Marriage Annulment: Just A Thought.
When I was born, in my Country by most marriages – Canonical and civil at the same time: the so-called matrimonio concordatario – the annulment of a marriage through the Sacra Rota led to the annulment of the civil effects of the marriage. In short, this meant that upon annulment the spouses were rid of any major direct obligation toward each other. This clearly made sense: once the marriage is understood primarily as a sacrament with civil recognition, if the marriage never took place the civil effects between the non-spouses are non-existent, too. It was more complicated than that – for example concerning the children, who were obviously still legitimate children of a now annulled marriage – but you already get the gist: broadly speaking no alimony, and no splitting of assets. Again, this makes sense: the two have never been married. If they have patrimonial arrangements they want to settle between them, they can do it anytime with normal civil contracts that are nothing to do with the sacrament – say: donations, creation of partnerships, endowments, & Co. – but once the marriage has never taken place, it has… never taken place as regards the mutual relationship of the couple.
Both these, alimony and asset splitting, are now in place – by many marriages at least; it is possible to ring-fence one's assets from the spouse, and alimony is rather more limited than in the US – in Italy and, interestingly, in Germany, where it is to be feared a tsunami of “pastoral annulments” might now be on its way.
One wonders how many Germans, or Italians come to that, would be ready to claim that they never wanted to marry, and that their marriage must be declared canonically void, if the annulment were to extend to the civil law part of the marriage and have heavy consequences on the payment they can expect. They would probably say that they were never married when it is convenient to make communion, but actually they were always married when it is convenient to get the money. Having one cake and eating it, I would call it.
Of course, you will say in most Western countries a marriage is a civil law contract fully separated from the sacrament, and which will remain in force irrespective of the destiny of the sacrament. But you see, interestingly enough this was not the case in Italy, because the marriage was seen to such an extent as a sacrament first and foremost, that it was utterly natural to link its civil effects to the validity of… the sacrament! An understanding of life that has now all but disappeared from our secularised societies. And yes, it wasn't easy to obtain an annulment; and yes, the courts of the Church (the Sacra Rota) decided about the validity of Italian civil law transactions.
What a beautiful thinking. What a truly Catholic Weltanschauung.
Just a thought, of course…
Posted on February 19, 2014, in Catholicism, Conservative Catholicism, Traditional Catholicism and tagged Extraordinary Synod 2014 synod, German Church, German Revolt, Italy. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.