With Catholic marriages failing at a rate fairly similar to that of the general population, the Catholic Church works to help its members after divorce through support groups and other avenues. Often the question of annulment arises and there are many misconceptions about it, so I wanted to discuss it today.
An annulment is a finding by the Church’s tribunal that the marriage was missing a significant component which would be required for it to be a sacramental marriage.
Common myths about annulment: An annulment is not a statement that there was no marriage at all (there was, in reality, the equivalent of a civil marriage or non-sacramental marriage – the technical term is putative marriage) and it does not make any children illegitimate. That is simply not true.
Another common misunderstanding is the idea that if the couple was not married in the Church, it’s not a sacramental marriage and therefore no annulment is needed if they want to marry again after a divorce. In fact, when baptized Christians marry, the Catholic Church considers that a sacramental marriage no matter who is presiding at the ceremony. In the western Christian tradition*, it is not the priest who “marries” them – instead, the couple exchanging vows give the sacrament to each other, they are the ministers of this sacrament. The priest is an official witness and the Church insists upon it as a practice. When Catholics are married in a service presided by a judge rather than a priest (this would be without permission) it is “valid but illicit” – it’s a true sacramental marriage but not permitted to have been created that way. (more…)