Catholic Annulment

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Catholic annulment is granted by the church to a couple on the grounds that a valid, sacramental marriage never happened between the husband and wife; something important was amiss and thus the marriage is considered as invalid.

The church does not dissolve the marriage because it believes that a true marriage never took place and thus it cannot be terminated or dissolved. According to the church, a marriage is a complete union of two individuals: "two become one in flesh" in front of God.

Valid Marriage

Let's look at which marriage is considered as valid. A marriage is considered valid by church only when:

  • The couple is able to exchange the consent freely
  • They consent to faithfulness, indissolubleness of the marriage and openness to procreate
  • There are no factors such as force, coercion, previous marriage, consanguinity, impotency or young age involved. These factors are known as "impediments in a marriage being valid".
  • The sacrament has been followed properly during the conduction of the wedding ceremony.

All these four conditions need to be fulfilled if the marriage is considered to be valid. If not, the marriage is considered invalid and the church nullifies it.

Catholic annulment is also known as 'Declaration of Nullity' in which a church issues a declaration that the marriage was never valid and it is hence considered as null and void.

Invalid Marriage:

What makes a marriage invalid? There are a few conditions defined by the church as to when is a marriage considered invalid. Any marriage which does not fulfill the aforementioned criteria is invalid. Let's have a look in detail about the conditions for a marriage to be invalid:

  • Free Consent - Free and unconditional consent of both the partners is necessary for a marriage. If this was not taken before conducting the wedding ceremony, the marriage is considered invalid by the church.

  • Unconsciousness - Any type of unconsciousness such as being under the drug or alcohol influence, taking the plunge without understanding the true meaning of marriage or lack of the maturity needed to work on a marital relationship are the basic criterion for an invalid marriage.

  • No intention of Fidelity - A marital relation is entered on the basis of fidelity. It is unethical as well as illegal to be unfaithful to your partner. However, if the partners do not intend to remain faithful to each other, the marriage is considered invalid.

  • No intention to Procreate - A couple who does not intend to have children do not fulfill the basic criteria of being open to children and hence the marriage is considered invalid.

Grounds for the Declaration of Nullity / Grounds for Catholic Annulment:

  • Force / Fear - The force or fear imposed on one of the spouses to get married is one of the firm grounds for a catholic annulment. The church believes that the two individuals who love each other will be united in front of God according to their own will and the bond will be binding for a lifetime. If any one of the partners are forced or coerced with the use of fear or pressure, that marriage lacks one important element for the marriage to be valid and that is free consent. Thus, the marriage becomes invalid and can be annulled.

  • No intention of a lifelong relationship - In some cases, people marry each other due to some unavoidable conditions. For instance, a person owes something to other person or for acquirement of citizenship of the respective country. Such marriages are short lived and end when the target is achieved. There is clearly no intention of a lifelong relationship. This makes the marriage invalid and the church can nullify it on the same ground.

  • Consent based on Condition - If any of the spouse has consented for the marriage on the basis of an anticipatory event, past event or present condition, the marriage lacks the consciousness and maturity to work out a marital relationship and it can be nullified on the same ground. For instance, if a person marries the other one just because he / she is rich, the decision is based on the present material gain and not love and passion. Hence, annulment can be granted.

  • Psychological Incapability to fulfill Marital Obligations - If a spouse is mentally unstable and it causes him / her to act unreasonably such as inability to provide for the family and the household and inability to consummate the marriage, the church can grant annulment on the basis of psychological incapability to fulfill marital obligations.

  • Fraud - If a spouse is convicted of monetary fraud or telling lies to the partner about the marital issues, it is a firm ground for a catholic annulment.

Catholic annulment is not divorce as it does not recognize the marriage in the first place.

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