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The most recent Vatican clarification of the law was the 2005 instruction .These cases can involve things such as whether mental illness, sexual abuse, traumas or addiction to drugs, alcohol or sex render a person incapable to consent to or live out marriage.

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“Just because a person, for example, has an addiction, are we saying all persons with addictions can’t get married? “We have to examine whether ‘this person, because of this addiction, could not discern, consent or live out this marriage.’ It has to be that kind of one-to-one [relationship].

Benedict Nguyen, a canon lawyer and assistant professor at Ave Maria University, who also serves as the director of communications and the director of the Office of Sacred Worship for the Diocese of Venice, Fla., said the tribunal judges granting an annulment have to meet the standard of “moral certainty” when they rule no marriage existed.

“So if, for example, a person intended against ever having children, what is the evidence that can bring the tribunal judges to moral certainty that, before the throne of God, they can say, ‘Yes, here’s the evidence [no valid marriage existed]; this is why we decided it this way’? “It’s more than just probability; it’s actually quite a high bar to clear,” said Nguyen The grounds for ruling a marriage invalid fall generally under three categories: capacity, consent and (for a Catholic) canonical form.

Nguyen said the most common annulments are granted due to the lack of canonical form, such as Catholics married by a justice of the peace or a non-Catholic minister, because canon law requires a Catholic priest or deacon with faculties to officiate the marriage.

Another common reason for annulments involves capacity, such as a civil marriage with someone who was not free to marry because of a prior marriage bond.Deacon O’Toole said he spends two hours with divorced persons in his office and said such individuals decide whether to take the step to apply for a declaration of nullity once they understand what that process entails.

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