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Definition:   An authoritative declaration by the Catholic Church that a marriage was invalid from the beginning (i.e., it never occurred from a spiritual perspective). A decree of nullity is automatic if the marriage “lacked the proper form.” Otherwise, a formal investigation must be performed. Marriage is one of the seven Catholic sacraments and must be administered by a priest. So if a marriage was not conducted in the Catholic Church, it is deemed to lack the form necessary to be a valid sacramental marriage. Thus, if a non-Catholic were to divorce, the marriage is automatically nullified, and no investigation is needed for remarriage within the Catholic Church. For a valid Catholic marriage to be nullified, a formal investigation must determines “just cause” to explain why the sacrament of marriage was ineffective. Examples of situations that may create an invalid marriage include: immaturity at the time of marriage, emotional health issues, coercion as a result of an unintended pregnancy, latent homosexual tendencies or lack of true marital commitment. If a Catholic remarries without obtaining an annulment, they are barred from receiving the sacraments of penance and communion. About four out of five people who apply for annulments receive them.

Discussion: An annulment separates what God has joined together based on the fiction that a marriage never took place. In determining the validity of a marriage, sin is reconstituted into a psychological disorder. An annulment denies the reality of the children from the annulled marriage. It also places the Catholic in the untenable position of either entering into the fiction of annulment or being denied the ultimate sources of grace in the Catholic Church.

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