What the Church teaches about divorce, separation, annulment

A recent symposium sought to dispel common misconceptions on these issues


Many people are aware of the biblical teaching on the permanence of marriage: “Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Mark 10:9).

However, when crisis hits and a civil divorce looms, some lose not only hope but also faith.

How then can one remain faithful to God and in full communion with His Church if a civil divorce happens?

This was the subject of a symposium titled What The Catholic Church Actually Teaches About Divorce, Separation and Annulment, held at Catholic Junior College on July 25.

For the more than 250-strong audience, the event was an  opportunity to seek authoritative answers to many burning questions.

Divorced and remarried Catholics “are and remain” members of the Church “because they have received baptism and retain their Christian faith”, judicial vicar Fr Terence Pereira told the crowd.

Other common misconceptions were addressed, such as the notion that any person who had a civil divorce could not receive Holy Communion. In reality, the Church’s teaching is that there is no prohibition for a divorced person who had not remarried.

Another common misconception is that an annulment is just a Catholic way to give a divorce. The fact is that an annulment is a recognition or declaration by the Church that there wasn’t a valid marriage in the first place.

Archbishop William Goh also sent a message to participants.

He reminded them that God loves everyone, and gave encouragement to those who were separated or divorced by citing the words of St John Paul II in his 1981 apostolic exhortation, Familiaris Consortio: “But it is also proper to recognise the value of the witness of those spouses who, even when abandoned by their partner, with the strength of faith and of Christian hope have not entered a new union: these spouses too give an authentic witness to fidelity, of which the world today has a great need.”

Ms Peggy Sarah Yee, a practising lawyer, also explained to participants the process for civil divorce and separation, and how the courts handle cases involving children and ancillary matters.

She also explained judicial separation as an alternative to civil divorce for couples who do not want to divorce for religious or moral reasons.

Participants learnt that the grounds for divorce and judicial separation are identical, and all the remedies available in a divorce are also available in judicial separation.

In the afternoon session, the focus shifted to pastoral care for those affected by such circumstances.

It is important to recognise the pain experienced by those going through a civil divorce or a separation and the coping mechanisms being used, said Ms Kelvyanne Teoh, a counsellor.

Recognition of the inadequacies of the mechanisms or coping strategies and learning new ones will allow them to manage the transition and work towards a new normal, where they are able to meet the demands of their situation as well as look after their own needs and those of the children in proper balance, she shared.

Following Ms Teoh’s presentation, there were sharings by representatives from the Beginning Experience and from Retrouvaille.

Beginning Experience conducts stay-in weekends for participants to help them come to terms with their circumstances and learn how to move on with their lives. Retrouvaille also conducts stay-in weekends and helps couples to work on their troubled marriages.


To find out more about the annulment process,  call the Marriage Tribunal office at 6288 4659.


This article was published in Catholic News 23 August 2015.

Archdiocesan Commission for the Family

Archdiocesan Commission for the Family