A marriage is null, only if at the moment of the ceremony or consummation, there were causes that prevented it from being real. If those causes persist, it doesn’t matter what happened afterwards, like how many years together or how many children, it is still void: no sacramental graces.
There’s a pandemic of null marriages. Pope Francis determined a more strict one-year preparation for marriage (ignored by most of Parishes) and is working on a document for the married in new unions.
What is marriage?
Marriage is all about love. Marriage has nothing to do with lust.
To understand the holiness of marriage and why some essential issues against it voids the marriage covenant, it’s important to understand St. Paul’s words calling it to imitate the marriage of Christ, the head, with the Church, his mystical body (where we are a like cell), to the point of giving up himself until the last drop of His most precious Blood in the Cross:
Ephesians 5: Wives and Husbands
21 Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.
23 For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body.
24 As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her
26 to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word
27 that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
28 So husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
29 For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church,
30 because we are members of his body.
31“For this reason a man shall leave father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.”
32 This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.
33 In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.
In Familiaris Consortio (22 Nov 1981) John Paul II called the Christian family (founded on the Christian Marriage) as a “domestic Church” (like a mini-church).
Marriage is a participation in the Celestial perpetual “wedding feast of the Lamb” (Rev 19:5-10; 2 Cor 11:2), the Celestial Mass. It requires the intention of complete self-sacrifice, just as Jesus sacrificed for our salvation.
Marriage is called to imitate the Holy Trinity where the Father gives himself completely to the Son, and the Son gives himself completely to the Father, through complete Love, which is the Holy Spirit.
Hint: spouses don’t give themselves “completely” if they restrict their fertility.
“God is love” (1 Jn 4:8), a Eucharistic love. That’s why marriage is all about selfless, generous and fruitful love, up to the complete sacrifice of the self to serve the family and community.
“The mother of Jesus was there” (Jn 2:1-12): like in the Wedding at Cana, the marriage covenant needs the mediation of Mary and Jesus to receive the grace, the good wine of real happiness.
There’s no Sacramental marriage without the presence of Mary and Jesus in-between the spouses, who are the ministers and the sacramental matter, forming one Eucharistic body (“one flesh”).
Jesus and Mary are more than witnesses, they are the very basis of the covenant. Covenants were sealed with blood. The Sacramental Marriage is signed in Heaven by Mary with the Blood of Christ poured at His Passion, with all the Church as witness. This covenant is indestructible and remains remains valid until death tears it apart.
Conclusion: if any of the spouses was incapable to give him/herself completely to the to other, or is closed to the grace of marriage, then there was no marriage, even if there was a nice celebration and a big party, at most, it was a natural marriage without the Divine grace/aid of the Sacrament.
There are many causes for annulment (cann. 1055 - 1165):
Some of those causes could be healed later by repentance, and/or if the spouse accepts it. The marriage is restored to the root (radical sanation, cann. 1161ss), and therefore, the children are not illegitimate/bastards.
Nowadays, no one cares about illegitimacy, but Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerick explains that conception in sin adds to the inter-generational curse, which lasts until the fourth generation according to the Bible.
The curse is so real that St. John Bosco wrote to the King of Italy, that if he confiscated the assets of the religious orders, his descent would not pass the fourth generation. History is full of tyrants that attacked the Church, without reaching the fifth generation (many didn’t even have descent, like Hitler).
The Church abandoned this doctrine, because spiritually, Baptism cuts the curse and therefore, the concept wasn’t useful for conversions: we’ve got many Saints like St. Martin of Porres who were bastards.
Grace kills sin. Yet, the natural consequences of the curse could return upon dis-grace (mortal sin). That’s why the word disgrace is associated to bad things happening. Satan wants to cancel it from our vocabulary so that people would be clueless about the real origin of catastrophes: disgrace.
Also, intergen-curse is essential to understand the Old Testament, not so much for the curse (God forbidding miscegenation, God ordering to kill even the unborn babies of the occupants of the promised land), but for the inter-generational blessing among the “rest of Israel”, from where the Messiah would arise, especially, Jesus’ genealogy. This blessing is important to encourage parents to be holly and to conceive holly-ly (after an intensive period of penance, prayer, works of mercy): Emmerick explains that because of that holly conception St. Lawrence had the power to know where the Eucharist was. Similarly, St. Therese of Lisieux explained that she was born in the spiritual fertile land of her parents, St. Louis and Celie Martin. This concept is essential to understand the immaculate conception between Saints Joachim and Anne.
Some causes for a null marriage
The most common causes of a null marriage are:
* Being closed to full unity
(not giving oneself entirely to the other voids the covenant):
A. Opened to the possibility of “separation of bodies” (either mentally or geographically) by denying the marital act without the Bishops permission, as required by Cannon Law, to objectively determine if there are serious reasons for not complying with the conjugal/marital/spousal duty/due/debt (débitum coniugale):
1 Cor 7:3-5 “The husband should fulfill his duty toward his wife, and likewise the wife toward her husband. A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife. Do not deprive each other …”
§1. If either of the spouses causes grave mental or physical danger to the other spouse or to the offspring or otherwise renders common life too difficult, that spouse gives the other a legitimate cause for leaving, either by decree of the local ordinary or even on his or her own authority if there is danger in delay.
§2. In all cases, when the cause for the separation ceases, conjugal living must be restored unless ecclesiastical authority has established otherwise.
B. Being closed to lifetime faithfulness, i.e. opened to adultery, including the possibility/idea of:
B.1. Unfaithfulness, i.e. sexual desire for others, including porn and lustful fantasies:
Mt 5:27-28 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
B.2. Civil "re-marriage"/cohabitation with new couple (adultery)
* Being closed to life
i.e. opened to the possibility/idea of anti-procreative actions (anti-fertility, anti-conceptive, anti-baby) at any future point of marriage, even if just for a lapse:
* Murdering the unborn
- Abortifacients: day-after pill, plus so-called “contraceptive” devices/drugs, since all non-barrier contraceptives fail to prevent conception and act by producing an imperceptible abortion at the earliest stages, thus murdering the baby (the immortal soul is infused at the moment of conception)
* Closing fertility
Denying fertility to the spouse without a just cause, is a subset of “being closed to full unity”: the persons doesn’t give himself/herself completely (“everything but the fertility”):
- Surgery: tubal ligation and vasectomy (cause cancer)
- Barrier devices (the only ones which deserve the name contraceptive, being the rest abortifacient).
- Anti-natural sex (similar to homosex practices): deliberately not ending where it should, including onanism, which was cursed by God (Gn 38:8-10)
- Natural planning without a serious cause determined with the confessor (objectively, is a grave sin if there’s no grave cause).
Some Church courts don’t accept openness to contraception as a cause for declaration of nullity because it’s not expressively detailed in the Cannon Law. Yet many articles, leave tacit room to accept this doctrine from the Church Fathers, like St. Augustine:
“It is, however, one thing for married persons to have intercourse only for the wish to beget children, which is not sinful: it is another thing for them to desire carnal pleasure in cohabitation, but with the spouse only, which involves venial sin. For although propagation of offspring is not the motive of the intercourse, there is still no attempt to prevent such propagation, either by wrong desire or evil appliance. They who resort to these, although called by the name of spouses, are really not such; they retain no vestige of true matrimony, but pretend the honorable designation as a cloak for criminal conduct. Having also proceeded so far, they are betrayed into exposing their children, which are born against their will. They hate to nourish and retain those whom they were afraid they would beget. This infliction of cruelty on their offspring so reluctantly begotten, unmasks the sin which they had practised in darkness, and drags it clearly into the light of day. The open cruelty reproves the concealed sin. Sometimes, indeed, this lustful cruelty, or, if you please, cruel lust, resorts to such extravagant methods as to use poisonous drugs to secure barrenness; or else, if unsuccessful in this, to destroy the conceived seed by some means previous to birth, preferring that its offspring should rather perish than receive vitality; or if it was advancing to life within the womb, should be slain before it was born. Well, if both parties alike are so flagitious, they are not husband and wife; and if such were their character from the beginning, they have not come together by wedlock but by debauchery. But if the two are not alike in such sin, I boldly declare either that the woman is, so to say, the husband's harlot; or the man the wife's adulterer.”
* Essential fraud
hiding something so important for marriage that he/she would have canceled the relationship or even the wedding ceremony (Cannon 1097, 1098)
- infertility / sexual dysfunction
- sexual disorder (e.g. homosexual tendencies, gender identity disorder)
- drug, alcohol, gambling, sex or any addiction
- not being a virgin
- not being faithful during courtship
- prior cohabitation
- prior child
- prior abortion
- prior civil marriage/divorce
- prior vote of celibacy
* Lack of consent
Lack of free-will to marry, e.g. pressured to marry because of premarital pregnancy
- being against the spouse practicing the Catholic faith (in this case, it wouldn't even be a natural marriage, because the spouse doesn’t accept the other in fullness).
- being against raising the children in the Catholic faith and against them receiving the sacraments, the earliest
Not being in state of grace, by not confessing ALL mortal sins to a Catholic Priest (who acts “in the person of Jesus”), or not getting the absolution because lack of repentance or of willingness to avoid future occasion of sin. The grace of the marital sacrament will be received only after absolution.
The vast majority of current Catholic weddings are a farce: void, null, nothing happened, except mocking the sacrament and celebrating fornication.
For instance, a 2011 Guttmacher study1, with certain shortcomings2, showed that:
Of all Catholic “women at risk of unintended pregnancy”:
2% use natural family planning
11% sexually active are not using a method of contraception
87% of Catholics use a method other than natural family planning
92% of US Catholics have used condoms:
This is in line with a 2012 Pew Research survey3 showing what percentage of US Catholics believe is morally wrong:
15 % contraceptives
19 % divorce
55 % abortion
They get worse without weekly Mass (as expected, more similar to protestant rates):
5 % contraceptives
18 % divorce
46 % abortion
Unbelievably, those percentages don’t get much better with weekly Mass:
27 % contraception
20 % divorce
68 % abortion
Note: the survey was wrongly worded, thus giving lower results than expected.
Divorce rejection is lower than the real rate, because for most, it wrongly includes the concept of “separation”, which is morally acceptable, under serious causes determined by the Bishop or in life-threatening situations (Catechism 2383-86, 1650-51). The real meaning of “divorce” means cutting the bond, which is only possible through death. The question should have asked about “new unions after a valid sacramental marriage”. Still, the low rate has huge implications, considering that the Bible is quite clear against divorce: Mt 5:31-32; 19:3-9; Mk 10:9; Lk 16:18; 1 Cor 7:10-11.
Abortion rejection is lower than the real rate, because it includes so-called therapeutic abortion, which isn’t wrong if it intends to save all lives. The question should have asked about “procured abortion” and not just “abortion”.
Comparing those who are in mortal sin for not going to Sunday Mass with those who fulfill the third commandment, it’s clear that the weekly-Mass effect accounts for an increase of morality:
27- 5 = 22 % contraceptives
20-18 = 2 % divorce
68-46 = 22 % abortion
It’s not just about the grace of Mass attendance. Except abortion, Priests avoid speaking clearly that:
a) the new unions are objectively in mortal sin (subjectively, only the person and God know)
b) contraception is not only a mortal sin but also destroys marriage, either by making it void or by turning the marital act into a satanic one, changing love to lust, grace to disgrace.
After a decade, the numbers are even worse. Today, man is interested in making statistics of everything. With the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and so many Catholic universities, scientific Institutes and societies, why is no one in the Church is interested in measuring the real rate of nullity? Not measuring, means an intentional invisibilization of the problem, like the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. There's a Spanish saying: "eyes that don't see, heart that doesn't feel".
Possibly, 95% of new US Catholic marriages are null. The trend of void marriages is growing all over the world, except maybe in places with high Mass attendance (e.g. Central Africa, some Asian dioceses).
This shows that we are failing miserably in teaching:
a) The importance of the Mass as the main source of grace and light from the Holy Spirit.
b) The culture of life as opposed to the culture of death (mortal sin)
c) The real meaning of marriage and the responsibilities it implies.
d) The importance of the eternal crown of virginity and the crown of purity (never losing baptismal grace due to a single mortal sin), and the supernatural means to fight for them.
e) White marriages, where the spouses consecrate in permanent celibacy (like Joseph and Mary, and many Saints) or temporal celibacy (Joachim and Anne and even more Saints and saints).
f) The vocation of Widows in the Church and Permanent Deacons, called not to remarry
The younger, the more ignorant:
Also, the whole Church is responsible (hierarchy of the Church, catechists, parents, relatives, witnesses and friends):
- For the lack of formation for Catholic dating and chaste courtship. Hook-ups are sinful: null courtship, null marriage.
- For the lack of preparation of the couples for marriage: the main reason for lack of vocations, not only because the children are the spiritual fruit of marriage (a marriage with little capital of grace, receives less graces, like a vocation in their descent, which is given at the moment of conception) but also because marriages in disgrace are Satan’s agents to quench any vocation.
- For not even trying to detect the causes for annulment before the wedding (this author made a self-administered multiple-choice test to detect them but found no interest... in decades).
- For sanctioning so many fake marriages, with huge consequences for the eternal life of the couple and their children and their descent for generations.
- For not helping the married in new unions understand that their former marriages were void: it makes a great difference in the salvation of souls if they die knowing they were not really being unfaithful to the sacramental covenant of marriage. It would flatten the road to confession.
We need a war on fake-marriages. Priests, Deacons, and possibly, the annulled couple and witnesses, should be rebuked and retrained for every null marriage signed by them.
Finally, the Church needs to make the formal declaration of nullity massively accessible:
- Announced in every Parish
- Declaring a null week where a traveling court visits the Parish.
- Near-painless (or minimum pain): many don’t want the process due to fear to re-open scars.
- Near-instant, with easy ways to prove it.
- Granting Priests and Deacons the power to issue the declaration (after following certain formal steps, checked by the court).
- Saving the multiple-choice tests as evidence for not declaring nullity later.
- Explaining the children why their parent’s marriage was void.
Let’s pray a Hail Mary so that we are all faithful to our vocations, being it marriage or religious.
Hail Mary full of grace ….
If you find a mistake please write to f.nazar at gmail.