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(The broad issue of sacramental invalidity in general was discussed in greater detail in the same July 26, 2007 column mentioned above.) In short, either there was (1) a previously existing impediment preventing at least one of the spouses from marrying; or (2) a defect in the form of the wedding ceremony (addressed in the August 23, 2007 column); or (3) a defect in the consent exchanged by one or both of the spouses.

Therefore the idea that something went wrong at the time the sacrament was celebrated is not to be taken lightly.

In the case of a marriage, one could argue that the implications of its possible nullity are even graver than with other sacraments, because marriage involves not just one, but two persons-and if there were any children from the marriage, they naturally are affected by it in some way as well.

Nevertheless, the assertion that a Catholic sacrament may is a very serious matter.

When any sacrament is conferred, the presupposition is always that what we Catholics believe is taking place, is really taking place!

Their purpose is to determine objectively, so far as humanly possible, whether a sacrament was administered validly, or not.

The process may sound complex and drawn-out already, but we’re actually just getting started.This is why every marriage tribunal on earth must have on staff a person known as the “Defender of the Bond” (c. The job of this person-who may be either a layman or a cleric-is to argue in favor of the validity of the marriages which are presented to the tribunal for annulment.In other words, after a Catholic has presented evidence to support his request for annulment of his marriage, someone employed by the tribunal is obliged to comb through all the evidence submitted, seeking reasons why an annulment should be granted and the marriage should be declared to be valid!A marriage annulment is a declaration by church authorities that while the wedding of two spouses may have been celebrated, in fact no marriage took place.Yes, the spouses went through a wedding ceremony, and externally it appeared that they were married, but in reality, some key element was either missing or wrong, causing the sacrament to be invalid.True, this causes such obvious cases to take longer than they would if the Defender did not exist, and the result would presumably be the same.

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