"Un Ti Morceau"

"A Little Something," mini-lessons and reflections by our pastor, Father Paul Counce

Grounds for Marital Invalidity 3

Published July 16, 2017 by Fr. Paul Counce

As I continue this series of ti morceaux talking about the minis­try of the Diocesan Tribunal, I’m describing some of the possible “grounds” used in marriage-nullity cases. If these defects can be proven true, they result in a declaration of invalidity for the marital union-in-question.

I mentioned last time the first kind of defective intention, someone’s inability to comprehend properly the profundity of the marital commitment. But it’s also not unknown for a union to be invalid because one or both parties – even if they can understand what they’re getting into – are personally incapable of real marriage. This kind of inability to actually live out marriage’s lifelong obligations is almost always rooted in some kind of psychological problem. (Again canon 1095 of the Code of Canon Law governs all this.)

As you might surmise, almost any undiagnosed psychological disorder or neurosis at the time of the wedding – if a serious one, of course – can invalidate. If someone has Bi-Polar Disorder, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder, etc. (there are dozens of such mental illnesses catalogued in the standard medical references), and doesn’t know it and so isn’t trying to manage it by medications or psychotherapy, well, this kind of person is not an apt subject to attempt marriage. It’s not reasonable to hold a person to a contract the terms of which they cannot fulfill.

Again, we’re not talking about mere tendencies in a person. Often people joke about someone being “a little OCD” or “always stuck on themselves” or “moody or depressed.” This doesn’t usually mean that the person is mentally ill! But sometimes people are overcome by emotional or other psychological disorders, and – as medical records show or as psychological experts can help us clarify – in such situations they often cannot really give themselves in marriage even if they think they can.

But frankly, most people are capable of matrimony. They understand it well enough and can live it out if they want to. In today’s day and age, however, lots of people don’t want to subscribe to God’s definition of marriage, and in fact often reject His dominion over our lives. Too many people think that they, and not the Lord, can define the institution of marriage, and in so doing also reject those things which are essential to it. In our next morceau we’ll consider those grounds: how defective intention can invalidate marriage.

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