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Essential Piece Invitation
This ministry is for people who were married, are now divorced and seeking an annulment. This healing process is confidential and private. The process is started at St. John’s and completed with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
It is obvious there are many questions surrounding the annulment process. Father Ron Bowers, a Canon Lawyer who has worked in the Archdiocesan Marriage Tribunal for more than 20 years and who teaches Canon Law at the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity, has answered some of these questions in an article published in 1987 for Catholic Charities' Center for Separated and Divorced. His answers to commonly asked questions follow:Why should a person get an annulment?Generally, people get an annulment of a marriage which has ended in divorce because they want to know where they stand in the eyes of the Church relative to the question of a future marriage in the Church. For some people, the thought of remarriage is a distant one; for others, more immediate. For some, there are no plans for marriage, but the annulment process helps them bring closure to the relationship. Is the Church proclaiming my marriage invalid if they grant me an annulment?Probably the best way to understand the annulment process is by making a distinction between the words "marriage" and "sacrament." The annulment process is not asking the question, "Is this marriage a marriage?" Rather, it asks the question, "Is this marriage a sacrament?" So, the focus is not on the marriage, but on the sacrament. This is an important distinction. It means that such important aspects of married life as legitimacy of children, property rights, inheritance rights and rights to spouse maintenance (alimony) are all carefully protected by reason of the fact that this relationship is seen as a marriage. That is why the church requires a civil divorce before it proceeds with an annulment process, for it wants to make sure that any rights which have been established by the marriage are carefully protected.
Are my children then considered illegitimate if I get an annulment?This question has already been answered. The Church¹s decision does not affect such important aspects of marriage as the legitimacy of children or their rights. Those are all carefully protected by reason of the fact that this marriage is held to be a marriage. The one public right that flows from the annulment process is the right to be married in the presence of the Church.Is there favoritism in getting an annulment?No, there is not. We're very public about the fact that we will never move cases along for personal reasons. Everyone has their own reasons for wanting their case moved along faster. That is normal, natural and healthy. But, we are convinced that the best way we can minister to the large number of people who request our assistance is by working on the cases in a strictly chronological basis. We work on the cases in the order in which they come to us. Just the other day a woman offered to pay me $600 if that would get her case moving along faster. I had to politely decline her offer. To accept it would do violence to the system we have worked out which enables us to minister to a large number of people in a just and orderly way.If I was married to a non-Catholic, does my ex-spouse have to get an annulment through the Catholic Church?If your ex-spouse is planning to marry again within the Catholic Church, that spouse would have to obtain an annulment. Do I need an annulment if I was not married in the Catholic Church?The law of the church requires that every baptized Catholic is to be married in the presence of a Priest or Deacon and two witnesses. Generally, that is what is meant by being married in the Catholic Church. If a Catholic marries outside the Church, for example, in the presence of a Justice of the Peace or of a Protestant minister, and there has been no permission for this to be done, then that marriage is not held to be a valid marriage in the eyes of the Church. An annulment in the strict sense of the word is not needed. But, the Chancery (not the Tribunal) cares for such cases in a greatly abbreviated administrative process, called a Lack of Canonical Form process. So, a judgment about the marriage is made, but the annulment process is not used for making that judgment.
What happens if my ex-spouse refuses to participate in the annulment process?It's easier to respond to this question by describing what the Tribunal does. In every case, it contacts every Respondent (the former spouse) because that person has a right to know that the Church is studying the sacramental nature of this marriage. A letter is sent to the Respondent describing the process and attempting to gain the Respondent¹s cooperation.
After that letter has been sent, we wait six weeks for a response. If we do not hear from the Respondent at the end of that six week period, then we send a second letter, which says basically the same things as the first one did, but we end the second letter with a very clear statement that if we do not hear from the Respondent with in three weeks of the date of the mailing of this second letter, we will go on without him/her. By acting in this way, we carefully protect the right of the Respondent. That is the primary value. But, the Petitioner has rights too. The Petitioner has asked the Church about the sacramental nature of his/her marriage and has a right to an answer to that question. So, if the Respondent does not answer the second letter, we then move on.
Can I still get an annulment then?Yes, though we may have to establish the certitude of the case in other ways, for example, through the calling of more witnesses, if needed.
Contact: Father Don DeGrood
Contact: Brenda Schroll