Sinful to be a sports fan? Are annulments necessary?


Question: Is it a sin to go to a ballgame and wish bad things for the other team? (Austin, TX)

Answer: I suppose that depends on what is meant by “bad things.” It’s not a sin to go to a ballgame and hope – or perhaps even pray – that our preferred team would win. And naturally, prayer for the victory of one team implies our hope that the other team would lose. The other team potentially losing is a “bad thing” that is baked into the very nature of the game as a possibility, so hoping that our team will win, even at the expense of the other, is entirely legitimate.

However, it would be wrong to harbor a wish or a desire for anyone’s serious and real harm. It likely would be a sin to, for instance, hope specifically that the star player on the opposite team sustains a career-ending injury, or that some other tragedy would befall the team or its players.


Question: My husband abandoned me years ago. I know that I am married and that I am called to live chastely, and I am doing that. But my friend told me I will go to hell since I don’t have an annulment. Is that true? (Madison, WI)

Answer: No, nobody “needs” a declaration of nullity to avoid hell, or even to participate fully in the life of the Church. In fact, it’s never good to start the marriage nullity process because of feeling rushed or pressured by third parties.

We are all required to live out the virtue of chastity according to our state in life and particular circumstances. Divorce in and of itself is not necessarily sinful, and being an abandoned spouse is certainly not a sin.

But – as you correctly note – even in cases of divorce, separation or abandonment, a once-married couple is still presumed to be married until potentially proven otherwise by a Catholic marriage tribunal.

Because of this, a divorced Catholic would need a declaration of nullity if they wanted to marry another person (and it would be sinful to engage in acts proper to marriage with someone to whom they were not married).

But, if you are at peace living a chaste life as a divorced Catholic without seeking a new marriage, it’s perfectly fine to remain as you are.


Jenna Marie Cooper, who holds a licentiate in canon law, is a consecrated virgin and a canonist whose column appears weekly at OSV News. Send your questions to [email protected].

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