In the Catholic Church, marriage is considered a sacrament and a lifelong commitment between two people.
Adultery is not, in and of itself, grounds for an annulment in the Catholic Church. However, it can contribute to a declaration of nullity if one or both spouses entered the marriage with the mindset of not remaining faithful during the marriage.
This article will explore the Catholic Church’s stance on adultery and annulment.
Understanding Annulment in the Catholic Church
An annulment is a declaration by the Church that a marriage was never valid in the first place. In other words, it is not the dissolution of a marriage but rather a declaration that the marriage was never truly a sacramental bond.
This means that an annulment declares that the couple was never really married in the eyes of the Church.
Adultery as Grounds for Annulment
Adultery is not, in and of itself, grounds for an annulment in the Catholic Church. However, it can be a contributing factor in a declaration of nullity.
If it can be demonstrated that you or your spouse married intending, either explicitly or implicitly, not to remain faithful during the marriage, you may be entitled to an annulment (Canon 1101, 12).
It is important to note that the mere occurrence of adultery does not automatically mean a marriage is null and void.
The Church requires a thorough investigation into the marriage’s circumstances, including the validity of consent and the state of mind of the parties going into the marriage.
What Are Grounds For Annulment in the Catholic Church?
A marriage annulment in the Catholic Church is possible only if well-defined canonical grounds exist.
It is essential to understand these grounds before applying to the Church for an annulment. Here are the different grounds for marriage annulment:
1. Insufficient Use of Reason (Canon 1095)
One or both spouses did not know what happened during the marriage ceremony because of insanity, mental illness, or a lack of consciousness.
2. Grave Lack of Discretionary Judgment Concerning Essential Matrimonial Rights and Duties (Canon 1095)
One or both spouses were affected by serious circumstances or factors that made them unable to judge or evaluate either the decision to marry or the ability to create a valid marital relationship.
3. Psychic-Natured Incapacity to Assume Marital Obligations (Canon 1095)
At the time of consent, one or both spouses could not fulfill the obligations of marriage because of a serious psychological disorder or other condition.
4. Ignorance About the Nature of Marriage (Canon 1096)
One or both spouses did not know that marriage is a permanent relationship between a man and a woman ordered toward the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation.
5. Error of Person (Canon 1097)
One or both spouses intended to marry a specific individual who was not the individual with whom the marriage was celebrated. (For example, mail-order brides; otherwise, this rarely occurs in the United States.)
6. Error About a Quality of a Person (Canon 1097)
One or both spouses intended to marry someone who possessed or did not possess a certain quality, e.g., social status, marital status, education, religious conviction, freedom from disease, or arrest record. That quality must have been directly and principally intended.
7. Fraud (Canon 1098)
One or both spouses were intentionally deceived about the presence or absence of a quality in the other. The reason for this deception was to obtain consent to marriage.
8. Total Willful Exclusion of Marriage (Canon 1101)
One or both spouses did not intend to contract marriage as the law of the Catholic Church understands marriage. Instead, the ceremony was observed solely to obtain something other than the marriage, e.g., to obtain legal status in the country or to legitimize a child.
9. Willful Exclusion of Children (Canon 1101, sec. 2)
One or both spouses married intending, either explicitly or implicitly, to deny the other’s right to sexual acts open to procreation.
10. Willful Exclusion of Marital Fidelity (Canon 1101)
One or both spouses married intending, either explicitly or implicitly, not to remain faithful.
11. Willful Exclusion of Marital Permanence (Canon 1101, sec. 2)
One or both spouses married intending, either explicitly or implicitly, not to create a permanent relationship, retaining an option to divorce.
12. Future Condition (Canon 1102, sec. 2)
One or both spouses attached a future condition to their decision to marry, e.g., completing education, income reaching a certain level, and remaining in a particular area.
13. Past Condition (Canon 1102, sec. 2)
One or both spouses attached a past condition to their decision to marry. That condition did not exist, e.g., “I will marry you provided that you have never been married before,” “I will marry provided you have a college education.” “I will marry, provided you are a millionaire.”
What is the Most Common Ground for Annulment in the Catholic Church?
In the Catholic Church, the most common grounds for annulment are the lack of capacity or intent to enter into a valid marriage.
This could be due to various factors, such as psychological incapacity, coercion, fraud, or a previous marriage that was not properly annulled or dissolved.
Examples of Marriages Annulled by the Catholic Church
Here are some famous examples of people who have had their marriage annulled by the Catholic Church and the reasons why:
- King Henry VIII of England – Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon was annulled by the Catholic Church because he claimed their marriage was invalid due to Catherine’s previous marriage to his deceased brother.
- Brittany Spears – Spears had her marriage to Jason Alexander annulled by the Catholic Church after the two were married in Las Vegas for just 55 hours. The annulment was granted because the marriage was a “joke,” and Spears did not fully comprehend the consequences of getting married.
- Rudolph Valentino – The famous silent film actor had his marriage to Jean Acker annulled by the Catholic Church after just six hours. The annulment was granted because Acker had second thoughts about the marriage and locked Valentino out of their hotel room on their wedding night.
- Joe DiMaggio – The baseball legend had his marriage to Marilyn Monroe annulled by the Catholic Church on the grounds that Monroe’s mental instability made her unable to give proper consent to the marriage.
- Cher – Cher had her marriage to Gregg Allman annulled by the Catholic Church on the grounds that Allman had a substance abuse problem and was unable to fulfill his duties as a husband.
What is the Cost of a Catholic Church Annulment?
The cost of a Catholic Church annulment can vary depending on the diocese and the case’s complexity.
In some dioceses, there may be no fee; in others, there may be a suggested donation or a fee of several hundred dollars.
It’s best to check with your local diocese or tribunal office for more specific information on the cost of a Catholic Church annulment.
In conclusion, adultery is not in itself grounds for an annulment in the Catholic Church.
However, it can contribute to a declaration of nullity if it can be shown that the adultery was evidence of a lack of commitment to the sacramental bond of marriage.
The Church recognizes the harm that adultery can cause a marriage and encourages all its members to seek forgiveness and reconciliation through the sacrament of confession.