Aug 11

The issue of annulment

A non-Catholic friend of mine was asking me about the Church and annulments today when we got around to the topic of each of our love lives.   He is also divorced.  I told him that while I had lots of opportunities to entertain one, I had decided to avoid even entertaining the notion in the near term until I got my annulment paperwork submitted and had an answer back.  He was perplexed.  Especially when I told him another friend of mine was trying to set me up with a ‘drop dead gorgeous and well to do” woman my age who he thought was a great match.

I tried to explain to him that as much as I wanted and felt I needed a female companion which is A LOT, I did not want to go down that route until I knew what God had decided in my case from the Tribunal.  I think that I do not want to date if the purpose of dating is at some point a longer, enduring relationship if the judgment of the Tribunal is that I am still married in the eyes of God.  Then in truth, I could not date and be true to my state in life as God sees it.  Ouch, that’s painful to even contemplate, but truth is truth.

I do believe there is more than good reason for an annulment in my case, but I have to trust God with that part of my life like I trust Him with every other part.  My friend understood that, but thought that the Church’s rules were kind of harsh since “it is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis).  I tried to explain to him that it was not the Church’s rules.  It is simply the Church seeking the truth about how God sees my relationship  and then helping me to see what God sees.  Truth.  Plain and simple.  No rules involved.

The result can be hard to bear.  It is hard enough the last 20 months going it alone and living a chaste, celibate life as a father with 2 kids with disabilities and working full time.  And to have that for my future as a possibility is a cross I pray I do not have to bear.  I can hardly bear it now.  I am just trusting God that in fact, whatever He wills for me in the future will be accompanied by the graces needed as they always are.  I cannot even look to the future.  That is His business and not mine.

I can certainly understand a Catholic man who decides to fore go  the annulment process and remarries anyway.  I  feel sorry for them, though, because I think God wanted to show him something and he chose to turn away from the truth, whatever it was.  Or guys who do not remarry, but just go from one relationship to the next.  Sometimes the stress from my aloneness makes me a wreck and it is everything I can do not to chuck the ‘rules’ and go blow off steam with a date and one night stand – maybe.  But then I have to come back to reality and I know that’s even more impossible than living the way I am now – sooner or later I will have to face the truth again the way God sees it all.  Better now than discover a trail of pain and regrets later.

So I have to rejoice at my friend’s questions because it caused me to patiently explain my beliefs and attitudes and not some set of ‘rules’ that I do not even know anyway.  And sometimes we do not really know what we believe until we have to emote them.

I would be interested in how others perceive this issue.  Obviously there is a lot more to this discussion than what I could have written here – heck there are whole books and libraries on the topic.  I was simply trying to explain what a plain ordinary Catholic guy thinks about living my faith in this area.

Your thoughts?



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  1. Manya

    Thank you for your honesty. This is a VERY difficult issue to be faced during and after the hell of separation and divorce. You’re right to avoid a relationship until after your marriage is declared invalid (I pray that will be the finding in your case). It seems SO very unfair because right now is when a relationship would help in so many ways…however, that’s the short view of it. You are a very strong and wise man to see that the long view is the one to follow. This is an area I’ve not been as wise about but I pick myself up, dust myself off and try again.

    God bless you and your loved ones.

  2. Dave

    Thanks for your comments and support, Manya. I do really appreciate it more that you could know – especially from someone like you, the little I know of you.

    It is a VERY difficult issue in my life also, and it seems yours as well. And unfair does not even begin to describe my sense of it. I did nothing to deserve this, did not want a divorce, and tried eveything I could to reconcile and prevent it. I know myself as a married man, a man who wants and needs (I think) relationships, and values companionship.

    And sometimes I really get down about the burden of this whole thing, working long hours and parenting two special needs boys. But then I realize I am looking at myself and not at Jesus Christ, because when I take the time to turn to Him and unload all that on Him, then I realize He can take it all on Himself and provide the grace I need to not only keep going, but to make it all an offering of love to Him.

    Gee, I am really starting to sound like … whatever. But I guess I am becoming that. Someone who sees my very personal relationship with Jesus as real, personal, immediate, releavant and for me, necessary. I am such a flake, I could not possibly do it without His support.



  3. Jim

    Hi Dave,

    I understand and completely respect the pain and lonliness you are going through. I personally have been through a horrible situation with my divorce. Actually the divorce was relatively easy, it was the situations leading up to the divorce which were so horrible.

    The bottom line is this. You are the father of your children and you must be prepared to raise them by yourself….alone. It’s not just the struggle of chastity and the rest. If you fail there you can go to confession. God has called on you to be a father and you must be prepared to accept that all the way (sex is minor. being a good father is huge!). Your wife is gone…you need to do it alone.

    I have 2 daughters and the destruction of our family home was the most devastating aspect of this diovrce. My X basically ran off with another man and wanted to take my kids with them. I am currently fighting, will always fight for custody, and have my daughters at least half the time and perhaps full time in the near future…or if the secular courts decide, will loose them. All the chips are pushed forward.

    What do I know about raising 2 girls? Nothing! I cannot fix their hair. My house lacks the little things that a woman brings. I dream of an attractive woman with a good job who will love me forever. That will make life so easy….but it is only an escape hatch from uncertainty and it will be nice to have the extra pay check. It may also bring disruption….suddenly my girls will have to adapt to the requirements of an outsider. There will be no disruption in my house!

    The primary goal is not annulment. I think you are right in pursuing it, but your primary goal is getting your head around the concept that it may be best to just raise your kids alone. I went through 8 years of Jesuit schools. Now I am not such a big fan of the Jesuits today, but they did teach me one small thing. “You have to love yourself before you can love others effectively.” Once you accept your situation and are ready to go it alone, then you can give yourself totally to another. Also, you will pick the right woman because you love her and do not need her. Perhaps you do not need a good looking woman with money….but being a single dad, I must admit that sounds good.

    Anyway, I’m not being critical, just ranting.

    Take care brother!


  4. Dave


    Thank you for your comments – I think they largely reflect my attitudes. I would say that the boys and I are better now than we have ever been, and happier and more content than ever, so we are a peaceful family.

    And believe me, every time I talk to a woman, I think how complicated life would become if the conversation ever got more than just chatting. Humanly, it is tough, because a part of me seeks the companionship and another part of me wants the peacefulness of aloneness. I do not so much struggle with it as just observe the contradiction within myself. Right now, my first focus is to grow my relationship with God, putting that at the center of my life, trusting Him that everything else will work out.

    And then second is taking care of the boys, and yes, I am completely accepting of the fact that I may be caring for them the rest of my life alone. Some days, while I am accepting of that, I struggle with it because the load is heavy, but then I find myself calling out to Jesus for help, and He always answers me.

    The issue of annulment is more about clarity in my life than anything else. I think it is important to know what paths or doors are open, and which are closed as I seek to know His will for me in my life.

    I am happy to hear that you are fighting for custody of your children. It sounds like your priority is stability for your 2 girls and that is critical for them.

    Even more so, the most important thing we can give our children is faith, and as we move through life as a Divorced Catholic Dad, I think it is critical that our children see us dealing with all the challenges that entails with a faith first attitude.

    In the end, every issue I face in life comes back to my faith and Jesus Christ. It sounds trite, but Jesus really IS the answer to every question I have. And the most important work I have on this earth is the work of Heaven – building the Kingdom of Heaven.

    By the way, as I have said elsewhere in the blog, I have found the Volumes from the web site http://www.directinforourtimes.com to extremely helpful in this regard.



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