I once met a young couple desiring to have their marriage blessed by the Catholic Church so they could practice the faith and, for anonymity, I will give no further details regarding time, place, or circumstance of encounter. He was a baptized Mormon converting to the Catholic faith. She was a baptized Catholic completing her Sacraments. They were civilly married with one daughter.
In discovering the husband had a prior marriage, he was told he would have to pursue an annulment. If an annulment was acquired, it guaranteed that his prior marriage was nullified (an-"nul"-ment). It guaranteed that his prior marriage did not exist. Sure, he married his baptized Mormon ex-wife in a ceremony, making it a valid marriage, but perhaps either one of them went into the marriage with the wrong intention. Perhaps one of them did not intend to fulfill the vows he or she took to the other. The court in the Catholic Church had to determine if anything like this occurred during that first act of marriage. If it did, the marriage did not actually take place. If it did, the husband was free to marry.
Even though I have spent years studying this stuff, I still find it confusing.
Even though I have spent years studying this stuff, I still find it confusing. I can only imagine how confusing it can be to the greater public. Why is there a court in the Catholic Church that determines if a marriage did exist? Why can a husband not re-marry within the Catholic Church even though he is divorced? Why was it going to take this couple a year before they were able to *potentially* have their marriage blessed by Catholic Church (it takes about a year to receive a decision on an annulment)? Why is the Catholic Church so standoffish? It is almost as if they push people away with all their rules and regalities.
Perhaps the common opinion is as such. However, in trying to understand it myself, and then in explaining it to the couple, here is the answer I procured.
The state legally grants marriages and divorces. A civil marriage is granted by the State of Ohio, let's say. Two people take vows to each other and they enter into a valid marriage. If the two people one day decide to leave this valid marriage, they go to the State of Ohio and, if approved through the state's process, are given a divorce. In the eyes of the State of Ohio, these two people are free to re-marry on good conscience.
Now, from the Church's perspective, Jesus Christ established His Church while he was living, breathing, and walking on earth two-thousand years ago. He has said it will be so regarding marriage in His Church:
"It was also said,
He also said in reply, when "some Pharisees approached Him...saying, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?,' ... [He said,] 'Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate'" Matthew 19:3-6.
The Church holds to what Jesus instituted in it regarding marriage. He said that when two marry, they become one flesh. What the court in the Catholic Church does is make sure the two that had married had not become one flesh during that act of marriage. Otherwise, there is nothing the court can do. Jesus Himself said "what God has joined together, no human being must separate" Matthew 19:6.
If the annulment is granted, meaning, if a marriage did not take place and the two were never actually joined together into one flesh, then the husband is free to marry on good conscience in the eyes of God. If the annulment is not granted, meaning, if the two were actually joined together into one flesh during that act of marriage, then the husband is currently living in adultery with his new wife in a marriage that the State of Ohio recognizes but God does not recognize. In the eyes of God, the husband is still joined together as one flesh with his prior wife.
How difficult to tell a man in a marriage recognized by the State of Ohio, happy and healthy with a lovely woman and darling daughter, that he must refrain from sexual intercourse with the woman because in the eyes of God he is not yet married to her! How much more difficult it is to tell the woman that she cannot have a child this coming year until an annulment is granted by the court of the Catholic Church - a child she desperately desires!
In times as such, we see how large a gap there is between the culture today and Jesus Christ's hope for man. How commonplace divorce and re-marriage is in our society and how few teach the truth of the matter: what the state recognizes as good conscience regarding marriage may not truly be good conscience regarding marriage.
...what the state recognizes as good conscience regarding marriage may not truly be good conscience regarding marriage.
The only thing I could say to the dear couple was, "God blesses those who live in His will for their lives. If you two refrain from sexual intercourse and live together as brother and sister during this time, prayerfully growing closer together, the Lord will greatly bless you. Your actions will show your intention of heart to follow His will. He will bless you for it."
Ashley and Susan
Two women asking the world to not just hope, but to hope in Love.