Q. I heard of a young woman in our parish who will try to get a third annulment. How many annulments can a Catholic person get?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The Church defines marriage as a permanent and exclusive union between a man and a woman, ordered for the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. Each of the elements in this definition is essential when considering marriage itself —and they are equally so when considering annulment, which is the decision by a Church court (a tribunal) that some element was lacking at the time of the marriage.
Should this be the case, a judge may determine a true, Christian marriage does not exit.
Christian marriage is a sacrament, but it is only revealed as such when both spouses are capable of embracing its demands. Marriage is also a contract, and should one spouse prove incapable of fulfilling the demands of the contract, the contract is invalid. Should this happen more than once, nothing prevents an individual from seeking another annulment.
However, annulments are sad and unfortunate activities, and Church critics often dismiss them as nothing more than “Catholic divorce.” The Church has no wish to subject its legal processes to ridicule, so a person may secure two (or more) annulments, but will almost certainly be required to undergo serious, and lengthy, preparation before entering another marriage.