Marriage, Divorce, and Church Annulments

With so much debate on marriage and annulment at the Synod on the Family, I wish to share my Thesis completed for my degree in Theology.

MATRIMONIAL CONSENT:  Analysis and Practical Applications of Canon 1095 

Canon 1095 is the Church law that ‘permits‘ annulment.  The interpretation and application of this Canon is at the core of the debate on divorce and annulment.

I did not realise what a hot topic this would become when I decided on it in 2011 because I could not understand or agree fully with the Church’s stance.

By the time I completed my research,  I appreciated the wisdom of Canon 1095 and the real ‘nature of consent.’  I understood there is a big difference between:

Matrimonium in fieri  (marriage in becoming)  – the act of creating a marriage  and

Matrimonium in facto esse (marriage in its actual existence)  i.e. what the exchange of vows creates: the abiding state of marriage.

Marriage is indeed sacramental – and the church needs to be sacramental in its approach to marriage, as well as to failed marriages – in short, TO LIFE.

The manner in which, not just jurisprudence, but the entire church responds to Canon 1095 will be the touchstone of the Christian commitment to marriage …  and by extension the mirror of the state of the sacramental Church  (concluding comment on Thesis).      

I post here the research that took me from the contentious Preamble and questions below to my conclusion above  with a prayer that the deliberations of the present Synod  will lead to a more sacramental Church.

Thesis proposal

                  PREAMBLE SUBMITTED FOR APPROVAL TO PROCEED WITH ABOVE THESIS.  

Biblical basis for church doctrine on marriage:

  • What God has joined together let no man put asunder.
  • Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.

They say “Marriages are made in heaven”.  If this is correct, why do marriages fail?

Reality of failed marriages

We cannot avoid the reality that despite every effort and good will to the contrary, some marriages are just not meant to be and end up in (civil) divorce.

What is the status of these marriages?

The ecclesiastical position on these is ambivalent, even discordant because EITHER

  1. you are unbinding that which is bound in heaven,  if you grant divorce
  2. Or , by not granting a divorce, you are (continuing) to keep bound on earth what is not to be bound in heaven – by refusing to unbind what has already come apart – in truth, in fact, and in reality.  Where the ‘sacrament’ you are upholding is no longer a sacrament or a ‘source of grace” but even perhaps of un-grace or disgrace.
    • Refusal or failure to accept our humanity and that not everything that man proposes, including a particular marriage, is within God’s plan for
    • If it is God’s work nothing can stop it,
    • Unless the builder builds, the labourer toils in vain.

Thus, I question:

  1. Could it be that you are binding on earth what heaven does not want bound? (Or what has already been loosed in heaven according to the Divine Plan?)
  2. Are we failing to practice the precept to ‘forgive seventy times seven’ the mistakes that people make.
  3. Are we at odds with our mission to “set the captives free” – set free those who have been bound due to their humanity, weakness and sin.
  4. Does ‘if your eye offends you pluck it out’ or your .. causes you to sin have any application to marriages that are a source of un-grace.
  5. By not forgiving and releasing people from failed marriages and by trying to maintain at any cost the marriage ‘sacrament’, we are withholding from them the primordial sacrament, Jesus and the Eucharist. This appears to contrary to the precept the that ‘salvation of souls is the Supreme law’.
  6. It also devalues the witnessing nature of a sacrament when people divorce and remarry under civil law , blatantly ignoring (being forced to ignore) to ignore the dysfunctional ‘sacramental bond’. (How many civil divorces have been sacramentally unbound/)

There seems to be a lacuna in Canon Law from point of view of faithful/laity.

I would like to study the church’s position on above in an attitude of ‘faith seeking understanding’.

APPROACH

Does Canon 1095 solve the problem of divorce in the Church? 

Can it allay the doubts in minds of the laity?   (C 1095 comes to conclusion that average person is incapable of valid marriage?) .

 AREAS FOR STUDY –

  1. Role of ‘true’ consensus.
  2. Role of Psychological factors.
  3. Spiritual Factor – There is no mention of spiritual factors /spiritual maturity in the Canon .. ?? Wording appears juridical and earth-bound. Though spiritual goal must be implicit, wording appears bent towards temporal ?
    • Role of spirituality
    • Augustine –“ let me know myself that I might know you”  (and your will and plan)
    • “For in this lay my sin – that I sought pleasures and honours and truths in his creatures rather than in him – in myself and the rest – and so fell headlong into sorrows , troubles and errors.” (Confessions )
RESEARCH  :

I would like to test my assumptions with some case studies on the feelings of the laity who have

  • Obtained civil divorce and church nullity
  • Obtained civil divorce and been refused church nullity, if any.
  • Obtained civil divorce but not requested church nullity

to analyse the true role of the three factors pertinent to Canon 1095 in the break-down of marriages and presenting a lay, experiential perspective.

Spin off benefit – Suggestions for Pastoral Preparation for Marriage Under Canon.

 


The above proposal having been approved I completed my Thesis under our Professor of Canon Law.

The Thesis will be shared as soon as I have removed extraneous footnotes to make for easy reading.