From a reader…
After a deeper conversion experience I had a love for my first wife that I did not have before. It seemed that after my conversion the love of Jesus was flowing through me for her. I was “loving her with love with which He loved me”. She did not like my changes and left me with two children. I was young. I divorced (felt tremendous guilt), and in good faith (at the time) filed papers on annulment. Was granted on the psychological grounds piece (I have, for most of the time in my second marriage, thought the annulment was invalid, but it is a fact, and was not appealed to the Rota) and I have been remarried for decades. Adult child. Wife and child are good Catholics. I wake up with guilt feelings every morning for decades about being married to current spouse, particularly after marital relations. […]
The Church does not hold, and has never held, that the pronouncements of a marriage tribunal are invested with infallibility. Tribunals can – and do – make mistakes.
Sometimes faulty information is given to the Tribunal. Sometimes people intentionally lie. Sometimes Judges come to certitude on a marriage with too much haste. Sometimes Judges vacillate for a long period of time and cloud their own minds before rendering a judgment.
It is not an exact science.
Overall, despite complaints from some quarters of too much laxity, and from other quarters of too much legalism, the Church’s Courts do a yeoman’s job of adjudicating cases.
It is impossible here, based on this short email, to do the job that the Church’s Tribunal system, which has developed over many centuries, is entrusted to do and determine the validity of your marriage.
The Church teaches that a marriage celebrated in the external forum is presumed to be a valid marriage unless and until it has been judged otherwise (can. 1060). Your current marriage, which has perdured for 30 years, is presumed by the Church to be a valid marriage, despite your doubts and misgivings.
Was the declaration of the invalidity of your first marriage itself invalid? Perhaps. Are your doubts rooted in lies you may have told to the Tribunal, or some misperceptions you allowed the Tribunal to have? Are your doubts reasonable, or are they a demonstration of scrupulosity, or even a judgmental attitude towards the Tribunal or the Church itself?
You should probably talk with your pastor about your “thoughts” on the invalidity of that declaration of nullity.
At this point in time, however, two main things need to be stated, based on what you have presented.
First, your first marriage was legitimately declared null by the Church’s own juridical system. No appeal against that decision has been filed by you, by your first putative spouse, or by the Defender of the Bond.
Next, your current marriage has been blessed by a longevity that many would rightly envy, and has produced a son. Your wife and son are practicing their Catholic faith. While not definitive, those are good signs of a healthy marriage blessed with graces.
Seek the advice of a good confessor who, if your perception of guilt is rooted in scrupulosity, should be strictly obeyed.
Combox moderation is ON.