Many Catholic Marriages invalid.

With all the hype surrounding the upcoming synod later this year, one issue has been bugging me:

Communion for the divorced and re-married.

I have heard the ‘pro’ arguments from Cardinal Walter Kasper and such like, and i have heard the ‘against’ arguments from Rome and Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto .

But no-one has spoken about the big bad elephants in the room yet: 

1. How can the Bishops expect people to foster a happy and successful Catholic marriages if they give then no proper marriage prep, and no ongoing support?

2. How can the Bishops expect couples to understand the indissolubility of a sacramental union if (due to complete lack of adult formation) they don’t even know what a sacrament is?

3. Why have the Bishops not put proper ongoing practical measures in place to protect and support the Catholics they are responsible for, who are in mixed marriages?

4. Why have the Bishops not promoted and explained the central importance of NFP in a Catholic marriage?


I am not trying to alleviate all responsibility from people who decide to divorce and remarry, and there are certainly many who knew exactly what they were doing and the consequences of their actions – but my honest belief is that many, many more didn’t know what they were getting themselves into when they got married in a Catholic church.

When i got married 14 years ago we had a ‘nice’ marriage prep course about resolving conflict and speaking your partners “love language” (i kid you not…) There was no mention of NFP and no mention of what a sacramental union actually is.

I got married under the impression that Catholics are not allowed to get divorced – which is of course false! (Catholics can get divorced, we just can’t remarry.) I had absolutely no idea whatsoever that if you did remarry you could not receive Holy Eucharist. I had no idea what an annulment was. I wasn’t really sure of what a sacramental union was and i certainly didn’t realise that I was administering the sacrament to my husband and vice versa – I thought the priest was doing it! And i was a regular church goer…


Over the past 30 years about 55 to 70% of annulments have occurred in the United States. The growth in annulments—at least in the US—has been substantial. In 1968 338 marriages were annulled. In 2006 27,000 were.

Pope Benedict XVI in his address to the Roman Rota in 2009, echoing words of his predecessor John Paul II, has criticized “the exaggerated and almost automatic multiplication of declarations of nullity of marriage in cases of the failure of marriage on the pretext of some immaturity or psychic weakness on the part of the contracting parties”. Calling for “the reaffirmation of the innate human capacity for matrimony”, he insisted on the point made in 1987 by John Paul II that “only incapacity and not difficulty in giving consent invalidates a marriage”

According to Canon 1095 a marriage can be declared null only when consent was given in the presence of some grave lack of discretionary judgement regarding the essential rights and obligations of marriage, or of some real incapacity to assume these essential obligations.

Please understand i am not advocating Communion for the remarried. I believe in the annulment process. What i am saying that the massive lack of adult evangelisation and catechises over the last 2 generations has been a major contributing factor in why Catholic marriages are not lasting.

Gaining knowledge over time of what a real Catholic marriage is, has definitely strengthened my own marriage and i would go as far to say that in the really dark times it has kept me in it – until the clouds passed and the sun shone again. But i can totally understand why someone who does not understand these truths would want to split up, and then meet someone new, and then try again. 

Bishops – it is and always has been your responsibility to ensure the Catholics in your diocese are properly educated and trained for marriage. The synod is a wonderful opportunity to admit that what you have been doing/not doing regarding marriage over the last 2 generations has been poor. Please discuss…


14 thoughts on “Many Catholic Marriages invalid.

  1. The article makes some very good points. The problems presented by mixed marriages is a recent issue. I am 46 and mine is the first generation to deal with the problems of being married to a non catholic and we do not have an older generation to look to for advice and guidance. This is an enormous problem for a catholic wife married to a non catholic husband as he is meant to be jead of the household. So in practice the family reverts to a non catholic ways. Most of the time mixed marriages result in a protestant family at best, in spite of the best efforts of the wife.
    The other big problem is the lack of passing on of catholic beliefs in the last 2 generations.
    While it is not now the view of the church that mixed marriages are “unlawful”. I would put it to you that God’s law is written on our heatrs. Now I go back to proper marriage preparation. I think this should extend to expecting the bethroed catholic to attend mass weekly during the engaged period and to make a good confession at least once durinv marriage preparation. I believe that when in.a state of grace with God He can guide the bethroad through their heart. I know of 2 people who are devout practicing catholics who.each married non catholics and both had an uncommon number of personal and health disasters while they were engaged. You have to wonder if God was trying to give them a message.

  2. If I could just add;
    God created each of us unique. There is no one quite like any one of us. It makes sense then that there is only one right person for any one; not a right “type” as the world puts it. I think the story of Eve coming from.Adam’s side reminds us of this, and God loves each one of us no less thann Adam or Eve, so why wouldn’t He have created a “perfect match”.

    • The thought that there is only one ‘perfect match’ is what is misleading many to think that they’re having trouble in their marriage because they failed to meet that perfect match. The Bible clearly states that those who marry will have troubles. That clearly includes all marriages. The uninformed who follow the line of thinking that they may find unending ‘love’ if they keep looking for the right person, are being led astray. They tend to run away from their problems, and sacrifice their marriages (and families) at the altar of a false god called ‘sex’ because they think that sex is love, and sadly, they’re willing to do almost anything for it.

  3. You shouldnt paint such a broad brush.mthere are diocease’ that have watered the training down to an online course and others that are very thorough. My son’s diocease had a full weekend retreat plus 6 meets with the pastor. They were pretty pumped up about nfp. They were married in april. Check out the wichita kansas diocease website.

  4. I agree, you shouldn’t paint with such a broad brush. Canon 1095 is not the only requirement of the church which circumscribes marital consent. Canon 1102, section 1, also is extremely pertinent. It says that a person must not exclude absolute indissolubility, fidelity, openness to children, the mutual benefit of the couple – especially in the spiritual realm – and the sacramental dignity of the union. Frankly, the reason so many marriages fail is not that one or both parties is psychologically incapable of marriage. Most human beings are capable of marriage. But many simply do not want to subscribe to marriage as God defines it. They wish to retain personal autonomy and freedom to define the marriage as they see fit. In so doing they rather invariably make their commitment conditional: they are willing to stay with the other person as long as they’re happy, they’re willing to stay with the other person as long as no one else better comes along, they’re willing to stay with the other person as long as something more attractive in terms of career or personal satisfaction in their mind does not supersede the union, they are willing to stay with the other person as long as it’s not too inconvenient, etc. They wish to be able to end the union for cause. In short, they would rather establish the kind of marital union which most other North Americans and western Europeans have. And so they do! This more than anything else is the reason that so many annulments are granted in North America and Western Europe: our society’s definition of marriage is what people prefer to embrace, and if they do, they will not be establishing a valid marriage as God understands it. And because they don’t even realize the objective error of their ways, they tend to do so rather inculpably.

  5. There definitely needs to be greater support and education for those in or considering a mixed marriage. Before Vatican II it was not allowed at all, and would result in an automatic excommunication. Thankfully that has been lifted, but the fact remains that there is a strong argument to be made for marrying within the Faith, which should be throughly explained to all young Catholics who are considering mixed marriages. Pre-Cana meetings with a priest is the ideal time to do this. It is a huge burden on the Catholic partner to raise children in the Faith when the other partner is at odds with this, or offers no support. (St. Paul’s term, “unequally yoked” comes to mind.)
    As far as the greater number of annulments due to “incapacity to give consent” there could be many reasons for this, many of which are ingrained in our societies. Some such reasons could include not just immaturity or selfishness (which are rampant), but addictions and abusive behaviour, which are often overlooked by young, naive people in love. In the past, people would often just live with an addicted or abusive spouse, whereas now with the increased awareness of such behaviour, they leave him or her.

    • That is not quite true. Dispensation was required, and the couple had to be married in the rectory, as were, for example, my in-laws who were married in 1944.

  6. I’m not sure it is entirely accurate to say that Catholics can divorce. It’s a little more complicated. For example if one spouse decides to leave the other he or she is really supposed to get special permission from the local ordinary in irder to do so. Usually even a separation is only supposed to be permitted under circumstances such as abuse or adultery. If the spouse abandons the marital home without this permission the abandoned spouse can notify the bishop and request that he do his duty, which is to notify the abandoner that he or she should not receive communion.
    A lot of people do not realize this because it is not discussed.

  7. Annulments are far too easy to get in the US. I don’t believe that many marriages are invalid. I think most of them are valid and the tribunals are making very bad decisions in *most* cases. There is widespread abuse of canon 1095.

  8. Good points. The Church today does NOT tell the (biblical) truth about marriage, and that’s the primary cause of all problems. Even church theologians and canonists themselves admit that the marriage doctrine originates from Roman law not from the Bible! Entire passages of the Code of Canon Law are taken literally from “distinguished Roman lawyers”, not from Jesus. The differences begin already with the very definition of what “marriage” is? The Church claims that only a church wedding – with the fulfillment of many requirements of the Code of Canon Law – forms a true marriage. The Bible says something totally different: it’s the relationship of “being one flesh” that defines a marriage, not a wedding, vows or religious affiliation. This has huge ethical consequences, also for divorced and remarried couples. I analyse this issue in the article “Marriage According to the Bible”, available here:

  9. Pingback: My Top 5 Hopes for the Family Synod. | Faith in our Families

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