From a reader…
Something that I have been wondering about is whether or not the Church could deny marrying a couple where one intended spouse was previously married, had children then the Church granted an annulment [declaration of nullity] saying the marriage was invalid. Could it be argued that, for the sake of the children from the first marriage, a new marriage would not be possible until those children were adult age and the damage minimized from a parent’s new marriage and family? I’m not sure I explained my question well but I see so many damaged children struggling with assorted wounds and disorders from marriage and remarriage and new children and new step parents and all that instability. If Amoris Laetitia guides Pastors to consider what’s better for children in new unions, shouldn’t the Church also be mindful of protecting children from [of?] previous unions, even if those first unions were granted annulments?
GUEST CANONIST RESPONSE:
A monitum (warning) or vetitum (prohibition) is usually only applied to one party or both if one or both of the parties simulated their matrimonial consent (i.e., said “yes,” but meant “no”), and therefore either should not or must not attempt marriage in the future until it is certain that nothing stands in the way of a valid and licit celebration of marriage, in accordance with canon 1066 of the Code of Canon Law; or if there is still present in one party or the other (or both) a serious anomaly or grave affliction of the psyche which rendered the marriage null due to incapacity to contract marriage (e.g., this can be anything from alcoholism or drug addiction to schizophrenia) as under such circumstances it is also necessary to verify ahead of time that any possible future attempt at marriage will not result in an invalid marriage (emphasizing once again the immense importance of canon 1066, the admonitions of which are gravely incumbent upon those who prepare people for marriage). [Fr. Z adds: Can. 1066: Before a marriage is celebrated, it MUST be EVIDENT that NOTHING stands in the way of its valid and licit celebration. – EMPHASES added!]
I have never heard of anyone who had a marriage declared null — having been declared free to marry and not having monitum or vetitum attached — having their right to marry (ius connubii) impacted or restricted due to the age of any offspring involved.
A Tribunal’s competence is to make a determination about the marriage presented at the request of one or both parties and, if necessary, to make provisions regarding any possibility of a future invalid attempt at marriage.
Ultimately, there is only so much any Tribunal can do. Painful family situations can often be addressed at the parish level or through counseling. Most family dysfunction is beyond the scope of any Tribunal’s competence to address or resolve.
That long-term, delicate, and time-intensive work must be left to others, in other sectors of the Church outside of the judicial branch.
Canon law can only do so much.
Fr. Z JUMPS IN
In addition to the monitum and vetitum, when a party is bound by a natural bond to a children from a previous union, can. 1071 §1, 3° requires the permission of the local ordinary before it may proceed.
It would be good for that to be spelled out in decrees.