Church annulments down

Sunday, October 24th, 2004

The number of Church annulments has gone down since the introduction of civil divorce in Ireland, but so too has the number of marriages, according to a judge from the Dublin regional marriage tribunal. Fr Paul Churchill told CatholicIreland that in the early 80s around 8,000 couples married each year in Dublin, but this figure has dropped to 5,000 in the last few years.

Almost half of all those who apply to the Catholic Church for an annulment have their request for a nullity granted, according to the latest figures from the country's regional marriage tribunals. In 2003, 328 decrees of nullity were granted, out of 710 annulment applications.
The process takes between two and five years. A church annulment means that  a person was never actually married because of a lack of consent or maturity,  and so he or she is free to remarry in the church.
The number of cases that come before the tribunals only represents a tiny fraction of the total number of Catholic marriages, and so according to Fr Churchill, although a relatively high number of applications are granted, annulments are not plentiful.

The most common ground for an annulment, is on the basis of “grave defect or lack of due discretion or judgementâ€? at the time of the marriage.  Fr Churchill explained to CatholicIreland, that this would apply to a person who for a variety of reasons would not be able to evaluate the obligations they are undertaking in marriage.  He gave the example of a child who had grown up in an alcoholic home, whose perception of marriage might be distorted by what he or she had seen in his own home.

Temporary lack of due discretion can also be a ground for nullity, as for example with a girl from a good home, who rushes into marriage when she discovers she is pregnant.

Emotional immaturity is another ground for annulment. In this case, Fr Churchill said, people carry emotional problems from their youth, and this affects their assessment or understanding of marriage.

To begin the process for an annulment in the Catholic Church, a person must write to the Administrator of the local marriage tribunal, stating where and when the marriage took place and that he or she would like to explore the possibility of receiving a declaration of nullity of marriage. The tribunal will then make contact with the person and the process will begin. The other party to the marriage is always contacted but the parties never meet the tribunal together.

Source: CatholicIreland / Independent Newspapers