Why try a cancellation when you “don’t need”?


More than showing me my failures, it showed me how I could change …

I was divorced before I joined the RCIA and did not want to go through the annulment process at all. I didn’t strictly need it: I hadn’t remarried; I was not even in a relationship; I saw no chance that I would one day.

“But,” Father told me, “we always love to see someone sue for an annulment. It helps the healing process. Divorce always causes injury.

I decided to go there. So it was off to try to explain all this to my ex-wife.

K. and I had a reasonably amicable dissolution of our marriage, and we had kept in touch and remained friends. Part of it was because we had a daughter together who was stillborn. We shared this loss; we shared the love for our child. I suspected that if I pursued an annulment it would hurt her, but I also didn’t want her to be surprised one day when she received a letter from the Tribunal. I needed to tell him I was going to do this.

She wasn’t happy – she even called the waitress at our table to cross-examine her on her opinion on this – mainly because she thought it would mean Caitlyn was illegitimate.

“Well that’s not true,” I said, and tried to explain that a nullity decision had no effect on the legitimacy of the children.

“Yeah, that’s right,” K said. “I don’t care what those Catholics say.”

She called me on the phone later that night, mainly to complain that Catholics worship Mary and that she didn’t care what I said to deny it. (She was hurt and blasted in every way she could.) But she also said, “If you go through with it, a new gravestone will be put in place with Caitlyn’s last name changed to mine. “

So I’ve been through all that ugliness, and K. and I hardly speak now, which is a shame because I still love him.

Filling out all the paperwork to go to court was an emotional ordeal in itself, as the questions (at least on the long form I used) seem very intrusive. I didn’t mean to say all that. I was even less keen to receive the DA’s drafting instructions and repeat it all. Why reread this mess? There was this sin, there was this sin, we did it and we said that while we were dating, there was a lot of nonsense: it’s more detailed than the confessional. It was a great pain to remember what I wanted to forget.

But among all this I noticed a curious thing: in what I wrote I spoke much more about my sins than about K. I said what I needed to say, but see here what I did – I am the miserable and awful person in this area.

It was a review of all the ways I had failed that I never forgot because, more than showing me my failures, it showed me how I can change. And it showed me that I can change. And I even stopped remembering how K. had wronged me. I learned to forgive.

I may or may never be able to date or get married again. But having the annulment gives me the peace of mind that I can and don’t have to worry about the validity of the old marriage. I would have liked Pope Francis to say more in Amoris Laetitia about that, but it’s good that he reformed the process. Making it easier makes people less afraid to try it, and it still familiarizes a wounded person with grace.

[For more information on annulments (including the legitimacy of children), see: “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Marriage and Annulments But Were Afraid to Ask.”]

Scott Eric Alt is a freelance writer and convert to Catholicism who has been writing about apologetics and the Church for three years. He blogs on Patheos and also contributes to the National Catholic Register, Catholic Stand and Epic Pew.


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