Annulment, Divorce, and Legal Separation in the Catholic Church

Question 1:

Posted by seeker on May 27, 2011 at 9:55 pm

There is distinction between annulment and divorce in the Catholic Church? Both means separation and God is against that. Annulment is usually for the rich and celebrities. It comes with a fee. If you’re poor, it’s simply called “separation” or divorce in legal terminology. Please don’t twist the argument.

Response 1:

Posted by Quirino M. Sugon Jr on May 27, 2011 at 11:13 pm


Yes, there is a distinction between divorce, annulment, and legal separation in the the Catholic Church, which is also reflected in the Philippine laws on marriage. Check out the Philippine Legal e-Forum. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

Roman Catholic Church

By the ninth or tenth century, the divorce rate had been greatly reduced under the influence of the Roman Catholic Church,[3] which considered marriage a sacrament instituted by God and Christ indissoluble by mere human action.[4]

Although divorce, as known today, was generally prohibited in Western Europe after the tenth century, separation of husband and wife and the annulment of marriage were well-known. What is today referred to as “separate maintenance” (or “legal separation”) was termed “divorce a mensa et thoro” (“divorce from bed-and-board”). The husband and wife physically separated and were forbidden to live or cohabit together; but their marital relationship did not fully terminate.[5] Civil courts had no power over marriage or divorce.

Canon law makes no provision for divorce, but a declaration of nullity may be granted when proof is produced that essential conditions for contracting a valid marriage were absent— in other words, that the sacrament did not take place due to some impediment. The grounds for annulment are determined by Church authority and applied in ecclesiastical courts. Annulment was known as “divorce a vinculo matrimonii,” or “divorce from all the bonds of marriage,” for canonical causes of impediment existing at the time of the marriage. “For in cases of total divorce, the marriage is declared null, as having been absolutely unlawful ab initio.”[6][7][8] The Church holds that the sacrament of marriage produces one person from two, inseparable from each other: “By marriage the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being of legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage or at least incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection and cover, she performs everything.”[9] Since husband and wife became one person upon marriage, that oneness can only be seen as null if the parties improperly entered into the marriage initially, in which the marriage does not validly exist.

Question 2:

Posted by seeker on May 28, 2011 at 10:15 pm  edit

My point was annulment is just another term for divorce. Actually, no distinction. It’s in the Philippine Law but the framers of this law did not disclose that annulment was meant for the rich and powerful who could pay the fees and afford court procedure. And of course the Catholic Church benefits from it financially.

Response 2:

Posted by Quirino M. Sugon Jr on May 28, 2011 at 11:51 pm


Too bad you can’t distinguish between annulment and divorce. I’ll give an analogy. Represent a man by a white candle and a woman by a red candle. If the two candles are tied to each other, then there are still two candles. On the other hand, if both candles are melted together to form one new pink candle, then there is no way to separate the white and red candles. Annulment is simply the declaration that the two candles tied by a string do not form one candle, so the cord tying them may be cut. The white and red candles are free to be melted (married) to other candles. Legal separation, on the other hand, is the cutting the pink candle, the inseparable union of the white and red candles, into half. Each half remains married (melted together) in the eyes of God, even if they are separated. Divorce is an impossible task: how can you separate the red and white candles in a pink candle? For this reason what God has joined together in marriage, no human being must separate.

Question 3:
Submitted on 2011/05/29 at 9:48 am

The analogy is similar to Trinity. You put three burning sticks together and you get one fire. Is that what you’re trying to say? God hates divorce. Divorce is separation between husband and wife. Annulment is separation. Is it hard to understand?

Response 3:

Submitted on 2011/05/29 at 11:30 am | In reply to seeker.


Combining sticks to form one fire is not the same as melting two candles to form one candle stick. I cannot help you anymore here, if you cannot understand analogies. For you all separations are called divorce and God hates divorce. But you need to distinguish between physical and spiritual separations/unions:

1. If the husband is in the Philippines and the wife is in the US, they are separated by bodies of water, and they cannot see each other. Are the two divorced? (answer: Physically separated but spiritually united in marriage)

2. If two unmarried couples are having sexual intercourse, are they already married by being physically united to each other? (answer: Physically united but spiritually separated because they are not married)

3. When Christ said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife), and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.” (Mk 10:7-8) (answer: Spiritually united in marriage, they may be physically united during honeymoon, they may be physically separated by living in two different houses, and they cannot marry again, unless one of them dies.)

4. If a man, who was validly married before and his wife is still alive, marries another woman, is the new marriage valid? (answer: the new marriage is invalid ab initio, that is “from the very beginning”, because a validly married man whose wife is still alive cannot contract a new marriage. If the ecclesiastical court finds this out, then the court shall declare that the new marriage is null from the very beginning, i.e. the new marriage is annulled.)