The Church can nullify a marriage

Today, many couples who think they are in love go to church to ‘solemnize’ what they think will be their lifetime commitment to each other till death separates them. 

Today, many couples who think they are in love go to church to ‘solemnize’ what they think will be their lifetime commitment to each other till death separates them. 

But the institution of marriage is currently going through difficult times and many are breaking up. According to Father Marcel Uwineza of Remera Catholic Church, the church does not believe in divorce. He says that married couples should strive to solve their problems instead of breaking up.

“Marriage is a covenant between a man and woman in the presence of God. It’s a covenant that entails love. It’s not a contract where the couple can decide to walk away from each other when the contract expires. Marriage is also a gift from God, which should be guarded jealously by the couple,” says the man of God. 

He goes on: “The first thing that husband and wife should do is to forge reconciliation when problems arise in their marriage. Any marriage that is based on love will always go through any difficulties. 

“As a church we believe that as people live together, they progressively get know each other. The man will know more about his wife and his wife will know more about her husband.”

Father Uwineza says that marriage has its origin in God and it’s not just a game. When a couple discovers that they cannot live together, the church advises that they separate temporarily as they try to iron out the issues that made them drift apart. But since marriage is a sacrament between husband and wife, the Catholic Church does not believe in divorce. 

“Just like Jesus Christ doesn’t divorce the church despite it being full of sinners, so should be married people. If there are serious cases like chronic infidelity, the church advises the couple to live separately hoping that the spouse at fault will eventually come back to his or her senses,” says Father Uwineza. “If a couple is unable to get children, it doesn’t mean that they should divorce. They should just accept this as part of their lives and stay committed to each other.”  

However, Father Uwineza says that there are salient issues that may lead to annulment of the marriage.

“When it’s discovered that during courtship and eventual marriage in the church one didn’t reveal some crucial information like disease or infertility to another, then the church recognises the annulment of the marriage.”

He adds that in the eyes of the Catholic Church, the word “marriage” can only be applied when the union was created as God intended it to be – with the minimum content that God gave it. If that minimum content is not present, then the union between the two spouses can be called whatever people want to call it but in the eyes of the Catholic Church, it’s never a marriage.

But it’s important to note that a marriage being declared null is not the same as divorce. A divorce states that two people, a bride and groom who had been validly married, are no longer married. But a declaration of nullity means that something that was necessary and indispensable for a valid marriage has not come into existence in the relationship.

Father Uwineza says that the abuse of alcohol, cannabis or other forms of abuse and violence is hardly compatible with the Church’s definition of marriage as a community of life and love. Such are grounds for an annulment. 

As someone who is divorced, can you remarry in church?

According to the Anglican Church, there may be a way forward for you to be married again in church. The Church of England agreed in 2002 that divorced people could remarry in church under certain circumstances. However, because the Church believes marriage should be life-long, there is no automatic right to do so and it is left to the discretion of the Priest.