Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Monday 27 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Vincent de Paul
home iconChurch
line break icon

Why Try For an Annulment When You Don’t “Need” One?

Scott Eric Alt - published on 04/30/16

More than showing me my failures, it showed me how I could change...

I was divorced before I entered RCIA and did not at all wish to undergo the annulment process. I had no strict need to: I had not married again; I was not even dating; I saw no chance that I ever would.

“But,” Father said to me, “we still like to see a person pursue an annulment. It helps the healing process. Divorce always causes wounds.”

I decided to go for it. So it was off to try to explain all this to my ex-wife.

K. and I had a reasonably amicable dissolution of our marriage, and we had kept in touch and remained friends. Part of it was because we had a daughter together who was stillborn. We shared that loss; we shared love for our child. I suspected that if I pursued an annulment it would hurt her, but I also did not want her to be surprised one day when she got a letter from the Tribunal. I needed to tell her I was going to do this.

She was not pleased—she even called the waitress over to our table to cross-examine her about her opinion of it—mostly because she felt it would mean Caitlyn was illegitimate.

“Well, that’s not true,” I said, and tried to explain that a decision of nullity had no effect on the legitimacy of children.

“Yes it is,” K. said. “I don’t care what those Catholics say.”

She called me on the phone later that night, mostly to complain that Catholics worship Mary and she didn’t care what I said to deny it. (She was hurt and lashing out in any way she could.) But she also said: “If you go through with this, I will have a new headstone put up with Caitlyn’s last name changed to mine.”

So I went through all that ugliness, and K. and I almost never talk now, which is too bad because I still love her.

Filling out all the paperwork to petition the Tribunal was an emotional ordeal of its own, because the questions (at least on the long form I used) feel very invasive. I didn’t want to say all that. Still less did I want to receive the editing directions from the procurator and re-say all that. Why read that mess again? There was this sin, there was that sin, we did and said this while we were dating, there was much stupidness: It’s more detailed than the confessional. It was a great pain to remember what I meant to forget.

But out of all that I noted a curious thing: In what I wrote, I talked a great deal more about my sins than K’s. I said what I needed to, but see this here that I did — I am the wretched and awful person in this.

It was an examination of all the ways I had failed that I have never forgotten because, more than showing me my failures, it showed me how I could change. And it showed me that I could change. And I stopped even remembering how K. had wronged me. I learned to forgive.

I may or I may not ever date or marry again. But having the annulment gives me the peace of knowing I can and not have to worry about the validity of the former marriage. I wish Pope Francis had said more in Amoris Laetitia about this, but it is good he reformed the process. Making it easier makes people less scared to attempt it, and it always acquaints a wounded person with grace.

[For more information on annulments (including the legitimacy of children), see: “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Marriage and Annulments But Were Afraid to Ask.”]

Scott Eric Alt is a freelance writer and Catholic convert who has been writing about apologetics and the Church for the past three years. He blogs at Patheos and also contributes to the National Catholic Register, Catholic Stand and Epic Pew.

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
The Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea Rift
J-P Mauro
Experts now believe Sodom was destroyed by a meteor
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
Giovanna Binci
He’s autistic, she has Down syndrome, and they’re wonderfully hap...
Fr. Michael Rennier
The purpose of life according to J.R.R. Tolkien
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
crisis man
Marzena Devoud
Advice from 3 monks for overcoming acedia
Christ and the woman taken in adultery
Daniel Esparza
What Jesus wrote
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.