The Roman Catholic Church does not permit divorce, with few exceptions. It takes this position due the Biblical proscription against divorce that appears in several Gospels and in Romans and I Corinthians. While divorce is generally impermissible, the Catholic Church permits divorced individuals to marry in the church under certain conditions. The process, which includes obtaining a civil divorce and going before a tribunal to receive an annulment in the church, can be arduous. However, it is necessary if the second marriage is to be considered licit and for the husband and wife to be eligible to receive any sacraments.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- Advocate(s) for one or both of the couple
- Witness(es) for one or both of the couple
- Fee for the annulment process
Obtaining a legal divorce is the first step to freeing oneself to remarry in the Catholic Church (See References 1). A completed civil divorce is required because it settles civil legal effects such as property distribution and custody among other civil actions, but it has no effect on the sacramental validity of the couple's marriage. Once the couple has had the civil bonds of marriage legally dissolved, they are free to seek an ecclesiastical declaration of nullity.
Determine the grounds for which an annulment is being requested prior to approaching the tribunal. A "case assessor" may assist the couple with this part of the process. Some of these grounds include insufficient use of reason, the incapacity to assume the essential obligations of marriage, and error of person or error about the quality of a person, among other grounds (See References 2). Without at least one ground for an annulment that is recognised by the Catholic Church, an annulment cannot go forward.
Begin the annulment process. The divorced couple seeking the declaration of nullity (annulment) must approach the ecclesiastical tribunal of their diocese, either singly or together, with their choice of grounds, evidence, and testimony (See References 3). While the couple may occasionally need to appear before the tribunal in person, the process typically requires that the couple present these things in written form.
The tribunal will determine the best ground or grounds upon which to judge the case, which may or may not coincide with those chosen by the couple petitioning for annulment (See References 3). A case is usually decided in a period of months. In rare circumstances, it may take only a month for a decision to be reached; however, cases normally take no more than nine to 18 months to decide (See References 4). The tribunal may render either a positive or a negative decision, which must be verified by a second tribunal and approved by the bishop of the diocese in which the couple attended church (See References 3). A positive decision enables the divorced couple to remarry without restriction, provided that the conditions that validated the annulment no longer exist.
Approach the parish priest as normal when considering marriage in a Roman Catholic church. It may be necessary for the declaration of nullity to be presented to the priest prior to him agreeing to conduct the ceremony.
Obtaining an Annulment
Tips and warnings
- Although it is necessary to pay a fee for a tribunal to consider an annulment case, the fee may be waived when it causes one or both of the individuals unnecessary hardship.
- Annulment decisions may be appealed to the "Roman Rota." The Roman Rota is the ecclesiastical tribunal of the Holy See in Rome.
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- Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN); Communion of Divorced and Remarried; Colin B. Donovan, STL
- Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg; Grounds of Marriage Nullity;
- Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN); Annulment/Decree of Nullity; Colin B. Donovan, STL
- Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg; 12 Myths about Marriage Annulments in the Catholic Church