I sent out a request to those who've experienced annulment firsthand to share their stories; this is the first one in.
Allow me to introduce you to Candace. She runs Popes and Pirates blog on Blogspot. Curious about her blog name? I was, too, until I found out why her aptly named slice of the internet had a pretty amusing story behind it. Click here to satiate your curiosity! She also writes about parenting, her miscarriage experience and going (and staying!) green.
Candace was kind enough to share her annulment story with you fine folks. Please feel free to leave questions in the combox (you may stay anonymous!). I ask that you leave questions there so other readers can benefit from Candace's responses. I've had several readers write in to ask about annulments, but since I don't have direct experience, I was hoping others who did would share! Thanks, Candace!
Without further ado:
The Marriage That Never Was
Most of my friends and family know that I was "married before." My ex husband and I dated for five years before we married. We lived together beforehand, and although we were both cradle Catholics, neither one of us lived a very religious life. We had a Catholic wedding ceremony, attended the required Pre-Cana training months before, and then continued on with life as we normally had. Nothing we learned or experienced changed our thoughts or feelings about the values our lives should hold important, or what marriage meant.
We civilly divorced less than two years after our wedding day. We chose to do this as amicably as possible. We had no children and didn't share any bank accounts or property, so the physical separation was easier than many couples experience. I didn't begin the Catholic process of annulment until two years after that, when technically, I was already civilly remarried to my husband.
The process of civil divorce is quite different than the process of annulment in the Catholic church. Depending on the state you live in, civil divorce is mostly about filing the correct paperwork and paying the required fees. Divorce doesn't actually exist in the Catholic church. Annulment means that your marriage never truly happened. It was missing one or more of the required pieces to make it binding in the first place.
Many people believe that if you offer the church enough money, you can get an annulment no matter what. This is simply false. I paid nothing to the Church in the process of my annulment. Others offer large donations, but there is no guarantee what the results will be. You have to wait and hope throughout the process.
And process it is. You are required to meet with a priest who is part of a marriage tribunal and verbally recount your story. You also do this in writing. Your ex spouse is also encouraged to participate. Other friends and family on both sides are asked for their testimony. It can take years. Mine took two years from start to finish. Every piece to this process is inspected closely to come up with a final determination. There is a back and forth with the responses to each inquiry.
It is a challenge to wait, especially if you have already moved forward with another relationship in your life. I also couldn't receive communion during this time which made me feel like I was missing out on the grace that might help me get through this ordeal. But, I feel it was totally worth it. There were many times I simply wanted to give up and tried to convince myself it didn't matter. But, deep down I knew it did. You are forced to make peace with your past and this is a blessing in itself. My husband and I celebrated when my annulment was granted, and then began the next phase of having our marriage recognized.
To all those contemplating starting this process, or who are already in it, stay the course. No matter the result you may find consolation and healing. Pray often and ask Mary for help and courage to make it through. I will be praying for you as well.