing general web searches for annulment numbers in the UK during the 1960s, but you must be more careful regarding the accuracy of the results you get.  Hope this helps. 



Date:   Wed Aug 13 2014
From:  Vic Biorseth

Changes pursuant to changing the website URL and name from 
Thinking Catholic Strategic Center to
Catholic American Thinker.

Pulled the trigger on the 301 MOVE IT option June 1, 2014. Working my way through all the webpages.  . 



Date:  Tue Sep 15 13:02:40 2015
From:  Mike
Location:  Clinton/Iowa/USA

I read and read and ask questions, but never get a straight answer from anyone on just what part of healing comes from annulments and the exhuming of old bones and hurts??? How does one when old get their family and home back and yes that is carnal, but the world is indeed carnal?

Date:  Wed Sep 16 2015
From:  Vic Biorseth


You're looking for the wrong kind of healing; it is a healing of souls.  God's Law is not convenient, and His Church does not present a religion of convenience.  It is the opposite; it is a religion of self denial.  Jesus either said what He said regarding Marriage, or He didn't.  Nor did He say this life would be easy.  What He said was to pick up our your cross, and follow Him, every day.  So the cost of faithfully following the one true religion on earth is that we also follow the most inconvenient religion on earth.  The reward is worth it. 



Date:  Mon Mar 21 13:38:31 2016
From:  M
Location:  TX

I have never quite understood/accepted the Catholic concept of marriage, especially how most non-Catholic marriages are presumed valid, while those involving Catholics in non-Catholic marriage ceremonies are not.  I believe that Jesus was addressing everyone when he spoke about marriage, for in his time, most people were not baptized anyway. He said "Anyone who divorces ..." and not "Any follower of mine who divorces ..."  The RC Church has somehow made it all very complicated. It appears now that some Vatican people privately believe that up to 50% of marriages are invalid, and apparently over 90% of cases presented for annulment will be successful. This is surely not what Jesus intended, that people can fairly easily nullify marriages on all kinds of pretexts, loopholes or outright lies, and go on to new partners after ditching their original spouses and children. I accept that some cases may be genuine, but not most. It angers me that many adulterous relationships can be "sanctified" while innocent faithful spouses are tossed aside and told they never did have a real marriage. It is nonsense to assure afflicted children that they are legitimate but their parents were never married. This crazy culture of easy annulments, which the Pope promises will be quicker and cheaper, will only lead to more divorces, more broken families, more shattered confused children, and more ridicule for the Church.

i have a question: if an engaged couple fully intending to marry find themselves expecting before marriage, should they even marry? What about those who are using contraceptives - which many young Catholic couples do despite Church teachings? Won't the marriage be a sham as it can be easily annulled? Of the 50% of married couples whose marriages can easily be annulled if they put heir minds to it, are they not then living in sin knowingly or unknowingly? I for one have no faith in tribunals who can be proven wrong. I am extremely disappointed that priests routinely advise divorced people to seek annulments, with the implicit assumption that it will eventually be granted, instead of praying for reconciliation or stay single as advised by St Paul. And that they are too scared to preach about the consequences of remarriage adultery.

Date:  Mon Mar 21 2016
From:  Vic Biorseth


First, it wasn't the "RC Church" that properly established the rules of marriage and divorce, but Jesus Christ, who also established the RC Church.  Jesus Himself established the Christian Church, which is the Catholic Church.  He established one and only one Church. 

Re: "I have a question:  if an engaged couple fully intending to marry find themselves expecting before marriage, should they even marry?  What about those who are using contraceptives - which many young Catholic couples do despite Church teachings?  Won't the marriage be a sham as it can be easily annulled?  Of the 50% of married couples whose marriages can easily be annulled if they put heir minds to it, are they not then living in sin knowingly or unknowingly?"

The very question convicts the culture of having abandoned the faith. 

Culture=Religion+Politics; but, Religion comes first in culture.  Always.  Take religion out of the culture and the result is, basically, un-civilization.  An engaged couple fully intending to marry do not just go "Poof!" and "find themselves expecting".  They had to do something to cause that expectation.  Just like those using contraceptives, they are rupturing their relationship with God, exchanging His grace for a state of disgrace, for convenience and pleasure of the moment.  And they contribute to the degradation of larger culture. 

People cannot just take elements out of the Creed, or ignore some particular Commandments, or tear pages out of the Catechism, just to make life more convenient, regardless of what the world (the current culture) says, or popular trends insist upon, or what anybody else, or even everybody else is doing. 

Many years ago, I knew of cases where couples who approached a Priest for marriage because they "found themselves expecting" were turned down and denied the Sacrament of marriage, because that was not a good reason to marry.  Today, I don't really know what a typical Priest would say, or even if there is any such thing as a typical Priest any more. 

I share your disappointment.  There is no consistency. 



Date:  Sun Nov 19 17:37:05 2017
From:  Wondering

Many years ago I was divorced after 25 years, by an unfaithful husband (both cradle Catholics, married in the Church), and because the marriage had been mostly unhappy, and I felt like it had been a mistake from the beginning, I applied for an annulment. Priest gave me no counseling, had me fill out papers, said the parish would pay the fee. In less than a year I got a paper saying the annulment and appeal had both gone through and "you are now free to marry." I had absolutely no intention of ever marrying again. This was the 80's and they were handing out annulments like Halloween candy. I now wonder if it was worth the powder to blow it to he**. Perhaps I am still married. I put my old wedding ring back on today to remind me to pray for him. We are both getting on in years.

Date:  Mon Nov 20 2017
From:  Vic Biorseth


That's enough to make anyone wonder the same thing. It's all related to the sense of sacredness, and whether the Marriage Covenant is a Sacrament, or not. If it is a Sacrament, then, it is Sacred. If it is not, then, it is no different than getting a driver's license, or "hooking up".

The current Church hierarchy and Catholic powers that be seem to think that Henry XVIII was right, and the Catholic Church was wrong, when he broke from the Pope and the Church, and just formed his own brand new Church of Divorce and Remarriage. (I mean England.) 

It is a loss of the Catholic sense of separateness from the world

To be holy is to be set apart

To be unholy is to be all inclusive



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Satanism, Communism: What's The Difference? Look To The Roots Of Communism

Fox Is the Leading "Trans" Channel There are some rather peculiar goings-on at the Fox News Channel.

Trump and His Communist Enemies The Demonized Joe McCarthy Turned Out To Be Accurate In Everything He Claimed: Fox News Is Wrong About Him And About Much More

The Five Stooges on Capitol Hill They Think We Need Even More Doped No-Hopers In The American Intelligence Community

The Biden Doctrine of Demoralization and Defeat By Cliff Kincaid

A Republican Church Committee? Do Pro-American Republicans Even Know Who Frank Church Really Was?

A Top to Bottom Housecleaning of America When we clean our house, my wife has a slogan, “Top to bottom,” meaning you have to target the whole house. The same advice applies to nations.

China's Mass Murder Experiment Phase Two

Bury The Dead And Move On Fuggedaboutit!

9/11 Truth This is the real 9/11 Truth: Our “intelligence” agencies are infiltrated.

Moving Toward Gorbachev’s “World of Communism” It's called the Monster Plot.

The Errors of Russia, the Dupes of Putin, and Another Holocaust Can The Increasingly Faithless Free World Be Saved From Russia?

World War Quietly Conquering A Distracted and Blithely Unaware World. Could it actually be Satan's world war on despised humanity?

Stand With Ukraine Against Russia and China By Cliff Kincaid

Tucker Carlson Carlson Gets His Comeuppance. Tucker's View: It is not moral for us to intervene in support of any nation's (Ukraine's) democratic self-determination and against Soviet military expansion.

The Need for Secure Borders. Have we so easily forgotten what borders are for? Have we forgotten that evil exists in the world? Have we forgotten how to keep apart from this evil?

Can Ukraine Survive Putin and Biden? Can America? Can the Free World? Can Faith in God?

The Soviet Union: Back From The Dead The Return of the Evil Empire

Could an American Surrender be in the offing with Biden at the wheel? Is this not the perfect time for Communism to strike, with Commies now governing America, China and Russia? What would Biden do?

Abortion and Communism. If you ever wondered where all the popular abortion-contraception-sexuality-perversion nuttiness came from, look to Marx's Communist Manifesto.

The Secret Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. A life almost totally at odds with his reputation as a minister of the Gospel.

"We belong to the Church militant; and She is militant because on earth the powers of darkness are ever restless to encompass Her destruction. Not only in the far-off centuries of the early Church, but down through the ages and in this our day, the enemies of God and Christian civilization make bold to attack the Creator's supreme dominion and sacrosanct human rights." --Pope Pius XII

"It is not lawful to take the things of others to give to the poor. It is a sin worthy of punishment, not an act deserving a reward, to give away what belongs to others." --St. Francis of Assisi

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Truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.—Winston Churchill

Note the Military Assault Rifle common to the American Founding Era.

The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.—Ayn Rand

Atheist Genesis:

In the beginning there was nothing, and nothing happened to nothing.
And then nothing accidentally exploded and created everything.
And then some bits of everything accidentally encountered other bits of everything and formed some new kinds of everything.
And then some bits of everything accidentally arranged themselves into self-replicating bits of everything.
And then some self-replicating bits of everything accidentally arranged themselves into dinosaurs.

(See The Darwinism Pages)

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