- Faith Formation
For information about annulments or the annulment process please contact Deacon Jim Hite.
This is part-one of a series offered by Deacon Jim Hite on Annulments
I feel one of the most misunderstood teachings of the church is concerning annulments. For over 20 years I have helped Catholics and Non-Catholics process heir annulments. I feel the positive results of annulments are both spiritual and psychological. Often we cannot or should not separate the two.
The church is dedicated to a lasting marriage. We do everything we can to prepare couples for a successful marriage and help in anyway when that marriage runs into trouble. I am happy to say that the Catholic Church still has the highest percentage of successful marriages when compared to other churches and institutions. Unfortunately all marriages are not successful.
The church does not abandon or expel a person because of a divorce. A person who is divorced and not remarried is encouraged to stay active in the church and receive communion. The annulment process is one of the ways we can minister to and support our brothers and sisters who have suffered the break up of their marriage.
I would like to start by saying what an annulment is not. It is not a Catholic Divorce. The divorce happened in civil court. The civil divorce must be final before an annulment application is processed.
An annulment does not seek to place blame on one party. We are not looking for a bad guy. The annulment process examines the marriage, not to place the blame on any particular person but to declare the couple was not living the Sacrament of Marriage.
Question: Is it true the rich people receive an annulment quicker than those who do
not have much money?
Answer: Definitely not, it does seem the so called rich and famous receive highly publicized annulments. I have worked with marriage tribunals for 20 years. I have had people who could not pay a cent that received annulments. I have had people try to “donate” money above the fee. The money was returned. In the eyes of the tribunal all of us are equal and on one receives preferential treatment.
This is part-two of a series offered by Deacon Jim Hite on Annulments
Question: Why are annulments so much easier to obtain than they use to be?
Answer: I am not sure easier is a correct word but in the 1960’s the world started to recognize many psychological problems that were not known or accepted in the 50’s. As the world became aware of psychological disorders and addictions so did the church. The church has a commitment to a couple living their promises but the church does not want a person living in an abuse situation or even in danger of their life.
Question: If a person promises before God and Church to live the Sacrament of Marriage for the rest of their life how can this ever nullified?
Answer: In declaring a marriage null, the Church states some key element missing at the time the two people give their promises.
Question: Can you give me a couple of examples.
Answer: Active alcoholism or other addictions can be an impediment as well as psychological impairments. The true answer to this question needs to be answered on a case to case basis.
Question: I understand the church makes money on annulments, is this true?
Answer: No, in fact, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston “loses” money in this process since it is heavily subsidized. The church is not interested in making money on the annulment process but to assist people in their spiritual relationship with the church. (Epiphany does not receive any money for assisting a person, it is a ministry where we donate our time.)
This is part-three of a series offered by Deacon Jim Hite on Annulments
Question: Does an annulment mean my children are illegitimate?
Answer: Two things happen at a Catholic Marriage. 1. The Sacrament of Marriage takes place. 2. The civil marriage takes place. If an annulment is granted it does not mean the civil marriage did not take place or was not valid. A declaration of nullity can never take away the paternity of a child if sealed in the civil marriage.
Question: I have been told it takes thousands of dollars to receive an annulment.
Answer: This is false. Fees depend on the particular type of petition. The top fee is $400 and can be paid in monthly payments of $50 or more a month. As I previously stated the church does not want financial hardship to prevent a person from obtaining an annulment. In such case we can file for a partial or full exemption of fee.
Also, as I previously stated the Archdiocese will not accept any more than the fee charged. Money will not be an influence on the decision.
Question: How can an annulment be granted when the couple were married for 20 years and had three children?
Answer: This is probably one of the hardest parts of an annulment to understand. No matter how long the couple remained married the investigation goes back to the exchange of promises. Let me give one example. Many a person has married an alcoholic and did everything possible to keep the marriage together or rehabilitate the person. Often the spouse of an alcoholic is in denial and it takes years of emotional or physical abuse for them to finally realize their situation. (I don’t mean to say alcoholism is the only impairment but since it is better known than most I use it as an example.)
Question: It is said a person can receive an annulment if they can prove they were forced to get married. How can this be in our day and time?
Answer: I agree that a shot gun wedding is not common today. (Not unknown) There are many ways a person may feel forced or coerced. The most common is the couple feels compelled to get married because of a pregnancy. Those who cohabitate often feel they must get married to justify their previous actions.