To say waiting for ruling on an annulment is difficult would be a gross understatement, and, after months of waiting – sometimes patiently, sometimes not – I again called the archdiocesan headquarters to try to get an update on the process, but again, after being transferred from one receptionist to the next, I was told nothing other than that the annulment still had not been finalized.
The woman on the other end of the phone spoke as if I were a two-year old.
“Your husband signed a document saying he understood there could be no guarantee of outcome or of date of completion.”
Her too sweet voice emphasized her placating tone, and I resisted the urge to reach through the phone and shake her.
“Okay, he signed it, but what about me?” I thought.
Aloud I said, “I’d just like to know what stage of the annulment process we are in and how long it generally takes to get through each stage?”
My ex-husband began the annulment process shortly after the divorce was finalized February 14, 2012 (Yes, Valentine’s Day) so that he could marry the Catholic woman he moved in with.
That was two years and a lifetime ago.
As I did every time I tried to understand the annulment process, I wished again that diocesan cutbacks hadn’t included the elimination of advocates. I have no idea what kind of counseling or explanation my ex-husband as the petitioner receives. His girlfriend’s brother is a priest so I’m guessing at the very least he helps them negotiate the annulment process while I am again left to muddle my way through alone.
Admittedly, time constraints, confusion, hurt, and anger on my behalf along with a priest who was uncomfortable dealing with marital issues and caught off guard by my husband’s sudden departure before being transferred from our parish, made finding someone able to help negotiate the annulment process nearly impossible.
The woman on the other end of the phone repeated her line in her uncaring, blasé manner.
“Your husband signed a document saying he understood there could be no guarantee of outcome or of date of completion.”
I felt like I was dealing with the Stepford wife of the Catholic church.
“Listen lady, you need to stop with the condescending tone and speak to me like I am a person!”
I didn’t actually say the words, but I wanted to. I wanted to ask why, when it suited the church, the man I married was referred to as my husband but at other times it assumed we were not married at all. The first instance of this caught me off guard when I opened the envelope from the Archdiocese and discovered my husband had unexpectedly filed for an annulment. All church paperwork now used my maiden name. I hadn’t yet had time to catch my breath, and already it seemed the church had invalidated our marriage and changed my identity by changing the name I had used for over 14 years. It seemed the church too had abandoned the married me I thought I was leaving me wondering what my place was in the Catholic church.
Instead of speaking my angry words, I remained silent.
She must have known I was using deep breathing exercises to bite back anything else I wanted to say because she repeated her canned line.
“Your husband signed a document saying he understood there could be no guarantee of outcome or of date of completion. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
Maybe it was just me, but I felt no kindness in the words.
I am sure it is difficult handling so many broken marriages, so many families torn apart by divorce, but I wish she had put a kind, unscripted word in there somewhere, and I wondered again, if I was being treated this way because I was the defendant and therefore already presumed guilty (although I know there are some who disagree, this is how many feel going through the annulment process).
I understand there is not guarantee of outcome or date of completion. I understand this is a serious business. I understand these are human beings trying to interpret God’s Sacrament and its validity.
I believe our marriage may not have been valid, but I believe it could have been too.
I know this is a messy, time-consuming, very important decision with grave consequences.
Determining the validity of a marriage is not a job I’d ever want.
But I also wish things were different. I’ve heard the annulment process can be healing. I wonder about that and whether any of those healed were the defendant or if they were all the petitioner.
I Love my Catholic faith. I believe Catholicism is beautiful and honoring to the Lord, but I also believe the Catholic church could do better in this area and that too often, it is the people representing the church and the processes those well-meaning people impose that drive others away.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
I am not denying the need for an annulment, but, since example after example shows divorce and annulment as among the main reasons Catholics leave the Catholic church, is it not also a sin to have the annulment process so oppressive that it is hurtful and pushes struggling believers away from the church?
While each person who leaves the Catholic church will have to answer for his or her own actions one day, I also believe those involved in the annulment process will have to answer for their actions one day. When the process leads God’s children away from their faith, it is time to reevaluate, not eliminate, the process.
We can do better.
Have you filed for an annulment or had one filed concerning your marriage by an ex? What was your experience? How can we make this process better? If you are divorced and have not filed an annulment, why not?
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11 thoughts on “Waiting for the Annulment – My Experience Calling the Archdiocesan Headquarters”
Thank you for sharing your experiences with the Catholic annulment process. I’m commenting on this older post because in 3 hours I will be reading the “testimony” at my diocese. I already feel anxious and somewhat ill. It’s been 21 years since my divorce. In that time my ex remarried, divorced again, lived with several women, and remarried again this past June. He wants the annulment so his wife (also a divorced Catholic) can become a Eucharistic Minister. We were married for 13 years and had 2 children. I’ve never remarried. I never sought an annulment because there was no doubt in my mind that we had a valid marriage. I was the one who was dumped with no explanation. He refused counseling and all attempts to even discuss the situation. Since he moved in with a woman 2 months after our separation, he obviously committed adultery – maybe more than once. I have no idea what he’s written, but he’s a compulsive liar. I’m worried about what I’ll find, but I want to see the process through. My adult children no longer speak to him because of his lies and manipulation. He will continue the lies and manipulation with the help of the Church. I have no doubt they will grant his annulment. The initial libellus stated there was lack of due discretion on the part of the couple. After I responded they changed it to read lack of due discretion on his part. What will his testimony say? He never loved me? He just stayed married for shits and giggles? It’s wonderful that you haven’t lost your faith. This process has been yet another burden on me, the wronged party. The forms are intrusive and the language is somewhat rude. I’m the one who took my kids to CCD after working all day. I’m the one who took them to mass. I’m the one who had to contact Child Support Enforcement. The loving man I had married disappeared within a matter of months and showed no care or concern for me once his mind was made up. But now, it’s apparently convenient for him to act Catholic again. Yes, I’m still hurt, bitter and forever damaged and this process 21 years later has reopened those wounds. I have an “advocate” who has never written, emailed or reached out to me. Why the sham of having me swear an oath not to discuss my ex-husband’s testimony, if they can declare the marriage oath defective? Aren’t all oaths then, potentially defective? Anyway, I just needed to vent to someone who has been through it. Thanks again for sharing your story.
Hi Mary, Thank you for commenting. I totally know your feeling, “anxious and somewhat ill,” and I am sorry for what you are going through. I get it. By now you’ll have read your husband’s testimony and know the truth or not behind what he has said. I’ve been there too. What I can say is that I told the truth as I saw it.
The annulment process was incredibly painful for me since I was forced into it as you appear to have been. In some ways, it left me with more questions than I had before. I question whether my ex and I have a valid Marriage, whether we have a valid annulment and whether his new marriage is valid – I believe his current marriage is invalid, but only time will tell and I don’t really care much one way or the other at this point. I pray for him, his “wife,” and the priest who married them, but the thing is…none of it concerns me personally any more. It’s like it is a story I read in the paper or something. I pity them. They will have to answer for their actions one day as I will have to answer for mine. I have enough to worry about with things I’ve done. I can let them seek forgiveness for what they’ve done without my beating them up for it.
I’m glad you fought back on the wording. Truth is important, and you’re setting a precedence with that. You also need some power in this situation where you are made to feel so powerless. I was never offered one an advocate despite asking and, in one meeting, begging for one. I’m sorry you haven’t heard more from your advocate. How have you reached out to him/her? I agree the annulment process is horrible for a wronged spouse who does not seek an annulment; however, the process is put in place by a bunch of faulty men who are, for the most part, trying to do their best to discern the will of God and two other people. That can’t be any easy or light job!
In reading about Saint Faustina and Jesus’ appearances to her and various Marian apparitions, the thing that strikes me most is the idea of lukewarm faith being what Jesus had/has the hardest time with. Your husband is turning to Catholicism of convenience, which sure sounds like lukewarm faith! You have no need to feel angry or bitter or jealous or anything. He will have his own judge to answer to. If you punish him now through your negativity (I’m not saying you’re doing that but others who read this may), you take God’s right to free judgment away and tell God you don’t need Him and can handle judgment on your own. You don’t want to do that. Let the Lord handle this.
You said it’s great that I held onto my faith. I could not agree more!!! My faith was ROCKED big time! I am so thankful God did not create me to be a quitter! Keep reaching out. That unwillingness to quit separates the loyal from those who walk away and saves you in the long run! God is there with you! Discard anything lukewarm in you and live, LIVE, only for what lights you on fire!
As far as the oath – totally GREAT point! Aren’t all oaths potentially defective? YEP! I’d say since oaths are given by human beings they are. I also know past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. Look at the oaths you and your husband took. When I had to write my story and sign the annulment I realized that an ex could spread whatever he wanted to about what was said in those documents. Signing an oath means nothing to him, but the thing is, it does mean something to me. I kept my word not to discuss those private documents with ANYONE. I doubt a false filer will do the same, but again, that’s not my concern. If he talks about me behind my back or spreads lies, I’ll stick by God and doing what’s right and together, God and all the power of the saints, angels, and entire Trinity will handle it. If someone signs something and goes back on his word or tells someone something he shouldn’t or if the person he is with makes excuses or feels entitled to the information she shouldn’t have for whatever reason, it just shows more about both people. Let it go. You give your word. Watch for potential defectiveness within yourself and hand the rest over to God. Seek Mary. She will comfort you and lead you to the only one who does not have even the potential to break His oaths. Also, it’s probably a long shot, but maybe your ex is truly undergoing a conversion you don’t know about. God works in wondrous ways. I believe when we get to Heaven where there is no Marriage or divorce, we will all look so different with our sin and negativity washed away, that we will hardly recognize one another. That is my greatest hope for my ex and his other woman, that we meet in Heaven one day and laugh about how different we look! The bottom line is you don’t know for sure whether your ex is undergoing a spiritual awakening or just using someone else to get immediate rewards, but so what? Either way, it now concerns them, not you. Light yourself on fire for things that matter and leave judging his sincerity and salvation to the one who knows what we can’t.
I hope this long response makes sense. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Please let me know how things went and keep in touch! If you don’t want to comment publicly, you can always email me at SingleMomSmiling@hotmail.com. I keep info confidential unless I have permission to share. I am willing to sign an oath on that – and I intend to ALWAYS keep my oaths! 😉
IMO, Catholics who have committed adultery and who seek annulment specifically for the purpose of marrying their partner in adultery should not be permitted to marry in the Church. They’ve obviously shown a lack of belief in the permanence of marriage with their behavior. I’m sorry you’re going through this.
Thank you, JoAnna. I agree. I hope the annulment goes through for my own peace of mind, but I have difficulty believing either my husband or his girlfriend understands the permanence of marriage or has the ability to stick through the hard times, and our marriage did have some very hard times. Some I must admit were caused by me and my own issues, but we cannot stop striving to do better or go back on vows we made before family, friends, and the Lord.
I don’t know whether the church will marry them one day or not, but I have come to understand it is a church run by imperfect people trying their best. I will leave what happens to God to sort out. It is WAY beyond my comprehension!
The fact that he is living with another woman and applying for an annulment shows me he does not understand the process at all or what a marriage is. I’m so sorry he is taking advantage of the Church in this way and hurting you in the process. Even if the annulment goes through, if he truly did not have grounds to apply for the annulment and the marriage actually is valid, then that decision rests upon his soul and God will judge him for it. I suppose on your end you have to look back to the day you were married and ask if at that time of the wedding vows, if it was a valid ceremony and with valid intentions on both sides. Because even if the Church tries to make a judgement and doesn’t have all the facts (which I’m not sure how truthful your husband will be since he is living with another woman), their decision on the annulment might not reflect the truth. Prayers for you!
Thank you so much, Andrea! You hit the nail on the head here. I do feel that if there was a Sacrament made, we should honor it, but I do also struggle with being held responsible for his leaving the Sacrament (if a Marriage actually took place) and with me being “stuck” as a single mom (if the annulment is not granted) for the rest of my life because of his abandonment – I also know if the annulment is not granted it means I should look for another plan God has for me, but I so LOVED begin a wife and mom! 🙂
On the other hand, as far as the church making a decision…how can it if it doesn’t really have all the facts? You are exactly right! The annulment process is dictated by men – faithful but fallible men – making decisions based on reports from a fallen husband and wife. I know my tribunal judge got angry with me because I said I wasn’t sure about whether I thought the marriage was valid or not. The annulment is something I take seriously, but things are confusing sometimes, and I am honestly not sure what I know or believe about our marriage anymore. How do you tell the truth when you are not even sure what the truth is anymore?
You are right also about his not understanding the annulment process or the sin of living with his girlfriend and exposing our children to their lifestyle. I wish I had understood more about the sin of premarital/extramarital sex years ago and the danger of justifying decisions. I wonder if it would have saved us all a lot of heartache; I also wonder if my husband and his girlfriend will also experience similar heartache resulting from their sins one day. Sadly, I believe they will.
Thank you so much for commenting. May God Bless You, Your Husband, that precious little Baby of Yours, and Your Marriage! I hope you don’t mind if I ask you to treasure those relationships always and always know you and your husband BOTH get your worth from God, not from each other. God Bless…
Free will can be very scary indeed, especially in a marriage where one person is using their free will for selfish motives. I would also say that don’t make a path for your life based on whether the annulment is granted or not. Discern and pray deeply if the marriage was valid and if you need help, find an orthodox priest to help you. I would recommend talking to a priest that says the Tridentine mass (such as a priest from the Fraternity or Institute of Christ the King). as they are usually solidly educated in matters of the faith and Church law. I think an outside objective viewer would be able to help you discern the validity of your marriage if you are uncertain. Thank you for your kind wishes! Our little Pio is getting so big already! Prayers for you and your family. Have you ever read this woman’s blog? http://11onmyown.com/ She’s going through a similar situation of and I thought you two would probably get along very well!
Yes, Andrea! I think often of free will. It is one of the things I had to learn to accept when my husband left and I was begging God to bring him back. He and his girlfriend were breaking God’s Commandments, but, if God was not going to force His will on them, how could I?
There is so much I am learning about the faith I grew up with but had only a cursory knowledge of! Thank you for telling me about the orthodox priest and the Tridentine mass – I will look into them more thoroughly. I hadn’t thought of it before. I am not (exactly) planning my life around the annulment, but before I let things weigh heavily on my mind, I am trying to get the hang of being patient and waiting to see what happens without jumping into things head first. I made many mistakes when choosing my first husband and during our marriage. I am hoping to try God’s way rather than following my own human desires if I ever have the opportunity to Love so deeply again.
Also – THANK YOU for reminding me about 11 on my own! Yes, I found her blog several months ago and began reading but had to put it aside for other projects and forgot to go back to it! Her husband is probably more violent than mine, but abuse is more than physical violence and acting in love means more than just not hitting a person. These are lessons I have only learned in the last 5 years or so. Our stories are very similar in many ways, especially in the disappointment in the court system. I will definitely have to get back to read more about her.
And, always ending on a positive note, I just adore the photos of your little one! Those little cheeks are just precious – if only we could freeze time!
Hahaha 🙂 Yes, little Pio is already growing so fast 🙂 It’s so amazing! I have a hard time believing he’ll be taller than me someday! I come from a family of 5 girls so being outnumbered by boys is totally something new for me! You should write a post on relating to boys 🙂 You’ve got lots of experience in that! It’s going to be quite the learning curve for me!
My heart is aching for you! You are not going crazy. The cross you are carrying is very painful. I will offer special prayers for you and your family.
Thank you Lora! You have been so good to me. The Lord has made my cross lighter by sending others who carried it before me to share their stories with me. I am sorry for all you’ve suffered, but I am so glad He sent you to me.
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