“Ask a Priest: What If God Doesn’t Recognize an Annulment?”

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Q: My husband was married previously, and granted a decree of nullity by the Church due to lack of form (both he and his ex-wife were baptized Catholic but were never married in the Church). I was raised in a non-denominational church. I attended RCIA together in 2010-2011 and became Catholic, receiving the sacraments of confirmation and Holy Eucharist. In 2010, we were married in the Catholic Church. Lately, I have had an overwhelming fear of going to hell. I believe part of this fear comes from my early upbringing in a very strict non-denominational church. Since becoming Catholic, I do my best to embrace all of the Church’s teachings, although sometimes I struggle because many things are very different from what I learned as a child. I have been reading some things online where people are saying there is no biblical basis for an annulment. My fear is that if God does not recognize my husband’s annulment, then he will not recognize my marriage with my husband, and therefore I am in a state of mortal sin. I know the Bible teaches very strongly against divorce and I believe this is where my fear is coming from. I want nothing more than to be in communion with God and to have eternal salvation. – T.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: You can be confident that your husband’s first union was not a real marriage, since he didn’t follow Church rules.

Moreover, the Church has officially ruled in this case with the decree of nullity. “Whoever listens to you listens to me,” Jesus said (Luke 10:16).

Jesus gave authority to the Church in part to be able to pronounce on matters such as this. It guards the sacraments, after all, and can decide when a sacrament has been carried out and when it hasn’t. In this case the sacrament of marriage was obviously not carried out.

Put another way, a decree of nullity is a declaration that a real marriage never existed from the start.

Perhaps you have a deeper issue of trust in God. Maybe the retreat on Trouble with Trust could help you.

I hope this helps.


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