What God has joined together let no man put asunder. . .
Except. . . um. . there's. . .

In ancient Rome, marriage and divorce were political tools. It was not uncommon for a man or woman to be married and divorced as often as new political opportunities presented themselves. Divorce needed neither the consent of the church or state.

Of course, there are as many variations to marriages and divorces as there are countries, cultures, traditions, and religions. Most have long ago recognized the impermanence and mutability of human commitments, the fickleness of love, the frailty of fidelity, and the humanness of lust, the raging of testosterone, the waxing and waning of hormones. The shared wisdom has been to allow the dissolution of marriages when they have irrevocably failed. In ancient Egypt, divorce and remarriage were common and easily accomplished. Judaism viewed divorce as a great tragedy, yet allows it as part of the Jewish law, "even (when) the very altar weeps." Even Islam allows it, through Talaag or Khul procedures formalized in the Quran.

  The Catholic annulment is a finding that sacramental marriage never existed, whereas
a divorce decree legally dissolves a valid marriage contract.
  It's really divorce, Catholic style.  
  It's ecclesiastical hubris, when it can decree a marriage annulled -- that it never happened, even after a 10- or 20-year marriage, with 2 or 3 children to boot -- with a cockamamie use of preexisting personality disorders.  

While most religions disapprove of divorce, most allow it. Only four condemn it: Jainism, Sikhism, Hinduism, and Catholicism. Jainism considers divorces an act of violence, and provides no exit-options. Sikhism believes marriage to be indissoluble, and likewise, no exit-alternative. Hinduism considers marriage permanent, divorce unthinkable, but a Hindu civil code came out with the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 that permits divorce on certain grounds. Catholicism condemns divorce, and decreed of marriage: What God has joined together, let no man put asunder, and demands a 'till-death-do-us-part lastingness.

While most religions and cultures allow divorce for various reasons: adultery, desertion, and various irreconcilable incompatibilities, Catholicism's immutable position on divorce allows only one mechanism of dissolution: a death of either spouse.

Well. . . not really. Catholicism concocted this thing called annulment, the groundwork laid down way back 110 A.D. Some consider it divorce, Catholic style. Of course Catholics are always ready to debate you with definitions and semantics, annulment's nullity of the beginning versus divorce's dissolution at the end. In the end, it's a sort of deus ex machina - a theological legalese that allows the stretching of truths or embellishment of lies - to achieve the sole purpose of ending a marital contract, an alternative to its "till-death-do-us-part" clause.

  There are two kinds of annulment: civil and religious.  
  Like divorce, the civil annulment is a legal process that dissolves the marriage. Unlike a divorce, a civil annulment declares the marriage legally void, as if the marriage never happened. A civil annulment requires one to prove one of several grounds specified by statue; divorce requires no proving of grounds to justify the divorce. Like divorce, the court can award spousal and child support, and divide the property even is the marriage is legally void. Civil annulments do not render children illegitimate. Unlike divorce where the law imposes a 120-day waiting period before finalization, annulment has no waiting period.  
  A religious annulment declares a marriage void except that it has no legal effect. To obtain a religious annulment, a couple must prove that there was a defect in one or both parties' consent to marriage. The process takes approximately one and a half years to complete.  
  Persons who obtained civil annulments without church annulments will not be allowed to remarry in the Catholic Church, although they can remarry under civil rites. Similarly, Church annulments are not recognized by law.  
  There are two forms of religious annulments: (1) Documentary or lack-of-form annulments which apply to divorced Catholics married by judges, mayors, or non-Catholic clergy. (2) Formal: More complicated and intimidating, required of a Catholic married in the church who is now divorced and wishes to remarry in a Catholic ceremony, to obtain a decree of nullity that the marriage never happened or an essential element was lacking when the marriage took place, i.e., maturity, emotional health, commitment to fidelity,  

The Catholic annulment is a Decree of Nullity – a declaration by a diocesan tribunal that the marriage was invalid or null at the time the vows were exchanged, that no sacrament ever took place. Behavior subsequent to the marriage contract will not invalidate a marriage, even adultery, as long as the spouse intended to honor the vow of fidelity at the time of exchanging of the vows. Certain preexisting conditions and scenarios can be grounds for nullification: Holding information on a previous marriage, impotence, infertility, or psychological incapacity.

For failed marriages and annulments – it's no fun at all in the Philippines.
No. Not fun at all. In the Philippines, where divorce is an absolute no-no, husbands and wives trapped in the ecclesiastic and sacramental foreverness of their failed marital unions are left with limited options. Many simply resign to this reality of Philippine life, trapped in their loveless marriages. Men find easy release in concubinage and the socially tolerated querida system; some women stray into clandestine adventures of adultery. Some travel to foreign countries to avail of divorce. For the politicians and burgis, celebrities and public figures who choose to stay in the country but who want to avoid the social censure and stigma of adultery and concubinage, and who don't want to incur the wrath of the Church -- their bastion of moral authority -- they have to go the annulment route.

But annulment does not come cheap and easy. With reports of denial rates as high as 95%, you need deep pockets for a good lawyer, with the expertise and creativity to help the applicant maneuver through the legal complexities and semantics of the annulment process. Creativity should not be taken lightly. The process requires a believable presentation of truths and often, lacking that, the concoction of maladies or invention of preexisting conditions, and whatever else can help to convince the tribunal that the marriage really never existed - no matter that you've been married five or ten years, shared early years in pleasure and bliss, parenting two, three, or four kids. The creativity part can be bolstered by the help of psychologists and/or psychiatrists who can provide the necessary diagnostic psychiatric maladies.

Annulment is for
the rich.

If you're poor . . . um. . . sorry. Annulment is not for the poor, the rural folk, the boondockers. . . in short, not for the masa. But no matter -- for the masa's seeming religiosity, they don't give diddly-squat about the community's criticism, much less, censure by the church. And also, diddly-squat even if they're aware that living with a new partner while separated but still legally married carries a potential six-year prison term. Many go their merry ways, men and women, mindless of censure by church and community.

But for the moneyed, the burgis, celebrities and politicians in the public eye, who seek freedom from their trapped married lives, who prefer to remain within the embrace of the Catholic church, who plan to try the marriage route anew -- it's the annulment game. Even if it means reinventing the past, twisting the truth with the hocus-pocus of language, resurrecting the secrets and skeletons out of the closet, admitting to some preexisting psychological incapacity.

  Psychological incapacity is a favorite among showbiz personalities.  

Psychological incapacity is manna from annulment heaven. It carries a wide umbrella of diagnosis: from the more serious diagnoses of schizo-affective disorders and manic-depression, to narcissistic personality and pathologic lying, to homosexuality and lesbianism, alcoholism and drug use -- which can all undermine the capacity for permanent union, and therefore be used as grounds for annulment. By the way, psychological incapacity is a favorite among showbiz personalities.

Church annulment makes a mockery of the Catholic marriage. However, with its sacramental position of foreverness and indissolubility, death and annulment continue to be the only avenues for failed marriages.

Even with Catholicism's sacramental indissolubility, many marriages are doomed to fail. Death and annulment should not be the sole instruments to regain freedom and to restart a new life. Congress should legislate for divorce. Divorce should be a choice. And annulment, the alternative choice, when the grounds are obvious and easily proven, with truths rather than a concoction of lies. Let the suffering faithful decide. To each his or her own sin - adultery, concubinage, or divorce.

Hindi mangyayari. Masyadong malakas ang simbahan.
It's not going to happen. The church is too strong.

It is a political system that kowtows to the will of the church. And strong it is. Its social and political power has repeatedly quashed political debate on the subject, and disabled legislation from introducing divorce laws.

Perhaps, the religious lobby controls an essential sway vote in congress (Quite possible). Perhaps, there's enough of the faithful in congress that passionately and profoundly believe in the foreverness of the sacred union (I doubt it). Perhaps, the male-dominated houses of congress just prefer to keep divorce out of legislature, protecting themselves from the economic consequences of alimony, asset and property divisions, satisfied with the querida system and concubinage that happily services generic lusts and testosterone needs (Amen).

It may be strong, but it should be challenged. For matters of marriages, divorce, and annulment, a true separation of church and state should be realized. It's a matter of political will. There should be an alternative to the societal privilege that annulment has become. There should be an alternative to the miserable lives imposed by failed marriages.

There used to be three countries where divorce has not been legalized: the Philippines, Malta, and the Vatican City -- all fiercely Catholic and rabidly bound to biblical and papal infallibility on the foreverness of marriage, its sacredness and indissolubility.

On May 2011, Malta, 95% Catholic and the only EU state without divorce legislation, voted "Yes" to a divorce referendum on legalizing divorce. Parliament approved the law on July 25, and the law came into effect on October 1.

Philippine congress should provide for the holding of a referendum vote. Let the people decide. Divorce should be a right. People should have the right to choose -- freedom through divorce or to suffer in the foreverness of their failed marriages.

by Godofredo U. Stuart Jr.                                                                                                                     June  2012
Suggested Readings
Marriage in ancient Rome
/ Wikipedia
Divorce in Judaism / Religion Facts
Divorce in Islam / IslamWeb
Civil Annulments vs. Religious Annulment / Kelly M. Dodd
Types of Personality Disorders: Cluster A, B & C -- Borderline, Narcissistic, Obsessive-Compulsive & Associated Clusters
/ Suite 101
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