The Truth About Annulments

Fr. Mark-Mary talks about annulments: what they are, why you would get one, and some pastoral advice on divorce. 

It’s important to point out when talking about the annulment—or “declaration of nullity”—that it’s not just “Catholic divorce.” While a divorce is a legal separation of the marriage bond, an annulment is a declaration that a sacramental marriage never existed in the first place. In other words, annulments don’t separate the marriage bond; they just find evidence that no bond existed. 

Marriage as a sacrament is designed by God and ruled by him. Therefore, we as his stewards cannot separate what he has joined together. It’s just not possible. The reason the Church has the declaration of nullity is to help couples who may have entered marriage for reasons outside God’s calling to realize these wrongdoings and have the ability to enter into the sacrament correctly. 

Fr. Mark-Mary lists 3 reasons for a declaration of nullity: ignorance, inability, or insincerity

Ignorance is simply the lack of knowledge concerning the sacrament of marriage. In order to actually enter into a sacrament, you have to know what you’re getting yourself into.

Inability can come up as grounds for a declaration of nullity if it’s discovered that one of the partners was coerced or pressured into the marriage. Sacraments have to be pursued freely, and if someone is being scared into it, it’s not a true sacrament. This can also come up if one of the partners has a strong addiction that caused them to get married, such as a sexual addiction. 

Lastly, insincerity is the lack of commitment or belief in the Church’s teachings on marriage. For example, if a couple was entering into the sacrament, but only one of them was open to the procreation of children, then this could be grounds for a declaration of nullity. They may love the person they are marrying, but they must fully agree to the terms of sacramental marriage. This would also come up if a partner lied before marriage, saying they were open to children, but then “changed their mind” after marriage. 

All that being said, the Church is always going to presume that a marriage bond has been formed between a couple who get married in the Church until proven otherwise. That’s why it’s essential to find some reason for nullity in the marriage, because it states that a marital bond was never formed, and therefore the couple can go forth and marry someone else in the Church. 

Archbishop Fulton Sheen has a famous line, “it takes three to get married (man, woman, and God), but it only takes one to get divorced.” Above all, it’s essential that we treat all our brothers and sisters with respect, especially those who have been divorced. We pray for everyone who enters into the bond of marriage and for the graces to love one another as only God is able to love.

If you or a loved one are going through a separation or divorce, please look into our online study Surviving Divorce: Hope and Healing for the Catholic Family. We truly hope and pray that it will be a blessing to you.

Meet Fr. Mark-Mary

Father Mark-Mary was ordained as a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal (CFR) in 2018 and lives at a friary in the Bronx.

The mission of the CFRs is to wholeheartedly embrace Jesus through fidelity to the Church and her Sacraments. Paired with their commitment to prayer, contemplation, and study of Sacred Scripture, the CFRs serve those around them, especially the poor, in the footsteps of Christ.

Discover beautiful music from the CFRs and Fr. Mark-Mary’s book Habits for Holiness: Small Steps for Spiritual Progressboth available from Ascension.