Marriage Annulment: Just A Thought.


Wait: I was never married, but I want half of the assets anyway!

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 , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. The extension of a sacramental annulment to civil law and possible alimony would be an utter disaster for innocent spouses of depraved individuals. Imagine the wife (of 30 years) of an executive who decides he deserves a “trophy wife” i.e., his secretary. For him to get an annulment based on his own alleged mindset and lack of intention to form a life-long bond is bad enough. But for such an individual to be able to avoid any legal responsibilities for support of a former spouse who gave her entire life to her husband would be to add a grevious injury on top of grevious injury.

    • Fully secular thinking.
      You are assuming here that the Church allows the sacraments to be manipulated by rich men wanting to get rid of their trophy wife. Congratulations.
      Besides, no one is forbidding the two from having other kind of arrangements that have nothign to do with the marriage in itself, as already explained. No one is forbidding the trophy wife to get a dozen flats by way of donations, if this is so agreed between the spouses.
      I do not demand that what I write is found interesting; but at least that the reading comes before the commenting.

  2. Wow….I never knew that. It that were in effect today, when annulments are handed out like candy on Halloween by these bogus tribunals, it would make a lot of devious people give pause.

    • That was so in Italy, until 1970. I do not know in how many other countries there was the same discipline. As it directly impinges in the civil laws of one country – basically, the Italian Government had contracted out to the Sacra Rota the entire matter – it would have to be regulated in the concordate between the Church and that particular country.

      In Italy, the discipline was struck down by the Constituional Court in 1970, if memory serves because it was a voluntary deprivation of sovereign power considered not compatible with the Constitution of 1946, and let a foreign government impinge in the civil situation of Italian citizens.

      In Mundabor’s Italy, this would be solved very easily according to the model of the Spanish and French Inquisition: Church priests actign in their position of Italian civil servants (like the priests teaching at state school), and Robert is your father’s brother…


  3. “Fully secular thinking. You are assuming here that the Church allows the sacraments to be manipulated by rich men …” Is that so hard to believe, when rich and poor alike manipulate the annulment process to the point where it is largely “Catholic divorce?” When the German bishops are actively engaged in what I believe you yourself (accurately) referred to as simony? I don’t insist that anyone find my comments interesting either. But it is very nice if those with whom I have some disagreement with don’t instantly go into high dudgeon over those disagreements.

    • First, you HAVE NOT READ my argument. And continue not to do so.
      Secondly, your mentality is the same of the Germans who will then say their marriage must be annulled. Is it so hard that a marriage is invalid, when everyone knows the possibility of divorce is there? Hey, I knew I could divorce! Get me rid of the trophy wife! She isn’t a trophy anymore!

      The only option, for a Catholic, is to assume that things are made, largely, soundly. When you go to confession you do not question the validity of your confession because the priest might be is simoniacal, either.

      Thirdly, one does not see at all why the trophy wife who was never married should be treated better than the waitress who is married to an honest man. Where the heck do we live, that a woman thinks she has the right to lavish luxury all her life because she once thought she was married to a rich man?

      Fully secular, fully feminist, and fully entitled thinking.

      Read my post.


  4. In Italia ancora oggi la dichiarazione di nullità del matrimonio religioso travolge gli effetti civili del matrimonio concordatario.

    • Translation: “In Italy, the declaration of nullity of the religious marriage crushes the civil effects of the Concordate marriage”

      Thanks, but if I remember correctly this is not automatic, but the sentence must be recognised by an Italian tribunal, right?


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