Pope’s revised annulment procedures might make synod back room shenanigans unnecessary


The changes move the church away from a set of 18th-century safeguards meant to make sure that the annulment process wasn’t subject to abuse, Martens said. Those changes, set up by Pope Benedict XIV, included a provision that would require a mandatory appeal of the lower court’s decision.

“What guarantee do you have for a fair trial if you take away those guarantees that were put in the past?” Martens said. “Sometimes you want to go so quickly, you miss elements and make mistakes. Procedure law takes time to unfold.”

Martens said the way Francis changed the annulment process was unusual, because he did not go through the Synod on the Family, as expected, in October. [It takes some things off the table for the Synod, which explains something of the timing of this.]

“If I were a bishop, I would be upset,” Martens said. “It’s a bit strange and even a sign of contradiction that a pope who is big on consultation and collegiality seems to forget that on something like this. It’s highly unusual for legislation like this to get through that way.”

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Matt C. Abbott writes of broken marriages and annulments

“I’m now 64. My marriage to that man has been annulled. I got on with my life. Now I thank God for the annulment. I was able to remarry a wonderful man, the type I should have married the first time. We married in the Church, with a beautiful Mass. I receive the sacraments. I’m in love with Catholicism.”

“…allow me to share the late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen’s words, taken from Three To Get Married: ‘The basis of unity is the fact that in this bond two persons are joined together so as to become ‘one flesh.’ This inviolable bond, according to Our Divine Savior, excludes not only desiring another partner but also entering into another union while the partner lives. Our Lord even forbade unlawful desires: ‘But I tell you that he who casts his eyes on a woman so as to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:28)’

“When I was suddenly blind-sided by the prospect of divorce and my ex-husband and I had the fateful conversation of separating, I immediately let him know that I would seek an annulment. You see, while I wouldn’t say that my faith alone is what divided us, it was definitely something my ex-husband believed came before him. He was right. I won’t get into petty details about those trials, but I will say that even in divorce, he understood what it meant and agreed to give his consent in the annulment petition.”

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Read “Three To Get Married” by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

This week’s Ask Alice: Possible occult influence, marriage annulments, and how to tell authentic tongue speech from gibberish

Send A Question To Alice

She’ll answer as many questions as possible,
right here, every Thursday.

Email responses will also be provided, as time permits.

Judy asks: For over 20 years I have suffered with pain and a few years ago I starting going to a chiropractor that I didn’t really understand what he was doing. He talked about energy and such. I didn’t really pay attention. I felt better and left it at that.

He talks to me about things I never told him and he knows things about me that nobody else could possibly know. He says he picks it up from my subconscious. I have talked to him about God and he says he is a believer in God and he isn’t doing anything against God’s plan.

I went to confession and the priest didn’t really know what I was talking about and told me I could go back to see this doctor, but not to listen to anything else he says. What do you think?

Alice replies: Do you tell the chiropractor your problems or ask him for advice?

If so, then your chiropractor might be an intuitive soul to whom the Holy Spirit gives special insights to help you. However, if you do not share details of your personal life, and your chiropractor tells you things that no one else could possibly know about you, then you should be wary of the source of his comments. The Holy Spirit’s influence is gentle and gracious unlike your chiropractor’s behavior, which is aggressive and intrusive.

The tone of your letter suggests that you feel uncomfortable with the revelatory remarks made by your chiropractor. In that case, you should find a new practitioner. There must be other competent chiropractors in your community.When in doubt about a person or situation, please pray. Then listen as the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart.


Mary asks: If a woman who has an annulment wishes to marry a man who was married in a Lutheran tradition, does he have to also have his marriage annulled? If so, and he does not want to go through this process, what alternative routes are open to the woman?

Alice replies: The Catholic Church recognizes a marriage in the Lutheran tradition as a valid marriage. In fact, a non-Catholic must get an annulment from ANY legal contract marriage (including a Vegas wedding or a common law union lasting more than seven years) before he/she is free to marry a Catholic in the Church. The man in question must have his marriage annulled before he can marry in the Catholic Church.

Alternative routes available to a Catholic woman, if a man does not want to go through the annulment process:

1) Don’t get married. Pray each day that God will put the desire to get an annulment in his heart.

2) Get married in a Protestant church and do not consummate the marriage. If the man and woman are legally married and live together without having sex, then the Catholic partner can continue to receive Holy Eucharist at Mass.

If a Catholic woman marries a divorced man outside the Church, then the woman can attend Mass, but cannot receive Holy Communion.

Sorry, Mary. Being a Catholic isn’t always easy. Consider the message in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient and kind….love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

If a relationship is of God, it will last. If a man truly loves a Catholic woman, he will seek an annulment. The power of prayer is amazing!

Doug Lawrence adds: Many parishes have a designated priest or deacon who is specially trained in handling matters of this type. Failing that, it’s often possible to contact the local diocesan marriage tribunal for more specific information  and assistance.


Joan asks: I would like your view of speaking in tongues in this day and age.  How does one know if they are really doing it from the Holy Spirit or the bad guy? I’m serious about this.

Alice replies: How to tell the good guys (or gals) from the bad guys (or gals) has puzzled believers since Jesus walked the earth. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)

Fortunately, our Lord taught his followers this simple test for discerning spirits: “By their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:16)

The fruits of which Jesus spoke are a person’s deeds. Many Charismatics who pray in tongues are good, holy people in tune with the Holy Spirit. A Charismatic friend I have known for 21 years, prays in tongues. She is a loving, humble woman, who always helps people in need. She never pushes her gift on anyone. At church she prays in English with the rest of the congregation. By her deeds I recognize my friend to be a good, holy woman. By contrast, a person who prays in tongues but lies, gossips and embezzles money at work exhibits rotten fruit.

When in doubt about a person’s character, seek discernment from the Holy Spirit in prayer. Then be still and listen to the voice in your heart.


A critical look at the issue of Catholic marriage annulments

In a November 1996 article in Homiletic & Pastoral Review, the San Diego diocese’s director of canonical affairs, Dr. Edward Peters, defended Church tribunals in this country, where annulments have soared from about 600 per year in 1968 to well over 60,000 in some recent years. (The article, slightly modified, was reprinted as chapter XII of Peters’s book, 100 Answers to Your Questions on Annulments, Simon & Schuster/Basilica Press, 1997).

According to Peters, who is a judge on the diocesan tribunal, the increase can be attributed not to a relaxation of the Church’s teachings on the permanence of marriage, but to other factors, among them that heterodox, pro-contraceptive marriage preparation courses are “legion” and that psychological factors render large numbers of people truly incapable of contracting valid marriages. With many spouses ignorant of the fact that marriage is ordered to the procreation of children, true matrimonial consent cannot be present, and the granting of later decrees of nullity for such marriages is a slam dunk for a church tribunal.

Peters defended the Code of Canon Law (Canon 1095), which declares incapable of entering a true marriage: “1) those who lack sufficient use of reason; 2) those who suffer from a grave lack of discretionary judgment concerning the essential matrimonial rights and obligations to be mutually given and accepted; and 3) those who, because of causes of a psychological nature, are unable to assume the essential obligations of marriage.”

This canon is “the best tool for addressing cases in which drug and alcohol abuse, physical or sexual abuse, psychological and psychiatric anomalies, and a variety of other mental and emotional conditions have seriously impacted parties prior to marriage,” wrote Peters.

He called citing the fact that Americans, who compose only five percent of the world’s Catholics, are granted 80 percent of the world’s annulments the “shallowest of all tribunal criticisms. Americans make up 6% of the world’s population, but they account for 100% of the men on the moon. So what? America functions. Much of the rest of the world does not.”

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Book Selection: Divorce, annulments, and the Catholic Church

By Matt C. Abbott

The following are excerpts from the book Annulments and the Catholic Church: Straight Answers to Tough Questions, authored by canon and civil lawyer Edward Peters. The book is written mostly in question-and-answer format, with 100 questions on the topic of Church annulments being answered by Dr. Peters. Thanks to Matthew Pinto and Mike Flickinger of Ascension Press for allowing me to reprint this material.

Read the article