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My husband refuses to get an annulment Ioanna Saturday, January 27, 2018


Dear Brother Ignatius Mary,

My husband refuses to get an annulment. He divorced his ex-wife because she committed adultery. My husband and I were friends for years before marrying in the Lutheran Church. I really felt a strong impression on my spirit that this man was who God wanted me to marry. Many years of prayer went into marrying the right guy and I was at the point in my life that if marriage happens that will be great but hey I will be fine if it doesn't. In essence, I let go and let God. When I did let go and let God, my husband and I got together about a year later. We joined an Orthodox Church who remarried us after because they did not recognize our marriage in the Lutheran Church.

Doesn't my Orthodox marriage override my Lutheran marriage? I have taken the Eucharist despite being told I should stop. I am currently not taking the Eucharist but want to. I have taken it in the Protestant church but don't feel it's the same as the Catholic or Orthodox church. I don't want to leave my husband. We have a very strong marriage for almost 18 years! We also have two teens who really love God and attend a youth group regularly. They would be devastated if their father and me would get divorced.

I really want to resolve this but I can't force my husband to do an annulment. What would happen to me if either my husband and I died now? Would we be in hell? Should I go back to the Orthodox church because they consider me married? Please advise me.

Question Answered by Bro. Ignatius Mary, OMSM(r), LTh, DD

Dear Ioanna:

I am sorry to hear about your dilemma. Sorry to take so long to answer. My father died on Christmas morning. It has taken up to now dealing with the estate.

Marriages in one of the Orthodox Churches (and in most Protestant fellowships) are considered valid and Sacramental by the Catholic Church, unless there is some impediment. But, there is a difference understating of the Sacrament of Marriage in the Orthodox Churches. 

The Orthodox Churches do not issue "annulments." Instead, they issue "ecclesiastical divorces", but only for certain serious reasons. While this practice is similar to annulments in that they require an investigation and are granted only for certain reasons, they are not the same as an annulment.

The "ecclesiastical divorce" acknowledges that the previous marriage was truly present and valid but failed for whatever reasons.  If those reasons are serious and recognized as a valid reason, the "ecclesiastical divorce" may be granted and the couple may be married. Adultery is considered a serious reason. In that case, the innocent party may receive an "ecclesiastical divorce"

In the Catholic annulment the previous marriage is considered never truly present. This does not effect the validity of a civil marriage, but declares that a Sacramental Marriage never existed. Without that annulment the person is, in the eyes of God, still married and thus may not re-marry without committing the sin of adultery.

If a couple does marry when one or both of them were married before, they must live as brother and sister (no sex) until such time as an annulment is approved by the Church.

Even though your marriage may be valid in the Orthodox Church, your husband may still need to secure an annulment in the Catholic Church for your marriage to be blessed in the Catholic Church. Your situation gets into some technical issues. I am not a canon lawyer so my comment on this is just my impression.

As to you husband not to apply for an annulment, perhaps it is because he does not understand what that means.

Perhaps some excerpts from the website, For Your Marriage, will help:

What is an annulment?

“Annulment” is an unfortunate word that is sometimes used to refer to a Catholic “declaration of nullity.” Actually, nothing is made null through the process. Rather, a Church tribunal (a Catholic Church court) declares that a marriage thought to be valid according to Church law actually fell short of at least one of the essential elements required for a binding union.

For a Catholic marriage to be valid, it is required that: (1) the spouses are free to marry; (2) they are capable of giving their consent to marry; (3) they freely exchange their consent; (4) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; (5) they intend the good of each other; and (6) their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister. Exceptions to the last requirement must be approved by Church authority.

Why does the Church require a divorced Catholic to obtain a declaration of nullity before marrying in the Church?

In fidelity to Jesus’ teaching, the Church believes that marriage is a lifelong bond (see Matt 19:1-10); therefore, unless one’s spouse has died, the Church requires the divorced Catholic to obtain a declaration of nullity before marrying someone else. The tribunal process seeks to determine if something essential was missing at the moment of consent, that is, the time of the wedding. If so, the Church can declare that a valid marriage was never actually brought about on the wedding day.


How can a couple married for many years present a case?

The tribunal process examines the events leading up to, and at the time of, the wedding ceremony, in an effort to determine whether what was required for a valid marriage was ever brought about. The length of common life is not proof of validity but a long marriage does provide evidence that a couple had some capacity for a life-long commitment. It does not prove or disprove the existence of a valid marriage bond.

If a marriage is declared null, does it mean that the marriage never existed?

No. It means that a marriage that was thought to be valid civilly and canonically was in fact not valid according to Church law. A declaration of nullity does not deny that a relationship existed. It simply states that the relationship was missing something that the Church requires for a valid marriage.

If a declaration of nullity is granted, are the children considered illegitimate?

No. A declaration of nullity has no effect on the legitimacy of children who were born of the union following the wedding day, since the child’s mother and father were presumed to be married at the time that the child was born. Parental obligations remain after a marriage may be declared null.

The bottomline is that a Catholic annulment (decree of nullity) simply means that the criteria for a Sacramental marriage was not present when the couple were married.

We already know that your husband's previous marriage failed and that he procured a divorce. To get an annulment merely takes this one step further to establish that his marriage lacked sacramentality. 

You have not mentioned why your husband will not get an annulment, but there really is no reason to resist this once a person knows what an annulment is.

Perhaps I can relieve his mind if I knew the specific reason for his resistance.

Certainly, for love's sake your husband will consider an annulment if nothing else as a gift to you so that you can live a full sacramental life in the Church.

You may post again if you wish to tell me his reasons so I can specifically speak to those reasons.

As to your last question about going to hell if you remain in a conjugal relationship, I cannot speak to your eternal destination. Certainly adultery is a grave sin, but grave sins only rise to a mortal sin under certain circumstances. If we die with unconfessed mortal sins on our soul, are destination is eternal separation from God.

In order for a sin to be mortal three conditions must be true. From the Catechism (bold my emphasis:

1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent."

1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: "Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother." The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.

1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God's law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

 It is in the area of "deliberate consent" or "complete consent" that is at issue here.

If a person has "diminishe responsibility" then even though a grave sin is committed, it may not rise to mortal status, and thus the person does not have culpability. Without culpability the person remains in a state of grace, all other matters being equal.

The Catechism defines diminished responsibility:

1734 Freedom makes man responsible for his acts to the extent that they are voluntary. Progress in virtue, knowledge of the good, and ascesis enhance the mastery of the will over its acts.

1735 Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.

Now, we cannot judge for ourselves whether or not we are in a state of diminished responsibility. Only God knows for sure. Thus, I always counsel people that if a grave sin (matter) has been committed, even if there is reason to believe that diminished responsibility may be present, go to confession anyway. It is better to be safe than sorry as the old saying goes.

Because of these factors that speak to what is in your heart and the nature of your psychology and circumstances, I cannot answer the question about your eternal destiny.

I would advise that you live with your husband as brother and sister (no sex). In that way you may live a sacramental life in the Church and thus receive the Holy Eucharist. If and when that fails and you do have sex, then go to confession. This requires a promise to try not to do it again. But, being humans we often fail many times. We will be forgiven each time when we make a valid confession.

I know that your husband will not be pleased with this. Explain the reasons for your decision and ask him to respect it for love's sake and for the sake of your soul. Explain to him that this can be resolved if he will agree to apply for an annulment so your marriage can be blessed in the Church. In this way, you and your husband may live the full conjugal life together.

We will be in prayer for your situation. 

God Bless,
Bro. Ignatius Mary

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