Author Topic: Divorce, Annulment & Communion  (Read 2083 times)

Offline Vetus Ordo

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Divorce, Annulment & Communion
« on: August 27, 2019, 03:48:02 PM »
Divorce, Annulment & Communion

An Orthodox Theologian Weighs In.

David Bentley Hart on marriage, divorce and annulment in the western and eastern churches:

"To be honest, many modern believers would be shocked to learn how late in Christian history a clear concept of marriage as a religious institution evolved, and how long it took for it to be absolutely distinguished from what would come to be thought of as common-law unions, or for the church to insist on its solemnization in all cases. They would be even more disturbed, I imagine (as much on democratic principles as religious), to discover that throughout much of the Middle Ages the whole issue of wedlock certified by the church concerned mostly the aristocracy, inasmuch as marriage was chiefly a matter of property, inheritance, and politics. As far as we can tell, among the peasantry of many lands, and for many centuries, marital union was a remarkably mercurial sort of arrangement, one that coalesced and dissolved with considerable informality, as circumstances dictated. And the clergy did not, for the most part, give a damn."

In Commonweal Magazine.

As I am not a Roman Catholic, I cannot pretend to have any stake in—or, for that matter, any particular right to an opinion regarding—the controversy surrounding Amoris laetitia. From the vantage of Eastern Orthodoxy, there is nothing particularly scandalous in the document—certainly nothing repugnant to the Eastern Christian tradition’s understanding of Scripture, ecclesial law, or pastoral practice—but that is an observation of only the most boringly incidental kind. I do, however, know enough about the development of Christian tradition, both East and West, to note that many of the claims made by Catholic traditionalists have been wildly inaccurate. Not that this is surprising. It is always the “traditionalists” (Orthodox no less than Catholic) who tend to have the most tenuous and idealized concept of the actual traditions of their churches, and necessarily so. The one thing they cannot tolerate is ambiguity. But, alas, history is nothing but ambiguity, and the actual historical record is very rarely the traditionalist’s friend.

Not that I would dismiss the dissenters from Amoris laetitia simply on historical grounds. I merely insist that their dissent, if it is grounded in theological principles they believe to be indubitable, should not be diluted by association with easily discredited fictions about the Christian past. I have no doubt, for instance, that Ross Douthat’s alarm at the apparent leanings of the current pontificate on these issues is sincere and prompted by genuine spiritual concerns. But when it becomes clear that he imagines that current Roman Catholic practice regarding divorce and remarriage—especially permanent exclusion from the Eucharist for the remarried—has been the consistent teaching of the Catholic Church from the earliest centuries, and that this is the inarguably correct interpretation of Scripture, and that it is clearly the Orthodox Church that has deviated from the ancient rule of the faith, it becomes difficult not to reject everything he has to say on the matter out of hand. The problem is not simply that he is wrong on the facts; it is that he obviously has a concept of the early centuries of Christianity that borders on fantasy.

Then again, I suppose that most of us do, at least at certain times. It is natural to think that what seems urgently important to Christians now must have occupied at least as prominent a place in the Christian self-understanding of earlier ages. And so, where documentary evidence to that effect is lacking, we are all too ready to supply the deficiency with our own fond imaginings. We speak with ardent earnestness today of the “Christian family,” for instance, largely unaware that the very concept is scarcely two centuries old, and is more a relic of nineteenth-century sentimental bourgeois piety than an expression of the ethos of the Gospel. Christ’s indifference to the special claims of familial loyalty seems to have been almost perfect (see, for example, Matthew 12:47–50 or Mark 3:32–35). Nor, in the early centuries, was there any distinct concept of “Christian marriage,” or of the moral merits of connubial happiness. Paul, for instance, grudgingly allowed that the married state was a licit concession to the irrepressible carnal appetites of the morally feeble (1 Corinthians 7:9), but he certainly didn’t see it as encompassing some special sphere of sanctity.

Neither, for several centuries after the Apostolic Age, did any Christian theological authority think of marriage as a sacrament in our sense. Augustine (354–430) thought it might be described as a sacramentum in the proper acceptation of the Latin word: a solemn and binding oath before God. But even then, although he took the term chiefly from Jerome’s rendering of Ephesians 5:32, he certainly did not number matrimony among the saving “mysteries” of the church, alongside baptism and the Eucharist. Neither did anyone else, for many, many years. Even the great Church Fathers tended to treat marriage as little more than a civil institution, no different in kind for Christians than for non-Christians. One need only look, for example, at John Chrysostom’s fifty-sixth homily (on the second chapter of Genesis) to see how unacquainted even a late-fourth-century theologian of the highest eminence was with any concept of “holy” matrimony. And, inasmuch as they thought of marriage chiefly as a natural fact rather than as a sacred vocation, the Christians of late antiquity did not treat it as a theological topic.

They did, however, treat it as an issue of moral discipline. But here, it turns out, they tended to take a surprisingly pragmatic approach both to the frequent dissolution of marriages and to the frequent remarriage of divorced spouses. Obviously, they regarded both as sinful in some sense. But neither Orthodox nor Catholic tradition (which in the first millennium were of course one and the same) treated divorce and remarriage as the equivalent of apostasy. Not only were the remarried as a class not excluded from communion for life, or required to abstain from sexual union in order to gain readmission to the sacraments; it was actually inscribed in some synodal canons that they should not be permanently excommunicated (see below). Moreover, precisely because marriage was not regarded as a worthy object of theological reflection, the practices of the early church were far more fluid and ad hoc than we might like to believe.

In his Commentary on Matthew, for example, Origen (ca. 184–253) notes that many of the bishops of his time permitted both divorce and remarriage among the faithful. Canon 11 of the Council of Arles (314) recommends that a divorced man not remarry so long as his former wife still lives, but also grants that, for healthy young men incapable of the continence this would require of them, remarriage may prove necessary. Basil the Great (ca. 330–379) instructed Amphilochius of Iconium to allow men abandoned by their wives to remarry without penalty. It was he, also, who apparently first established an official penitential discipline for remarried laity: a second marriage, after either bereavement or divorce, requires one to two years of abstinence from the Eucharist, while a third marriage requires three to five. These rules remained canonical at least as late as the days of  Theodore the Studite (759–826) and Patriarch Nicephorus I of Constantinople (c. 758–828). Incidental remarks of Epiphanius of Salamis (c. 315–403) show that remarriage for the divorced was not in his day regarded as an eternal bar to sacramental life. The Council of Carthage (407) proclaimed that abandoned spouses should, ideally, refrain from second marriage, but that, if they could not, they should undergo penance before being readmitted to communion. Even Augustine, while firmly convinced that marriage should as a rule be indissoluble, nonetheless confessed in his Retractiones that he had no final answer on the issue.

The most crucial pronouncements on the matter, however, were promulgated in 692 in the canons attached to the Sixth Ecumenical Council (Constantinople III) of 680–681 by the Council in Trullo. Canon 87, which largely reprises the rule of Basil, prescribes that a man abandoned by his wife be allowed to remarry without any penitential sequel. But if it is he who is the truant spouse, he must endure seven years of penance—the first as a “shedder of tears,” the next two as a “listener,” like a catechumen, the next three as a “maker of prostrations”—before he may take the Eucharist again (without any obligation to dissolve his second marriage).

Now, it is true that the Council in Trullo was accepted as fully part of the ecumenical deposit only by the Eastern patriarchs, but that should not distract us from what is most significant here. Rome demurred as to the ecumenical status of the council principally because no properly certified Roman legate was present and because, in consequence, certain of the ritual practices enshrined in the council’s canons differed from Western usages. The actual doctrinal and moral contents of the canons, however, including the eighty-seventh, were offensive to no one. Certainly the council was no cause of division among the patriarchates. Pope Hadrian I (r. 772–795) praised its canons, in fact, and even now its ninety-first canon is routinely cited by Catholic apologists as proof of the church’s dogmas regarding abortion.

To be honest, many modern believers would be shocked to learn how late in Christian history a clear concept of marriage as a religious institution evolved, and how long it took for it to be absolutely distinguished from what would come to be thought of as common-law unions, or for the church to insist on its solemnization in all cases. They would be even more disturbed, I imagine (as much on democratic principles as religious), to discover that throughout much of the Middle Ages the whole issue of wedlock certified by the church concerned mostly the aristocracy, inasmuch as marriage was chiefly a matter of property, inheritance, and politics. As far as we can tell, among the peasantry of many lands, and for many centuries, marital union was a remarkably mercurial sort of arrangement, one that coalesced and dissolved with considerable informality, as circumstances dictated. And the clergy did not, for the most part, give a damn.

Nevertheless, as the patristic Christian world yielded to the medieval, East and West did begin to grow apart in the severity with which they dealt with divorce and remarriage among the enfranchised classes. To some extent, it would not be unfair to say that the former fell too much under the sway of Byzantine civil law; and perhaps a militant Newmanian would claim that the latter was being led by the Spirit toward an ever fuller understanding of its own doctrinal inheritance. But the fact remains that neither East nor West, in the early centuries, promoted or practiced anything remotely as strict as modern Roman Catholic teaching prescribes. And, indeed, for almost all the premodern period, the differences between East and West were nowhere near so pronounced as modern Catholic traditionalists imagine. In the West, divorces became harder to obtain, but not impossible. One of the best attested in the historical record was that of the Earl of Gloucester, Gilbert de Clare, and his wife Alice de Lusignan: the formal dissolution of their wedding vows was requested in 1271, but was not granted by the pope until 1285. But it was granted. Nor was their case unique. Later Catholic historians, out of embarrassment, tend to characterize these rare but real ecclesially dissolved marriages as annulments, identical in kind to those so easily obtained today. But no one at the time took them as such.

As I say, history is ambiguity. Perhaps, then, the issue ought to be adjudicated solely in light of the explicit pronouncements of Scripture. Curiously enough, however, it is precisely the New Testament record—especially as originally read by those closer in culture and language to its authors—that accounts for a great deal of the imprecision and variety of the church’s practices in its early centuries. The oldest text in the canon that addresses the issue of divorce, historically speaking, is of course 1 Corinthians 7. There it is quite clear, for instance, that in Paul’s view a Christian husband ought not to divorce (literally, “send away,” “expel”: ἀφιέτω) an unbelieving wife and a Christian wife ought not to abandon an unbelieving husband, but he explicitly qualifies his advice with the condition that, in both cases, the unbelieving spouse must also consent to the arrangement (7:12–13). “But, if the unbeliever separates, let the separation happen; in such circumstances, the brother or the sister is not enslaved” (7:15). As for the issue of remarriage afterwards, Paul’s at times positively sublime gift for obscurity here raises certain insurmountable obstacles to a single sure interpretation. “Have you been bound to a wife? Do not seek divorce. Have you been divorced from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do indeed marry you do not sin” (7:27–28). It is simply impossible to tell whether the “you” to whom Paul is speaking is the same divorced “you” of the immediately preceding sentence (as the plain syntax of the passage would seem to suggest), or whether instead he is tacitly reverting to an earlier reference to those who are as yet unmarried.

In any case, one feature of the text that one should not overlook is the asymmetry in Paul’s formulation of the ways in which a marriage might break apart: a man may “divorce” his wife, but a woman can only “abandon” her husband. It is a distinction in usage that one should keep firmly in mind in trying to make sense of how the pronouncements of Christ on the matter might have been read by the earliest Christians. The truth is that the very word “divorce” becomes somewhat equivocal when we use it as a designation both for the Mosaic legal mechanism of which Christ speaks in the synoptic gospels and for the ex consensu termination of a marriage with which we are familiar today. Under the Mosaic code, only the man enjoyed the power of issuing a writ of separation; and, in an age and place in which a wife was typically much younger than her husband and always entirely dependent upon him for her livelihood, such a writ entailed the expulsion of a woman from her home without property, protection, or any means of supporting herself. Should a man tire of his wife and become enamored of another girl or woman, the only permissible method for exchanging his old bride for the new one was effectively to condemn the former to a life of total penury, and often of prostitution. It was entirely in keeping, then, with Christ’s constant excoriation of every injustice worked against the defenseless and the poor that he should condemn as an adulterer any man who would cast his wife away to a life of utter desperation in order to replace her with someone more to his fancy (Matthew 5:32, 19:9; Mark 10:11; Luke 16:18), and accuse him of forcing his former wife to commit adultery in turn (Matthew 5:32). Hence it is that the immediate response of Jesus’ disciples to these pronouncements is merely: “If such is the responsibility of a man with a wife, it is not profitable to marry” (Matthew 19:10).

As for the culpability of the woman who remarries (Mark 10:12), one must also remember that no woman, under the circumstances of that age, would have abandoned her husband for any reason other than to attach herself to another man. Moreover, the word ἀνήρ used in this passage means both “man” and “husband.” It would have been perfectly natural, then, for the earliest Christian interpreters of the gospels to assume that Jesus was speaking specifically about a wife who leaves her husband in order to be wed to another, perhaps obliging her second husband in the process to dispose of an inconvenient prior wife of his own. Certainly it would have been assumed that the man who marries a divorced woman (Matthew 5:32; Luke 16:38) is in fact someone who has lured the woman away from her home. At least, such a reading would seem to be largely confirmed by Matthew’s gospel, where a man who merely lusts after a “married woman” (γυνή) has already committed adultery in his heart (5:27), and where the dominical prohibition on men divorcing their wives is explicitly qualified by an exception for cases of πορνεία, or “harlotry” (5:32, 19:9).

Perhaps none of this tells us exactly how we should now understand the New Testament’s treatment of the issue of divorce. It certainly does not help us decide whether the terms in the New Testament that we habitually translate as “divorce”—in the gospels ἀποστάσιον (writ of separation) and ἀπολύσις (dissolution, release); in 1 Corinthians λύσις (loosing, dissolution) and ἄφεσις (sending away, expelling)—should be understood as exact equivalents of the sort of ex consensu “divorce” or διαζύγιον codified in imperial law, effected between two adults, each of whom “had a person” before the court. It does, however, allow us to understand how it is that the Christians of the first several centuries of the church did not naturally conclude that they were obliged to regard divorce and remarriage as constituting a permanent rupture of sacramental communion. For one thing, neither Paul nor Christ (at least, if Matthew’s gospel is accorded the same doctrinal weight as Mark’s and Luke’s) absolutely forbade every kind of divorce. Why then would the church have done so? And it does not seem unreasonable to wonder whether the various meanings of the scriptural terms we translate as “divorce” ought not to give us pause, and make us wonder whether we are not attempting to make sense of both the past and the present in terms of practices very different from our own.

At least, I do not find it intuitively obvious that Christ’s condemnation of a very specific unjust legal practice of his time and place, inflicted upon women who could make no appeal against it and whom it left defenseless, or of a very particular act of betrayal on the part of a truant wife and her lover, applies in the same way to the consensual dissolution of a hopeless marriage by two legally enfranchised adults. I do not mean to minimize even that sort of divorce. But I think we have all seen truly disastrous marriages, and we all know that there are few situations in life more spiritually, psychologically, and morally devastating. And it is worth asking whether that was what Christ was talking about at all. Or, then again, perhaps it is not. In fact, no Christian tradition assumes that this was what Christ meant. Hence even Rome allows for annulments. But here we arrive at the greatest ambiguity of all.

I have been asked on a few occasions to speak on the differences between the Orthodox and Roman church teachings and practice regarding divorce and remarriage—generally with the expectation that I will attempt to justify one over against the other, or at the very least hold them in tension. I have generally declined the invitation, not because I think the issue too complicated, but because I do not actually believe there is much real difference on this matter between the two communions, and yet I know that saying so will almost certainly initiate an excruciatingly tedious argument. It is not the case, it seems to me, that the Eastern church is especially lax with regard to marital dissolution while the Western is especially strict. Both are remarkably pliant and pragmatic (sometimes to a deplorable degree) when the crisis comes. In fact, this is what strikes me as so odd about the exuberant anguish occasioned by a few small, hesitant, almost majestically ambiguous formulations at the edges of Amoris laetitia. Viewed from any sane perspective, the Roman communion is absolutely brimming over with divorced and remarried persons who suffer no impediment at all in approaching the sacraments.

Really, when one looks at it closely, in light of both the empirical facts and the abstract principles of the matter, the distinction between divorce and annulment is specious all the way down. For one thing, as regards actual cases on the ground, anyone who has seen a sufficient number of annulments at close quarters (and I have witnessed quite a few) knows that they are not only fairly easy to obtain for those willing to make the effort, but that the terms governing them are applied with such plasticity that it is difficult to see how any marriage could fail to meet the standards. True, abusus non tollit usum (abuse does not do away with proper use); but, in fact, there really is no abuse involved. The very concept of annulment, as something ontologically distinct from divorce, is logically incoherent, and really can be taken seriously only by a mind so absolutely indoctrinated to believe that the Roman Catholic Church does not tolerate divorce and remarriage that no evidence to the contrary can alter that conviction.

The very premise that a marriage can be pronounced null and void, in effect retroactively (since that same marriage would be regarded as real and legitimate if suit for annulment had never been brought forward), on the grounds of some original defect of intention that means it was never a real marriage to begin with (though again, it would be considered a real marriage if that defect were never exposed), basically provides a license to regard every marriage as provisional only. After all, in what union of a man and a woman could one not detect some crucial defect of original intention if one were to seek it? Moreover, if one looks at the criteria customarily used to prove that a marriage was never really a marriage, they scarcely differ at all from the criteria that the Orthodox Church—in principle, at least—is supposed to accept as legitimate grounds for divorce. And what is a divorce, after all, other than a recognition that the original marriage was contracted in ignorance and without full mutual commitment to everything a true marriage is?

In the end, both communions grant dissolutions of marriages and tolerate remarriages with perhaps far too little reluctance; certainly neither requires a real penitential reconciliation with the church, as prescribed by the ancient canons. It might make Catholics feel better about their Eastern brethren if the Orthodox Church called these separations “annulments,” and issued formal absolutions from wedding vows under such terms. I have to say, however, that I am glad it does neither. To my mind, the concept of annulment is not only specious and logically contradictory, but also somewhat insidious—in fact, often rather cynical and cruel. It is terrible enough when a marriage—something on which a man and a woman, at what is usually a fairly innocent moment in their lives, have staked their futures and their hopes for happiness—falls apart. It is somehow all the more terrible when, solely for the sake of avoiding institutional embarrassment, we are asked to indulge in the fiction that it was never a real marriage to begin with.

I know of a woman whose well-connected husband managed to obtain an annulment without her consent, and on grounds that would have scarcely qualified him as a plaintiff before a secular divorce court. And I happen to know that, of the two, he was the far more culpable in the matter. What she found bitterest of all in the final settlement was that, according to her church, no one was obliged to admit that her life as a wife and mother of twenty-six years—in a union freely contracted, sacramentally solemnized, physically and fruitfully consummated—had broken apart. Rather than properly acknowledge the tragedy she had endured, she was expected to consent instead to something perilously close to golden-age Hollywood farce (Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard discover that their marriage license from three years before was jurisdictionally irregular, and that they are not really man and wife in the eyes of the law, and oh, what hilarity ensues. . . ). To her it seemed both humiliating and dishonest to pretend that what had disintegrated after a quarter century, and left her emotionally shattered, was in any sense something less than a true marriage.

In any event, as I said at the beginning, I have no answers to propose to Catholic believers on the issue. More to the point, though, I also think the search for answers is somewhat pointless under the conditions that actually obtain. I cannot make myself believe that the distinction between divorce and annulment is logically sustainable. And so, as far as I can tell, the situation in both the Orthodox and the Roman churches is, for all intents and purposes, the same. Both communions call marriage a sacrament, both bless it before the altar as something that should in principle never be dissolved, and yet both do allow for such dissolution, and provide mechanisms for reconciling the separated spouses to the church. The communions use different words at certain crucial junctures, and justify the abrogation of sacramental vows by slightly different reasoning, but in the end the effect is the same. In either case, what occurs is a kind of spiritual and personal catastrophe. There is only, it seems to me, a single significant difference between their practices: in only one of the two communions is that catastrophe compounded by what sometimes looks like a cynical duplicity. 
DISPOSE OUR DAYS IN THY PEACE, AND COMMAND US TO BE DELIVERED FROM ETERNAL DAMNATION, AND TO BE NUMBERED IN THE FLOCK OF THINE ELECT.
 
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Offline Davis Blank - EG

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Re: Divorce, Annulment & Communion
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2019, 07:16:07 PM »
In which an Anglican convert to Orthodoxy tells liberal Catholics that marriage has been a sham for 1,800 years of Christianity.  He then exegetes the obvious verse for us, as fits with him having done his own New Testament translation.  I see his latest text argues that hell is not permanent and that all men are saved, based upon his exegesis and logical reasoning.
 
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Offline TheReturnofLive

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Re: Divorce, Annulment & Communion
« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2019, 07:35:47 PM »
In which an Anglican convert to Orthodoxy tells liberal Catholics that marriage has been a sham for 1,800 years of Christianity.  He then exegetes the obvious verse for us, as fits with him having done his own New Testament translation.  I see his latest text argues that hell is not permanent and that all men are saved, based upon his exegesis and logical reasoning.

Quote
In his Commentary on Matthew, for example, Origen (ca. 184–253) notes that many of the bishops of his time permitted both divorce and remarriage among the faithful. Canon 11 of the Council of Arles (314) recommends that a divorced man not remarry so long as his former wife still lives, but also grants that, for healthy young men incapable of the continence this would require of them, remarriage may prove necessary. Basil the Great (ca. 330–379) instructed Amphilochius of Iconium to allow men abandoned by their wives to remarry without penalty. It was he, also, who apparently first established an official penitential discipline for remarried laity: a second marriage, after either bereavement or divorce, requires one to two years of abstinence from the Eucharist, while a third marriage requires three to five. These rules remained canonical at least as late as the days of  Theodore the Studite (759–826) and Patriarch Nicephorus I of Constantinople (c. 758–828). Incidental remarks of Epiphanius of Salamis (c. 315–403) show that remarriage for the divorced was not in his day regarded as an eternal bar to sacramental life. The Council of Carthage (407) proclaimed that abandoned spouses should, ideally, refrain from second marriage, but that, if they could not, they should undergo penance before being readmitted to communion. Even Augustine, while firmly convinced that marriage should as a rule be indissoluble, nonetheless confessed in his Retractiones that he had no final answer on the issue.

The most crucial pronouncements on the matter, however, were promulgated in 692 in the canons attached to the Sixth Ecumenical Council (Constantinople III) of 680–681 by the Council in Trullo. Canon 87, which largely reprises the rule of Basil, prescribes that a man abandoned by his wife be allowed to remarry without any penitential sequel. But if it is he who is the truant spouse, he must endure seven years of penance—the first as a “shedder of tears,” the next two as a “listener,” like a catechumen, the next three as a “maker of prostrations”—before he may take the Eucharist again (without any obligation to dissolve his second marriage).

Now, it is true that the Council in Trullo was accepted as fully part of the ecumenical deposit only by the Eastern patriarchs, but that should not distract us from what is most significant here. Rome demurred as to the ecumenical status of the council principally because no properly certified Roman legate was present and because, in consequence, certain of the ritual practices enshrined in the council’s canons differed from Western usages. The actual doctrinal and moral contents of the canons, however, including the eighty-seventh, were offensive to no one. Certainly the council was no cause of division among the patriarchates. Pope Hadrian I (r. 772–795) praised its canons, in fact, and even now its ninety-first canon is routinely cited by Catholic apologists as proof of the church’s dogmas regarding abortion.
 

Offline mikemac

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Re: Divorce, Annulment & Communion
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2019, 09:16:03 PM »
There is a reason why marriage was not a Sacrament in the early Catholic Church.

Quote
History of marriage in the Catholic Church
Early period

Marriage was considered a necessary passage into adulthood, and strongly supported within the Jewish faith. The author of the letter to the Hebrews declared that marriage should be held in honour among all,[4] and early Christians defended the holiness of marriage against the Gnostics and the Antinomians.[5]

At the same time, some in the emerging Christian communities began to prize the celibate state higher than marriage, taking the model of Jesus as guide. This was related to a widespread belief about the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God; and thus the exhortation by Jesus to avoid earthly ties. The apostle Paul in his letters also suggested a preference for celibacy, but recognized that not all Christians necessarily had the ability to live such a life: "Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion."[6] This teaching suggested that marriage be used only as a last resort by those Christians who found it too difficult to exercise a level of self-control and remain chaste, not having the gift of celibacy.[7] Armstrong has argued that to a significant degree, early Christians "placed less value on the family" and saw celibacy and freedom from family ties as a preferable state for those capable of it.[8] Nevertheless, this is tempered by other scholars who state Paul would no more impose celibacy than insist on marriage. What people instinctively choose manifests God's gift. Thus, he takes for granted that the married are not called to celibacy.[9]

As the Church developed as an institution and came into contact with the Greek world, it reinforced the idea found in writers such as Plato and Aristotle that the celibate unmarried state was preferable and more holy than the married one. At the same time, it challenged some of the prevalent social norms such as the buying and selling of women into marriage, and defended the right of women to choose to remain unmarried virgins for the sake of Christ. The stories associated with the many virgin martyrs in the first few centuries of the Catholic Church often make it clear that they were martyred for their refusal to marry, not necessarily simply their belief in Christ.

The teaching on the superiority of virginity over marriage expressed by Saint Paul was accepted by the early Church, as shown in the 2nd-century Shepherd of Hermas. Justin Martyr, writing in the middle of the 2nd century, boasted of the "many men and women of sixty and seventy years of age who from their childhood have been the disciples of Christ, and have kept themselves uncorrupted". Virginity was praised by Cyprian (c. 200 – 258) and other prominent Christian figures and leaders. Philip Schaff admits that it cannot be denied that the later doctrine of the 16th century Council of Trent – "that it is more blessed to remain virgin or celibate than to be joined in marriage" – was the view that dominated the whole of the early Christian church. At the same time, the Church still discouraged anyone who would "condemn marriage, or abominate and condemn a woman who is a believer and devout, and sleeps with her own husband, as though she could not enter the Kingdom [of heaven]".[10]

For much of the history of the Catholic Church, no specific ritual was therefore prescribed for celebrating a marriage – at least not until the late medieval period: "Marriage vows did not have to be exchanged in a church, nor was a priest's presence required. A couple could exchange consent anywhere, anytime."[11]

And there is a reason why marriage became a Sacrament in the medieval period.

Quote
History of marriage in the Catholic Church
Medieval period
Sacramental development

The medieval Christian church, taking the lead of Augustine, developed the sacramental understanding of matrimony. However, even at this stage the Catholic Church did not consider the sacraments equal in importance.[40][41][42] Marriage has never been considered either to be one of the sacraments of Christian initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist) or of those that confer a character (Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders).[43]

With the development of sacramental theology, marriage was included in the select seven to which the term "sacrament" was applied. Explicit classification of marriage in this way came in reaction to the contrary teaching of Catharism that marriage and procreation are evil: the first official declaration that marriage is a sacrament was made at the 1184 Council of Verona as part of a condemnation of the Cathars.[44] In 1208, Pope Innocent III required members of another religious movement, that of the Waldensians, to recognize that marriage is a sacrament as a condition for being received back into the Catholic Church.[44] In 1254, Catholics accused Waldensians of condemning the sacrament of marriage, "saying that married persons sin mortally if they come together without the hope of offspring".[45] The Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 had already stated in response to the teaching of the Cathars: "For not only virgins and the continent but also married persons find favour with God by right faith and good actions and deserve to attain to eternal blessedness."[46] Marriage was also included in the list of the seven sacraments at the Second Council of Lyon in 1274 as part of the profession of faith required of Michael VIII Palaiologos. The sacraments of marriage and holy orders were distinguished as sacraments that aim at the "increase of the Church" from the other five sacraments, which are intended for the spiritual perfection of individuals. The Council of Florence in 1439 again recognised marriage as a sacrament.[44][47]

The medieval view of the sacramentality of marriage has been described as follows: "Like the other sacraments, medieval writers argued marriage was an instrument of sanctification, a channel of grace that caused God's gracious gifts and blessings to be poured upon humanity. Marriage sanctified the Christian couple by allowing them to comply with God's law for marriage and by providing them with an ideal model of marriage in Christ the bridegroom, who took the church as his bride and accorded it highest love, devotion, and sacrifice, even to the point of death."[48]

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Like John Vennari (RIP) said "Why not just do it?  What would it hurt?"
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Offline Non Nobis

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Re: Divorce, Annulment & Communion
« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2019, 03:05:52 AM »
There is a reason why marriage was not a Sacrament in the early Catholic Church.
...

And there is a reason why marriage became a Sacrament in the medieval period.


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The 7 Sacraments were instituted by Christ, not by the Church (except insofar as Christ is the Head of the Church)

The practice and understanding of marriage developed over time, but Christ founded it; this is Catholic doctrine:

Quote
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09707a.htm

That Christian marriage (i.e. marriage between baptized persons) is really a sacrament of the New Law in the strict sense of the word is for all Catholics an indubitable truth. According to the Council of Trent this dogma has always been taught by the Church, and is thus defined in canon i, Sess. XXIV: "If any one shall say that matrimony is not truly and properly one of the Seven Sacraments of the Evangelical Law, instituted by Christ our Lord, but was invented in the Church by men, and does not confer grace, let him be anathema."

...
The teaching of the Fathers and the constant tradition of the Church, as already remarked, set forth the dogma of Christian marriage as a sacrament, not in the scientific, theological terminology of later time, but only in substance. Substantially, the following elements belong to a sacrament of the New Law:

    it must be a sacred religious rite instituted by Christ;
    this rite must be a sign of interior sanctification;
    it must confer this interior sanctification or Divine grace;
    this effect of Divine grace must be produced, not only in conjunction with the respective religious act, but through it.

Hence, whoever attributes these elements to Christian marriage, thereby declares it a true sacrament in the strict sense of the word.

« Last Edit: August 28, 2019, 03:12:28 AM by Non Nobis »
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Offline mikemac

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Re: Divorce, Annulment & Communion
« Reply #5 on: August 28, 2019, 11:44:04 AM »
Well I agree Non Nobis.  But are you disagreeing with the opening post and what I quoted to say that they are wrong to say that there was no specific ritual for marriage in the Catholic Church until the medieval period?
Like John Vennari (RIP) said "Why not just do it?  What would it hurt?"
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Offline John Lamb

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Re: Divorce, Annulment & Communion
« Reply #6 on: August 28, 2019, 01:44:02 PM »
Many souls are going to spend eternity in hell for their complicity in the scandal of unjustified annulments, an eternal hell which that notorious heretic David Bentley Hart denies. So now we've heard a heretic's response to this scandal (compound it by attacking the sacrament of matrimony itself), let's hear the response of one of the faithful.

https://dads.org/marriage/unintended-consequences-from-easy-annulments/

Unintended Consequences from Easy Annulments
by Steve Wood

I was recently talking with a Catholic woman in her mid-twenties when the subject of annulments came up. Her immediate response was, “It’s a joke.” If you supposed that this young adult woman was a cafeteria Catholic showing up for Mass a few times a year, picking and choosing convenient moral doctrines, you assumed wrong. She is a faithful Mass attender who knows her faith and adheres to all of the Catholic moral teachings.

The Catholic Church is suffering a severe credibility crisis among faithful young adults. Nothing looms larger in the credibility crisis than the clergy sex abuse of minors and the subsequent cover-ups by episcopal leadership. Lengthy explanations and rationalizations that appear in the Catholic press and media are mostly read by older adults. Younger adults are not remotely interested in any media spin on what are grave sins and felony crimes.

Pope Francis recently called the failure to take action in response to clergy sex abuse, “sins of omission on the part of church leaders.” He called the widespread abuse of minors, “a terrible darkness in the life of the Church.” Such plain-spoken, honest, non-sugar-coated talk by the Holy Father will help restore confidence in the Church, especially with youth and young adults.

The Church needs such frank descriptions of the annulment crisis as well, especially in the United States, the world leader in annulments. In the United States the annulment process is commonly viewed as the way large numbers of Catholics divorce and remarry.

Am I saying that all annulments in the United States are somehow defective? No, I am not saying anything of the sort. There are indeed persons getting married with serious pathological disturbances causing a lack of capacity for entering a life-long commitment at the time of their wedding. There are some others who were pressured, threatened, or forced into marriages. In such situations declarations of nullity are most certainly justified.

Unfortunately, most Catholics in the United States have known people granted declarations of nullity such as the two real-life examples below:

At the urging of a devout Catholic wife, I met her Protestant husband in the hope that I might be an influence in his becoming a Catholic. To break the ice in our meeting he asked me, “What caused you to become a Catholic?” I responded that it was the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage that initially drew me towards the Catholic Church.

In response, he shook his head and told me about his Catholic friend who boasted on a fishing trip how he planned to dump his wife and marry his young girlfriend. To top it off, he bragged about getting the Catholic seal of approval for his sinful actions having been unwisely assured of an annulment beforehand.

Catholic teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, that which I cherished as a Catholic convert, was scorned by this man. Obviously, I didn’t make much headway in persuading him of the truthfulness of Catholicism. Sometime later, the husband I spoke with followed his Catholic fishing buddy’s bad example and divorced his wife and left his family heartbroken.

I encountered a second shocking situation regarding attitudes towards annulments shortly after our family entered the Catholic Church.

We considered moving to the Front Royal, Virginia area due to the presence of a strong Catholic community there. We used a nice mother-daughter realtor team to investigate properties. We mentioned to them that as new Catholics we were interested in living within driving range of the Front Royal Catholic community.

During a few private moments between looking at houses, the daughter asked me why I became a Catholic. Her curiosity was piqued regarding the reasons for my conversion when she learned that I was formerly a Protestant pastor. I mentioned that it was the Catholic teaching on marriage and family life, especially the indissolubility of marriage, which prompted my conversion. At this, her normally pleasant countenance changed.

In mid-life, her father took up with a young girlfriend. He subsequently divorced her mother, abandoning both of them to fend for themselves. When she spoke of the Catholic Church rewarding her father’s sins with an annulment, she could barely contain her emotions. To her, such annulments were not merely a joke; rather they were something corrupt, anti-family, anti-marriage, anti-Christian, and utterly despicable.

Some Church leaders are advocating making the annulment process easier at the Vatican’s Synod on the Family next fall. Part of the reasoning is that many who civilly remarry outside the Church might quit church participation altogether. I think this concern has some basis in fact. Yet I wonder if the same leaders have considered the greater harm stemming from extreme multi-generational bitterness towards Catholicism generated by easy annulments. There’s a world of difference between quiet-quitters from the Faith and perpetually angry and embittered family members profoundly harmed by easy annulments.

I am convinced that the Catholic Church says all the right things about the indissolubility of marriage. Yet, most folks both inside and outside of the Church, as well as those on the margins, will give greater weight to what the Church does with annulments when forming opinions on just how serious the Church is about indissolubility.

Yes, I am very aware of the many websites, books, articles, media campaigns, and broadcasts explaining how declarations of nullity are not simply the way Catholics do divorce and remarriage. Yet most of these noble efforts lack effectiveness since most Catholics in the United States have firsthand experience of friends or family members getting undeserved easy annulments. They see Catholics divorcing and remarrying like the general public, except Catholics just need some expensive paperwork.

I am not saying this is an accurate universal portrayal of annulments, but the fact is too many easy annulments have created a distorted perception of Catholic marital teaching. Church leaders, religious media personnel, and faithfully practicing older Catholics desperately need to go outside of the narrow circle of various Catholic media outlets to discover what tens of millions of Catholics, especially young adults, are really thinking about annulments.

Equally important is to uncover why the marriage rate of young Catholic adults is plummeting. While easy annulments are not the only cause, they are certainly one of the primary reasons why thousands of young adults hold such a low view of a sacramental church wedding that they are increasingly avoiding it altogether.

Counselors divide marriages that end in divorce into two general categories: high-stress and low-stress. Divorces from high-stress marriages are characterized by such things as rampant alcoholism, drug addiction, verbal and physical abuse, and pathological psychological disturbances.

Yet, divorces from high-stress marriages are a minority of the marital breakups in the U.S. and hence only a minority of the cases that are brought before tribunals. According to Dr. Paul Amato, a sociologist at Penn State University, 55 to 60 percent of divorces occur in low-conflict/low stress marriages. Other researchers estimate that as many as 70 percent of divorces are from low-conflict marriages. Regardless of the exact percentage, Dr. Amato’s research found that children suffer the most negative effects after a divorce from a low-conflict marriage, rather than from a high-conflict marriage.

Psychologists and marital sociologists state that it is easier for children to deal with the death of a parent than it is for them to struggle with the aftermath of their parents’ divorce from a low-stress marriage. Since the majority of declarations of nullity are for divorces from low-stress marriages, we need to realize that an annulment in such a situation does absolutely nothing to heal the decades of profound pain experienced by millions of Catholic children.

I am appalled by defenders of easy annulments when they simply mention that the declaration of nullity doesn’t mean that the children from such broken marriages are in any way illegitimate. The statement is completely true, yet fails to mention that annulments do not ameliorate the decades of a child’s suffering after the divorce as seen in higher rates of: depression and psychological disturbances, substance abuse, welfare dependency, school suspension, incarceration, cohabitation, out-of-wedlock child-bearing, and rates of divorce in future marriages.

The welfare of Catholic children is the ultimate reason why it’s imperative that next fall’s Synod on the Family doesn’t make annulments any easier and thus unintentionally weakens the indissolubility of marriage.

In a low-stress marriage no one is getting black eyes, harmed, or threatened. What is experienced in low-stress marriages are the normal marital problems that all couples experience, but with a lack of the necessary skills and perseverance to navigate through the difficulties. Low-stress marriages may have unmet needs, unrealistic expectations, poor communication, or are simply going through a very difficult rough patch in their marriage.

Low-stress unhappy marriages can be healed and become very happy, especially with adequate time and with what is known as “skill-based marital education.” Rather than granting annulments following divorces from low-stress marriages the focus should be on preventing such divorces in the first place by offering widespread effective skill-based education and support.

While there are many fine exceptions, overall there is a shocking lack of pastoral and parish support for those experiencing marital difficulties. Saying to a troubled spouse, “Come see me after the divorce and I’ll help you through the annulment process,” is not support for lifelong marriage. In fact, just saying such a thing could easily be a strike against a marriage that otherwise could be healed.

It is not uncommon for a couple experiencing a painful period in their marriage to think that the pain will last for the rest of their married life. At such times they are vulnerable to overt and subtle suggestions from clergy, family, friends, and counselors to abandon the marriage. The alluring prospect of being able to start over with a new and different spouse after divorce and an easy annulment is enough for many hurting couples to choose a marital exit strategy over making the necessary sacrifices to develop a lifelong marriage.

The proposal by some Catholic leaders to increase the availability and ease of obtaining annulments will have the unintended consequence of weakening an already weak Catholic marriage culture. What Catholic marriages really need, especially in Europe and North America, is practical and effective assistance in healing hurting marriages in order to reduce the Catholic divorce rate.

In my next letter I’ll present seven practical and proven ways to reduce the Catholic divorce rate. These types of practical steps to prevent divorce and strengthen marriages are what the Synod on the Family should be focusing upon.
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Offline John Lamb

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Re: Divorce, Annulment & Communion
« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2019, 01:53:20 PM »
Remember whenever the subject of annulments comes up and the very grave scandal that is being given by so many fake annulments, that there was a time when simony was so rife in the Church that the abuse had to be addressed by multiple ecumenical councils. Just as widespread simony in the ecclesiastical institutions attacked, profaned, and prosituted the sacrament of Holy Orders, so widespread fake annulments attack, profane, and prostitute the sacrament of Matrimony. Nevertheless, we shouldn't imitate the Protestants and other heretics who lost their faith through the scandal of simony, by losing ours through this current scandal. Where we have no power to effect reform in the Church, we will have to be satisfied with knowing that God's wrath will avenge all those so cruelly abused by this disgusting profanation of Christian marriage, and that those who today imagine that they're secure in their adulterous pseudo-marriages will tomorrow be in hell together with those who approved them. "Woe to the world because of scandals. For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh."
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Offline Gardener

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Re: Divorce, Annulment & Communion
« Reply #8 on: August 28, 2019, 08:30:09 PM »
There are a few dioceses where the rate of granting is fairly low. I think Colorado Springs is one of the lower ones in the nation, at around 30% granted -- most for lack of form -- if I recall. The judicial vicar, Msgr. Ricardo, J.C.D., takes his role seriously; the defender of the bond, Fr. McCann, J.C.L., also takes his role seriously (both are known to celebrate the TLM when the opportunity presents itself). However, most dioceses are somewhere up in the 80-90%+ granting rate, and their judicial vicars will most likely indeed burn in Hell.
 

Offline bigbadtrad

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Re: Divorce, Annulment & Communion
« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2019, 09:29:37 AM »
I remember reading there were on average 7 annulments per year in the entire US in the 50's. The grounds were strictly on objective grounds: previous marriage, external coercion and the like. Once it was switched it to psychological and subjective grounds marriage became a joke.

I love the argument for annulments for psychological immaturity. I mean most people get annulments to get married again so if they were immature during that marriage why aren't they immature for future ones as well?
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Offline The Harlequin King

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Re: Divorce, Annulment & Communion
« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2019, 10:29:07 AM »
I love the argument for annulments for psychological immaturity. I mean most people get annulments to get married again so if they were immature during that marriage why aren't they immature for future ones as well?

To be honest, I don't find that hard to believe, especially with marriages of persons under the age of 25. Annulment cases skyrocket especially in the case of teenage marriages. Appealing to the comparative maturity of people from the greatest generation and beyond doesn't really help because the entire culture of marriage was so different. My generation lives in a kind of throwaway culture that is completely unimaginable to past generations, in part because the Church herself promotes it (with, for instance, the constant tinkering and updating of missals!) Even for myself, I haven't lived in the same housing unit for more than 2 years at a time in the past decade, and I don't have much interest in being a homeowner, even after reading all the articles and hearing all the arguments in favor of it. So there isn't much sense of permanency at all.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2019, 10:30:40 AM by The Harlequin King »
 
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Offline St.Justin

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Re: Divorce, Annulment & Communion
« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2019, 12:36:37 PM »
I remember reading there were on average 7 annulments per year in the entire US in the 50's. The grounds were strictly on objective grounds: previous marriage, external coercion and the like. Once it was switched it to psychological and subjective grounds marriage became a joke.

I love the argument for annulments for psychological immaturity. I mean most people get annulments to get married again so if they were immature during that marriage why aren't they immature for future ones as well?
The immaturity must be before the marriage so as to invalidate the Sacrament. This applies to all grounds for annulments in that they have to render the Sacrament itself invalidate (matter form intention)  and nothing to do with what occurs after.
 

Offline Non Nobis

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Re: Divorce, Annulment & Communion
« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2019, 10:57:02 PM »
I remember reading there were on average 7 annulments per year in the entire US in the 50's. The grounds were strictly on objective grounds: previous marriage, external coercion and the like. Once it was switched it to psychological and subjective grounds marriage became a joke.

I love the argument for annulments for psychological immaturity. I mean most people get annulments to get married again so if they were immature during that marriage why aren't they immature for future ones as well?
The immaturity must be before the marriage so as to invalidate the Sacrament. This applies to all grounds for annulments in that they have to render the Sacrament itself invalidate (matter form intention)  and nothing to do with what occurs after.

Right, so the idea (bigbadtrad) is that before the first marriage they were immature, and so could have the first marriage annulled; but then they gradually matured (even during the first non-marriage) and were able to marry later. People (ideally) don't stay immature forever.

Of course the claim of immaturity is always doubtful, and I'm sure little is done to prove it these days.  But if it can be proven (and is indeed the case), then the first marriage can be annulled and the intentions of the couple is irrelevant.

But what is meant by "immaturity", exactly? It seems someone could be be too immature to recognize that a marriage will probably go bad, but still be mature enough to marry.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2019, 11:17:50 PM by Non Nobis »
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[Job  38:1-5]  Then the Lord answered Job out of a whirlwind, and said: [2] Who is this that wrappeth up sentences in unskillful words? [3] Gird up thy loins like a man: I will ask thee, and answer thou me. [4] Where wast thou when I laid up the foundations of the earth? tell me if thou hast understanding. [5] Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

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Offline bigbadtrad

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Re: Divorce, Annulment & Communion
« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2019, 01:53:05 PM »
Every person in the world could be accused of immaturity. It's an empty claim anyone could make for any reason. It's like being accused of racism where the mere accusation of 1 word would take 10,000 to defend yourself.

Also, the judge who decides would be different from one place to another. There is no objective source for proving or disproving the accusation or the judgement.

Also, back to my original point that someone grew in maturity is rarely the case. I hardly see a man become more mature after 30 unless he’s deep in his faith. If he is he’s not looking for an annulment.

My contention is annulments had objective standards, now they are subjective as well with the vast majority of cases being subjective.

If your marriage was contested and your spouse claimed immaturity for themselves or you tell me how certain would you feel before the tribunal your marriage would stand? I know for certain I wouldn’t be certain under such standards. Its sacramental roulette in the best of circumstances.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2019, 02:48:20 AM by bigbadtrad »
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Offline Michael Wilson

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Re: Divorce, Annulment & Communion
« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2019, 06:57:54 PM »
Quote
Right, so the idea (bigbadtrad) is that before the first marriage they were immature, and so could have the first marriage annulled; but then they gradually matured (even during the first non-marriage) and were able to marry later. People (ideally) don't stay immature forever.

Of course the claim of immaturity is always doubtful, and I'm sure little is done to prove it these days.  But if it can be proven (and is indeed the case), then the first marriage can be annulled and the intentions of the couple is irrelevant.

But what is meant by "immaturity", exactly? It seems someone could be be too immature to recognize that a marriage will probably go bad, but still be mature enough to marry.
A Spanish friend of mine applied for and obtained an annulment on the grounds of immaturity (after 10years of marriage and two daughters); the psychologist's report stated (according to him) that he was so immature that he would never be fit to marry even in the future. The annulment was granted; but five years latter, he was married once again, in the Church! I would wager with a certificate of good health, from the same psychologist or another just like him; what a joke. 
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