Thursday, February 11, 2010

Annulment of Marriage Part II: Grounds and early procedures

Possible grounds for Annulment are:
1. Inability or refusal to consummate the marriage
2, Bigamy
3. Duress
4. Illegality (Marriage ceremony not peformed according to Canon Law)
5. At the time of the marriage, one of, or both partners under the influence of, or addicted to a chemical substance
6 Mental incapacity, i.e. being unable to understand the nature and expectations of marriage
7, Lack of knowledge or understanding of marriage as a life-long commitment with priority to spouse and children
8. Psychological reasons, including misrepresentation or fraud (i.e. concealing the truth about the capacity or desire to have children, existence of a previous marrriage, felony convictions, sexual preference, or having reached the age of consent

My own petition was based on the 8th ground. I did not know of its existence until the procedure began but I now gather that possibly most annulments petitions are based on it, that is that the Advocate for the Petitioner makes out a case to the Tribunal that canon 1095 has been violated, in my case by the respondent as having concealed the truth about his desire not to have children.

It is possible that the conduct of cases may have changed in its detail in the 25 years since my own Annulment, but am certain that its proper aims will have remain unchanged. Also I'd be grateful if readers would be aware that I report on the procedures as they involve this 8th ground. I know nothing about possible differences in procedure when one of the other grounds is being investigated.

- First communication from the Tribunal.
This took the form of 1) an invitation to attend the Tribunal Offices for a first interview on a given date. Ample notice was given. 2) an instruction sheet. This sheet apologised for the delay in contacting me and explained that this was because of the large number of cases being dealt with, and for that reason too, I was asked to let them know at least a fortnight before the appointment if I could not keep it. This, so that the slot could be given to someone else 'in the queue'. The same sheet then asked me to do the following:
a) Fill out a basic fact sheet - personal details, date and place of marriage etc
b) On a separate sheet to prepare an account of the marriage under investigation, covering the following details.
i) The first meeting with your partner date, place, circumstances
ii) The courtship
iii) The engagement - dates, any special circumstances, whether broken off at any time.
iv) The wedding - any significant details at the ceremony of reception
v) The course of the marriage
vi) Deterioration of the relationship
vii) Breakdown of the marriage.
c) Obtain copies of my Baptismal certificate, Marriage certificate, and Divorce Decree absolute. These would have to be supplied eventually, but it was hoped I would bring them with me to the interview.
d) Send the completed fact sheet and account of the marriage to the Tribunal, if possible two weeks before, but not later than one week ahead of the interview date.

The instruction sheet concluded with helpful advice as to who to contact in case of difficulty with filling in the sheet or preparing the account. I was asked to note the reference at the head of the accompanying letter and to use it in all future correspondence with the Tribunal. After all these years, I have only just noted that the reference includes the figures 83/186. These would seem to indicate the year and probably that mine was the 186th case to be investigated in 1983.

Next post on Sunday 'Interviews at the Tribunal Offices; giving evidence, spoken and written; the bringing of witnesses."
On other subjects, on Saturday.


Anonymous said...

Jane, I'm watching this series with interest, as someone close to me is currently going through the annulment process. She has had her first interview, and is now waiting for the next step in the process.

Pat said...

The ground, 'concealing the truth about the desire to have children'is an interesting one. What is the difference, do you think, between a couple who are aware that one or the other or both don't want children and so are contracepting (against Church teaching) and a couple where one or other conceals it from the other, as in your case? Do both have grounds for annulment?

Jane said...

Pat, I don't know, but logically wouldn't a couple who went into a marriage with the intention of using a form of contraception other than approved by Church teaching, be culpable under the one of the other grounds mentioned in the list? Such a couple would probably not consider or want an annulment, being quite content to continue doing what comes unnaturally. And if they did, I suppose it would depend on the orthodoxy of the Tribunal lawyers concerned. As I've already said, several correspondents have claimed that in some USA tribunals there's cause for concern in that area.

Say this imaginary couple did go for an annulment, surely an orthodox and uncorrupt Tribunal would annul the marriage because it had been contracted in totally the wrong spirit and the wrong understanding.

I'll be interested in the comments of others on this one.

Patricius said...

Leaving aside the general wrongness of contraception, it seems to me that there is a difference with regard to the question of the validity of a marriage between, on the one hand, a couple delaying the likelihood of pregnancy/children and, on the other, where one or other party is contracepting with a view to permanently excluding children. The first case is simply sinful but doesn't really have a bearing upon the validity of the marriage. The second, where the possibility of chidren is absolutely excluded, whether or not concealed by either party, looks like grounds for nullity. (Must admit I'm no expert- just married with children.)

Jane said...


Thanks for your comment.
Surely the point is that if a couple entered the marriage with the intention of delaying/never having children by artificial contraception, they would have concealed this at the marriage ceremony when they made the promise 'to accept children lovingly from the Lord'. We all know, or should know, what that means - no artificial contraception. To lie deliberately about it is a sin, might even be an excommunicable one. I don't know. I do not know either, what the canon lawyers would do if a case like this came to their notice, but I suspect that lying about one's intentions, and in collusion with one's partner, at the actual marriage ceremony and in full knowledge of Church teachinga, surely represents a ground for nullity. I can't imagine anyone getting as far as the altar in ignorance of Church teaching on the matter, as long as the priest who prepared them had correctly transmitted that hum? Disobedience after Humanae Vitae and all that.......?

I'm not an expert either, except insofar as concerns my own case!