Contra Mozilla

Monday, October 6, 2014

Annulment and Material Adultery

The news surrounding the upcoming "Synod on the Family" has generated a lot of discussion, and not only in the Catholic blogosphere. I will not even remotely attempt to link to all of it--from the seeming feud between Cardinals Burke and Kasper (and their respective supporters and detractors) over permitting divorced Catholics to remarry to questions about (and confusion concerning) the annulment process (and the various proposed changes to it), this synod does seem to be generating more than the usual amount of buzz.

Because they do more than just rehash the argument over what is and isn't in Canon Law (and what can or should be changed about it), the posts by the Zippy Catholic on the matter caught my attention. In particular, he mentions (and not for the first time) one of the inadvertant side-effects of annulment: that when an annulment is improperly determined, it then makes accidental adulterers of the spouses when they remarry:
Modern annulment practice is unique in the history of the Church, inasmuch as it treats a possible sacramental irregularity – based on purely subjective considerations – as a two way street. It doesn’t provide a way forward, it provides a way backward, in the name of a false ‘mercy’. This is terribly unfair in a way in which carrying out the death penalty without objective third-party evidence would be terribly unfair. Errors in death penalty cases result in killing the innocent; errors in ‘internal forum’ annulment cases turn various people (including innocent ‘spouses’, past and future) into material adulterers. This is just the very modern phenomenon of turning doubt or ignorance into an eighth sacrament: it pretends that mercy means letting people stew in objective evil with no real way out. 
This is further clarified in an earlier post of his (linked in the original text of the quote):
One of the reasons that the annulment process should be very rigorous, and should err very strongly on the side of declining to invalidate a marriage, is that if the tribunal makes a mistake – and as a juridical institution it is certainly liable to do so – the resulting annulment and ‘remarriage’ turns the parties into material adulterers. This is a gross injustice against everyone involved, and most especially against any “new” spouse not previously married.
Actually, it has long since occurred to me that there is a second effect of annulments, albeit one which cannot be avoided via reform. An annulment confirms that a particular given marriage was not sacramentally valid from its beginning. But this means that the couple which attempted to consummate their non-marriage would, in fact, be material fornicators in a sacramental (though not a civil) sense. This may not be so grievous as the material adulterors created under Zippy's scenario, fornication being less materially grave than adultery in any event, but it is nevertheless a side-effect of a null marriage.

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