Marriage, Divorce and Annulments in the Catholic Church

We can show up at a worship conference, put our hands in the air and speak in tongues, but family issues are the real test of our faith. People are naturally sensitive about marriage and breakup. Many of us have hair trigger responses when discussing issues of love, sex, children, retirement savings, education for the kids, dividing houses and property, etc. Some get really angry when they think the Church is "interfering." We think it's the #1 reason people leave the Catholic Church. One lady who is a friend of ours said:

I wasn't going to pay a bunch of money just for a piece of paper that says my marriage never existed, forget it... it was a real marriage, I did love him when I married him... and my kids are legitimate, and now I'm divorcing my husband because he had an affair on me... and the Catholic annulment process is stupid and I'm not going to subject my self to all those personal questions, so I've gone to an Evangelical Church, where I can divorce and remarry.

Whew! She had a compelling story. Marriage is a very emotional issue. Let's sort through this woman's sincere comments piece by piece.

But I loved him/her, does an annulment mean that our love didn't exist?

Love is not limited by marriage. A valid Christian marriage in the Catholic Church requires more than love between the spouses. This is one reason why same sex marriage is a no-go. Perhaps there was love, but maybe there were other mitigating factors in the marriage, such as:

  • The couple were not open to children (i.e., contraception)
  • Deep routed sin in either or both their lives during the courtship which interfered with their discernment, such as sex
  • Insufficient marriage preparation
  • Either party not having been baptized
  • Messed up marriage ceremony
  • No consummation of marriage
  • One or both partners being forced into marriage.

If an annulment is granted, are the kids bastards?

God loves all of his children. They are all precious to him regardless of how they are conceived. That is why Catholics have such a problem with abortion. The father will always be the child's true father, and the mother will always be the true mother, regardless of whether there was a marriage or not, and regardless of the presence or absence of love, or even if sin was involved during the conception by either, or both parents.

All of God's kids are legitimate!

Of course children do much better with a mother and a father, but that's not the issue here. Legitimacy is a temporal issue, based in civil law, and Canon law. It is an historical artifact related to inheritance, dynasties, social privileges and all that stuff.

In fact, the word "illegitimate" doesn't even appear in the 1982 Canon Law, only the word "legitimate" is in there. Our friend Pete Vere, a Canon lawyer said they would have dropped the word "legitimate" completely, the only reason it's there is to reassure parents.

Church law states that children are legitimate even if the marriage is annulled, provided it was entered into in good faith by at least one spouse (Canon 1061.3, 1137). For civil matters regarding the kids, the Church respects the civil marriage.

Why should the Church be involved in my personal life?

Ultimately, each one of us is responsible before God for our personal life. However, the Bible said the Church has an obligation to be involved with people who want to be in relationship to it (Acts 5:1-10, Mat 16:19). The Church is also obligated to share its message with society at large (1 Cor 9:16).

The Church is the new Israel (Romans 2:28, 29). In the Old Testament, the people of Israel lived together. Each had spiritual obligations to the greater good. The early Christian elders were very much into the lives of the community of believers (Acts). The idea of "Live and Let Live" is not a very biblical concept except when Jesus instructed the apostles to shake the dust from their feet and leave a hard hearted town (Mat 10:14).

Forty years ago, a politician declared "the government has no place in the bedrooms of the nation." It was a compelling proposal that solidified the concept of "private sin," which soon became "there is no such thing as sin - only preference." Now much of our health care budget is used up for sex related problems. Our court system is jammed with sex and relationship problems, and publicly funded education indoctrinates Christian children into this mess. The Church has also suffered immeasurably. Every sin that I commit in private affects the health of the Church community and the world at large. (Mat 18:15) The experiment of "private sin" has been a complete disaster.

The Church has an obligation to vigorously guard the integrity of the Eucharist by having moral requirements for communion. We know this sounds intolerant, but even that word has been distorted in recent decades.

Many couples who want to divorce, separate, or remarry would rather not deal with the hassle, and end up just leaving the Church. This also happened in the Bible when Jesus talked about the Eucharist being his body (Jn 6:56). Many left, but He could not compromise the truth. Before becoming Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger said "the Church of the future might be much smaller, but more faithful." But we hope you don't leave. God has given me incredible gifts as a result of being a part of his Body on earth, even when it was challenging to adhere to it, and I trust He has great things for you also.

What's all this stuff about marriage as a "Sacrament"

Show examples of Sacramental and non-Sacramental Marriages

Here are some scenarios for couples, (assuming they are properly prepared for marriage):

  • Marriage between baptised Catholics (Sacrament)
  • Marriage between a Catholic and a validly baptized Protestant, inside a Catholic Church and permission is granted by the Bishop before the marriage. (Sacrament) Note: No Communion served at the marriage.
  • Marriage between a Catholic and a baptized Protestant, outside a Catholic Church and a dispensation is granted by the Bishop before the marriage. (Sacrament)
  • Marriage between a non-baptized person and a Catholic (not a sacrament until the non-baptized person is baptized. Then considered a Sacrament from the consummation)
  • Marriage between one man and one woman who are not baptised (valid "natural marriage" but not a sacrament.)
  • Marriage between two baptized Christians who are not Catholic (considered sacrament by the Catholic Church). So if they split up and one wants to marry a practicing Catholic, they would need an annulment regardless of any civil divorce.

Grounds for annulment

  • The couple were not open to children (i.e., contraception)
  • Deep routed sin in either or both their lives during the courtship which interfered with their discernment, such as sex
  • Insufficient marriage preparation
  • Either party not having been baptized
  • Messed up marriage ceremony
  • No consummation of marriage
  • One or both partners being forced into marriage.

What's the distinction between natural marriage and a sacramental marriage?

Marriage was instituted by God with Adam and Eve, one man, one woman and was given to all races. After the fall of man, marriage got all screwed up, and the devil has been at war on marriage and families ever since. When Jesus came he did something new for those who believed in him. He made marriage a sacrament.

If non-Christians get married it is a "natural marriage." It is valid but it is not a sacrament. When Christians get married properly, there is a special kind of power from the Holy Spirit that lands on them and permanently seals the marriage until death and gives them Grace to live out their vows. This is the sacrament of marriage, an "indelible" seal, which can never be broken, regardless of any decree from any human authority, including the Church or even the Pope himself (Catechism #1640).

We've seen some amazing marriages where it is clear that the couple received supernatural Grace in their marriage vows. They maintain the blessing that they received in that sacrament by constantly surrendering to Jesus, going to mass a lot, studying the Bible, not practicing contraception, and praying with their family regularly. Note: examples of sacramental and non-sacramental marriages are in the box to the right

What's the difference between an annulment and a divorce?

In a divorce, there is an assertion that the marriage was valid when it occurred but now it is broken. An annulment determines whether the marriage actually took place in the sacramental realm.

The whole question of annulment has to do with the sacramental nature of the marriage. In the natural realm, of course a marriage took place. The couple stood together and a minister said "I now pronounce you man and wife." There was a marriage contract that went to the city hall. An annulment doesn't deny that. In fact, the civil marriage has to be ended with divorce by the civil authorities before the Church will even begin considering if the sacramental nature of the marriage is null.

An annulment means that the conditions required by God for it to be a true sacrament were not present when the wedding was performed, and therefore it was not a Christian marriage. Note: Grounds for annulment are listed in bottom of the box to the right.

Annulments are almost as common as divorces, so in practice aren't they the same?

We all have to admit that the institution of marriage has been especially screwed up ever since contraception became popular in the 1960's, so it's understandable that some of the collateral damage has seeped into the annulment process. Now we have the daunting task of cleaning it up. In 2005, Pope John Paul II called it a "matrimonial crisis." He cautioned marriage tribunals against "false compassion" and acknowledged that:

"Individual and collective interests can, indeed, induce the parties to resort to various kinds of falsehood and even corruption with the aim of obtaining a favorable sentence...some voices have been raised to propose declaring the annulment of unions that have failed completely."

If Christian marriages weren't so messed up (including Catholic and Evangelical marriages) we would not have lost the battle against same sex marriage in Canada. We need to revitalize marriage, and that includes preaching the truth about contraception and how it frustrates God's plan for marital intimacy and his plan for their family.

The Vatican has said that the number of annulments issued in the West needs to come down. There are several ways that this needs to happen. Marriage partners must become better prepared and discern marriage before it occurs. We need find out if we are actually being called by God to marry this person. And that is not an easy thing to know sometimes, especially if we have "fallen in love." This is another reason for abstaining from sex before marriage, because once the hormones kick in, it is almost impossible to have any clarity of thought and prayer.

Discernment also means not rushing into the marriage because the couple is in a hurry to have sex. This was a huge problem for centuries before the sexual revolution. Priests need to require chastity during marriage preparation and make sure there is a long and thorough preparation process. If chastity is not possible, then a sacramental marriage is not probable.

The other way that we need to bring down the number of annulments is for marriage tribunals to become more discerning when considering granting annulments. Any abuse of the annulment process weakens the respect of the Sacrament of Marriage. Ephesians 5 explains how the Sacrament of Marriage represents God’s unconditional love for His people and his unbreakable covenant with them. We must remember that Thomas Moore, in the 17th century had his head cut off because he would not support King Henry VIII's request for an annulment of his marriage. Now that's commitment!

My experience being celibate

Before I was married, many of my friends who were married would come and say, "man, this marriage thing is super hard, I don't know how I'm going to make it." I responded by saying, "well, I live a celibate life (free of porn or sex with self) and I can tell you that it is not easy either."

If we live one day at a time, we can make it. We are in a constant battle with the devil who is trying to pull us into selfishness and death. In order to live in Christ, we have to die to self. I (Hugh) can tell you that in my celibacy I had incredible experiences of intimacy with the Lord. It was in my emptiness and loneliness that I encountered his healing touch and incredible freedom from desire. My Christian friends who persevered in marriage get similar rewards. It's worth it to follow the Bible.

Marriage is hard, but so is true celibacy.
Those are the only two choices for a Christian.

There may be a few instances where a separation is necessary, but in general, we are too quick to change partners. These days the philosophy is:

"well ... I've got to brush myself off and get on with my life."

This is a relatively modern approach to relationships which, basically says "I'm going to start over with someone new." It usually results in more of the same, except in a different relationship. It is an approach that is completely contradicted by history, by the Bible and by the Church. A much better, time tested approach is:

"I've got to go back and clean up my past, starting with my own selfishness, Lord help me"

This is a much harder but more durable path to eternity. Here's a couple of circumstances that happened to me.

  • Five years ago I ran into a Catholic friend who was on the verge of leaving his wife because of irreconcilable differences. I invited him to take a long period of reflection and think about his commitment. After a brief moment of anger he said "ok." He went back and reconciled with his wife and has thanked me ever since.
  • About 4 years ago, another friend was a lapsed Catholic who was living with his girlfriend. I suggested to him the benefits of chastity and marriage. He and his girlfriend stopped having sex and a year later they got married. They have been incredibly thankful that they followed the Church teaching. Now they are both very active in the Church and spend a lot of time in prayer and reading the Bible.

What about the money thing? Do Catholics simply buy an annulment?

The Church accepts a freewill offering for annulments but they don't charge a set amount. A friend of mine contributed what he could, which at the time was only a few hundred dollars. There is a lot of background research, interviews, deliberations and other administrative work that goes into an annulment. Sometimes it involves examining events which occurred more than 20 years ago. There is a tribunal and much administration. Some of this work is done by paid employees of the Church. So the Church requests that those seeking annulments contribute, depending on capacity to pay. The Church is not making money on annulments and if we could do without them we would. But God has given this responsibility to the Church (Mat 16:18-19).

If God created marriage how can the Catholic Church declare it "null"?

A couple is not married "by the Church" or "by the priest." The couple marries each other before God:

The person [priest] who assists at the marriage is present, asks for the manifestation of consent of the contracting parties, and receives it. (Canon 1120)

It is the Church's responsibility to make sure the couple was properly prepared and to recommend that they don't marry if there are obvious problems. It is the couple's responsibility to be forthright and honest about any impediments. (Canon  1069) But even though the couple marry each other, marriage is a public action between the two spouses, God and the Church community. This is obvious when they ask the question, "does anybody know a reason why they should not be married." (I keep waiting for someone to yell out "yes.")

The Church is called by God to be his presence on earth (Acts 1:8, Mat 16:18) so the Church is obligated to be involved in the process. This has been the Church's role since the dawn of Christianity. The early Church was quite strict about marriage. God gave us this responsibility through Peter, "whatever you bind on earth will be bound whatever you loose on earth will be loosed" (Mat 16:18-19).

If an annulment is granted, it is really an admission by the Church that it did not properly meet its obligations, that it should not have witnessed the marriage in the first place.

In some cases it is a recognition that the couple did not include the Church in the marriage and therefore the Church can't recognize it.

Sometimes the Church makes mistakes agreeing to witness a marriage or even granting an annulment, especially if one or both of the spouses are not honest during the marriage preparation or during the annulment proceedings, and that is a huge problem. It is not an infallible process. Ultimately, the couple is accountable before God for their state in life, for their actions, and whether they are living in a state of sin. Of course Church officials are accountable before God to the extent of their responsibility also. So it's not an issue that should be taken lightly. As a Church we do not want to see people living in sin, and putting their souls in jeopardy. And we don't want to put the Church in jeopardy by compromising its God given principles.

The devil was involved in messing up the first human marriage between Adam and Eve, and he has been trying to mess up couples ever since. So it makes sense that Jesus would want his body, which is the Church, integrally involved in marriage in order to help preserve it and defend it from attacks from the evil one and to help couples make the right decisions so that their state of life is in accordance with God's wishes as laid out in Scripture.

Is there such thing as a divorce for a faithful Catholic?

The Church recognizes divorce in a civil marriage but the sacramental nature of a marriage cannot be broken. Sometimes there is a situation of dangerous partner abuse even in a sacramental marriage, in which case the priest might recommend a complete and permanent separation. However, the Church has no authority to break the life-long seal that God imparted on a valid marriage. Therefore, the separation would not open the door to another relationship, which would be adultery in the Lord's eyes. (Mat 19:9)

Most of the anger at the Catholic Church has to do with forbidding re-marriage

If we are honest about it, most of the anger regarding the Catholic Church's position doesn't really have to do with annulments. It's about not being able to remarry. Which is kind of bizarre because every theologian, Evangelical and Catholic, agrees that there is nothing in the New Testament that contradicts Jesus' rule of no remarriage apart from death. Even Evangelicals who argue that Mat 19:9 has an exception for divorce in the case of "adultery," agree that no remarriage is permitted before either spouse dies. The way that Evangelicals get around that is to say, "it was wrong for Christians to divorce, but since God forgives, then they are free to remarry." But Paul said "let them remain unmarried or else be reconciled" (1 Cor. 7:10-11). Catholics agree with that simple directive from Paul. In both instances where Paul specifically mentions the possibility of remarriage, he is explicit that one of the spouses has died (1 Cor. 7:39; Rom. 7:2-3). In 1 Corinthians 7:27-28, Paul is not telling divorced individuals to feel free to remarry. He is telling couples who have been engaged, to feel free to marry should they so desire now that they are in the Church (see verses 33-38).

We Catholics believe that if we grant remarriage, we are, as a Church, defying God. Don't shoot the messenger, we are just trying to hold true to the Scriptures. Dave Armstrong reports that a Protestant professor of New Testament and Greek at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, coauthor of Jesus and Divorce writes in Christianity Today:

Even though marital separation or legal divorce may be advisable under some circumstances (persistent adultery, abuse, incest), Jesus calls remarriage after any divorce adultery . . . textual studies now confirm that the original text of both Matthew 19:9 and 5:32 contain Jesus' additional unqualified statement that finalizes his teaching on the subject: "And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." (William A. Heth)

Is marriage governed by any Church law?

There are three types of law involved in a Catholic marriage.

  1. Divine law (God's law as written in the Bible)
  2. Canon law - the law of the Church
  3. Local laws of the country or state

There are 110 Canon laws on the marriage issue (#1055-1165). Canon law usually yields to civil laws in temporal matters (Canon #1059), but nothing can trump the divine law. That's another reason why same sex marriage is a non-starter, it contravenes not only Church law but also God's law, as laid out in Scripture (Gen 1:27).

If a couple is in a second marriage that is not recognized by the Church, are they required to separate to participate in the Church?

Not necessarily, but they would be required to abstain completely from sex. There have been cases of tremendous heroic faith and sacrifice by people in this position. It is this kind of sacrifice that a couple can make, by which many can be turned back from our current culture of sex and death. You don't die from not having sex. It's not like food, or water.

Doesn't Jesus allow divorce in the case of adultery (Matt. 19:9)

We've moved this to a separate article

Marriage has been consistently interpreted the Catholic way for 2000 years

The first 800 years of Christianity there was basic unanimity among all the early Christians and Church Fathers. Ever since those early days the Church has stayed its course on its position about marriage. Protestant's are divided among themselves about allowing exceptions for divorce.

Jesus' massage was radical, difficult and required a complete abandonment of self, whether it was in marriage or in celibacy. No other religion has had a teaching this difficult. Evangelicals have shifted traditional Christian theology to allow divorce. We Catholics must also confess that in practice, the annulment process has received quite a bit of abuse. We are both to blame for the current marriage crisis. However, I honestly think it's better to have a solid teaching that is abused (Catholics) than to abuse a solid teaching and allow divorce (Evangelicals).

It's true that some "Catholics" haven't followed the spirit of the Church teaching on annulments. Many of them don't even go to Church, except to get married, baptise a baby, bury a relative, or secure an annulment. But this doesn't mean we should abandon the 2000 year Church teaching on marriage. That would be the kind of faulty logic that has recently led many Protestant Churches to abandon the traditional teaching against abortion, contraception, and same sex relations because they are too hard to maintain. To fix the current problems with marriage we don't need to lower our standards, instead we need


The good news is we don't have to do it alone, if we stay close to Christ and the sacraments, we will have the power of the Holy Spirit to help us stay true to our vows. There are many great Catholics who read the Bible, pray a lot, are active in parishes, go to frequent masses and sacraments, and who don't use contraception.

Why is marriage so screwed up everywhere in the world?

It really comes down to original sin. The devil messed up the first marriage of Adam and Eve. The devil knows that the family is the basic building block of any society, and so it is his first line of attack. The Catechism does a great job at explaining this:

1607 According to faith the disorder we notice so painfully [in marriage] does not stem from the nature of man and woman, nor from the nature of their relations, but from sin. As a break with God, the first sin had for its first consequence the rupture of the original communion between man and woman. Their relations were distorted by mutual recriminations;96 their mutual attraction, the Creator's own gift, changed into a relationship of domination and lust;97 and the beautiful vocation of man and woman to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth was burdened by the pain of childbirth and the toil of work.98

God shows us an example of fidelity and commitment in HIS marriage to the Church

Marriage is super important to God. He married his people. The Catechism says "Sacred Scripture begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God and concludes with a vision of "the wedding-feast of the Lamb." (1602) God is in a marriage to his people who are the Bride of Christ (Rev 19:7). God's commitment to us has been constant. It is an example to us. Pope Benedict said:

... During the Old Testament, God revealed himself partially, gradually, as we all do in our personal relationships. It took time for the chosen people to develop their relationship with God. The Covenant with Israel was like a period of courtship, a long engagement. Then came the definitive moment, the moment of marriage, the establishment of a new and everlasting covenant. As Mary stood before the Lord, she represented the whole of humanity. In the angel’s message, it was as if God made a marriage proposal to the human race. And in our name, Mary said yes. (Lk 1:38) (given during the Angelicas WYD 2008, Sidney Australia)

Catholics believe that the Old Testament was an engagement or betrothal. In the New Testament God had finally entered into a marriage with his people. Now if we look back through history, we see many times when the people of God were way off beam. The Jews were punished by the exile to Babylon for their infidelity, but God did not call off his engagement to them. Even though they worshiped idols (which is the equivalent of fornication in the eyes of God regarding his marriage to his people) he did not call off the marriage. He called his people "harlots" (Greek: porneia) in Exodus 34:15-16, Leviticus 20:5-6, Deuteronomy 31:16, Judges 2:17, 8:27,33, 1 Chronicles 5:25, Isaiah 1:21, Ezekiel 16:15-41:, Ezekiel 23, Jeremiah 3:1, Jeremiah 3:8-9, Jeremiah 13:27, Hosea 1:2, 3:1, 4:12, Wisdom 14:12.

Even during the middle ages when the Church was all messed up, God did not divorce his Bride. Even with the division of denominations and 30,000 different varieties of arguing Christians, God has not divorced his people. Even though God was very hurt and angry at his peoples' infidelity on numerous occasions throughout history.

God has kept true to his promise of marriage to his people, even in the face of his messed up spouse (the Church). This is an example for our marriages.

Where does the Bible say that marriage is forever?

Most of the passages about marriage have no exception clause at all. In Ephesians we read:

"Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ ...   Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word,  that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So (also) husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.   For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church,  because we are members of his body. "For this reason a man shall leave (his) father and (his) mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.   In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband." (Ephesians 5:21-33).

"...  He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her;  and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery." (Mark 10:1-12)

"... what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder." (Matthew 19:6)

"Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery. (Luke 16:18)

"To the married, however, I give this instruction (not I, but the Lord): a wife should not separate from her husband   —and if she does separate she must either remain single or become reconciled to her husband—and a husband should not divorce his wife  ..." (1 Corinthians 7:10-15)

Early Church Fathers and the Biblical indications of Annulments

Here are some quotes from early fathers of the Church
    St. Ambrose

    There is hardly anything more deadly than being married to one who is a stranger to the faith, where the passions of lust and dissension and the evils of sacrilege are inflamed. Since the marriage ceremony ought to be sanctified by the priestly veiling and blessing, how can that be called a marriage ceremony where there is no agreement in faith?

{To Vigilius, Letter 19:7 (A.D. 385), in FC, XXVI:176}

This is an unambiguous example of the "Pauline privilege," which is a type of annulment.

    Pope St. Leo the Great

    And so a wife is different from a concubine, even as a bondwoman from a freewoman. For which reason also the Apostle in order to show the difference of these persons quotes from Genesis, where it is said to Abraham, 'Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.' And hence, since the marriage tie was from the beginning so constituted as apart from the joining of the sexes to symbolize the mystic union of Christ and His Church, it is undoubted that that woman has no part in matrimony, in whose case it is shown that the mystery of marriage has not taken place.

{To Rusticus, Epistle 167:4 (A.D. 459), in NPNF2, XII:110}

St. Augustine "De bono conjugii " and "De nuptiis et concupiscentia ". In the former work (chap. xxiv in P.L., XL , 394),

"Among all people and all men the good that is secured by marriage consists in the offspring and in the chastity of married fidelity ; but, in the case of God's people [the Christians], it consists moreover in the holiness of the sacrament, by reason of which it is forbidden, even after a separation has taken place, to marry another as long as the first partner lives . .

1 Cor 7:15-16

 But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

Old Testament precursors to the distinction between sacramental and temporal marriage.

Dave Armstrong writes:

The OT distinction between a concubine and a wife is somewhat analogous to our distinction between civil and sacramental marriage - itself the kernel and foundational premise of the concept of annulment. Sarah told Abraham to have sexual intercourse with the slave girl Hagar in order to produce a child (she being barren up till that time).

This was a Hebrew custom in those days. Concubines were protected by Mosaic law (Ex 21:7-11, Deut 21:10-14), though they were distinguished from wives (Judges 8:31) and were more easily divorced (Gen 21:10-14). Remember, God approved of the sending away of Hagar and her son Ishmael (Gen 21:12), not because they were evil or disparaged by Him (see Gen 17:20, 21:13,17-20), but because Sarah was Abraham's wife in the fuller sense (akin to sacramental marriage), as St. Leo argues above, following the Apostle Paul (see Gen 17:15-21; Gal 4:21-31).

But later prophets encouraged monogamy (Mal 2:14 ff.) and the ideal woman of Proverbs 31 lived in a monogamous society. Later, of course, Jesus taught that monogamy (with no divorce) was God's ideal from the beginning (Mt 19:1-12; cf. Gen 2:24). Divorce - so Jesus said - was permitted to the Jews only because of "hardness of heart." But the "except for fornication" clause of Matthew 19:9 is interpreted by us (and, I believe, the Fathers) as a case of non-matrimonial ongoing fornication as opposed to real marriage, and as such is a biblical basis for annulments, along with the Pauline privilege (1 Cor 7:15), which has always been accepted by the Church.

Annulment is in every secular legal system in the world

Even in the natural legal world almost every culture has always had some kind of annulment process for marriage, so we have trouble understanding why some Evangelicals say the Catholic Church just made this idea up out of thin air.