Friday, July 23, 2010
The Journey Through Annulment
After reading Victor's posts (Part 1 and Part 2), I felt the need to write about my own experiences through this process as well as my thoughts on what our Church teaches. Please bear with me because this could turn into a lengthy post, but hopefully it will help someone else along the way.
I begin with the disclaimer that this is my own personal experience thus far; everyone's circumstances are different. I am not trying to convert anyone or condemn anyone for how they have handled their own situation.
Five years ago after I separated from my husband because of his infidelity and refusal to turn from it, he filed for divorce. As I saw no sign of remorse or willingness to seek help for our marriage in his part, I agreed to the divorce. Since I was well on my way to living my Catholic faith after being away from it for some 20 or more years, I knew what this meant; I would not be permitted to marry again in the Catholic Church without an annulment.
My reasons for wanting to seek an annulment have more to do with having spiritual closure than wanting to remarry. I am not saying that remarriage is not in my future, but that is up to God. That is more my point; I want the annulment so that I can be fully open to whatever it is God has in mind for me.
In some respects this mindset makes it easier for me than for others who have someone in their lives whom they wish to marry. Easier, perhaps but not easy.
I began the process 2 years ago. I am blessed to have the assistance of a patient and helpful priest in all of this. I also, at this priest's strong urging sought professional counseling for myself from a trusted Catholic counselor. The counseling helped me to understand myself as well as all that led to my decision to marry in the first place.
What I have come to firmly believe is that I never should have married this man in the first place. However, a wedding did take place and that needs to be dealt with.
My case is about to be sent to the marriage tribunal. It has taken me this long to write my own history and obtain the accounts of witnesses (all required by the Church). It has been a slow and painful process.
Please also understand that when I married, I did so for life; I did not want my marriage to end.
So far in going through the process, the priest I am working with has never said anything that would lead me to believe I did not have a strong case. However, I am fully aware that all will be in the hands of the tribunal and ultimately in the hands of God. I am prepared for whatever they decide.
I also understand and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church on this matter. I understand that I am a married woman until the Church says otherwise. I know to many who may read this, this sounds like I am simply leaving my fate to a bunch of canon lawyers/priests, but here I join St Joan of Arc in saying that to me Christ and His Church are one and the same... So if in their wisdom, guided by the Holy Spirit, they read in the facts of my case that a marriage did indeed take place, thereby denying an annulment, I will accept that and lead a life of chaste celibacy for the rest of my days. That sounds simpler than it is to actually live. Trust me when I say I have had and continue to have my fair share of temptations. God's grace and the strength in His sacraments are the only things that get me through.
One of the graces Our Lord has given me upon my return to His Church is that while being happy in this earthly life is not a bad thing in and of itself, it is eternal happiness that really matters. Christ said that following Him would lead to eternal life and happiness with Him; He never said this would be easy. I keep reminding myself when things get especially tough in this area, that I need to keep my eye on the prize so to speak. I also know that if I truly seek God's will for my life, it will be possible to experience happiness and true freedom here.
For those who read this and say, "This is all fine and dandy for you.", I simply ask you to take your situation to prayer. Also ask yourself, "What is it that I truly want?" The Church's teachings on marriage are steeped in Scripture, therefore steeped in Christ. If you are Catholic and wish to remain so, are you willing to give up Christ for being happy here and now? This a tough question, but one you truly need to answer. The bottom line is that we have a Magesterium, the teaching body of the Church, and as Catholics we are bound to live by these teachings. If you find that you can not, perhaps you need to walk away. I know that sounds harsh and condemning; again my purpose is not to condemn anyone, but the Truth is the Truth~ you either accept it or you don't.
A few other recommendations:
1. Be very honest with yourself about the circumstances of your own life and situation. If you truly want to live your Catholic faith, God will provide the necessary graces to do so.
2. Find a good and trusted priest to help guide you through the process.
3. A good book for anyone contemplating annulment is Annulments and the Catholic Church by Edward Peters, J.D., J.C.D.
4. And again, pray and then pray some more!
My prayers are with anyone going through this difficult process, as well as with those who have left the Church because they could not in their heart of hearts abide by the Church's teaching; I pray for healing for all those involved.
Some additional related reading:
A New Creation: My Reversion Story (it may give you some more background into my reasons for petitioning for annulment)
Catechism of the Catholic Church (Paragraphs 1663-1665 on marriage and divorce)
Psalm 45: Canticle of Love to the King
My heart overflows with a good theme;
I address my verses to the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
You are fairer than the sons of men;
Grace is poured upon Your lips;
Therefore God has blessed You forever.
Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One,
In Your splendor and Your majesty!
And in Your majesty ride on victoriously,
For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
Let Your right hand teach You awesome things.
Your arrows are sharp;
The peoples fall under You;
Your arrows are in the heart of the King’s enemies.
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad.
Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies;
At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.