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  • John Farrell | The Daily Knight

Too big to fail: Catholic America’s annulment machine

John Farrell | The Daily Knight

(USA Today)

Between 1968 and 1988, there was a 21K% increase in USA annulments. How was this legitimately done? It wasn’t. All permanent separation of baptized spouses are by ecclesiastical judgement only, not civil judgement. This is because the marriage contract (to live together) is bound up with the sacrament, and cannot be separated from it (Arcanum 23, Casti Connubii 78). The 3rd council of Baltimore #126 states: "We command all (i.e. baptized) married persons that they must not go to the civil courts to obtain a separation from bed and board without previously receiving permission from the ecclesiastical authority. Should anyone attempt this, let him know that he incurs the guilt of grave sin and that he is to be punished as the bishop shall decide."

This provision has not been abrogated so it’s still in force today. Marriage is governed by divine law (c. 1059) so to say that divorce for Catholics involves “just civil effects” is simply heresy. No Catholic may affect permanent separation of spouses (divorce) without a decree from the bishop - even if the bishop says otherwise. No bishop may dispense with separation procedure (C. 87).

There is always one publicly guilty spouse, and one publicly innocent spouse in every divorce. Only the innocent spouse remains eligible for Communion. The bishop is the public authority. One who divorces without his permission is a public abandoner.

Canons 1401 + 1671 informs bishops of their “proper” and “exclusive” jurisdiction over divorce cases. CCC 2384 says that divorce alone is a “grave offense.”

Canons 8 and 12 of Trent say that separations can be lawful, but only by ecclesiastical judges..or anathema.

Regarding the huge increase in annulments, the culprit is “essential interpersonal communion.” The essence of marriage (babies/permanence/fidelity) is of divine law and cannot be changed. Vatican II remained silent on what is essential, but spoke of interpersonal communion. Tribunals decided by fiat to include this interpersonal communion/good of the spouses in the object of consent as essential. The good of the spouses is doctrinally a secondary (non-essenial) element of marriage.

Pope Francis said that the “great majority” of marriages today are invalid. The truth is that the great majority of annulments are based on an illegal definition of marriage - one that makes good interpersonal relationship “essential.”

If permanent separations can be had on demand by the state, and annulments can be had whenever the couple does not get along, there is no “lock” in wedlock.

When considering marriage, realize that neither your bishop nor the state define marriage correctly. Make sure your fiancé knows that divorce w/o bishop’s permission is grave sin and that annulments based on contra good of the spouses are error.

-John Farrell

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