An Empty Catholic Church

Why Remain Catholic After Divorce – The Annulment Disaster

An Empty Catholic ChurchIronically, the divorce was finalized on Valentine’s Day 2012, three years after we had renewed our vows. In those three years, the boys and I had lost our home and moved into another (thanks Mom!). I achieved those two years of college credits attaining 7-12 math certification only because I loved teaching and math was more marketable than my expired elementary certification had been. When I couldn’t find a teaching job even with the math certification, I started an education and college prep business.

I’d also given birth and continued raising five wonderful sons.

Any one of those accomplishments would have been a big deal. Doing all in such a short time and under the circumstances took more hard work and determination than most will understand and was nothing less than miraculous, but it also left me no time to breathe. I hoped, once the divorce was finalized, I could catch a bit of that break, but it wasn’t to be. I hadn’t yet caught my breath when I opened the mailbox to find the annulment papers awaiting me.

I understood the desire for the Catholic church to decide whether a Sacrament had taken place, but I needed time. I was still overwhelmed and stressed. I had too much going on and just needed a break. I called the diocese and asked if I could get my paperwork to them a few weeks later than they required it. I was told that deadlines were mandated and could not be changed – orders from Rome.

I wanted to break down. I wasn’t trying to prevent my ex and the other woman from getting married. I just couldn’t do it all. I thought about how unforgiving the annulment system was, how similar to the divorce courts, how that left a pit in my stomach. I thought about how unjust the demands were on a single Mom. I’d heard the annulment process could be painful but healing, but I wondered if both parties found it healing or if only the filing party did. I wondered if the filing party would be seen as innocent where I would be seen as guilty. It certainly seemed that way at times.

I travelled almost four hours round trip to a city far outside my comfort zone to read the testimony provided by my husband and his witnesses. One made me cry with thanksgiving. One made me question what my ex had told others. There were untruths in the testimony, but how did I counter them? Who would believe me? I’d just look like a bitter, scorned woman.

I met with the tribunal judge who took what my ex had said and questioned me harshly. I cried uncontrollably. I could not pull myself together as he demanded to know my husband’s thinking almost 20 years before. I wasn’t trying to stop the process, but I truly didn’t know. I just didn’t know. I couldn’t figure out what my husband had been thinking in the past three years. How could I figure out what he was thinking decades earlier? It was a question I’d asked myself more times than I could count. I just didn’t know. It seemed I didn’t know anything anymore. I asked for an advocate but was told cutbacks and a lack of volunteers meant there were no advocates available to me. The priest who was my judge was cruel in his questioning. I was devastated and sobbed as I stumbled through the city streets on the unfamiliar walk to the train.

Finally, the annulment was almost done, I just needed to make one more trip to the city, and I thought really hard about whether to go or not. At some point over the five or so years between my husband leaving and annulment being finalized, I had come to a sense of peace. The turmoil had ended inside me. I had admitted my wrongdoings. I had looked myself in the eye and had seen the plank I had implanted there. I had gone to Confession. I knew I had things I needed to work on before getting into a relationship again. I knew my ex and his girlfriend would face obstacles in their upcoming marriage that I wouldn’t understand. I knew if I didn’t wish divorce on my worst enemy, as I’d often said, I needed to pray for them. I had no desire to put my will into the annulment decision. Today might still bring challenges, but I was at peace with whatever had happened years ago, whatever decision my ex had made that led me to this path. The annulment would not change my immediate plans. I would not begin dating or change the course of my immediate life. I might hope to have a loving relationship one day, but right now, I had too much other stuff to do. I would begin with breathing – one day.

 The Catholic church had let me down again. The annulment process had not been healing. It had added hurt and pain and hardship. I had left my marriage in God’s hands. I didn’t feel I needed to down to headquarters again. My non-Catholic friends thought the process was ridiculous. If I tried to explain my experience to them, it resulted in a trashing of the Catholic church. I had to watch what I said, and I wondered why I was defending the church that had provided so many obstacles and such additional pain instead of healing.

I wondered why I would bother traveling the distance and exposing myself again to complete the annulment which seemed so inconsequential, but the process required one last trip to the big city, and with trepidation, I walked those streets and entered the immense building with its overstated lobby and check in station. I rode the elevator silently, not making eye contact with fellow passengers. The last time I had been here I had left humiliated, wounded, unsure of myself. I didn’t want to be here, but my church said this was the right thing to do. I’d offer it limited trust for this last annulment meeting.

The secretary called me in to read statements and write my last rebuttal, and I told her of the anxiety caused by my last visit. She was kind and patient and suggested I speak to the priest in charge of annulments and then, on my agreement, she went to get him. A few moments later, I was summoned to a large, glass-enclosed corner office that looked out over the bustling city below. The man who greeted me was impressive, strong, yet gentle and he reached out to put me at ease before asking if he could read the file.  He made several comments about things contained within. As he read the transcript of my interview with the tribunal judge, he mentioned that the priest who had interviewed me may have brought some cultural bias in to our meeting. He agreed that advocates were hard to come by but said I should have been assigned one.

At the conclusion of our interview, I felt a level of peace I had never known before.  I went back to the room with the testimonies and piles of paperwork which I was to read through, but I no longer needed to dispute what my husband had said or cry over the treatment I’d received. My husband was wrong. The tribunal judge was wrong, but they were men, and men make mistakes. I forgave them both sitting there. I read the testimony and wrote my response, but I no longer felt I had to defend myself.

Perhaps for the first time, as I sat there writing my annulment response I fully realized the Sacredness of marriage, the need to determine whether a Sacrament had taken place, and the weight such a decision must place on the men determining the outcome. It was not a job I envied.

Yes, the annulment was a painful process, and it is one I feel has many misconceptions, a process I feel needs to be changed, but it is not a reason to leave the church. It is not a reason to turn your back on your faith the way your spouse turned his back on his vows.

Tomorrow, I will finish my piece on Why Remain Catholic Through Divorce. I cannot wait for this final piece although I have no idea how to put to words the Glory of God or what He has done for me. I have no idea how to fully explain why I remain Catholic, but I will do the best I can. Pray that the Lord gives me the right words.

For the holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.

Luke 12:12

Thank you for joining me sharing some of the obstacles divorcing Catholics face. Please stick with me for one last post in this series as I attempt to explain why I Remain Catholic Through Divorce and why I hope you choose to do the same. You are not alone.

God Bless…

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Why Remain Catholic Posts:

Why Remain Catholic Through Divorce (Part I)

Why Remain Catholic Through Divorce (Part II) Catholics v. Christians

Why Remain Catholic Through Divorce (Part III) The Annulment Disaster

Why Remain Catholic Through Divorce (Part IV) More Than One Reason

Why Remain Catholic (Part V) My Defining Moment

Why Remain Catholic After Divorce - Catholics v. Christians
Why Remain Catholic Through Divorce - More Than One Reason

9 thoughts on “Why Remain Catholic After Divorce – The Annulment Disaster”

  1. Pingback: Why Remain Catholic Through Divorce - More Than One Reason - Single Mom Smiling

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  3. Reading this post I can sense the tremendous power of the Holy Spirit’s gifts within you. Thank you for sharing this painful experience with such a holy forgiveness. Our Heavenly Father blessed you with an added supernatural strength, and now you have shared this strength with all of us. Thank you! Thanks to Jesus and Mary!

    1. Thank you. There are just no words to explain what the Holy Spirit means to me, but I feel an incredible connectedness to Him. He is my (almost) everything. Little things, conflicts, and other people’s failings matter less now. I have my own failings even now never mind how many failings I had before. If I want forgiveness from Jesus, I must extend it to others. I will stand and fight for what is right, but we must be forgiving, especially to anyone who is trying his or her best. I think this involved in the annulment process are basically trying their best.

      I can’t tell you how much your encouragement has meant to me over the years.
      Thank you and God Bless…

  4. You write so eloquently! I felt your sadness, pain and joy. I could relate to your statement about your non-catholic friends and you trying to defend the process and the church. I don’t think anybody who’s never been through the process can fully understand the frustration and sadness.

    Agreed! There must be a new way to present the annulment process. If you know of a forum or panel within the Catholic church and they are seeking input on the process let me know, please…I have much insight to offer.

    Your process was painful, especially since you were not the one seeking the annulment. I tried so very hard not to make misguided judgements against my husband. In the end I think the reason had more to do with me and second guessing my marriage as I was walking down the isle then it had to do with my husband. As I read and reread, drafted and redrafted my narrative the pain would deepen and I would cry for hours. I felt like the bad guy through it all. My husband didn’t care one way or the other. His one and only comment to me was, “It’s stupid. How are they ever going to say we weren’t married?” He never responded to any of the paperwork.

    I felt a need to defend myself several times because of the word usage of the tribunal…I even called the diocese which ended up in an email to tell them that a statement had been made by one of the tribunal members that never appeared in my narrative and it just wasn’t true.

    As for witnesses, it was hard to choose and ask any one person. I didn’t want to drag “our” friends into it because they were SHOCKED about the divorce. Eventually, it ended up being my family with some of his family also volunteering to be witnesses for me. I chose to not go with his family for their sake. It was difficult for my witnesses, however when I read their testimonials I could not believe how similar they were.

    My advocate was very understanding and helpful, as much as he could be. He more or less aided in redirecting some of what I wrote and wanted me to expand on certain criteria. He prayed for me and offered words of wisdom.

    On the other hand, my friend did most of his without any help. He consulted very little with his advocate. He sent all his paperwork in himself. He questions the process too…his wife left him for another man and was very active within the Catholic Church. He feels their shouldn’t have been a process since she was the one who didn’t honor their union, their covenant, their sacrament. His mother-in-law and her ex-best friend were his witnesses. I think that says very much in regards to her choices.

    Even though I swore I would never marry again, I was encouraged to go through the process…I’m not sure it was freeing but I know my marriage was not a covenant and one with Christ. Christ did not come first in our marriage. If he did, we would not have ended up in this way.

    I’ve learned much from my divorce, annulment process, living alone, deepening my faith…it’s been a very long journey. There’s lots I miss about my husband but the new man he’s become isn’t the one I married. I often say it would have been easier had he died. It’s a harsh comment but so true. Truly though, I would not have grown in my faith without the last six years.

    I’ve met a very wonderful man. I swore I would not date a man unless he was a practicing Catholic-he is. We’ve been seeing each other for over two years. I’m not sure what’s in store for us. He has said he will be able to tell when I’m ready for marriage but until then we will go on as we are. He loves me very much and shows it in so many ways. I love him too BUT the thought of marrying again scares me in so many ways.

    I think it is a gift to be Catholic but it can also be trying. My path is set but with a few twist and turns and I think it’s that way because I have so much more growing to do and God is allowing me to figure it out and take a break every every now and then, to soak up some of the knowledge. It’s a scavenger hunt…I’m always searching for answers and seem to find most. If not, I know where to go and the saints are so good for this too.

    Understanding the why’s and how’s of our faith is not always easy…but it is worth it. I will stay in the church, I will keep seeking more knowledge, I’m sure I will stray off my path every now and then but not far enough so I can’t find my way back. The Adoration Chapel will always be one of my favorite places to go. I was not at this place six years ago but as times moves forward so does my trust and faith in God.

  5. Hi dear, my wife Annemie made a testimony on her annulment, although painful, it was healing for her. Anyway, she learned more about her ex and the impact on her children. I feel sorry for you, sending you love and blessings because your transparency is almost holy.

    1. Thank you. I am glad to hear your wife had a healing annulment experience. If she would be interested in sharing her experiences, I would love to have her write a guest post or contact me. I am hoping to write a book about this and would appreciate honest feedback from different sources. I am putting together an email questionnaire I could send if she is interested.

      It is not easy to put this information out there sometimes, but I do feel called by the Holy Spirit to do so. Please do not feel sorry for me. I cannot tell you how I wish things were different with my ex; however, I would not trade the faith I have now nor that last, precious little guy for the man I once thought my husband was.

      The Lord allowed the storm into my life to shake me from my lukewarm faith (see Rev 3:16, Jesus’ Divine Mercy, Revolting Lukewarm Faith, & Revolting Faith v Divine Mercy, from being happy with the status quo, from thinking good enough is Good Enough in many aspects of my life. I have gained far more than I lost and am so much more confident of God’s calling to me even in the hard times. I am so thankful for being pro-life and am amazed that, at a time when I thought the last thing I needed was another child, God knew that is exactly what I needed and gave me my last little son. What a treasure that little guy is! How much we need to trust in the Lord and His plans over our own!

      Thank you for commenting and, even more, thank you for your love and blessing. I so appreciate you and hope to hear from you again soon.

      God Bless…

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