In the Catholic Church, a declaration of nullity, commonly called an annulment and less commonly a decree of nullity, is a judgement on the part of an ecclesiastical tribunal determining that a marriage was invalidly contracted, or less commonly, a judgement determining that sacred ordination was invalidly conferred.

If the Catholic Church is saying that the marriage has never been intended by God, does this also mean that the children who were born out of this marriage were never been meant to be born? If not, what is the Catholic Church's understanding/teaching about the children to be born this way? What is their legal and spiritual status?

  • Church law and dissolution of marriage is addressed in Matthew 19. I would answer accordingly, but I suspect most would take exception to Catholic annulment being equated to divorce, although the comparisons in Matt 19:6 particularly are worth considering. Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 16:55
  • Anullment does not mean that a marriage was never intended by God. it means that a marriage was never valid. Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 17:49
  • @DJClayworth, are you saying that after annulment the couple should try to marry validly with each other?
    – Grasper
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 19:08
  • Please properly site your source / quote. Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 15:01
  • @TheFreemason, you just changed my question wrongly. I didn't write that RCC is saying that the marriage has never been intended. You are trying to discredit my question so they can close it.
    – Grasper
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 15:04

2 Answers 2


It's not clear that there is any sense in which we created beings can "know" God's plan—for the universe, or for any being or group of beings. What we can know generally is that God wills good, and salvation, for all beings:

God, who "dwells in unapproachable light," [cf. 1 Timothy 6:16] wants to communicate his own divine life to the men he freely created, in order to adopt them as his sons in his only-begotten Son.

(Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 52; emphasis added)

It is not we, but God, who creates each human being, body and soul. Having created each being, it seems apparent that He certainly wished for them to be. Whether God planned for them to be born this way?—now we're getting into questions of foreknowledge and God's interaction with time, always a rough area given that God is outside of time. The very least, and perhaps the most, that we can say, is that children are a gift from God, regardless of the circumstances in which they are conceived, born, and raised:

Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents.

(Gaudium et Spes, section 50)

As far as their legal status (by which I assume you mean their status in canon law, as their civil status might vary by jurisdiction) and spiritual status, canon law is very clear on this:

The children conceived or born of a valid or putative marriage [that is, a marriage which is thought to be valid by at least one of the parties] are legitimate.

(Code of Canon Law, Canon 1137; emphasis added)

Both parents have an obligation to care for the children:

[If a decree of nullity is issued] the parties are to be reminded of the moral and even civil obligations which may bind them ... toward their children to furnish support and education.

(Canon 1689)

The Catechism has a section on the duties of parents towards their children (paragraphs 2221–31). Nowhere in that text is it stated, or even implied, that parents do not have these responsibilities if they did not have a valid marriage.

In short, though we can't know, in any sense, what God's plan is with respect to the children of these people, the Church treats them in all senses the same as children of a valid marriage.

  • so the answer is simply we don't know what God' s plan was with them.
    – Grasper
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 19:06
  • One can never know, with certainty, what God's plan is for a person. Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 20:17

Your question seems to imply that only children born inside of marriage are planned by God, which is an opinion alien to Christian tradition: all persons—indeed all things that are—were planned by God from the beginning. The apparent contradiction seems to be that since sex outside marriage is unlawful, and therefore cannot be God’s will, also the fruits of this unlawful union should not be God’s will. However, it must be understood that God knows from Eternity all our deeds—lawful and unlawful, holy and sinful—and uses them for the fulfillment of His plans.

  • well, the Catholic Church teaches about God's perfect will and his willed will. I think there is a difference...
    – Grasper
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 13:25
  • This distinction applies only to the internal fruits of sin, that is separation from Himself, not to the external fruits: for it would be easy for God to save the life of a person whom someone attempted to murder, or to prevent the conception of someone born outside of marriage. Instead, the death of someone who has been murdered is according to God’s perfect will, and in the same manner is conception of a child conceived through fornication or adultery. Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 21:51
  • To put it another way: this distinction applies as far as our free will is concerned, but it is not in our power to decide what will be the external consequences of our acts, we are free only to will the act, not to actualize its consequences. Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 21:58

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