Pre-Marital Annulments


First off, my sincere apologies to Kevin Miller and our readers from HMS Weblog who came over to hear my thoughts about North American tribunals and annulments. Unfortunately, we had a disk error on our new server, which we have now fixed, but in so doing had to revert to a back-up copy of the blog from Sunday.

That being said, here's some thoughts on the annulment issue from the recent CUF-Tucson conference.

Additionally, here's some thoughts from an editorial I wrote for The Wanderer last year:

“What is the main cause of so many annulments?” As both a canon lawyer and a married layman, this is the question I most often encounter when conversing with other Catholics. Now the Code of Canon Law lists many grounds upon which the Church may declare a marriage invalid. The more commonly used grounds concern the psychological maturity of the spouses at the time of the wedding, or else their intention going into the marriage. Nevertheless, rather than bore you with technical canonical jargon, let me identify one of two issues which, in my opinion, lay at the root of most annulments.

This issue is pre-marital sex. (The other, which I will save for another editorial, is contraception.) Although this is something society has come to expect of young couples today, given that pornography is currently the wallpaper of our culture, we cannot begin to measure the toll this takes on modern marriages. This is why when interviewing someone seeking to have their marriage declared invalid by the Church, I ask questions concerning pre-martial relations. This is because most problems that lead to the breakdown of a marriage are already noticeable during the courtship. Yet when the couple engage in pre-marital relations, these problems are usually overlooked during the courtship, and unresolved going into the marriage. “I knew this was a problem,” many women tell me, “but I overlooked it because I had already invested so much into our relationship.” Similarly, I often hear the following from guys: “I had my doubts because our disagreements, but I felt obliged to marry her because we were sleeping together.”

And this leads me to a second problem caused by pre-marital relations: In creating a false intimacy within an insecure relationship, the couple who engage in it often feel compelled to marry. This compulsion comes not out of love or a desire to spend the rest of one’s life with the another, but rather out of a sense of obligation to correct a morally sinful situation. Hence the romance deteriorates within the relationship before the vows are even exchanged. In fact, I quite often discover from friends and family members within their witness testimony that the couple never displayed simple acts of affection during their marriage such as holding hands and addressing one another by pet names.

Yet how does this affect the validity of marriage? Numerous scenarios are possible. A couple hesitantly approaching the altar, because their relationship lacks love, will often not want to bring children into a marriage unless it proves stable over time. Canonists call this partial-simulation, due to the fact the couple display an intention against children at the time they exchange their wedding vows, as well as an intention against permanence in that the couple hold divorce as an option if the marriage does not work out. From my Tribunal experience, a lot of partial-simulation is rooted in pre-marital sex.

Therefore, in reflecting upon what leads to the break down of so many marriages, we draw a simple conclusion: ignoring chastity during the courtship prevents love from blossoming into a marriage.


Hey, I've read that before! :) It's certainly worth reading again...

I feel I really learned something from this. I mean that sincerely.

Wow! Thanks so much for this. Complete common sense.

"I ask questions concerning pre-martial relations." I have heard about the war between the sexes, but isn't this a bit much? :-)

It thrills me when I am able to help engaged couples who communicate well between each other without having to communicate through sex.

It saddens me to say to a couple that it seems as though there's only one type of sharing that they're doing -- and that the time that they're sharing in this manner is not the proper time for it.

If this is the kind of bizarre and infantilizing reasoning American canon lawyers are currently using it's no wonder many people have come to think of an annulment as a Catholic's way of getting divorced. In my (admittedly limited) experience with acquaintances, if you are interested enough to go through the process you are likely to be rewarded with the annulment in the end. The reasoning is quite circular -- if the marriage failed it's a sign that there was an impediment to begin with.

It seems to me that priest should be able to stop a marriage for more reasons then they are able to now. My own pastor refused to marry someone who admitted that they didn't want children. He was really punished for it.

Thanks, Pete, for explaining this. It helps me to not be so scandalized by the annulment mill. At least, not as much!

yeah.. your words are great! well.. I just really want to ask a question, since an annulment is proving that a marriage is not valid for any reason, now, if this is not valid, then marriage did not take place right? so if the had sex before the annulment, would it be considered pre-marital?

The Catholic Church is an annulment mill and is not at all interested in justice or truth. It is responsible for the destruction of countless marriages through its proactive policy of opening to question every single marriage and making the gateway to its process - a divorce.

I have left the Catholic Church as a result of a destroyed marriage, encouraged by the Catholic Church.

Mr. Vere, you are sincerely misguided.

The purpose of the annulments are to justify - adultery - as often as is necessary to keep the money coming in. The Catholic Church is a disgrace and a cancer upon marriage.

Sorry to hear about your marriage breakup, sir. A lot of us are skeptical about some of the arguments used to justify annulments.

On the other hand, the Church's annulment process is a money-losing activity, so it would be a mistake to think that diocesan officials approve easy annulments for the sake of bucks.

My guess is that they do it to please people; but Pete's the pro in this field, so I'll defer to his experience.

Thee best bloggg

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This page contains a single entry by Pete Vere published on June 11, 2003 9:26 AM.

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