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Dear Father Angelo,

I have a really brief question: while chatting with some people, we began to talk about matrimonial nullity and about which factors can render a marriage null. I said that a marriage is invalid when, for instance, a husband says he wants to have children with his wife and then, after marriage, he does not want to anymore. Is my remark correct? 

If it is wrong, should I correct my mistake, given that the person I talked to is strongly hostile to the Church, or is it enough to ask God for forgiveness? I must say that having conversations with this kind of people distresses me. 

Pray for me, I have been witnessing a lot and sometimes I am afraid I might say wrong things and then be unable to fix the damages.

I will pray for you in my Holy Rosary.

The priest’s reply

Dear friend,

  1. it is necessary to make a distinction between the time before the celebration of the wedding  and the one subsequent to the celebration. 
  2. In order for a marriage to be void, the impediment must persist until the celebration of the wedding. Therefore, if the bridegroom promised to be open to procreation, the marriage is valid. From the standpoint of canon law, the marriage is defined as “ratum”, which means “celebrated, done, contracted”. 
  3. On the contrary, if he promised to be open to life but he was pretending, the marriage is void. That is to say that it is not “ratum”, namely it has not been contracted. One of the two, as a matter of fact, pretended to celebrate the wedding. Therefore the contract is void and so is the marriage. Nevertheless, it is necessary to prove that it is false. Because, unless one proves it [i.e. that the bridegroom was pretending, t.n.], one must assume that he has done things the way he has outwardly shown to do them. 
  4. On the other hand, if he really wanted to be open to procreation, but after the celebration of the wedding he changed his mind, there is a further distinction to make. If he donated himself in matrimonial intimacy without using contraceptives, then the donation of himself has really taken place. Therefore the marriage, at this point, is not only “ratum” but also “consummatum”
  5. If a marriage is validly ratum et consummatum, nobody can dissolve it, not even the Pope. Jesus said: “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Matthew 19: 4-6).
  6. On the other hand, if a marriage has been validly celebrated, but then de facto in marital intimacy there has always been contraception, this means that the spouses have not donated themselves to each other totally. In actual fact, something is missing for the perfection of marriage: real and effective self-giving, without reservations. According to canonists, this would allow one to claim that marriage has not been really consummated, because it has been consummated with pretense. Contraception, as a matter of fact, is a pretense: one pretends to donate him/herself in totality, but de facto one does not give him/herself totally. In this case, the Church says that there can be a papal dispensation super rato et non consummato
  7. In this case the Church does not declare the marriage is invalid or void, but She dissolves it.  She dissolves a marriage in which the spouses promised themselves to each other but they failed to donate themselves totally in actual facts as in marital intimacy lived according to God’s plan. 
  8. At the moment it is not necessary for you to correct what you said. If you happen to have another conversation on this matter, you will clarify the issue and make the due distinctions. 

Thank you for remembering me in your prayer of the Holy Rosary. I am glad to reciprocate, I bless you and I wish you all the best.

Father Angelo