By Reagan Scott
(SNR) - A declaration of nullity, or an annulment, can be a misunderstood concept in the Catholic Church. It is often referred to as “Catholic divorce,” which is not the case.
Marriage in the Catholic Church is a sacred bond in which a man and a woman totally commit themselves to the good of the other for their entire lives, and the Church presumes that every marriage is valid until the opposite is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
While a civil divorce is concerned with the legal aspects of a marriage, a declaration of nullity is a statement that a valid marriage did not exist. This declaration gives divorced individuals the freedom to remarry if they so choose, as a civil divorce does not dissolve the covenant of marriage.
Without an annulment, those who are single and divorced may continue to receive the sacraments, but those who are divorced and have remarried outside the Church may not. However, all are welcome to attend Mass.
The annulment process can take an average of 12 to 18 months and is conducted by a tribunal, which examines evidence to determine whether the marriage was incomplete. According to the diocesan website, the process is designed to get to the truth of the matter as quickly and justly as possible, while protecting the rights of the parties involved.
Some common misconceptions in relation to the declaration of nullity include cost, and the requirements of the former spouse. The annulment process costs no money in the Lincoln Diocese, and the former spouse is not required to be involved. It should be noted that a favorable outcome is never guaranteed.
Any further questions should be directed to your parish priest, who can help you determine what is best for one’s individual circumstances. More information is also available at www.lincolndiocese.org/diocese/offices/tribunal-office.