From a reader…
Do personality disorders prevent a marriage from being valid?
For example, if a couple married in the Church, and one and/or both of them are later diagnosed with a personality disorder (such as Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder), would their marriage be considered valid?
I ask because my spouse was recently diagnosed with OCPD, and I am concerned about validity.
A first principle: Marriages enjoy the presumption of validity. That is, they are presumed to be valid unless sufficient proof to the contrary is offered.
To prove invalidity, the person raising the doubt or making the allegation about the possible invalidity of his or her own marriage bears the burden of proof. He or she must supply either 1) evidence either of incapacity to contract marriage on the part of one or both of the parties, or 2) proof that one or both of the parties simulated matrimonial consent, either totally or partially.
There are a few other grounds for nullity, but the main grounds are incapacity or simulation.
A diagnosis of a mental illness at some point after the wedding does not automatically render a marriage null on the spot.
Remember: it is the condition of the people at the time of the marriage that matters. Something that is diagnosed after doesn’t necessarily mean that one or both of them were in that condition at the time of the marriage.
Moreover, the process to investigate a matrimonial bond (as to its possible invalidity or nullity) can take place only when the Tribunal has arrived at certainty that there is no longer 1) hope of reconciliation between the parties, 2) nor is there hope of 2) reestablishing common life as spouses.
Typically, at least in these United States, the proof that there is no longer any hope of reconciliation between the parties is when one of the parties produces a divorce decree from a civil/secular court.
No longer any hope.
Note that there is a difference between “there is no hope” and “it would be really difficult”.
This quote from Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 Allocution to the Roman Rota is helpful (my emphases and comments:
In our meeting today, I wish to draw the attention of those engaged in the practice of law to the need to handle cases with the depth and seriousness required by the ministry of truth and charity proper to the Roman Rota. Indeed, responding to the need for procedural precision, the aforementioned Addresses provide, on the basis of the principles of Christian anthropology, fundamental criteria not only for the weighing of expert psychiatric and psychological reports, but also for the judicial settlement of causes. In this regard it is helpful to recall several clear-cut distinctions. First of all, the distinction between “the psychic [psychological] maturity which is seen as the goal of human development” and, on the other hand, “the canonical maturity which is the basic minimum required for establishing the validity of marriage” (Address to the Roman Rota, 5 February 1987, n. 6). Second, the distinction between incapacity and difficulty, inasmuch as “incapacity alone, and not difficulty in giving consent and in realizing a true community of life and love, invalidates a marriage” (ibid., n. 7). Third, the distinction between the canonical approach to normality, which, based on an integral vision of the human person, “also includes moderate forms of psychological difficulty”, and the clinical approach, which excludes from the concept of normality every limitation of maturity and “every form of psychic illness” (Address to the Roman Rota, 25 January 1988, n. 5). And finally, the distinction between the “minimum capacity sufficient for valid consent” and the ideal capacity “of full maturity in relation to happy married life” (ibid.).