Annulment of absolution

March 1, 2013 § 97 Comments

Suppose a penitent knows Church teaching on (say) contraception, disagrees with the Church that contraception is gravely immoral and mortally sinful, and prescinds from confessing it during the Sacrament of Penance, saying nothing of the matter at all.  What of the penitent who knows of the deontological conflict and just plays along anyway, staying silent, for whichever of many possible reasons?

As I understand it – I could be wrong – this invalidates the confession.  The absolution which is given is only a simulation of absolution: no actual absolution took place, and in fact a sacrilege has been committed.

Turning our attention to the Sacrament of Matrimony the question becomes, how many situations like that (and perhaps other sacrament-invalidating matters of internal forum) take place at the matrimonial altar now, in recent decades, versus a century ago?

I’d be shocked if the number had not changed dramatically in the direction of invalidity, post sexual revolution.

I agree with Robert Vasoli and some of my commenters that the ‘pastoral’ lever of incapacity to consent is specious nonsense. I take a very jaundiced eye toward the de-facto “too dumb to consent” view: basically if anything the person didn’t anticipate happens, he was by definition incapable of consent on the wedding day. What a load of hooey!

But that is completely orthogonal to the concern I am raising here.

I imagine that people who strongly dissent from Church teaching don’t go to confession much, whereas a great many do get married.  But even so I would guess that there are more invalid confessions taking place today than there were a century or so ago.

So I think it is reasonable to conclude that there are more invalid marriages now than there were a century or two ago.

§ 97 Responses to Annulment of absolution

  • Vanessa says:

    How can we tell? It seems like the fact that someone is a sinner is now a reason to declare marriages invalid. But people have always been sinners and annulments were still relatively rare. Even contraception isn’t a new-fangled thing, as coitus interruptus has always been widespread.

  • Vanessa says:

    Shouldn’t the benefit of the doubt go to the marriage? I mean, should the burden of proof for invalidity be very high? And is it a sin to refuse to ask for an annulment if your marriage might be invalid?

  • Zippy says:

    Vanessa:
    How can we tell?

    The same way as with anything inherently subjective, such as the difference between first and second degree murder. Sometime the perp leaves plenty of evidence of his intentions; sometimes not.

    Shouldn’t the benefit of the doubt go to the marriage?

    Yes, but don’t confuse the juridical issue – how we should approach a ruling by a tribunal on the point – with the ontological issue of what is true.

  • Jehu says:

    Americans are horrid with exceptions. As soon as we grant an exception, we rapidly slippery slope a tiny hole into something you can drive monster trucks through. Given our national character, I recommend a much harsher line on annulments.

  • Paul says:

    There may well be more invalid marriages now than there used to be (although the assumption is validity until the contrary is shown), but I suspect the opposite is true of confession. I know several people who fifty or sixty years ago were obliged by their parents or schools to go to weekly confession, and did so out of obligation, with no penitence, and in some cases no truthfulness.

  • Paul says:

    I also disagree entirely that “incapacity to consent” is specious nonsense, although it may be widely misapplied in current cases.

  • Vanessa says:

    I don’t know about this, Zippy. This seems like a very dangerous suggestion; like a way to clear “small p” protestants from the pews and give their orthodox spouses to the More Deserving. Especially the male protestants, from what I’ve seen and experienced at my church.

  • Vanessa says:

    But what is ontologically true is precisely what is so highly subjective, in this case. We can’t possibly know what their intentions were at the marriage unless it was very obvious. To propose anything else is to put all marriages under the microscope, which might possibly destabilize them.

  • Vanessa says:

    It just seems like the more zealous are trying to turn the annulment issue around to their advantage, rather than looking to the traditions for guidance.

    This issue always gets me riled up, for obvious reasons. LOL But I’ve been having this same convo with priests and parishioners and everyone’s getting in an “Off with their head and take their women!” sort of mood, rather than viewing erring men as sons of Christ who need to be brought back into the fold. I had to sit and listen to another tirade over dinner last week, and it’s starting to grate.

  • Zippy says:

    Paul:
    Good feedback on both counts: I think ‘incapacity to consent’ would apply very rarely, say when the person is very intoxicated or has an IQ below 60 or what have you, but rarely is not never. And interesting point about confession.

    Vanessa:
    I’m not concerning myself right now with implications or abuse or whatever. If something is true, its unpleasant implications don’t make it untrue.

  • Vanessa says:

    But these things have always been true and didn’t result in an outbreak of annulments before. Annulments were for great offenses, like marrying your cousin, forced marriage, or bigamy.

    I think the bar has been lowered so that more and more of us can hop over it, and that it’s being used in the wider liberal/conservative battle. Why are we breaking with tradition, even more than has already been done? There is wisdom in the traditions.

    And what about 1 Corinthians 7:12-14? If they separate us from our spouses, then we lose the chance to make them holy.

  • Zippy says:

    Vanessa:
    But these things have always been true and didn’t result in an outbreak of annulments before.

    Post sexual-revolution attitudes about and understandings of marriage have always been true, to the same extent as now?

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Vanessa

    Great reference. Verses 15 and 16 answer the question.

    @Zippy

    I think the Catholic church’s sin is is trying to keep those they divide; which aligns with the comparison to “invalid” confession. All denominations are trying to have their wedding cake, and eat it too. It is unseemly to have the wedding chapel host divorce proceedings–even the world does not do this. If they want to get out: let them go without.

    When the Israelites were sent to conquer Canaan, there was to be no gentile left before them. Convert them, or send them away. It is my long held opinion that the denominations have become the tribes of Canaan; they are full of spiritual gentiles. They got this way because the new Jews valued trading with them more than they valued following God. They loved the money, and loved themselves more than God, or even the gentiles. The alchemy that was supposed to take place–turning gentiles into Jews–bread into the body of Christ–was perverted, and the laziness (war is hard) and greed caused them rather to bring in the household gods of the gentiles (birth control, public school, etc.).

    I say hand them over for the destruction of their flesh–but have no part in it.

  • Vanessa says:

    Post sexual-revolution attitudes about and understandings of marriage have always been true, to the same extent as now?

    There have always been philanderers and abusers (pet cause of the liberals) and contraceptors (pet cause of the conservatives). This was considered simple sin before, but now it’s seen as invalidating the marriage outright. Obviously, it’s all gotten much worse, but that doesn’t automatically reverse the precedent.

  • Vanessa says:

    And if all of those marriages are invalid, doesn’t that obligate us to leave our spouses and have our marriages formally declared null?

  • Zippy says:

    Vanessa:
    Obviously, it’s all gotten much worse …

    Then we should expect the statistical reality to reflect how much worse it has gotten, shouldn’t we?

    The divide here seems to be between those who believe that the increase in annulments has one cause – lowering of the standard of proof in juridical proceedings – and those who believe that it has two causes, the second being an increase in the percentage of actually invalid marriages.

    Partisans of the single-cause view resist the two-cause view because of what they perceive to be its further implications: they don’t want the tribunals to have any excuses for their laxity, for example. But I have yet to see a good argument against the two-cause theory as a simple question of fact. And I always try to first and foremost understand the factual situation.

  • Zippy says:

    Vanessa:
    And if all of those marriages are invalid, doesn’t that obligate us to leave our spouses and have our marriages formally declared null?

    You’ll have to show your work in translating from a statistical reality about a population into a personal moral obligation in a specific case.

  • Vanessa says:

    Yes, it’s gotten worse, but the interest in declaring marriages like mine invalid (a new development) seems to be a hostage situation. Get in line or we take your spouse. This doesn’t strike me as an appropriate penance, as it is horrendously punitive, and the way the ax falls disproportionately upon men is telling.

    Since when do we punish sin with annulments, as if it were some sort of marital interdict? Wouldn’t the first step be to council them privately, and then perhaps to refuse communion? Saying that this goes back to their mental state at the wedding seems to be an expansion of the traditional rulings beyond their original intention.

  • Zippy says:

    By the way, IIRC the tribunals won’t even investigate a cause of nullity unless there has already been a civil divorce. So it isn’t possible (AFAIK) to in effect buy annulment insurance before pursuing civil divorce. The legal (canon law legal) presumption is for the validity of the marriage.

  • Vanessa says:

    You’ll have to show your work in translating from a statistical reality about a population into a personal moral obligation in a specific case.

    No, you’re evading my question.

    If the marriages are invalid, as you say, then should we not all scrutinize our marriages according to this new understanding, and have them annulled if they meet this new criteria? If it is true, are we to live in blissful ignorance, or should we be educated and taught discernment in this issue?

  • Zippy says:

    Vanessa:
    You’ve lost me. When did this become about you or your personal situation, which I know nothing about? Who is being held hostage and how? And what would any of that have to do with the question of what percentage of marriages are ontologically invalid?

  • Zippy says:

    Vanessa:
    should we not all scrutinize our marriages according to this new understanding, and have them annulled if they meet this new criteria?

    What new understanding or criteria? There is no new understanding or criteria, ontologically.

  • Vanessa says:

    It’s not just about me. I’m just using my marriage as an example. I know other women in similar situations and we’re being counseled by priests to divorce our husbands. And when we refuse, we’re getting Twenty Questions about “Are you sure it is valid?” Super sure? Super-duper sure? Now we’re wandering around wondering if our lives are make-believe.

    This is the logical end-game of what you’re suggesting, and why the two-cause view would be counterproductive to any attempt to make Catholic marriages more stable.

  • Vanessa says:

    There is no new understanding or criteria, ontologically.

    The idea that a contraceptive mentality alone is proof of marital invalidity is new.

  • Vanessa says:

    It used to be that the requirement was to be generally “open to life”, but everyone’s on a contraception crusade now and it’s starting to get silly.

  • Zippy says:

    Vanessa:
    I don’t know where you are importing all of your ideas from, but I know that it isn’t from something I’ve said. I’m sure you would have quoted me if it was, because you know I take a jaundiced eye toward inaccurate paraphrase.

    “Contraceptive mentality” is something people started talking about last Tuesday. The requirements for valid consent to marriage have a longer pedigree, e.g.

    If conditions contrary to the nature of marriage are inserted, for example, if one says to the other: “I contract marriage with you if you avoid the generation of children”, or “until I find another more worthy of reputation or riches”, or “if you hand yourself over to adultery for profit”, the matrimonial contract, however favorable it may be, is deprived of effect; although other conditions added to the marriage, if they are disgraceful or impossible, should be considered as not added because of the favor of marriage in the eyes of the law. — Pope Gregory IX, Si condiciones, between 1227 and 1234 AD (quoted in Denzinger)

  • Vanessa says:

    No, my ideas aren’t attributed to what you are saying. I’m trying to point out why some of us are focusing on the single-cause view you mentioned. Annulments are currently a container that is running over, and we see the danger in trying to open the other end with talk of all of the invalid marriages that people don’t even realize are invalid. Then it would just run out of both ends.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Vanessa

    Since when do we punish sin with annulments, as if it were some sort of marital interdict? Wouldn’t the first step be to council them privately, and then perhaps to refuse communion? Saying that this goes back to their mental state at the wedding seems to be an expansion of the traditional rulings beyond their original intention.

    Yes, I agree. Churches should get out of the annulment business, and get back into “this is the Church” business. Whatever anyone wants to do that is not of the Church won’t be done here.

    By the way: You sound like a Protestent. Well done! Ha.

  • Zippy says:

    Vanessa:
    and we see the danger in trying to open the other end with talk of all of the invalid marriages that people don’t even realize are invalid. Then it would just run out of both ends.

    You are just confirming what I said before, then: resistance to the two-cause explanation comes from fear of its implications rather than substantive reasons to believe it is untrue.

  • Vanessa says:

    Even Protestants have annulments, it’s just that annulments should be very rare. It used to be a few hundred a year in the US and now it’s tens of thousands.

  • Vanessa says:

    Not fear of its implications, but wariness of its misappropriation. Also, it comes off as a justification for the tribunals-run-wild.

  • Zippy says:

    Cane:

    You are mistaking what an annulment is.

    An annulment is a juridical ruling by a tribunal which grants a priest permission to preside over a marriage, even though one of the parties to that marriage appears to have been married before. The annulment tells the priest that to the best of the tribunal’s capacity to determine, the person was not in fact married before despite the appearance of a previous marriage.

    Unless someone intends to (re) marry in the Church, an annulment serves no purpose. It’s juridical function is as a permission slip to a priest based on a tribunal’s opinion.

  • Zippy says:

    Vanessa:
    Not fear of its implications, but wariness of its misappropriation. Also, it comes off as a justification for the tribunals-run-wild.

    Yes, that’s nice; but is it true?

  • Vanessa says:

    I have no idea. Nobody does. That’s why I don’t see the point in ruminating about it and confusing everyone.

  • Zippy says:

    “So shut up”, she explained.

  • Vanessa says:

    I have to go now, bu I’ll be interested to see where this conversation heads. I’m not the best defender of my side, as I’m too personally invested, but perhaps someone more persuasive will come along later.

  • Zippy says:

    Vanessa:
    I am certainly interested if someone has a valid argument resting on true premises which casts doubt on the two-cause explanation for the increase in annulments. I just have never seen one.

  • Morticia says:

    I don’t disagree with Zippy but…

    I guess what I don’t understand how handing out annulments like they are Halloween candy is the most appropriate reaction..even to an invalid marriage…. Shouldn’t we be encouraging prayer and fasting so that a wayward spouse will come to Christ and give full consent to the marriage?

    To use the confession example, annulments are like if we excommunicated everyone who gave a bad confession. No..you just send them back in next weekend and tell them to try again.

    A bad marriage is a good excuse to do some prayer and fasting, go on a marriage retreat, etc…and then when you think your heart and head is in the right place renew your vows.

    No Do-Overs! I realize the Church is just analyzing the facts and declaring accordingly, but it is causing more of that very thing, by encouraging a “do-over’ mentality.

    Everyone knows someone who had an annulment and then got remarried. It is scandalous.

  • Vanessa says:

    No, I’m not saying you have to shut up. LOL I’m glad you brought it up, in fact, as it’s something affecting people on the ground. I just thought you were discounting the concerns of the other side and I felt compelled to offer a defense. Emo as it was. LOL

    But really. We’re being told over and over that marriage is indissoluble, but when we try to take it seriously, then this comes up and it’s like, “Well, valid marriages are indissoluble, but is yours valid? Lots of marriages aren’t valid, you know!” and it feels like your whole world has been stood on end.

  • Vanessa says:

    The reason it’s so controversial is because an annulment isn’t a divorce, even if it often follows one. In a divorce, you’re ending your marriage. In an annulment, you’re saying that the marriage has never existed. That you are living a total lie. That you go home and lie down with someone you aren’t actually married to. That will keep you awake at night, even if your marriage is a happy one.

    It’s like playing with dynamite.

  • Zippy says:

    Morticia:
    There are definitely two distinct issues, because of two distinct causes. I definitely disagree with lowering the standard of proof for invalidity, as a pastoral matter. And that is definitely what has been done, under the rubric of defective consent: the standard of proof has been lowered. Imagine altering the standard of proof for murder from “beyond a reasonable doubt” to “preponderance of evidence” or even “rational basis” and you can see that side of the dynamic at work, with all of its associated injustice.

    But that is independent of whether there has been, ontologically, a substantial increase in the rate of invalid marriage; and on that question, all signs point to yes.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Zippy

    I know what the churches* say annulments are. I’m saying that they’re wrong to say such things. God does not get involved in separating even what we ourselves have taken or mis-taken things to be. When He does get involved, He takes our offerings and turns them into something even better than we could imagine.

    The logical conclusion is that EVERY marriage is in some way unworthy. Our job isn’t to judge whether it was meant to be, but to make it better; to cultivate the landscape; to turn jungles of lust and deserts of apathy into gardens of love. We recognize that marriages and people are unworthy, then we go about the business of sanctifying them anyways.

    He allows others–those outside Himself–to separate for the instruction of those who cry for justice. They get it good and hard. He has already designated a person (Lucifer) and a kingdom (the world) to do this.

    My point isn’t to change your mind right here.

    *Yes, some Prots, but mostly the RCC.

  • Morticia says:

    As a side tangent- I was wondering if very young marriages are more or less likely to be valid. If a 16 year old boy married he probably isn’t thinking of cases he might divorce because his underdeveloped prefrontal cortex doesn’t equip him to be that future-oriented. Does that make his consent more valid, or less?

  • Zippy says:

    Vanessa:
    A very simple solution for someone in doubt with a cooperative spouse is to get a convalidation.

  • Zippy says:

    Cane:
    I’m saying that they’re wrong to say such things.

    Well, it is a good thing that millennia old institutions founded by Christ and the Apostles have you around to tell them what to think and how they should and should not function ;-).

    What would we do without Protestants?

  • Morticia says:

    My Canon-lawyer friend hates convalidations. She says “people do that not realizing that it makes our job so much harder. We end up having to prove the invalidity of several sets of vows.”

  • Zippy says:

    Morticia:
    My Canon-lawyer friend hates convalidations. She says “people do that not realizing that it makes our job so much harder. We end up having to prove the invalidity of several sets of vows.”

    Good. The fact that they make the right people’s jobs more difficult is a mark in their favor.

  • Vanessa says:

    A convalidation wouldn’t help. The priest who originally married us would happily do so again. The priest who is now doubtful would be happy to refuse. It’s the priests who are in disagreement, in the end.

  • Morticia says:

    That is what I thought. It was one of those *double blink* moments.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Zippy

    Yes, I knew that was coming. It had to.

    OTOH: I notice you standing here, next to me–before me, really–critiquing the Church, brother. 🙂

    Also: Jeremiah.

  • Zippy says:

    Vanessa:
    I have no qualifications whatsoever to give advice to you, but I’ll give some anyway: avoid the sourpuss.

  • Vanessa says:

    I already do, thankfully. LOL

  • Zippy says:

    Cane:
    But your proposal makes no sense.

    Suppose a couple approach the Church and ask for the sacrament of marriage. Is it your position that:

    1) The priest should preside no matter what. He has no responsibility to make sure the parties were not previously married, even if he actually personally presided over the marriage of one of them to someone else.

    2) The priest should refuse to preside if there is any prima facie evidence of a previous marriage. If the boy played “marriage” with the neighbor girl when he was six, and there is a photo of the ‘nuptials’, the priest should refuse to preside.

    3) The priest should preside if he has reasonable verification that the parties are not previously, validly married to someone else. (This is how the Church actually functions: the “reasonable verification” is done by marriage tribunals and is labeled “annulment”).

    4) Priests shouldn’t preside at marriages at all.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Zippy

    No. Be wise, but innocent. We who would be Christ-like cannot and will not avoid taking the sins of others onto ourselves; though we do not deserve them. A priest taking them on for the sake of marriage is accepting the punishment for their guilt, but does not make him personally guilty. There is a point where too much digging makes you party to a problem, instead of relieving the burden. Then you have crossed the line to where you are not only sharing their burden of sin, but have added your sin to theirs. That is bad, and it’s to this which annulment leads.

    Jesus tells the woman at the well that she is right to say she has not husband, but rather five. Later, he says, “Go, and sin no more.” What does that mean? It means to make a new life of good living your sacrifice to God. In the context of her life, that might mean going to husband one and asking to be taken back. It might mean making husband number five the final and best husband; no matter what he ever does. It might mean giving up husbands altogether. She makes the sacrifice–whatever she can afford, even unto everything–and God accepts it because He is faithful…not because we are, because we are not. He takes our sin upon Himself, and crucifies it with Himself on the cross. He takes it to Hell where it is burned up.

    That fire on the altar on the altar is Hell.

    Whatever we sacrifice, we sacrifice for our sakes, not God’s. God doesn’t want marriages for His sake anymore than He wants lamb’s fat and blood for His own sake. I don’t want a finger-painting of the front yard from a four-year old. What I want are my children to love and obey me now, and forever. When they bring me finger-paintings in love, though, it is beyond price. To judge the worthiness of a marriage is to miss multiple opportunities for reconciliation, and apply the law instead. That’s not our business.

    In the same way, sometimes when I ask my daughters to clean their rooms, they stall by coming to give me kisses. If they knew my heart, they would know that cleaning their rooms–in this instance–is worth more than a thousand kisses. I allow it once, but if they trespass beyond that: I turn them over for instruction according to the flesh.

    The question is: Has the Church become too wise for it to be good? The wisdom of the world pollutes. Wives and sons are famous for this.

  • Zippy says:

    Cane:
    I note that you didn’t select a number. And while I often find your posts poetic to read, I also often see them as rather opaque and missing the point. I’m a simple-minded, cut the bullshit, get to the point kind of guy.

    Did I not list the possibilities exhaustively enough, or have you selected a number and elaborated on its ideal implementation in your view? If the latter, which number?

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Zippy

    Crap. I think I just talked myself into being anti-death penalty.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    I choose none. You want it to be 3, but my position is that the existence of an annulment process is proof of its misuse; that is of the Church’s real culpability; not just its assumed share in sin.

  • Zippy says:

    Cane:
    So you choose either 4 or 1. Which one?

  • Zippy says:

    (Because 4 and 1 are the ones which do not require an annulment process).

  • Elspeth says:

    Americans are horrid with exceptions. As soon as we grant an exception, we rapidly slippery slope a tiny hole into something you can drive monster trucks through. Given our national character, I recommend a much harsher line on annulments.

    This.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Zippy

    The problem with number one is the inclusion of the idea that he is to be utterly ignorant; even unto what he has personally known to be true.

    The problem with number four is that of course priests should preside over marriage, but they do not get to determine who is married and who is not; anymore than they get to determine who is saved and who is not.

    Since my rhetoric annoys you, let me choose another’s:

    “The underlying assumption seems to be marriage by knowledge. But to understand the Catholic Faith you have to understand that it is not primarily about intellect, or even morals: it is about Christ received through the sacraments, because He commanded it, and because those who love Him will do as He commands because they love Him. And He commands as He does because He loves us. Understanding may follow practice, to a greater or lesser degree. But the Catholic faith is a loving response to our King and Redeemer, not an intellectual response to a text. A Downs Syndrome Catholic who can’t read the Bible is in no way lesser than a theological polymath.

    The Catholic faith doesn’t get snagged on “what exactly is it that marries us” because the thing that marries us isn’t an “it”. The thing that marries us is a Who. Asking what you have to do to be married is like asking what you have to do to make sure that your wife will still love you tomorrow (or in this context what do you have to do to make sure that you still love her tomorrow). There may be things you can do, but it isn’t a mechanical process. It isn’t something that you do today, making everything that you do tomorrow irrelevant. It is love.”

    You can read the whole thing here.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    Whichever one my response at 2:52 applies to, that is your answer.

  • Zippy says:

    Cane:
    The problem with number one is the inclusion of the idea that he is to be utterly ignorant; even unto what he has personally known to be true.

    OK, so some version of 2. But you are apparently uncomfortable with “prima facie” as the criteria. That means you must have in mind some more rigorous criteria; which gets us to 3.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    You’re going to go where you want to go. As I said: “[t]hat is your answer.”

  • Zippy says:

    Cane:
    Whichever one my response at 2:52 applies to, that is your answer.

    While I appreciate a firework display of red herring rockets as much as the next guy, you are simply avoiding the central issue.

    When a couple approaches a priest and asks him to preside over their wedding, and one of them is prima facie already married to someone else (the State’s opinion in the matter is irrelevant), what, precisely and in detail, without flowery language or blue sky analogy or waffling, should the Church do?

  • outis says:

    It seems reasonable to me (1) that the annulment process is abused *and* (2) that consent is often defective — more often than in the past, when the connection between children and marriage was understood in the culture, as well as in the Church.

    I’m not married, so perhaps not qualified to speak. But I do have one anecdote to support each contention:

    (1) My former pastor boasted to a small group how he manipulated petitions for parishioners, so that the tribunal process really did amount to Catholic divorce, rather than a declaration of nullity. (2) My friend and her husband are well-educated in moral theology, and would never use artificial contraception. Her husband seems to have married her without any intention of having children. In effect, they are using NFP in order to have a permanently childless marriage. Obviously, it would be far worse if they practiced artificial contraception, but this seems to be an abuse of NFP, so that the couple really is not open to life. This situation is extraordinarily painful for my friend, who is now in her late thirties. She has no intention of divorcing her husband, and of course she should pray for his conversion (we all need such prayers). But it does not seem to me that her husband consented to marriage as the Church understands marriage. I can see how this sort of situation might result in a declaration of nullity, though I hope it never comes to that. And that’s the limit case: far more common must be the couple who intend to avoid children by using artificial contraception.

  • Zippy says:

    outis:
    Just as a gut instinct worth what you paid for it, I’d bet that there are more ontologically invalid marriages based on defective consent w.r.t. permanence than openness to children. By the time they have hit the altar I’d bet that many who go through the motions nevertheless definitely intend to end the “marriage” under certain extreme conditions: adultery, for example. Many Protestants are quite explicit about it. This automatically invalidates the “marriage”, because what they are consenting to is not marriage: it is missing the essential element of indissolubility.

  • outis says:

    Zippy: yes, that seems probable. The exception for porneia does seem to give Protestants license for divorce. To be honest, I initially strain to read Matthew 5:32 with the Church, though I accept the teaching about indissolubility under obedience. But indissolubility even after adultery makes good sense theologically, at least to me, when I think about the covenant between God and Israel — especially when I re-read Hosea.

    I do worry more about the notion that marriage need have nothing to do with children. At least for my undergrads, that separation between love and life seems to lead inexorably to a necessity for (1) legal abortion and (2) gay “marriage.” Defective consent joins a parade of horribles.

  • Hurting says:

    Zippy…

    This is a timely and important discussion. I came across this article celebrating the career of a tribunal practitioner

    http://www.thecatholictelegraph.com/sister-of-mercy-heads-archdiocesan-tribunal-with-skill-faith/12771

    Note the reference in the last paragraph about post Vatican II changes.

  • Hurting says:

    Zippy…

    The best argument that the goalposts have been moved is found in ridiculous relationship between pre-Vatican II levels of declarations of nulllity (about 400 per year in the U.S. to a high water mark nearing 60,000). That’s 150X or almost 15,000%! And this occurred during a period where the RCC lost adherents even nominal ones.

    It is entirely possible that there may be marginally more truly null marriages given the state of catechesis in the U.S., but 150X?

    Annulments are basically the Church’s pastoral approach to civil divorce and the ‘get out of jail free’ card to salve the guilty consciences of divorced Catholics.

    The U.S. hierarchy likes the current system because it gives it latitude. If it is now possible to determine defective consent many years after it was putatively exchanged (and yes, this idea is specious nonsense), then certainly it should be possbile to ascertain the ability of the parties to consent in advance of the exchange of vows, saving everyone involved from future heartbreak. But thank would take all of the bullets out of the pastoral annulment gun.

    The travesty lies in the inability to consent argument that underlies the modern annulment. The tribunals would have you believe that despite the fact that an otherwise normal, functioning adult vowed to uphold a fairly short list of powerful yet uncomplicated promises that for millenia were not considered to be beyond the scope of understanding of teenagers that they can discern many years after the fact that indeed the promisor was incapable of doing so. In other words, it’s not ignorance of what’s expected, it’s allegedly incapacity.

    The research is pretty damning that the U.S. church has been playing fast and loose with annulments as evidenced by the percentage that are overturned by Rome.

  • outis says:

    Hurting: In that article you linked, her reference to “psychological reasons” for nulllity post-Vatican II was depressing, if not surprising: more evidence of Prozac-addled readings of Gaudium et spes 54. Experts!

  • Proph says:

    Zippy, let me see if I grok your argument. Proper disposition is necessary for the valid conferral of a sacrament; modern psychosis re: marriage means many (maybe even most) people don’t have the proper disposition when getting “married”; therefore, many (maybe even most) people don’t have valid marriages.

    I’m somewhat sympathetic to this, at least in that pre-cana is probably as much of a joke as RCIA and CCE are, but I wonder what the implications would be. Suppose I marry and, five years later, my wife moves out in the middle of the night with our infant children, shacks up with the family doctor, and subjects me to divorce-court bonanza. Can I then pursue an annulment on the grounds that her treachery is evidence of a lack of proper disposition? Could I legitimately say that I was deceived regarding her lack of conviction about the sanctity of marriage?

  • Zippy says:

    Proph:
    Proper disposition is necessary for the valid conferral of a sacrament;

    Not proper disposition; valid intention. Someone with valid intention to marry necessarily intends all of the things essential to marriage, including permanence, sexual exclusivity, and openness to children.

    Anyone who stands at the altar and goes through the motions while specifically reserving intention on any of the essentials – e.g. “we’ll stay together as long as she doesn’t cheat” or “I don’t plan to have any children” – does not validly contract marriage.

    This is of course fully subjective[*], as is the knowledge of the penitent in the OP. Sometimes we leave evidence trails for our subjective intentions, e.g. a discussion with the girlfriends before the wedding about how she’ll stick around as long as he doesn’t cheat. Sometimes we don’t leave evidence trails. But the essential matter of the sacrament is intent to marry. Intent to enter something that isn’t marriage but looks like it in any number of ways is not valid (say because of the adultery “out”) intention.

    Can I then pursue an annulment on the grounds that her treachery is evidence of a lack of proper disposition? Could I legitimately say that I was deceived regarding her lack of conviction about the sanctity of marriage?

    I haven’t rendered an opinion on any of those things. If you had evidence – say her sister recalled her saying something at the bachelorette party about dumping you if you cheat – then sure. But my post isn’t about all of these further conclusions that people are trying to draw, nor is it about procedural recommendations w.r.t annulments, etc. It is just about the two-cause theory of the increase in annulments (more invalid marriages plus laxer standards of proof in annulment proceedings) versus the one-cause theory (the latter alone).

    [*] “Subjective” doesn’t mean “unreal”, of course. People have real intentions, and they sometimes leave evidence trails pointing to those intentions. Thus the distinction between first and second degree murder.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Zippy

    When a couple approaches a priest and asks him to preside over their wedding, and one of them is prima facie already married to someone else (the State’s opinion in the matter is irrelevant), what, precisely and in detail, without flowery language or blue sky analogy or waffling, should the Church do?

    It’s not a question for the Church. It’s a question for the priest.

    So, if you asked me “When a couple approaches a priest and asks him to preside over their wedding, and one of them is prima facie already married to someone else (the State’s opinion in the matter is irrelevant), what, precisely and in detail, without flowery language or blue sky analogy or waffling, should the priest do?”

    The priest should not marry them, but if he does then they really are married.

    God repeatedly holds us to follow through on this kind of trickery throughout the Bible, and through tradition. It never works out as we like.

  • Zippy says:

    Cane:
    but if he does then they really are married.

    So now the bride (say) is validly married to two men?

  • Laceagate says:

    You can’t be validly married to more than one person. Marriage is valid with one person and until that marriage is deemed to be invalid for actual reasons of invalidation, you are married. That’s why the validity of a marriage is important regardless of the State’s opinion because you have to actually prove that there was no real consent on the marriage day.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Zippy

    Yes; provided that what we mean by “valid” is that the substance of the relationship is marital substance.

    It’s an abomination, but abominations are allowed to happen.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Zippy

    This is the crux of the hypocrisy of a re-married couple (and those who support them) spitting mad about the horrors of homosexual marriage. If she was married to a man that is still alive, her current husband is joined into something akin to a homosexual union. He will receive the due penalty in himself, unless God pours out more grace upon him.

  • Laceagate says:

    In the Church, what constitutes marital substance is giving consent. That’s why the priest asks if you are there out of your own volition and that’s why he asks if you will be open to life. These are matters of consent.

    When people try to invalidate their marriages, they’re essentially making the argument that they couldn’t really consent. Unless a person was having an affair at the time of the wedding, was forced to get married, or was a child and didn’t understand what was going on, there was a marriage.

  • Zippy says:

    Cane:
    It’s an abomination, but abominations are allowed to happen.

    Well, at least we know the terminus of that way of thinking.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Laceagate

    Our Lord speaks about marriage and divorce several times. In no instance does He call a marriage invalid. He calls divorce a thing we should not do, but even then He does not say it is invalid. Now, we can infer that perhaps divorce is a spiritual figment of our imagination (as the RCC does, and I believe I’m in agreement) You cannot infer that one marriage obliterates the former, or frustrates other behind it.

    The RCC, no doubt, has said that it has spoken on the issue as Christ’s vicar on Earth, but…what can I say? They’re wrong on lots of things. They’re invalidating marriages that weren’t done by six year olds, and aren’t under the shadow of the pre-marital ideas of an “adultery escape clause”. Even suppose they were: Imagine a scenario where a man thinks to himself: “I’m getting married, but if she cheats I’m out of here.” Suppose later he changes his mind; not because of any theological insight, but because he’s just committed. He loves her.

    And let’s further stipulate that she never had those thoughts, but now her husband is not satisfying her.

    If she can prove that he had that idea of the “adultery escape clause” (she found his old journal, say), should the Church annul their marriage?

  • Zippy says:

    Cane:
    They’re invalidating marriages that weren’t …

    And again, “invalidating” just means “confirming juridically – as an expert opinion and nothing more – after some diligence, that the person is not married, so a priest has permission to preside at a wedding for that person”.

    This can be done well or it can be done poorly; but annulments have no actual sacramental effect on any actual marriages. They are just juridical opinions– lawyers briefs, if you will.

  • Laceagate says:

    Even suppose they were: Imagine a scenario where a man thinks to himself: “I’m getting married, but if she cheats I’m out of here.” Suppose later he changes his mind; not because of any theological insight, but because he’s just committed. He loves her.

    Don’t you think I agree with you here? Whatever reasons people come up with– adultery, “personality disorders,” addictions, etc. the fact is the marriage happened. People are consenting to get married. That’s why the Church uses the terms “invalid” and “valid.” You’re right to note that in Scripture those words aren’t explicitly stated, so my knowledge as far as how those came to be is limited.

    Historically when marriages were conducted, people didn’t think they could get away with having another person on the side when they got married, or that they could withhold their fertility from each other, or that they’d call it quits when their quirks irked each other. Once again, I do have limited knowledge as to how these things came to be (and I’ll ask Zippy to kindly fill in the details) but clearly the three criteria he mentioned before are of importance.

    Even if a wife found her husband’s old journal, can she really prove he was not faithful on the wedding day? If even if she could, should a divorce and then an annulment be taken as the first course of action? Or shouldn’t the couple in question seek reconciliation to heal their marriage?

  • Laceagate says:

    From what Zippy said, that is why annulments were always rare in the past. It hasn’t been until recently, especially in the US, that annulments became more common. I get what you are saying though.

  • Laceagate says:

    You cannot infer that one marriage obliterates the former, or frustrates other behind it

    This would be called adultery, wouldn’t it? In essence, the person is living in a state of polygamy. That’s why it would be invalid– polygamy isn’t marriage.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Zippy

    And again, “invalidating” just means “confirming juridically – as an expert opinion and nothing more – after some diligence, that the person is not married, so a priest has permission to preside at a wedding for that person”.

    And again, I know what the Church says about what it does. Let’s hope the non-lying spouse, the first priest, the parents, the attendees, and the children all agree that the church is acting judiciously–nothing more–when they proclaim annulment.

    Who are they going to believe: the officials of the Church, or their lying eyes? And if the officials can’t be believed on such non-controversial matters (see below), then are we surprised that the churches are emptying out just when they need filling up the most…for everyone’s sake.

    I like God’s way better. You didn’t understand to what you are committing? Too bad, Abraham. Too bad, Isaac. Too bad, Esau. Too bad, Jacob. Too bad, Judah…

    On and on it goes. “There is no one righteous, no not one…” Each of those patriarchs committed to something that they knew not what, sinned gravely, and it still counted. God used each of those mortal sins directly to further His kingdom. This is the lineage of Christ. When the Bible says that God condescended to become the lowest of the low–it means it. It is not a noble line, but a corrupt line…who nevertheless was loved by God, and who did not let their own unworthiness stop them from loving Him back.

    @Laceagate

    Yes, it is adultery. Jesus explicitly says that. You don’t have to believe sola scriptura to understand that Jesus is God the Father, and that what He says is timeless as He is timeless. Nor are these convoluted subjects. We know what marriage, divorce, and adultery are. We’ve known forever. They’re so known that pagans who never heard of the Judeo-Christian God knew and practiced marriage in a manner quite recognizable to us, punished adultery, and (to greater and lesser degrees) frowned on divorce.

    Polygamy is a form of marriage. It may not be good, or sanctioned, but it exists. King Solomon had 700 wives (and 300 concubines). It would be a mistake to say that a man should, or is even allowed, 700 wives. It would also be a mistake to say that the Bible is a liar.

  • Zippy says:

    You are a real twister of words, Mr Caldo:

    Let’s hope the non-lying spouse, the first priest, the parents, the attendees, and the children all agree that the church is acting judiciously–nothing more–when they proclaim annulment.

    Juridically. J U R I D I C A L L Y.

    As opposed to sacramentally.

    It is a characterization of the nature of what is (and is not) done. It says nothing of its judiciousness in general or in a particular case.

    But go ahead, keep playing dumb. Someone might even buy it.

    Now, if you want to keep posting here, you need to stop telling lies about what I’ve said. Its part of the rules.

  • Vanessa says:

    The marriages Jesus is referring to didn’t involve baptized Christians, so they weren’t sacramental, but only cultural. Divorce, polygamy, and etc. were allowed under natural law, which He mentions with His reference to Moses.

    Marriage is a sacrament only under the New Law, where we are bound to the rules described by St. Paul in Ephesians, where marriage is a reflection of the relationship of Christ and His Church, and where the “two become one flesh”, as it was in Paradise (“the beginning”). We are closer to the Divine Law now, because Jesus told us that it should be so (see Matthew 19), so the standard is higher.

  • Vanessa says:

    Sorry, I got that mixed up. Divorce and adultery are not allowed under natural law, but polygamy is. Polygamy, however, is not allowed under divine law.

  • […] the wrong idea of marriage who attempts to marry fails in the attempt.  As with the case of an invalid confession, the outward appearance of a sacrament does not guarantee the presence of the […]

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Zippy

    In this instance, I misread the word “juridically”. Never seen it before. My apologies.

    [This is symptomatic of the way you have approached this subject. You are so busy preaching at me, and so outraged that the Church does due diligence at all (however poorly) before presiding at a wedding, that you can’t hear a word I say. We aren’t having a conversation here, and I’m not going to pretend that we are. –Z]

    So, let me re-state.

    “Let’s hope the non-lying spouse, the first priest, the parents, the attendees, and the children all agree that the church is acting juridically–nothing more–when they proclaim annulment.”

    I don’t believe that changes a whit.

    More on the next post.

    @Vanessa

    “Marriage is a sacrament only under the New Law, where we are bound to the rules described by St. Paul in Ephesians, where marriage is a reflection of the relationship of Christ and His Church, and where the “two become one flesh”, as it was in Paradise (“the beginning”). We are closer to the Divine Law now, because Jesus told us that it should be so (see Matthew 19), so the standard is higher.”

    This is the Protestant understanding, too, but I cannot see it. One of the things that endorses the RCC to me is their catholic understanding that God has not changed, and His plan for us has not changed, but is only further revealed. “From the beginning it was not so…”, Jesus said. It has always been a sacrament, but the Jews rejected it out of the hardness of their hearts (as many do today, as I almost did) and God chose not to punish them for it under that one condition of adultery. We might say “not-guilty by reason of jealous insanity” was allowed. We could also say that they did not fully understand because it had not fully been revealed; like a child at first does not know it is not supposed to get a cookie any time it wants. We forgive them for trespassing the law. We do not say they are innocent.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Zippy

    You are so busy preaching at me, and so outraged that the Church does due diligence at all (however poorly) before presiding at a wedding,[…]

    The bolded part is true. The non-bold part is not, but because of the former I’ve made the latter seem entirely plausible. I apologize, and will digress.

  • Hurting says:

    outis

    The rot is deep. You would think that the U.S. Church would recognize the mistakes it made in trusting the helping professions and social science (if it was a science, they’d just call it science).

  • […] 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. […]

  • […] fascinating discussion on the sacrament of marriage is being hosted over at Zippy Catholic (see here, here, here, and here). The question at hand is whether modern ideas about marriage (i.e., its […]

  • […] just as there are unquestionably large numbers of sacrilegious receptions of the Eucharist, and an unknown number of sacrilegious confessions, there are are almost certainly large numbers of invalid […]

  • […] to judge the majority of ‘internal forum’ annulments is like attempting to judge whether a particular confession was valid or not, based on the testimony of the penitent — who, by the time the issue comes up juridically […]

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