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Resource Page for Teachers

by Lynn and Bob Gillen

September 1998

Please see our links disclaimer located at the end of this document.

Curriculum Connections -

This classroom resource guide will support curriculum in:

  • Family Life – the sanctity of the sacrament of marriage
  • Glossary of Basic Terms

    Your students may find it helpful first to create a glossary of names and terms relating to this month’s article. Definitions can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited throughout the resource guide.


    Lack of due discretion

    Psychic incapacity

    Conformed conscience

    Marriage Encounter

    Roman Rota

    Canon law

    Trial by tribunal

    Defective consent

    Informed conscience


    Internal Forum

    Marriage Tribunal


    Idea One – What makes a marriage?

    Appreciating the sanctity and seriousness of marriage

    Before undertaking a discussion of marriage annulment, you may want to work with your students on the importance of preparation for marriage. The Church in its role as teacher offers support for married couples at every step leading up to and within marriage.

    1. Becoming a fully human person
    2. For preteens and teenagers discovering their own sexuality and their interest in the opposite sex, and for young adults beginning to find their place in society, nothing can be more important than developing their own unique character, their own value as a person. This will include forming internal cues to find a life partner, to marry for the right reasons, to bring to a relationship the qualities necessary to build a permanent life together. Some even say that preparation for marriage begins in the cradle. Certainly, working at developing a solid, mature personality is one of the best ways to prepare for life and for marriage.

      Related to this are several Web sites that seek to promote early growth in children and teens. At, your students can access a national resource for children, teens, families and educators which offers guides to media which promote a healthy awareness of self and others. You can find here media news and study guides which address critical thinking, conflict resolution, motivation and self-esteem, an understanding of multiculturalism and pro-social behaviors. One example is their discussion of soccer diplomacy, a treatment of how to deal with sports from a pro-social perspective. Your students can also connect from here to the "ABC Classroom Connection" at for material on teens and their future. You can also see for reference to the PBS program, "In the Mix." This weekly PBS teen program has some of its shows on teen issues available on video.

      You may also want to discuss the different communication styles that both men and women have, and how those styles can affect relationships and their means of communicating.

      The Church offers the Sacrament of Confirmation to young people who are ready to take a major step toward adulthood, to strengthen their life in the Spirit. Often received midway through the high school years, Confirmation can help a young person tap into her or his true feelings and convictions, and avoid the trap of exhibiting and relying on societal or peer group pressures when it comes to building relationships. You may find it helpful to discuss with your students how the Spirit leads us through the different stages in our growth, and how we can open our hearts to the direction of the Spirit.

    3. Immediate preparation for marriage
    4. Ask your students to prepare notes and thoughts on what kind of preparation goes into marriage. First thoughts will probably focus on the engagement ring, the dress and tuxedo, the wedding plans, who will be in the bridal party, who will be invited to the wedding. This is certainly the major focus of bridal magazines and wedding consultants. But a further discussion will lead to the importance of the couple getting to know one another better before they make a commitment in marriage. Many topics and subjects need to be talked through. Where will they live? How will they arrange their finances? What about future children? How will they handle career changes or job relocations? How will they handle conflict?

      The Church offers support at this stage, as couples begin serious preparation for marriage. Many parishes offer conferences to assist couples in their preparation. Once a couple approaches the Church to arrange wedding plans, they are encouraged to take part in a one-day Pre-Cana Conference to develop in their relationship a foundation of mutual love and respect. Your students can search the Web under "Pre-Cana" for many references to parish programs throughout the United States. Ultimately, however, each diocese sets its own standards for marriage preparation. One example is St. James Parish in Lakewood, Ohio. See

      Another pre-marriage program available to engaged couples is the Catholic Engaged Encounter. See
      This program centers around a couple’s communication, spiritual and personal needs.

    5. Direct support for married couples

    Your students will probably be aware of some support mechanisms available for a married couple. The spouses can rely on family for encouragement or even financial support. They can call on friends to help them through difficult moments with humor or a different point of view. They can certainly use prayer as they seek the strength and openness required of any relationship.

    With research, your students can also find other means of support provided by the Church. There are programs such as Marriage Encounter, a nondenominational weekend program intended to improve communication between spouses. See for a description of this popular program. Parishes also offer retreat programs for couples as well as for wives and husbands individually.

    The Church also offers the Retrouvaille program ( for couples who are struggling in their marriage to heal and renew their relationship.

    When a couple experiences substantial difficulties, divorce is not always the first recourse. There are individuals, trained counselors and small firms specializing in mediation. We’re used to seeing this in union negotiation situations or perhaps as an alternative to small-claims court. But these services are now available more widely to individuals who need help in settling divisive differences with friends, family, neighbors or spouses.

    Mediation is a constructive step toward resolving differences. It offers a couple a resource that will at least slow down any deterioration in a relationship and bring in an objective third party to help sort out problems.

    More traditional, counseling is yet another alternative. This will, of course, take different forms. A couple can speak to a priest trained in counseling, seek a family or marriage counselor or talk to a personal therapist or psychiatrist. Here, too, the intent is to slow down the pending breakup of a relationship to ensure the opportunity to understand clearly just what is happening and seek solutions other than divorce.

    Idea Two – Understanding and appreciating the annulment process

    Ever since the 1997 release of Sheila Rauch Kennedy’s book on the annulment of her marriage, the Church’s annulment process has come under the media’s microscope. So, what happens if a marriage just doesn’t work? What if a couple has already divorced and now one of them would like to remarry another partner in the Church? Where does a couple go to seek help? Is a divorce lawyer the first step?

    The Church recognizes that this is an imperfect and flawed world. Marriages will not always work. This month’s article walks us through what an annulment is and how the process works.

    If you were someone in a difficult marriage and you needed information on annulment, where would you start? For a good example, the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth, in Australia, offers a clear outline of the steps an individual can take to start the process. See tribunal office of the Archdiocese of Perth, Australia.. The Perth Archdiocese begins from the stance that the Church wishes to reach out to the pain and hurt of a divorced person while also upholding the principles of the permanence of a valid marriage.

    See also the online publication, Spirituality For Today, for an entire issue devoted to marriage and annulment: This site is edited by a priest from the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

    Reviewing this month’s article will show your students that, with the annulment process, the Church offers individuals an opportunity to start over again when the first marriage is proven to be invalid. With study and investigation by Church lawyers, a marriage can be declared not legally binding for several reasons. Lack of due discretion, defective consent and psychic incapacity are principal factors that can interfere with a marriage commitment, perhaps to the point of rendering the union invalid.

    A failed marriage occurs for many reasons. Stressing personal growth and development throughout childhood, the teen years and young adulthood can certainly go a long way toward avoiding such failures. And when the failure is unavoidable, the Church is still with us to help, wherever possible, open the way for a new start.



    Further Print Resources

    Why the Church is Granting More Annulments, Jeffrey Keefe, O.F.M.Conv., Catholic Update, October 1980 (C1080)

    Marriage: Supernatural and Sacramental, Jim Auer, Youth Update, March 1989 (Y0389)

    Sacrament of Marriage: Sign of Faithful Love, Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., Catholic Update, May 1996 (C0596)

    The Spirituality of Marriage: Becoming Signs of God’s Love, Carol Luebering, Catholic Update, May 1997 (C0597)

    Marriage and the Spirituality of Intimacy, Leif Kehrwald, St. Anthony Messenger Press

    Six Skills for a Happier Marriage, Michael E. Cavanaugh, Ph.D., Catholic Update, March 1983 (C0383)

    The Sacrament of Marriage, Mary and James Kenny, Catholic Update, September 1979 (C0979)

    The Good Marriage: How & Why Love Lasts, Judith Wallerstein.

    Further Online Resources

    Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site's archives. - The New York Times - Los Angeles Times - Time magazine - CNN - MSNBC - This site will take you to a number of online publications. - The Associated Press - The Chicago Tribune - People magazine The Washington Post - The Miami Herald - The Close Up Foundation

    Links Disclaimer:

    The links contained within this resource guide are functional at the time the page is posted. Over time, however, some of the links may become ineffective.

    These links are provided solely as a convenience to you and not as an endorsement by St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications of the contents on such third-party Web sites. St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications is not responsible for the content of linked third-party sites and does not make any representations regarding the content or accuracy of materials on such third-party Web sites. If you decide to access linked third-party Web sites, you do so at your own risk.

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