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Wondering If Your Marriage is Valid? There’s Only One Way to Find Out…!

Pope Francis gestures to newlywed couples during his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 21. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters) See POPE-AUDIENCE Jan. 21, 2015.

Are you really married? How should I know? Let’s not get bogged down by a lot of disjointed doctrines and little petty rules…Who are you to judge? Eh? No?


The reason why I say that the September 8th Motu Proprio is the de facto abrogation of the Sacrament of Marriage is the fact that it inverts the presumption about ALL marriages from a presumption of validity to a presumption of nullity.

If you don’t believe me, will you believe Professor de Mattei

In Pope Francis’ Motu Proprio this view has been overturned. The interest of the spouses has primacy over that of marriage. It is the document itself that affirms this, by summarizing the fundamental criteria of the reform in these points: the abolition of the double-sentence in conformity, substituted by only one sentence in favor of the enforceability of the annulment; the attribution of monocratic power to the bishop, qualified as sole judge; the introduction of an expedite process [brevior], de facto uncontrollable, with the substantial downsizing of the role of the Roman Rota.

Think about that. In a civil divorce, the divorce declaration says that there was a state of civil marriage that began on X date and ended on Y date.  An annulment says that there was never a marriage. You were never married.  The whole thing was a fiction. God never joined you together, therefore man has put nothing asunder.

Besides sneaking in a list of criteria that can be cited as evidence of nullity – including the universal condition of an undefined “lack of faith” –  and the truly diabolical “etc.” put at the end of the list, which opens the door to absolutely any bullshit excuse anyone would care to come up with, (cf. “mental health” grounds for abortion in US and British law) the Motu Proprio reconfirms the inversion of the presumption by virtue of the appeals process.

* If a marriage is declared null and both spouses agree, there is no automatic appeal of review by a second panel.  If, however, a marriage is declared valid, there is an automatic appeal and review by a second panel. *


And let’s be blunt.  The purpose of the second panel is now to make sure that any “unmerciful, pharisaical lovers of the law” who might weasel their way onto an annulment panel and actually deny an annulment request will be promptly overridden. You know I’m right.

So that brings us to the point of this post, and it is terrifying.  In FrancisNewMercifulChurch, the only way to be assured by the Church that your marriage is, in fact, valid and not presumed null

< drumroll… >

is to file for annulment, have your marriage declared valid by the annulment panel, which will then automatically trigger the “second instance” review by a panel whose purpose and mandate is to override the local panel’s “unmerciful, Pharisaical” finding of validity.

Which means, YOU CAN’T. 


53 thoughts on “Wondering If Your Marriage is Valid? There’s Only One Way to Find Out…!”

  1. RickR says:

    Valid marriage:
    Wow – Gotta love Ann and this site.
    When my father was removed as the Director of Religious Education in our parish a person was put in charge
    that taught 8th grade health class in a public school. In that class they had a guest from the county that showed porn films to the
    girls (my little sister included) and taught them how to masturbate with mirrors – in case they were too immature to be having sex with the boys.
    This happened all over the USA – even in Catholic schools. Sex and marriage were disconnected. I wonder how
    many young people understand that sex is exclusive to their new life long partner – not many from those I’ve met.
    Of course the solution is not to bless divorce.
    We home schooled our children and it seems to have helped. We
    were supported with materials from the Daughters of St. Paul – God Bless them.
    California achievement tests indicated high school graduation as young as 6th grade.
    Through the prayers of the Mother of God may our Savior save us – all!

  2. Michael Dowd says:

    This is a joke, son. Pope Francis with his quickie annulment is making the very idea of marriage absurd. But perhaps you do not see the hilarity.

  3. Phil Steinacker says:

    Both the hypothetical and real folks you describe would already have been sinning through cohabitation and contraception outside marriage, so your thesis that marriage is an occasion of sin is absurd and not too bright.

    Getting married does ZERO to place these folks into a sinful state in which they had already placed themselves.

  4. Ab illo bene dicáris says:

    A professor of sociology wrote a good book on Catholic annulment. Basically, it ends up looking a lot like divorce the way it is used in the West. In his case, his wife of umpteen years and several children left a note and walked out. Then petitioned for a McNullment.

    In some ways, Pope Francis is just putting the finishing touches on Catholic divorce. The motu proprio is not a shock to anyone who has looked at various McNullment cases over the years. I think Ted Kennedy’s wife, an Episcopalian, fought the McNullment decree all the way to the Rota and won. Most Catholics don’t have the treasure chest necessary for such a campaign.

  5. Ab illo bene dicáris says:

    Athanasian or Nicene? I can do both in Latin.

  6. Kimberly says:

    Yes, it was valid, which is why the Spanish crown threatened to attack the Vatican States if it granted an annulment to Henry VII, which would have allowed him to essentially use Princess Catherine and send her back to Spain. (The Spanish crown was understandably a BIT perturbed by the very idea.)

  7. Lynda says:

    Of course. But only in very limited circumstances can a marriage be invalid according to unchangeable laws of God and nature, and the deposit of Faith. Satisfying the criteria for a valid marriage to come into effect is very simple and straightforward and understood by all but an exceptional few.

  8. Patricia Gallagher says:

    Obviously. However, the *presumption* of validity can be overcome by evidence to the contrary.

  9. Lynda says:

    It is an evil lie, destroying marriage in the eyes of the Faithful, and denying the existence of true marriages. Invalidity is necessarily a rare thing. Marriage is not complicated and the vast, vast majority have sufficient knowledge and have given consent. Sts Thomas More and John Fisher intercede for us. An objectively valid marriage remains a marriage though a Church tribunal unlawfully declares otherwise.

  10. Lynda says:

    If a marriage is valid, it cannot become invalid.

  11. Lynda says:

    The marriage between Henry and Catherine of Aragon was as valid as any marriage has ever been. And the Queen defended it to her death.

  12. Lynda says:

    Francis would have said Bishop John Fisher was schismatic and “unmerciful”!

  13. Lynda says:

    The aim and effect is to destroy marriage. It is invalid for being implicitly against the unchangeable truth about marriage, part of the Deposit of Faith and the Natural Law.

  14. Patricia Gallagher says:

    Grounds for nullity must exist at the time that the couple exchanges consent at the wedding ceremony. Divorce is not present at the time of the ceremony! LOL. (Well, no laughing matter.)

    Canon 1060 states that marriage “enjoys the favor of law.” Validity is assumed until proven otherwise. Even the marriages of non-Catholics are presumed to be valid. As long as a civil bond exists, the marriage is considered to be valid.

    A diocesan tribunal will not take up a marital investigation unless and until the civil bond is ended by a final divorce decree, but divorce alone is not evidence of invalidity.
    Evidence of nullity includes lack (or defect) of (proper) form (i.e., one or both spouses is/are Catholic but s/he/they marry outside the Catholic Church), consanguinity (the spouses are too closely related), fraud (e.g., one of the spouses lies about being previously married, or lies about their identity), duress (marrying for fear of serious punishment), an intention against children (an agreement between the spouses not to have children). This list is not all-inclusive, and every case must be evaluated on its own merits.
    BTW, a tribunal never “denies” a decree of nullity. Rather, it finds that that there is insufficient evidence to overcome the presumption of validity. In such a case, either spouse may submit *new* evidence to the tribunal at a future date.

  15. Patricia Gallagher says:

    Canon 1060, paragraph 1, states, “Marriage enjoys the favor of [canon] law.” That is, *all* marriages [that exist] are presumed to be canonically valid — indissoluble– unless proven otherwise. For example, a civil marriage between two non-Catholics is presumed to be valid.
    The issue of validity does not arise, ever, unless and until one of the *spouses* calls it into question by filing a petition for an *investigation* as to that fact with a Catholic tribunal.
    Divorce terminates the *civil* bond, essentially destroying the marriage. This allows a tribunal to open an investigation as to the validity of the *canonical* bond.
    Also, the grounds for nullity must exist at the time of the ceremony. The divorce did not exist at the ceremony!

  16. Ferdinand says:

    So is it the divorce alone that renders a marriage null?

  17. @FMShyanguya says:

    You are most welcome and it is not only for you if you needed it, but for any other out there [+ it’s all there online] … there is dearth of solid and clear catholic knowledge and understanding. Kind of my apostolate to help clarify. God bless you and yours and let’s pray for each other.

  18. Cannonkat says:

    There is this Great Apostasy taking shape before our eyes, the False Prophet (like a Bergoglio) & Antichrist (like an Obama), and the swift return of the Lord Jesus Christ the Bridegroom, and the Judge of all hypocrisy and “doctrines of devils.”

  19. Cannonkat says:

    i didn’t have to pay anything! guess it was because i was the one abandoned, i was a brand new catholic, and i only got it so i could be a monk.

  20. Cannonkat says:

    same thing…so now we know antipope bergoglio’s logic proclaims it: there was no english schism.

  21. Cannonkat says:

    Maybe Francis therefore would say that Henry VIII didn’t REALLY create a schism! 8^)

  22. Patricia Gallagher says:

    TCA, whether civil or canon, law is complicated. Every society must have a system for adjudicating disputes and conflicts between and among its members. Although I am not a canonist, I have more understanding of Catholic marriage law than many other Catholics I’ve met.

    Jesus Christ is God. God is never wrong and never changes. He is the Founder and Head of the Catholic Church. He is the “solid ground” upon which we stand.

    Protestant ecclesial community were, are, and will continue to be founded by ahuman beings. Tens of thousands of them, so far, have found themselves at odds with the Catholic Church *and* with all their Protestant brothers and sisters. Hardly “solid ground.”

    “Jesus said, ‘[T]he words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. … For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.’

    “As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, ‘Do you also want to leave?’

    “Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.'” (John 6:68-70)

    Let others leave. We’re not going anywhere.

  23. TCA says:

    The takeaway (apparently) is that there are many subtle points of law known only to a few brilliant cannon lawyers, and about which those lawyers do not agree. One misconception I had upon my conversion was that at least as a Catholic I had solid ground under my feet. I am tempted (not very strongly) to think that Catholicism is not really any more certain than Protestantism, and that Proddies may as well retire to ponder Scripture, since in the end, the Church has no answer either.

  24. Kimberly says:

    I thought his reason for the denial of the annulment to Henry VIII was the very real military threat posed by the Spanish Crown against the Vatican States if the annulment was granted.

  25. Jack Lee says:

    My Catholic priest actually told me to consider an annulment…it’s just an end run so you can remarry. This after nearly 20 years of marriage and 3 children. Needless to say, even being “divorced” against my will, I like the idea that I am still married and don’t want to change that. So I gave up sex. I figure the eternal is going to be worth it.

  26. Patricia Gallagher says:

    The Butterfly, begging your pardon…

    My first marriage ended more than 18 years prior to my petition for nullity. I was in an irregular marriage with a Catholic who had been divorced for nearly as long. We decided to return to the Church after 25 years “fallen away” and knew that we would be unable to return to the sacraments unless and until we stopped living in mortal sin. Our decrees of nullity were not of the “smoke-and-mirrors” variety. We were married in a Catholic ceremony on our 13th wedding anniversary.

    I never engage an individual in discussion of the possibility of seeking a decree of nullity if the couple is not already civilly divorced and the individual affirms to me that there is no possibility of reconciliation with their spouse. Invariably, the persons I have assisted seek to return to the regular practice of our precious Catholic Faith. I will help them do that if I can, and so does the tribunal.

    I praise God every day that I was not hit by a bus before I could seek reconciliation in the Sacrament of Penance. I do not take for granted that, at every Mass, I am able to receive our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I pray every day that God gives me and my husband the grace we need to be signs of sacramental love and unity to our family, friends, and all with whom we come into contact.

    I pray for all those in difficult marriages and for those separated from the sacraments. These situations are far from ideal. People struggle mightily and, sadly, are not always successful in healing their marriages.

    The tribunal of the Church offers justice tempered with mercy, of which I am a grateful beneficiary.

  27. Patricia Gallagher says:

    @FMShyanguya, I hope I didn’t seem ignorant of these points, but I’m glad to see them set out in B&W. Thanks!

  28. @FMShyanguya says:

    Marriage is a natural institution and even natural marriages the Church presumes these to be valid.
    One understanding that people do not grasp: A sacramental marriage is that in which the man and woman are baptized [e.g. two protestants with valid baptisms].

    Can 1141 Can. 1141 A marriage that is ratum et consummatum can be dissolved by no human power and by no cause, except death.

    Cf. Can 1142 & 1143 on natural marriages that can be dissolved by the Petrine and Pauline privileges.
    It isn’t an “annulment” but an issuance of “a declaration of nullity” i.e. a competent church tribunal has judged that the marriage was null from the beginning [because of some impediment, the marriage was not contracted because a party attempted marriage in contravention to a divine or church law e.g. a person attempting to marry who should not marry: an already married person, a man in sacred orders, etc.]. Cf. Can. 1083-1107.


    Can. 1137 The children conceived or born of a valid or putative marriage [like those that will later be judged to have been null] are legitimate.

  29. The Butterfly says:

    Playing it straight means being faithful to your vows when the going gets tough. It also means encouraging others to be faithful to their vows when the going gets tough. You are part of the problem, not the solution.

    Also, the real cost is much, much more. And it’s born by the faithful in the pews by way of theft of their donations to the church.

  30. Patricia Gallagher says:

    In my experience, people (even priests and deacons) generally do not have a complete understanding of the canonical definitions pertaining to marriage, and believe all sorts of distortions and inaccuracies about the nature of valid (or invalid) Christian marriage.

    One of my pet peeves is hearing a priest say that “annulment means the marriage never existed.” Of course, a legal — even natural — marriage “existed” prior to a decree of divorce. When this statement is not clarified (“no *canonically valid* marriage existed”), other distortions follow. The most common: “The Catholic Church makes children bastards!” Adult children will protest that their parents’ nullity renders them illegitimate. Every time I hear someone say these things, I clear it up immediately.

  31. Patricia Gallagher says:

    It is important to exercise care when making generalizations, especially in an area in which there is so much ignorance and misinformation:

    CCC 2383, para. 2 – “If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated an does not constitute a moral offense.”

    CCC 2386 – “It can happen that one of the spouses is the innocent victim of a divorce decreed by civil law; this spouse has therefore not contravened the moral law. There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried o be faithful to the sacrament of marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage.”

  32. Patricia Gallagher says:

    A travesty that compounds all the sins you mention. How pathetic!

  33. Patricia Gallagher says:

    I played it straight and told the *truth* when I petitioned for a marital investigation in 1996. I’ve served as an informal advocate for others seeking a declaration of nullity, most recently in 2013. In every case, I informed the person that the tribunal would require corroborating evidence. The fees in the Dioceses of Buffalo and Syracuse were $375.00 last I checked. Tribunal documents informed potential petitioners that no one is prevented from accessing the process for lack of money. I don’t doubt that the system is abused, but that hasn’t been my experience.

  34. Patricia Gallagher says:

    At least in the United States, a tribunal will not accept a petition for a declaration of nullity unless there is first a final civil divorce decree. Why would any still-married couple doubt the canonical validity of their marriage?

  35. Patricia Gallagher says:

    The Boston Tribunal’s 1996 finding of nullity was appealed to and reversed by the Roman Rota in 2005. Curiously, Sheila Rauch Kennedy was not notified until 2007.

  36. FGA says:

    An alternate option, of course, is to make sure you tell them that your last name is Kennedy.

  37. Deacon_Augustine says:

    Finally Catholic laity have a means to bring this whole pathetic charade down to the ground with an almighty crash. We simply launch a campaign for every traditionally married couple who are certain of the validity of their marriage to file for an annulment on whatever spurious grounds we can make up. When these are found valid in the first instance they will all have to be referred for second instance review.

    They will get so piled up with an impossible logjam of cases that they won’t be able to do a thing and the system will collapse. We can make the Church so ungovernable that this rotten Renaissance prince will be brought down. Bye bye Papa Borgia.

  38. Michael Dowd says:

    All of this begs the question of why bother to get married in the Catholic Church at all. For most folks the whole thing is nothing but an occasion of sin. First, before marriage, most couples live together, thereby sinning. Second, when they do get married, they practice contraception, so continue sinning.. And even worse they go to Communion of Sunday without confession thereby committing a sacrilege. Based on this, they not only get no grace to sustain their marriage but risk going to hell. No surprise the marriage eventually falls apart.

    But wait, a solution to get them out of the jam they are in due to lack of grace caused by sinning. No they don’t have to stop sinning. That would be just too awkward for the priest to talk about. But now, thanks to Pope Francis a solution is at hand. It is called an annulment and it is fast, easy and cheap. The couple can then start over with fresh partners and repeat the process as often as they wish. His mercy knows no bounds! Simply marvelous.

  39. Dodger Dickens says:

    The best part is, you can’t even get an annulment application reviewed unless and until you’ve committed the mortal sin of divorce. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. It’s like a Simpsons parody. “The Catholic Church: Go and Sin”

  40. Dave Heath says:

    This post is a more worthy companion to one I wrote a while back describing the changes that must also accompany any changes to Catholic Marriage as well as the codifying of adultery within its sacredness:

    You cannot expect any change on marriage not to have an impact upon the other positions, teaching and/or doctrine of Catholicism. You shove a ball in one end of a tube filled with other balls, and it must force a change at the other end. There is no difference with what is trying to be rammed down the throats of the Faithful at the Synod – you change one iota of marriage and that change will, by necessity, force a change in other areas, whether willed or not. Such is what I attempted to portray and such may be the end result…that, or the splitting of the temple curtain anew.

  41. @FMShyanguya says:

    It is always assumed by the Church that couples are truly, or “validly” married. The burden of proof is on anyone who says that they are not. – [Cf. Canon Law: Marriage enjoys the favor of the law]. When requested, however, the Church will examine a marriage to discover whether it was a truly binding commitment of the type that Jesus is talking about, i,e, a valid marriage, which cannot be dissolved. If, after very careful study, the Church discovers that at the time when they exchanged consent at their wedding the couple for some reason did not truly make a binding commitment to marriage, then it will issue a statement, or “declaration of nullity,” officially confirming that the marriage was not “valid” from the start. This is very different from a divorce, in which the government official grants that there was a valid marriage, and then uses the power of the state to end it. – MARRIAGE, DIVORCE, AND COMMUNION: AN INTERVIEW WITH CARDINAL THOMAS COLLINS by Brandon Vogt | Word on Fire Blog.

  42. Clinton says:

    Too bad Henry VIII had Clement VII for a Pope and not Francis. Clement actually believed in the
    indissolubility of marriage. There’s not much doubt in my mind how things would have gone
    had Francis been on the job then…

  43. Louise says:

    Yep. It is truly DIRE!

  44. PompousMaximus says:

    I am glad I don’t have to get this info hashed out on my own and I have P. de Mattei and Miss Barnhardt to get me there without to much cranial discomfurture.

  45. Steven Cornett says:

    Re: The Butterfly,

    I guess 0.5% was just too darned high a percentage, and $600.00 too much for Francis.

    So now, the number of perfectly valid marriages in the FrancisChurch has gone from 50% (according to Francis, who attributed it to his predecessor on the plane from Brazil after World Youth Day 2014) to…

    …Wait for it…


  46. Jude says:

    It also generally works if the man starts talking about addictions (sex, pornography, drugs) that he brought into the marriage or about how he was cheating on her before and after they married. Heck, they might just think they are doing that poor wife (oops, not really a wife) a favor by wiping the slate clean. Because after all, she and those kids will eventually move on once they see how much happier dad is with his new wife (home-wrecker). And to be fair, there are a whole lot of dioceses that, in their merciful spirits) are granting 100%.

  47. Andy says:

    This is kinda a weird inverse Donatist heresy where the clergy in favor of this “merciful” approach are the Donatisits.

  48. Tamsin says:

    Oh dear. Last year when Kasper said Francis said that 50 percent of marriages were invalid, I thought it was especially cruel, as it implies validity is the same as the flip of a coin. And as you describe it, the nihilist view remains from that claim through to this motu proprio. Any marriage is only valid so long as both partners want it to be, one day at a time.

  49. Barbara says:

    We could stop most Catholic marriages these days by requiring that the couple recite the Creed to prove their ‘faith.’

  50. MSDOTT says:

    Here is a beautiful article of how the Church actually helps save marriages:

    We do also need to hear good news too after all.

  51. MSDOTT says:

    At least one canon lawyer has been explicit in his opposition to the new annulment process. Fr. Gerald Murray posted his essay entitled “Scrap the New Annulment Rules”…here

  52. laura says:

    SERIOUSLY??! These men are completely insane. In-frickin-sane.

  53. The Butterfly says:

    I thought that all that was necessary for the granting an annulment was for a women to start crying in front of a priest (and then get daddy to pay the $600). I heard it works 99.5% of the time, in the United States and Canada, at least.

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