My examination of an annulment case study.
Articulately described in Canon 1055, the sacrament of matrimony, a covenant between two fully consenting spouses, is, by its nature, ordered to the procreation and education of children. Further, it is ordered to the good of the spouses and involves a partnership of their whole life. It is consent of the spouses which makes marriage, and such consent must be whole and entire. Since this consent requires an informed act of the will, “those who suffer from a grave defect of discretion of judgment concerning the essential matrimonial rights and duties” are incapable of contracting marriage. Further, those who, prior to marriage, “are not able to assume the essential obligations of marriage for causes of a psychic nature” are incapable of contracting marriage.
From the evidence presented in this case, the Court has arrived at moral certitude that the Petitioner gravely lacked discretionary judgment concerning essential marital rights and duties. Though moral certitude was attained only in regards to a grave lack of discretionary judgment concerning marital rights and duties by the Petitioner, the other arguments given by the Petitioner are relevant to this and will be thusly addressed.
Firstly, in regards to the argument by the Petitioner that she has an intention against children in marriage. This argument, though very important to the subsequent judgment on this case, cannot be reached by moral certitude. Evidence given for this argument includes that no children were born of the union; that the Petitioner and Respondent only completed the marital act two times after marriage; that the Petitioner and Respondent used a contraceptive method during the marital act on both occasions; that the Petitioner excluded acts per se for the generation of children; that the Respondent stated “I had no plan to have children. Children were not even thought about as part of marriage”; and the Third Witness stated, “Children or a discussion of a future children was never discussed.”
While such evidence does point to a defect of consent within the marriage, it does not indicate, at least not to the degree of moral certitude, that the Petitioner had an intention against children in the marriage. Instead, the evidence seems to indicate that children were rarely, if at all considered by the Petitioner. Not considering/discussing having children is objectively different than intending against children. Intending against children is, as the verb “to intend” indicates, an action of the will. Not considering/discussing having children is likely a defect of prudence and/or a defect of knowledge about what marriage is. Since in either case, the defect does not lie clearly in the will, but lies more in the intellect, it cannot be said with moral certitude that the Petitioner intended against children. The Petitioner herself confirms this as her specific words were “I had no plan to have children.” Again, not planning something does not mean one intends against something. This does, as will be shown later, strongly indicate the Petitioner’s grave lack of discretionary judgment concerning marital rights and duties.
Secondly, the Petitioner argued that the marriage should be declared null and void due to the Respondent’s inability to assume and fulfill the duties and obligations of marriage. Evidence given for this argument includes that the Respondent may have been mentally unstable; that he frequently used drugs (including cocaine on his wedding night); that he did not have any close friends; that his marijuana consumption continued to grow throughout the marriage; that he became fascinated with the militia, etc.; he could not be reasoned with; he was aggressive towards the Petitioner’s family; he could not hold a job; and that he was “unstable” and “not a truthful and honest person”.
While such evidence does demonstrate a gravely vicious moral life, they do not lead to a judgment of moral certitude that the Respondent was unable to assume and fulfill the duties and obligations of marriage. Canon 1095 paragraph 3 states “those who are not able to assume the essential obligations of marriage for causes of a psychic nature” are incapable of contracting marriage. The evidence demonstrates a gravely vicious person; from all evidence, a soul living in a state of mortal sin gravely in need of Jesus Christ and the Sacraments available from His Bride, the Catholic Church. This state of his soul combined with his vicious habits, while much more grave than any simple psychic diagnosis like schizophrenia, does not necessarily mean that he was unable to assume and fulfill the duties and obligations of marriage for causes of a psychic nature. Indeed, he seems to be incapable of contracting marriage, but on the grounds of suffering from a grave defect of judgment concerning the essential matrimonial rights and duties mutually to be handed over and accepted.
Further, no evidence of his violent behavior prior to marriage was offered by the parties. The primary evidence given examining the Respondent’s actions prior to the marriage is his drug use. As such, it could be argued that he was in an altered state due to his drug use. However, since both the Petitioner and Respondent used marijuana recreationally, both together and separately, moral certitude can be more securely found for the argument that both suffered from a grave defect of discretion of judgment concerning the essential matrimonial rights and duties mutually to be handed over and accepted. This is much more certain than the argument that the Respondent was unable to assume and fulfill the duties and obligations of marriage
This all leads to the argument that the Petitioner suffered from a grave defect of discretion of judgment concerning the essential matrimonial rights and duties mutually to be handed over and accepted. From the evidence, this judgment can be attained with moral certitude.
Evidence given for this argument includes both the Petitioner and Respondent frequently used drugs and (likely) excessive alcohol consumption; that the Petitioner married because she thought she was supposed to; that the Petitioner had “not given much thought to what ‘marriage’ meant; that the Petitioner and Respondent cohabitated prior to marriage and used contraceptives; that the Petitioner was only baptized to marry him and received very little instruction on the nature of marriage; that the Petitioner’s parents were divorced and, as such, the Petitioner had not been formed well to know what marriage was; that the Petitioner was significantly younger and in an impressionable state when she met/married the Respondent; that many witnesses claimed neither “knew love as sacrificing for each other”; and that marriage seems to have been viewed as a “wedding” not as a covenant between man and woman.
Between baptized persons, marriages that are ratified and consummated are absolutely indissoluble. It is consent that “makes” marriage. Should one’s consent be gravely defective, then it is possible that a valid marriage never existed, that is, that it was not ratified due to the defect in consent. In the present case, the Petitioner had only received baptism as a “prerequisite” to marrying within the Respondent’s local Lutheran church. As such, it seems that even her understanding of the Sacrament of Baptism was gravely defective. The effects of Baptism are not affected simply because the Petitioner was using Baptism as a means to an end (that of marriage) and not as an end in itself. Yet, that lack of understanding of Baptism indicates a lack of understanding/reverence for the Sacraments in general which includes the Sacrament of Matrimony.
Further, very little catechesis was given on the Sacrament of Matrimony. And, indeed, the Lutheran doctrine departs from the Truth in that they do not consider Marriage to be a Sacrament. Even though the Petitioner could have possibly entered into a sacramental marriage, the evidence supports that she did not do so partly because she did not know Marriage to be a Sacrament. This false opinion, which is seen manifestly in the American culture as well as much of the world, was further supported by the false teachings of the Lutheran church which does not consider marriage to be a sacrament.
Finally, the Petitioner had been shown by her earthly parents that marriage was not a sacrament. God has given mankind the family; it not only ensures the future of man, but it also helps to make The Invisible God visible to mankind. As such, the love of the family includes not only the spiritual upbringing of children, but also the practical demonstration of fidelity and unity by the parents to the children. As the Petitioner’s parents were divorced, they had failed to demonstrate the fidelity and unity which are essential to marriage. Further, they had clearly not instructed the Petitioner of the Love of God; this can be seen from her lack of baptism and descriptions by both her and the witnesses.
From these three points, it can be seen that Petitioner did not know the Sacrament of Marriage was a reality of her consent. Due to this defect of knowledge, her consent was invalid. In Canon 1099, “error concerning the unity or indissolubility or sacramental dignity of marriage does not vitiate matrimonial consent provided that it does not determine the will.” From the above evidence, it can be seen that, indeed, the Petitioner’s will was determined due to the error concerning these matters. Canon 1096 requires that both spouses be at least “not ignorant that marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman ordered to the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation.” From the lived experience both within the secular culture (which promotes/supports divorce) as well as her parent’s example, the Petitioner seems to not have consented to fidelity and unity which are both essential to the sacrament of marriage; this seems to be due to her ignorance of what marriage is as described by Canon 1096. This can be further seen by the Petitioner’s statement “I don’t believe I truly understood what I was doing. I know that I didn’t give much thought to what ‘marriage’ meant.”
Now, as previously examined, the strongest evidence that the Petitioner suffered from a grave defect of discretion of judgment concerning the essential matrimonial rights and duties mutually to be handed over and accepted, is that she was, at the very least, unaware of the essential property of marriage that is procreation. This is because she acted against Canon 1055 which states marriage is “ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring.” As noted above, it cannot be reached with moral certitude that the Petitioner intended against children, but it is very, very apparent that the Petitioner never planned nor considered children in general or as being a natural part of marriage. This can be seen from the evidence that the couple cohabitated prior to marriage during which they used contraception. They then carried their contraceptive practices into their marriage. They also never discussed children, perhaps intentionally, but at the very least due to a flippant mental viewpoint that children did not need to be considered in their particular marriage. The Petitioner, during her statement taking place after the failed marriage, stated, “I did not want to have children with this man!” This further statement after the fact supports the evidence that there existed at least an unconscious disregard for the essential property of marriage, procreation, at the time of the marriage and affected the Petitioner’s consent.
Finally, the marital act was only completed two times after the marriage. The term “completed” is an inaccurate term in this case since both cases involved a marital act which was gravely incomplete through the use of contraceptive methods. The fact that the marital act only occurred twice after the marriage demonstrates that the Petitioner was withholding another essential property of marriage, that is, the conjugal life. As such, she could not hand over to the Respondent and accept from the Respondent the essential matrimonial rights and duties that come from the conjugal life including fidelity, unity, and procreation.
The evidence above gives the Court moral certitude that indeed the Petitioner gravely lacked discretionary judgment concerning essential marital rights and duties mutually to be handed over and accepted. Wherefore, having thoroughly examined all these matters, both as regards the law and the facts, I the undersigned sole and presiding Judge sitting in the Court of First Instance for the Diocese of Palm Beach and having only God before my eyes, declare, decree, and define in response to the doubt formulated in the case as follows:
IN THE AFFIRMATIVE, that is to say, the nullity of the Marriage in question is proven on the ground of gravely lacking discretionary judgment concerning essential marital rights and duties mutually to be handed over and accepted on the part of the Petitioner.
Zane Williamson, Pursuing M.A. in Moral Theology
Outstanding Questions/Possible Avenues to Examine Should Further Evidence be Required
Why is the Petitioner seeking a declaration of nullity? From the document, it seems that the Petitioner and the Respondent are both Lutheran. Has the Petitioner converted to the Catholic Faith? If not, does she now know what marriage is as well as the importance of the other sacraments? While this is irrelevant to the case, pastoral prudence obliges those Catholics, especially the priests/tribunal, to seek her conversion. She has shown an inclination/openness to the Church by requesting an annulment. It would be a grave dereliction on the part of those Catholics involved in this case if they failed to evangelize her and to share with her the Truth of Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Church.
Did the petitioner use hormonal contraceptives prior to marriage? During her statement, she said “During marriage, I didn’t want to sleep with him…I was repulsed by him.” Given that her repulsion seems to have started after marriage, it is possible that she was taking hormonal contraceptives during the courtship. If that is the case, this could indicated an altered mental state in regards to the petitioner as oral contraceptives have been shown to alter one’s hormones, etc. with which one makes decisions on potential spouses.
Possibly invalid marriage due to Canon 1103. As frequent comment during the witnesses statement’s indicated a grave amount of physical intimidation by the Respondent. The third witness stated, “[The Petitioner] was living in fear of what [the Respondent] would do if she ended the relationship.” While the Respondent’s actions after the marriage indicate the likely possibility that the Petitioner married due to fear, the statements by the Petitioner herself do not address this in adequate depth. Should this case require further evidence, it is recommended that the Advocate for the Petitioner examine the possibility that the Petitioner entered into the marriage due to “grave fear” of the Respondent, even if he did not intentionally inflict that fear prior the marriage.
 Canon 1055 par. 1
 Canon 1055 par. 2
 Canon 1057
 Canon 1095 par. 2
 Canon 1095 par. 3
 Canon 1095 par. 2
 Can. 1099
 Can. 1096
 Can. 1055
cf. Canon 1055 “marriage is…ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses”; and Canon 1096 “contracting parties must at least not be ignorant that marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman ordered to the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation.”
 Can. 1055; Can. 1056; Can.1096;
 cf. Janet Smith’s Contraception: Why not?
 cf. Canon 1103