We’ve talked a few times about the very real healing that can come through annulments but over at OSV Mary DeTurris Poust and Dennis Poust have together written a particularly good piece on the myths (and there are a lot of myths out there) and realities of this process, which is very much a mischaracterized and misunderstood part of the ministry of the church. The Pousts write from the perspective of a couple who has gone through this process together, and that brings a voice of true understanding and appreciation to the piece.
Marriage, in the Church’s eyes, requires that several conditions be met. One archdiocesan website spells it out plainly: The marriage must be celebrated in a ceremony that is legally acceptable in the eyes of the Church; both parties must be free to marry each other; each partner must intend from the beginning of the marriage to accept God’s plan for married life as taught by the Church; and each partner must have the physical and the psychological ability to live out the consent initially given to the marriage.
“If any one of these requirements is lacking from the beginning of the marriage, then the Church tribunal, acting as the bishop’s representative, can declare that marriage invalid from its very celebration,” says the Archdiocese of New York.
So, annulment is not a taking away of something that already existed, but a recognition that a valid marriage never actually occurred because something — an “impediment” — prevented it.
Countering the myths, and validating that larger piece, Mary writes a second, very personal article describing the deep healing and sense of freedom and release she experienced by going through the annulment process.
I flipped through the pages and stopped cold. There, mixed in with the usual questions about address and education and sacraments received, was a long list of questions that seemed to strike right at my core. Questions about whether there had been a significant death in my family close to the wedding. There had. About whether I’d ever called off the wedding before finally saying, “I do.” I had. About whether ours had been a long-distance courtship. It had.
On and on, as I read through questions, I began to see that I had been approaching the idea if an annulment from a mistaken and misguided place. With each nod of my head in response to a question, I realized that the Church recognized something I had not: No matter how many priests were on the altar, my ex-spouse and I had not entered into the marriage in a way that could possibly make it truly sacramental. It couldn’t succeed because it had been damaged from the start.
Again, read it all.
If you have thought about annulment but have been reluctant to look into it, do not be afraid. In truth, it’s a healing balm to a wound in the soul.
Also do not be afraid to check out Mary DeTurris Poust’s latest book, The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass