Spouse’s OnlyFans account factors into marriage nullification case

Marriage wedding couple Credit Khnh Hmoong via Flickr CC BY NC 20 CNA Credit: Khánh Hmoong via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Spanish family lawyer Enrique Sainz brought attention this week to a ruling handed down by a Church marriage tribunal in his country that decreed the annulment of a marriage in which the wife had an account on the OnlyFans platform. The platform primarily features self-created pornographic content that other subscribers must pay for. 

In a video posted on Instagram on July 1, the lawyer said the account on the referenced platform was created before the marriage, was not disclosed by the wife to the husband, and was continued after they were married.

When the husband discovered that his wife maintained an active channel on that platform with erotic content, he decided to present his case to the Church marriage tribunal in order to have the marriage declared null.

“In order to understand this ruling, you have to know that marriage in the Church obliges the couple to remain faithful, be open to children, and be with the other person for life, such that if at the time of contracting marriage one of them excludes any of these ends, he or she contracts invalidly and therefore the annulment of the marriage can be decreed,” Sainz explained.

The Catholic Church does not allow divorce, so an annulment means that the marriage was invalid from the beginning.

According to the lawyer, in this particular case, the tribunal ruled that the wife had violated Canon 1101 of the Code of Canon Law by excluding her fidelity at the time of the marriage. 

“The novelty of this ruling is that, despite the fact that the wife stated that she was only doing it to make a little money and that they were not sexualized photos at all since she wasn’t naked, the court considered that she had excluded fidelity, since she created the account before getting married and kept it afterward,” Sainz explained.

A priest expert in canon law analyzes the case

Father Luis Gaspar, who worked for more than 15 years as a judge of the Interdiocesan Ecclesiastical Tribunal of Lima in Peru, further explained to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, the reasons why the marriage in question could have been declared null.

According to the priest, for a Catholic marriage to be valid it must be supported by three fundamental pillars: the absence of impediments, that the celebration of the marriage complies with the liturgical regulations of the Church, and that there is free and voluntary consent.

“When can this act of consent be vitiated? When it is simulated, when it is not free, for example, when you are under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or some medications. When your consent was not fully free, or for example, your consent was simulated,” he explained.

Referring to the case of the wife who hid the OnlyFans account, he agreed with Sainz that the annulment was granted by the tribunal based on Canon 1101: “The internal consent of the mind is presumed to conform to the words or the signs used in the celebration of a marriage. If, however, either or both of the parties should by a positive act of will exclude marriage itself or any essential element of marriage or any essential property, such party contracts invalidly.”

Gaspar explained that this canon deals with simulation, therefore, “it deals with the third pillar for the validity of marriage, which is consent.”

“The consent was vitiated. Why? Because a circumstance was hidden from the other party, a behavior that will later affect married life, community life, and love of the spouses. And in fact, this happened and the annulment was requested,” he said. 

With the act of concealment, according to the priest, who holds a doctorate in canon law, “that total gift has been completely affected, the total gift of self, in one body.”

“Fidelity is directly affected, since there is not a total gift of self. Through platforms like OnlyFans, whose purpose is erotic or pornographic, the ‘one flesh’ bond is morally and sacramentally broken,” he pointed out.

Finally, Gaspar noted that the Church tribunal’s ruling came after an exhaustive study and investigation, which reached “the moral certainty that an essential property of married life, such as fidelity, was lacking.”

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The annulment process

The process of declaring the nullity of a marriage is rigorous and well defined. “The first thing the husband, the wife, and then the priest or the spiritual director, or the ecclesiastical tribunal itself, have to do is make every effort for the marriage not to be null,” the priest said. If the marriage cannot be saved, the case is presented to the ecclesiastical court, where it is studied in detail. 

In cases like the OnlyFans account, the husband or wife must provide proof that the hidden conduct existed before the marriage. For example, “it can be a screenshot of that page, which can be verified,” Gaspar said. Witnesses and statements are also part of the process.

With more than 15 years of experience in the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of Lima, Gaspar has seen various cases that have led to declarations of nullity.

“For example, on the issue of simulation of consent. The issue of homosexuality [that was hidden] from the other party. Or the issue of taking drugs. [One spouse] hid the drug habit from the other,” he said. These examples illustrate the variety of situations that can vitiate marital consent. 

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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