From my notes for The Catholic Answer Bible [later expanded as The New Catholic Answer Bible] (Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2002):
The Catholic Church teaches that a valid sacramental marriage between two baptized Christians is permanent or indissoluble. No power on earth can dissolve it. This is based on the explicit teaching of Jesus. In the passage where Jesus states “unless marriage is illegal” (Mt 19: 9), Catholics believe he was referring to a situation where a marriage was never actually contracted in the first place. [see my post devoted to that passage].
Matthew 19: 6 declares: “They are therefore no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has united no human being should separate. For this reason, the Catholic Church opposes divorce.
An annulment is not simply a “Catholic divorce,” but rather a declaration by the Church that a valid sacramental marriage has never been present (as several conditions must be met for this to occur: for example, the free will, truthfulness, sanity, etc.). A similar distinction is found in civil law throughout the Christian world.
The Old Testament dichotomy between a concubine and a bride is somewhat analogous to our distinction between civil marriage and sacramental marriage (Gen 21: 10-14, Jud 8:31, 1 Cor 7:15). Likewise, in Ezra 10: 1-19, 44 (cf. 9: 1-2, 14-15), many Israelites “sent away” the “foreign women” whom they had married, not simply because they were married. were alien, but because they caused them to be corrupted by false religions and idolatry (see, for example, De 17:17, Neh 13: 23-28). It was essentially an annulment, as opposed to a divorce.
Gen 1: 26-31
Gen 2: 18-25
Gen 17: 15-21
Gen 21: 12-20
Mal 2:14 et seq.
Mt 5: 31-32
Mt 19: 1-9
Mk 10: 2-11
Rom 7: 2-3
1 Cor 7: 1-24
1 Cor 7:39
Gal 4: 21-31
Eph 5: 2,21-33
Hey 13: 4
1 pet 3: 1-9
Catechism of the Catholic Church: 1534-1535, 1601-1666 (especially 1629, 1650-1651), 2382-2386
The annulment is not a “Catholic divorce”
Meta Description: Catholic explanation of how an annulment is a fundamentally different concept from divorce.
Meta Keywords: “EXCEPT ADULTERY”, BIBLE & DIVORCE, cancellations, CATHOLIC TRADITION & DIVORCE, CHRISTIAN MORAL TEACHINGS, DIVORCE, DIVORCE EXCEPTION CLAUSE, HOLY MARRIAGE, MARRIAGE INDISSOLUBILITY, MARRIAGE, MATTHIEU 19: 9