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U.S. Annulments and the Sacramental Bond of Holy Matrimony

"The Eternal Father has given mankind a set of rules, and in discipline they must be obeyed.  It behooves Me to say that My heart is torn by the actions, the despicable actions, of My clergy.  I unite, as your God, man and woman into the holy state of matrimony.  And what I have bound together no man must place asunder.  And what do I see but broken homes, marriages dissolved through annulments! It has scandalized your nation, and it is scandalizing the world.  Woe to the teachers and leaders who scandalize the sheep!" - Jesus, May 3, 1978

The Revolving Door

In the twenty-three year span from 1968 to 1991, the rate at which U.S. tribunals were declaring marriages each year to be unsacramental, or invalid, had increased a staggering 14,207 percent!

"In 1968 there were 450 Catholic marriage annulments in the U.S."[1] "More than 61,400 U.S. Catholics were granted annulments in 1989"[2]. "The 1990 Statistical Yearbook of the Church, reported that in 1990, U.S. tribunals issued 62,824 annulments."[3] By 1991, the number of 'decrees of nullity’ were being issued at the rate of 63,933 per year in the United States.[4] So in the twenty-three year span from 1968 to 1991, the rate at which U.S. tribunals were declaring marriages each year to be unsacramental, or invalid, had increased a staggering 14,207 percent! And the number of marriages declared invalid by U.S. tribunals each year continues to remain atrociously high. This is not a worldwide problem but specifically an American one as indicated by the 1991 figures which show that of the 80,711 annulments issued worldwide in 1991[5], an overwhelming 79 percent came from U.S. tribunals alone. That's even more astounding when considering that the U.S. accounts for less than 6 percent of all Catholics. 

     Because of this incredibly high escalation of annulments issued each year in the U.S. by American tribunals, Catholics here are being scandalized into thinking that the Catholic Church now believes that it is possible for Christians to divorce and then remarry validly. Because of this erroneous belief, U.S. Catholics are leaving their marriages and then it is generally only a matter of time before they seek a new spouse which results in grave consequences for their soul and the spiritual well-being of their children. Many, when they wish to remarry, have little qualms about stretching the facts of their case in order to obtain an annulment because they perceive this 'decree of nullity' only as a lot of 'red tape’. And thus, in the case where the marriage was valid and the annulment was fallacious, they in fact, begin a life of adultery upon 'remarrying', with seemingly the blessing of the Church. Moreover, Catholics in America that know of such cases are starting to think that the Church is teaching one thing but practicing something else, which is causing these bystanders to have contempt for the Church, Her other sacraments, and Her teachings in general.


The Seven Sacraments

     Marriage is one of the seven sacraments instituted by Christ. A sacrament is a supernatural act done by God through His instrument, the Church. Whenever a sacrament is validly performed, a real and permanent change takes place by God's power and therefore no sacrament can be undone. [Ed.: Here we affirm that only Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders leave a permanent character on the soul, and therefore cannot be received again, while all the other sacraments can be received repeatedly, e.g. Holy Communion, Confession, Anointing of the Sick, and even Marriage, but only after one's spouse dies.] Once you are baptized, you receive a permanent, indelible mark on your soul and no one can unbaptize you. And once you receive the seal of Confirmation on your soul, no one can remove that seal, which remains with us even if we go to hell for all eternity. Once God removes your sins from your soul via the sacrament of Confession, the Church cannot undo the sacrament and put those sins back on your soul. Once a man is ordained, he receives the character of the priesthood on his soul, and from then on, no matter how bad a priest he turns out to be, no one, not even the Church, can take that priestly character off of his soul. For the rest of his life, he is a priest with the power to unfailingly have Christ act through him to change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus whenever he as a priest so wills. And once the sacrament of Holy Eucharist takes place, Christ is present where the bread and wine was, and no one can make God turn the Body and Blood of Christ back into bread and wine. The seven sacraments are each a one-way door.



     The sacrament of Marriage is a supernatural act whereby God joins a man and a woman by the sacramental bond of Holy Matrimony. Like the other six sacraments, it is done by God Who operates through His Church and therefore, two people, who are so bonded, cannot be supernaturally unbound except by death. If two Christians have intercourse and neither is sacramentally bonded in Holy Matrimony, they commit fornication. If either of these two people are sacramentally bonded to a third person, then the sexual act is adultery. "Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers,... shall possess the kingdom of God." (1 Cor 6:9-10)

     Before Christ established His Church, whereby He could then communicate His grace to us via the seven sacraments, there was no sacramental bond in marriage because there was no sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Therefore, not being bonded to one person, it was possible to have more than one spouse and possible to separate from your spouse and to take another. But when Christ came, all Christians, whether Protestant, Orthodox, or Catholic, can only be bonded to one spouse in wedlock, and therefore cannot be bonded to someone else at the same time nor break the original bond except when their spouse dies. In section 1640 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we read the continual reaffirmation of this teaching in the following words, "Thus 'the marriage bond' has been established by God himself in such a way that marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond ... is a reality, henceforth irrevocable.... The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom." Jesus Himself said, "What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." (Mk 10:9) "And if the wife put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery." (Mk 10:12) "...and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery." (Mt. 19:9)

     When two baptized persons take vows before God in their respective Christian ceremonies, vows that include being open to having at least some children at some time during their marriage, and the intention to remain with their spouse for the rest of their life, and the intention of sexual fidelity, and do not violate any Catholic impediments such as no witnesses, impotency, etc., then the marriage is said to be concluded but not consummated. It can still be dissolved. But after the first marital act following their vows, the marriage is consummated at which time the Sacramental Bond of Holy Matrimony is irreversibly established between the man and woman which can never be destroyed except by death. There are several diriment impediments which the Church institutes, in Her wise regulation of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. It is important to remember that these impediments actually stop the flow of grace from God through His Church which He established for just such purposes, and thereby stop the sacrament from taking place. Only certain of these impediments are directed by the Church toward Protestants or Orthodox Christians but all of them apply to Catholics.

     Theological knowledge of the indissolubility of marriage is not required to conclude a valid marriage—only the intention to remain married is what is required (all else being equal). This can be seen in the fact that both Protestants and Orthodox Christians believe that a valid marriage can be ended and another valid marriage can be established. Nonetheless, professing their vows with that erroneous understanding does not stop them from having valid sacramental unions, as long as they do not have the deliberate intention on the day they profess their vows of only staying married for a limited time.



     An annulment is a decree, issued by a tribunal which is acting on behalf of the Church, stating that legitimate, concrete evidence has been recognized by that tribunal, proving to them with moral certitude that a marriage was invalid from the beginning and thus no sacramental bond ever existed. An annulment does not dissolve a valid marriage, nor is it a dispensation to leave a valid marriage and remarry someone else. It is merely an official statement informing you that a serious problem was proven to them to have occurred previous to taking the marriage vows and that you were therefore never married. These tribunals, which often include lay men and women, are not infallible, as the following quotes show.

     In 1989, "Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, head of the Church's highest court, told U.S. bishops to exercise more 'vigilance' in their marriage tribunals because they are granting too many annulments, calling into question the validity of their procedures."[6] On January 29, 1993, in an address to the Rota Romana, the highest judicial court in the Church, Pope John Paul II said it would be wrong for the judges "to bend canon law to capricious or inventive interpretation in the name of an ambiguous and undefined 'humanitarian principle.'" Again, in that same address, the Pope said, "it would be entirely arbitrary, indeed openly illegitimate and gravely wrong, to attribute to the words used in canon law not their proper meaning, but a meaning suggested by other disciplines outside of canon law." And finally, in the same address the Pope spoke about 'mental reservations' that many people who apply for annulments assert to have had on their wedding day thus invalidating their marriage because they claim that they really didn’t mean what they said. Of this the Pope said, "If there is a 'mental reserve' at the moment the vows are pronounced, that must be thoroughly proven."[7] And in February of 1995, "Pope John Paul II himself warned the Roman Rota, the Church's appeals court for marriage cases, not to rely on evaluations of psychiatrists who do not accept the Catholic doctrine on marriage."[8] "At a June 2nd Vatican-sponsored conference on 'The Rights of Families and the Communications Media', Archbishop Vincenzo Fagiolo, president of the Pontifical Council of the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, criticized the large number of annulments granted by marriage tribunals in the United States, saying they caused 'grave scandal'. Seventy percent of the world's annulments come from U.S. Catholics, the archbishop complained, and the Church in the U.S. grants 98% of requests. Behind the outrageous number of annulments, he said, is a faulty understanding of canon 1095, which allows the declaration of nullity on the grounds of 'psychological immaturity'." He went on to say, "An incorrect interpretation of the common canonical laws, and particularly one of these--canon 1095 on psychological immaturity--has allowed judges of American ecclesiastical tribunals to widen jurisprudence enormously."[9]

     Being aware of all the possible skullduggery and widespread incompetent jurisprudence going on today in America's annulment mills, it is only right that a person be given the exact reason as to why their marriage has been declared invalid before they accept the decree. One lady I know was married twenty-five years and had six kids before her husband left her, admittedly for another woman; and then he obtained a decree of nullity from a tribunal. The lady was never given a reason as to why her marriage was thought to be invalid and so she continues to wear her wedding ring. She would like very much to be able to marry someone else but she knows that she cannot hide behind that piece of paper when she goes before God.

    An annulment is not 'granted' in the sense that a tribunal 'gives' the decree to a worthy person who 'deserves' it. How much you have suffered, or how nice a person you are have nothing to do with whether you are validly married or not. Also, a bad marriage, where one of the spouses abuses or abandons the other, doesn't prove that the sacrament of Matrimony was invalid any more than a Christian who abuses other people or abandons the Faith proves that his Baptism was invalid or a priest who abuses his parishioners or abandons his parish proves that he was never validly ordained. God extends His grace to us and it is up to us to utilize and cooperate with that grace in overcoming the temptations caused by the effects of original sin, the temptations from the fallen angels, and the temptations from this sinful human world.


Obligations of Divorced Persons Who 'Remarry'

     The following quote is from Pope John Paul II in his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, given on November 22, 1981. In section 84, John Paul, speaking of the relationship between divorced and 'remarried’ persons with each other and with the Church says,


"...as baptized persons they can, and indeed must, share in her life. They should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God's grace. Let the Church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope.

     “However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

     "Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance, which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons such as for example the children's upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they 'take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples'."


Our Responsibilities

     On Judgment Day, our Divine Tribunal will remind us of the words He spoke to Ezechiel, 3:17-18, "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman to the house of Israel: and thou shalt hear the word out of my mouth, and shall tell it them from me. If, when I say to the wicked, Thou shalt surely die: thou declare it not to him, nor speak to him, that he may be converted from his wicked way, and live: the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but I will require his blood at thy hand."

     We all have to use the opportunities God gives us to keep the sheep in the fold and to help bring back any sheep that stray. Couples who are preparing for marriage, or married couples who are contemplating civil divorce, including those who have separated and are sexually involved with another mate, are especially in need of a correct understanding in these areas which is so dreadfully lacking today. Sins of omission have their consequences. Our life on earth is but a moment but Heaven and Hell are forever.



1. Msgr. Joseph A. Cirrincione and Thomas A. Nelson, The Rosary and the Crisis of Faith, (Rockford: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. 1986), p. 24.

2. The Brooklyn Tablet, Brooklyn N.Y., March 28, 1992, p. 5.

3. 1993 Catholic Almanac, p. 235.

4. 1994 Catholic Almanac, p. 236.

5. ibid.

6. Agostino Bono, "Annulments," The (Los Angeles, Calif.) Tidings, March 17, 1989, p. 5.

7. 30 Days Magazine, March, 1993.

8. Newsweek, March 13, 1995, p. 58.

9. The Wanderer, July 1, 1993.




D15 - Holy Matrimony  PDF LogoPDF
D223 - Adultery & Divorce  PDF LogoPDF


Pope John Paul II, In Address To US Bishops, Blasts Number Of Annulments (Catholic World Report, October 19, 1998)

Annulment Nation (Catholic World Report)

Too Many Invalid Annulments (Msgr. Clarence J. Hettinger)

The Annulment Mentality: What You Can Do About It

Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI: Too Many Annulments


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March 03, 2018