Wednesday, April 30, 2014


The Church cannot nullify a marriage nor can it make a saint.
Talk to certain conical lawyer type friends of mine and they get their ecclesial underwear in a bunch if you start talking about getting somebody an annulment.
“No such thing!  It’s misleading!”

Their point is that “granting someone an annulment” sounds a little bit too much like the Church was able to take something both licit and valid and magically turn it into something that never existed.  This is something that the Church has no ability to do and why they make such a big fuss in the nullity process. 

“A better way of putting it is that a person is applying for a declaration of nullity.”
What’s the difference you ask?  The first case sounds a bit more like the Church granting something beyond its power.  The second case is closer to the truth of the Church recognizing something that, in reality, exists.  That is why whatever it is that may be grounds for a decree of nullity must be present, in some fashion, from the beginning of the marriage.  There was a significant defect in the vows that prevented the union from being what it should be.  In a decree of nullity the Church merely recognizes what exists (or, in the case, does not exist.)
It is the same thing with saints.  The Church does not “make” saints.  It recognizes saints.  And the saints that it recognizes are certainly not the only saints that there are.  I think my Mom might be a saint but that does not seem to have a universal significance.  This does not lessen the achievement.  We are all called to be saints.  But some saints continue to have a universal (or at least national) pull on our spiritual life.
So some of these are brought to the attention of the Church who scrutinizes them mercilessly.  It is the reason the Church looks for miracles.  You and I know God does not need saints in order to grant miracles.  But it is a great mercy of God that He allows it to happen.  In allowing a favor through, let’s say, Saint John Paul II, God accomplishes several things: shows that we are one body in Christ with Christ as the head, that life does indeed continue, and that here was a life worth living that now shares in the glory of God and you should imitate it.  It is at this point the Church feels safe in recognizing the person as an official saint, but it does not “make” them a saint.


MaryofSharon said...

I'm glad you wrote this post about annulment.

I almost replied to your comment below your April 15 post in which you said, "The Church does, in fact, recognize the invalidity of truly abusive marriages."

That didn't make much sense to me, because it is my understanding that the validity of a marriage only depends on the conditions at the time of the marriage itself. If the abuse does not occur until after the reality of a valid marriage, as tragic as that is, it doesn't nullify a valid marriage, does it? (Of course the Church would still say that abuse is a legitimate reason for separation so that spouses and children can be safe from moral and spiritual harm. )

Stephen said...

Hi Father, Stephen here.

The priest who married my wife and I is now himself married with children.

Does that mean I am off the Hook?

Happy & Grateful,

Fr. V said...

Stephan: Behave!

M of S: It is not that simple of an answer, which is why there is an anulment process. For example: is there any evidence that this was at least a mentality of the offending person before marriage well concealed at the time? How could such a person possibly know what true marriage is and could thus give true consent to what marriage is.

Or - is it a case that the person became ill (ptsd?) and therefore this became a pathology after marriage? Should this rather be seperation while therapy ensues?

Lots of issues that need to be explored. It is not a simple yes or no question.