The reforms in annulment procedures introduced by the Catholic church recently are being received differently by the different sectors of society.
[email protected], on the other hand, decided to have a chat with women who have actually gone through the long and excruciating process of seeking annulment from their once abusive marriages and ask them how they feel about the Vatican’s announcement.
Desire to show mercy
“Very much welcome,” says Rochelle, who has been granted civil annulment by the courts but is still awaiting the Catholic church to declare her marriage annulled. “
“I’m legally annulled. In the eyes of the law, I am free, I can change back to my maiden name, and I’m allowed to remarry if I wish to. But my church annulment is ongoing. It’s been more than a year since I filed the petitioned but until now, my petition has no movement or update. In the eyes of the Catholic Church, I remain married (even though I’m legally free) and I cannot remarry under Catholic rites.
The church annulment is extremely frustrating. It’s like the Church doesn’t want you to move on.”
Catholics who seek for annulment have to go through more than one process- civil and church processes, if they wish to marry again with the blessing of the church.
Not being granted annulment by the church can take an emotional toll on those whose marriages have only been annulled civilly.
For them, it feels as if they are still morally tied to their previous partners from whom they want to move on.
The Catholic church’s desire is to show mercy to those who have gone through traumatic unions, opening the doors for couples who have divorced to go back to the sacraments.
Church annulment is free
Mandy, who is not a Catholic, sees the Pope’s announcement as a welcome change.
“Annulment should not be so difficult to obtain. What happens is that only those who can afford can file for an annulment. For those who cannot afford, some don’t even get married just so they won’t be hampered by legalities of marriage and staying married. Those women (or men!) who are in abusive marriages have an option to get out of it.”
One of the difficulties you encounter when you file for annulment in the Philippines is the cost.
Filing fees in courts alone will already cost you around Php 10,000, then there are legal fees, pleading fees, fees for court appearances and psychologist fees to worry about.
But more than the cost is the emotional and psychological participation that is required from you.
Rochelle recalls her experience as emotionally and mentally taxing and exhausting. “I must have written three versions of my story (1 for the lawyer, 1 for the psychologist and 1 for the church). Every time the lawyer would send me drafts of the documents to be submitted to the court, I would have to re-read my story over and over again. Then, I had to relive it again during the court hearings. Aside from my own testimony in court, we had to present two other witnesses and I had to attend all those hearings. So it’s another instance of hearing your story again and again.
Then you have the church annulment expenses to think about after going through all that.
Some annulment cases are considered too complicated to be decided upon on a local level and are brought up to the special courts at the Vatican or Rota which can cost you thousands of dollars.
Pope Francis declares in the new annulment procedures that annulments should be free. He also allows bishops to make the final decisions without having to course it through second and third tribunals.
With the new reforms, the granting of annulments must be decided upon 45 days upon being received.
The Catholic church maintains indissolubility of marriage
The Catholic church is quick to correct the misconception that it is encouraging nor promoting divorce and separation among married couples.
It maintains prerequisites for annulment such as psychological incapacities, unwillingness to have children and other valid grounds, in accordance to the values and beliefs of the Catholic church.
What the church is doing is only streamlining and simplifying what once was an outdated, obsolete and lengthy procedure in allowing annulment for those who present valid reasons for it.
In the words of Father James Bretzke, theology professor of Boston College, “The pope is seeking to respond pastorally to the tens of thousands of couples who are experiencing profound pain and alienation as a result of broken marriages.”
Pushing for new beginnings
After going through the painful process, Mandy is hopeful for new beginnings.
“Getting a marriage dissolved from a difficult person is difficult and complicated” she says. “Mine took a few years, 3 or more I think. Putting down to words in a petition was like reliving through the bad experiences I had in marriage, but it also made me look forward and become hopeful that I don’t need to stay in that kind of marriage and that hopefully, I will not make the same mistakes and choose more carefully in the future.”
Rochelle, on the other hand, says, “I’m a bit lucky because my annulment only took about 1 1/2 years. That’s fast, compared to other cases. But the toll is just as hard.”
She continues, “Nobody should be subjected to that kind of emotional and mental distress. Being in an abusive marriage is hard as it is. Getting out of it should not be that difficult and punishing.”