The Journey Through Annulment

Victor at Time For Reflections has written two posts that have sparked some honest and lively discussion. He has used his character, the beloved Fr. Ignatius to discuss the Catholic Church's teaching on the topic of 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)


Karinann said…
I invite all comments on this post, that I realize is highly sensitive and may touch a nerve or two. I just ask that the comments remain honest but civil. Thank you in advance.
Deanna said…
A serious post about a very sensitive issue. I am sorry for what your ex-husband did in being unfaithful to you, but know that when there is adultry this is one Biblical reason that God allows for divorce. God does allow it.

God bless you Karinann as you go through this time of your life and live your Christian life.

Pleasant Summer days to you,
This is a very honest and personal post; and I thank you very much for it.

You are so lucky to have a patient and understanding priest. Many people have not such a priest - they have a machine which rubber stamps what the Church says. And that is why many end up walking away from the Church. Because their shepherd has kicked them instead of healing them.

You mention a Tribunal. Do you know what it consists of? Is it just priests? Or are there lawyers as well? Do you have to attend and present your case? Or does a lawyer or priest present your case for you?

Thank you again for this post which I hope will help many.

God bless.
Karinann said…
Thank you Deanna and Victor.

Victor, to answer your questions:
1. The tribunal consists of canon lawyers who may also be priests. They are the ones who review each case. Part of their job is to prove that an actual marriage did exist. If the facts of the case prove otherwise (ex.- people who marry under some type of duress, or one of the parties not marrying willfully, a marriage that is never consummated etc.)

2. Once all the documentation is presented, I may or may not be called to interview with them if they need further clarification.

Also I failed to mention in the post that my ex-husband is entitled to give his input if he wishes. Since I know little of his whereabouts, they may not be able to contact him. His input is not necessary though.

Thanks for your questions. It was hard to get all the details into that post.
Colleen said…
What a good job you did with this post. Very well written. My husband went through the annulment process and it was not easy for him. He too had a kind and understanding priest to help him through it. When he was granted the annulment, we got remarried in the Catholic Church. I converted a year or two later. He is now a permanent deacon.
We have seen God's hand in all of this.
Anonymous said…
I am a former Catholic because of this process and the support of the Catholic Church for adultery and the intentional destruction of valid, sacramental marriages.

I do not care if you delete this comment. I have spoken the truth to you. My obligation to witness to the truth, before God, and as a real Catholic, is met.

I would condemn myself if I intentionally mislead you. I will not do that. I do hope you live the truth. It is all that we have. It is all we can give God to work with.

By the way, you do real serious scandalous damage when you use the term "ex-husband" without the moral certainty of a just, in union with the standards of the Roman Rota, decision for nullity.

I am a living, validly married man who is publically considered an "ex-husband". I AM NOT AN "EX-HUSBAND". I AM A WRONGFULLY, MALICIOUSLY, ABANDONED SPOUSE!

You insult our valid marriage(and all valid marriages for that matter)when you use that term. Please, in the interest of truth, cease using that term. Forever.

If your priest "friend" has not informed you of this, he: 1. Is not your true "friend" 2. Is condoning scandal and needs to right it, immediately.

A "friend" tells you the hard things because it is your soul and the soul of your husband that hang in the balance and it is the duty of a spouse, besides seeing to it as best one can to raise their children in the faith, to do EVERYTHING POSSIBLE to assist their spouses journey to be with God, in heaven. Those are the two "ends of marriage".

I care about these things, especially as a Catholic who is separated from the Church.

One example:

Our marriage was upheld as valid, after 12 years of fighting against nullity in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church, to this day, awaits my death so it can marry my wife and her adulterous criminal partner, in spite of our valid marriage. Our valid marriage is violated as the Church, except with respect to a "ceremony", fully integrates these two, completely unrepentant adulterous criminals, into itself without a care for working to heal our valid marriage!!! I remain faithful to our vows since our life together, through the encouragement of a corrupted Catholic priest, came to an end in 1990. The Catholic Church
is FULLY aware of all the crimes against our marriage up through the Vatican and CHOOSES to ignore its obligation to work to heal our valid marriage, as it has from the beginning.

My job, as best I can do it, is to do what I can to assist my wife's journey to heaven, although it seems the Catholic Church stands in my way, so I have separated myself from it.

The Catholic Church mocks its role as a "witness" to our marriage by supporting the adultery and ignoring the sacrament. I do not have to answer to Christ for the Catholic Church. I do have to answer to Him for myself and for my efforts to save my wife's soul. Indeed, it may count to my credit before God, my endeavor to save the soul of my replacement, as well, as
his remains in mortal peril through his choices and the folly being encouraged by the ENTIRE Catholic Church.

Thank you.

Karinann said…
Thank you Colleen for your kind and encouraging words.

Karl- no offense was meant through the term "ex". I will cease from using it. I appreciate the the time you took in reading the post and in offering your honest thoughts on the topic.
Anonymous said…
Dear Karinann,

I do not doubt that you had no intention to cause hurt or offense, nor did I with what I wrote.

I have been divorced since 1990 and separated from the Church for about four years now, after seeking its help throughout the intervening years to help heal a valid marriage.

You, or me for that matter, do not know the evil that is consuming the Catholic Church from the inside. I know only of that "coldness" that I have seen after years of seeking help from countless priests and bishops. There are walking dead men. Their souls are empty. It is horrifying. They do not care about the truth. They pay it lip service.
They are actors for the most part.

I am not trying to destroy your faith. I wish I knew what to tell you. I went back and read, quickly, your story of reversion.

I wonder, out loud, if your husband
is not in need of your faithfulness to your vows, for his own soul?

Be slow to walk away from, even an invalid marriage.

I am not a careful reader, since sometimes the pain of the fresh wounds of my long hurt are irritated and sensitive upon reading of others pain. Some times I cannot bear to read some things.

Do you have children?

Do you know? Have you been told, directly, that it is the will of the Church that an invalid marriage be validated and healed if possible? Especially if there are children?

This is an unknown reality in my experience.

I am deeply troubled by the attitudes that I see everyday, from those who would otherwise , even by myself, seem to be good Catholics regarding marriage, divorce, remarriage and annulments.

This IS the scandal that will bring the Church to its knees. Who will marry, when it is not supported in the long run but those who leave it, even when it is clearly unjustified, are nevertheless supported? Were I young, with what I know, I would not marry, nor would I consider the priesthood. The Catholic Church is a terrible institution.

I hope those who have advised you, are not like the vast majority of clergy I have met. I have met very, very few good priests in the more than twenty years of this hell.

I am certain the Church is in for a very long, cold winter. Yes, I do love the Catholic Church or none of this would matter to me and I would have just.....moved on. But She is the Bride of Christ, as woefully horrible as She is.

She needs all the help She can get.

Annulments are far more harmful than the precious little real good some of them do, but the vast majority of Catholics are blind to reality. God, is not, however and he is leaving those who seek the easier way out to their sin and to heed the advise of their even worse advisors. Those of us who know better....we are troublemakers and malcontents.

So be it. My wife persecutes me, why should the Catholic Church be different. Both are unfaithful spouses. For all our sins, it was his own people who crucified Jesus; why should it be different for those of us who know what the Catholic Church is doing and deftly covering up?
Karinann said…
Dear Anonymous,
Thank you again for taking the time to explain your thoughts further. I understand that they come from the best of intentions.
I also realize that there is a lot of wrong going on inside the Church today. I was very careful upon my return when I chose a parish- it is not perfect but I believe that it strives to do the good Christ intended it to.
I tried for many years before separating from my husband. When I confronted him finally with the infidelity I had proof of, he didn't deny it nor apologize for it. He did not want to seek counseling. He filed for the divorce, I did not. As I said I consented only because I saw that he was not interested in reconciling.
I do not have children. From reading my reversion story, you know that I am post-abortive. I believe my husbands difficulties have much to do with that unhealed wound. He did not make Rachel's Vineyard with me nor made any other attempt to seek healing.
I know that I made my share of mistakes in my marriage, but I was never unfaithful.
As for the annulment, the reason it has taken me so ling to get to this point is because the priest I am working with would not simply tell me what I wanted to hear. He has given much solid Catholic counseling along the way.
I can tell from your comments that the hurt of your wife's behavior is still very raw (or seems to be.) I am sorry that you have not found the warmth and compassion of Christ in the Church. I will pray that you do and that God will bring you the healing from all this that you need along with priests who are not among the "walking dead"- they do exist.
Thank you again and may God bless you.
Mary333 said…
One of the reasons your posts touch me is because of your innate honesty. You "tell it like it is" and I appreciate your honesty both in your reversion story and in this well written post. It couldn't have been easy to write about either of them. You truly are a "daughter of the King" and I hope your blog touches many hearts. My prayers are with you.
Anonymous said…
I hope your journey becomes completed in Christ.

My job is to witness the truth. I do, although I am far from perfect.

Rather than warmth and compassion, I would have the comfort of truth, if I had to choose among them, since it resides fully in Christ, Jesus.

Love is the pursuit of truth. It is not a feeling of contentedness or vain satisfaction, because the Church fails to support the truth and lets me do as I please.

My hurts, besides being the fruits of my own sins, come from the fact that the Catholic Church supports adultery and all the crimes it entails, in practice while NOT in its teachings. My wife is just one way the Smoke of Satan controls the present Catholic Church, rather than the Holy Spirit. It should care about her soul. Rather it cares about her control.

Ultimately, the Catholic Church will see the error of its present ways for She belongs to Christ. I hope my wife does one day. I will do what I can to see to it. It is my job.
Anonymous said…
All I am going to say is every Catholic born after 1955 or so needs to understand we have all been exposed to heresy and many laymen and clergy think they teach the Catholic Faith but do not. We need to learn what Modernism is and see how we have been lead into error because of it.
Every Catholic needs to read this:

Any questions about Annulments should be asked to a Latin Mass Priest or Bishop (only). The Fssp Priests are in communion with Rome and the local Bishop. They will tell you the truth as traditionally understood by Holy Mother Church. Bottom line souls go to Hell over heresy. Here is a great site of sermons by Fssp Priests.

Fr. BenoƮt Guichard, FSSP, Administrator
Fr. Rhone Lillard, FSSP, Assistant
Fr. Robert Boyd

Our Lady of Fatima Chapel
32 W. Franklin Ave.
Pequannock, NJ 07440
tel (973) 694-6727; fax (973) 694-1304

Latin Mass times:
Sunday 7:00, 9:00, 11:00 A.M., 5:00 P.M.
Mon, Wed, Fri 7:00 & 8:00 A.M.; Sat 7:00 & 9:00 A.M
Tues, Thurs: 7:00 & 8:00 A.M, 7:00 P.M.

Karinann said…
Mary- thank you for your kind words and prayers.

Anonymous- thank you for the FSSP sources.
wheat4paradise said…

I think that you will benefit from consulting with a FSSP priest on this matter. The FSSP are thoroughly traditional and in full communion with Rome. They'll give you the unvarnished truth according to Catholic Tradition, without any extreme traditionalist embellishments.

I'll pray that you keep the Faith no matter what happens. Your relationship with Jesus Christ, which can only be sustained in the embrace of Holy Mother Church, is all that matters.

God bless,
Karinann said…
You are the second commenter to tell me this. have I been that misguided, however unintentionally, by Latin Rite priests?
All I really want in this is what God wants.
wheat4paradise said…

Thanks for your last comment on my blog. I think that you're on the right track and that you clearly have the discernment to make the best use of the advice that your priest is providing. As you said, seeking additional advice from a FSSP priest won't hurt.

All the best as you continue on this difficult journey. You are in my prayers.

God bless,
Karinann said…
Thanks for the prayers David.