Bill and Ted’s bogus annulment
March 5, 2013 § 15 Comments
It seems to be a reasonable assumption that when the number of sacramentally invalid marriages increases, the number of juridical annulments (granting priests administrative permission to preside at the wedding of someone who prima facie was already married) should also increase. I am going to make an argument that that is not the case.
Suppose we have two married couples. We’ll call them Bill & Carol and Ted & Alice.
When they were married each of their concepts of marriage was correct in the essentials, with one exception: Bill was under the impression that it was permissible to divorce if Carol ever committed adultery. Bill had been poorly catechized and/or didn’t pay much attention during his mandatory pre cana marriage preparation. So when he consented to “marriage” he genuinely didn’t mean what the Church means by marriage.
Time goes on, and things don’t go well with either couple. A few decades down the road the couples divorce and pursue annulment. Bill vaguely remembers his faulty understanding of marriage at the time of the wedding. He and Ted talk about it. Ted is highly motivated to get an annulment himself, and he convinces himself that he also had the same understanding as Bill. He isn’t being overtly dishonest; he is just being human. He convinces himself that he really did have that essentially incorrect view on his wedding day.
So what we are faced with is one valid marriage, one invalid marriage, and identical circumstances and testimony. The Church is required to give the validity of a given marriage the benefit of the doubt: validity is presumed unless proven otherwise. An annulment is not a sacrament: it is a juridical proceeding which permits a priest to preside at a “new” wedding because the original one was proven, by at least some standard which trumps the presumption of validity, to be invalid.
Therefore, annulment – permission to be remarried by a priest – should not be granted in either case by a properly functioning annulment process, even though one of the marriages is in fact invalid.