annulment · Catholic culture · divorce · Poll-Quiz

Should a Catholic divorcee date without an annulment?

I encountered a bit of controversy yesterday in a Facebook discussion. Please help me sort this out.

Pretend you are a divorced person, who is seeking an annulment. By chance, you connect with an old flame from high school. Please read the following passage, and see if it helps you discern whether you should start dating before the annulment comes through. Remember: try to put yourself in this person’s shoes, AND try to base your answer solely on what you read in this text.

When I met my husband, Bob, we had to wait for his Catholic Church annulment to go through before we could even date or plan a marriage. We went a year or so spending time as friends,  “brother and sister,”  mostly phone calls and a few visits with his parish priest. I was in Southern California and he was five hundred miles away in the San Francisco Bay area.  Occasionally we took turns driving back and forth to visit and, I admit, both of us were very physically attracted to the other.  We’d been high school sweethearts forty years prior and had met again at our reunion.  Because we’d been young and innocent together and grew up in the sixties, it was easy for us to feel somewhat like real brother and sister. Still, I remembered his kisses and those first, sweet stirrings of sexual desire from decades ago. We could not wait to make love. But we wanted to take the high road even more.

We could have moved past friendship, started dating, or moved in like so many do and started living as husband and wife but that would have been a lie. We discussed, argued, and finally agreed that we wanted something different than what the culture (and even some in the Church) told us we could do: we wanted to reserve sex for the true expression of a complete and total self-giving. In studying St. John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility we understood that it would be a lie to act out a full self-giving with our bodies before it had been exchanged in every other area of our lives.  We also knew that masturbation wasn’t an easy replacement; that, too, was a practice in self-centeredness (not self-giving) that can never foster authentic love. We agreed to take the high road.

So, what do you think, readers? To date, or not to date: that is the question.

3 thoughts on “Should a Catholic divorcee date without an annulment?

  1. I find it confusing because she says they aren’t dating, but it sounds like they ARE dating to me.
    I do think that there should be a declaration of nullity before anyone starts dating or ‘getting interested’ in someone again.

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    1. Anna– I came to the same conclusion that you did. When I first read it, I thought it was clear: no one could read this and conclude that a person ought to date without a declaration of nullity in hand. What counts as dating? You put your finger right on the problem. Thank you.

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  2. As I understand it, Catholics are not to date until nullity is declared. What if the annulment does not go through? The stirrings of sexual desire are certainly an occasion of sin even though “nothing happened. ” Was there kissing of any type involved? If so, I would say there is a breach of marital vows. What does the Catholic Church say? Please understand that I am not accusing but assessing or perhaps assuming based on what I have understood the Church to mean. I did not date at all until I was annulled.

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