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What Actually Makes a Marriage Null?

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Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 06/20/16

Some very good and welcome analysis on the subject, via CNA: 

A virtual brouhaha erupted Thursday after Pope Francis said in unscripted remarks that “the great majority” of marriages today are null, due to a “provisional” culture in which people do not understand permanent commitment. Although his comment was later revised to say that “a portion” of marriages are null, the question remains: What exactly makes a marriage invalid? “It’s certainly in my experience that the kind of provisional culture, the conditional and temporary way in which we view real permanent institutions, has an impact on marriage, on the way that we live our marriages, on the way that we relate to our spouses, and those kinds of things,” J.D. Flynn, a canon lawyer in Nebraska, told CNA. …When a tribunal does examine the validity of a particular marriage, it looks at two primary factors from “the time [the couple] attempted consent,” or the time that they made their wedding vows, Flynn explained. First is the “object of their consent,” he said. “Did they intend against what marriage really is, or did they intend to marry as the Church understands marriage?” The second factor is the person’s “capacity for consent,” he added. “Did they have the ability to make a full and free human act of consent?” There are some key ways that a “provisional culture” can affect people’s marriages, he said. For example, grounds for annulment can include when “a person might directly and principally intend against a permanent marriage.” “That is to say,” he continued, “‘I marry you but I intend to end this perpetual union when I see fit.’” This can’t just be an admitting that divorce “happens,” he noted, but rather “an intention against the permanence of the marriage” at the time of the wedding vows. Another nullifying factor is “ignorance” of the nature of marriage as “a permanent union between a man and a woman, that in some way is ordered to the procreation of children through sexual cooperation,” he said. “We presume that everyone who has achieved puberty is not ignorant of marriage. The law of the Church says we’re supposed to presume that,” he said. Also, a person’s “grave” psychological defects or a “grave defect in their will or in their cognition” can be factors mitigating a person’s “ability to choose” to marry someone, he said. And this has a higher risk of happening in today’s culture.

There’s much more. Read on.

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