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« Merchants of Death | Main | Senator Barack Obama: Christianity Has Been “Hijacked” By The “Christian Right” »

Thursday, June 21, 2007



A good decision by the Rota. Annulments in the U.S. are becoming "Catholic divorce."


You leave out one thing. Not all annulments are due to dishonesty or incompetence. Mental illness can make for shaky footings for a marriage. If the mentally ill person is intelligent and sharp they can pass just fine through all catechism and preparation. It doesn't become difficult for them until there are children and the pressures of life on them. Then it can spin out of control destroying everything.


btw, I think the Rota's decision is a very important and good decision.


I think the process worked correctly and fairly in this case; the Roman Rota overturned an erroneous decision by the tribunal. It is a giant leap of logic, however, to state that this one case shows that the annulment process in America is somehow broken. At least in our diocese, the tribunal seems to do a good job of poring through the evidence presented before it.

Another thing to consider is that, often, the respondent in a nullity proceeding in America does not even bother to respond. If the petitioner presents his evidence but the respondent submits none, then the Defender of the Bond (the guy or gal who argues that the marriage is valid) has very little to buttress his or her case. It's much easier to overcome the presumption of validity if only evidence of invalidity is presented.

Finally, I do not think that it is unusual that over three-fourths of the nullity petitions occur in the US. The stigma of divorce is nonexistent here--unlike in some more traditional cultures--so a divorcee probably will feel no problem with petitioning the tribunal for a decree of nullity; an abandoned woman in Nigeria may still feel social strictures that keep her from doing the same. Furthermore, American culture encourages litigation as a means of problem-solving (self-disclosure: yes, I'm a lawyer); we have more attorneys per capita than any other country and legal dramas on television are consistent hits.


Great Post!


Oh, great. For those of us who to whom our annulments are meaningful, those who have had to face criticism by Catholics who assume that annulment is an easy out from a failed marriage, this is not good news. We can all go back to chasing ourselves around in circles because even the Church doesn't know what it's talking about? Why did we bother, then? And why should anyone bother in the future? It is very tempting to give up.



If the Church granted you an annulment, and you did everything on your end in good conscience, then don't sweat it. The woman in the above story challenged the annulment, and she had a good case.

It sounds like the local clergy gave special "consideration" to a member of a rich, powerful family. The Vatican reversed the annulment because, in this case, it was the right thing to do.

There should be a discussion about how future annulments are handled. But, don't let it upset you.



I've also had my first marriage annulled by the Church. Rather than argue with those who second guess the decision I always recommend they take their perceived outrage to someone who really cares. "Talk to the hand" might be another way of saying it.

Bottom line, when I stand in judgement before God the self-righteous busy bodies will be nowhere in sight.


During my marriage prep process, a deacon asked us both if we had any history of substance abuse and/or mental illness. I admitted to having struggled with depression at times, something my wife knew about. He said it was good that I admitted it because it could be possible grounds for an annulment.

Our commitment to our vows will ensure we never pursue an annulment, but if we already have "grounds" for one, doesn't that make our marriage invalid from the beginning? If a history of depression could nullify the marriage X years down the road, it isn't any more valid now than it would be then, right? Does anybody have any thoughts on this? Feel free to email me at [email protected]


the timing of this reversal is NOT good, considering that currently the media is printing too many letters targeting "easy annulments" in order to defend same-sex marriage by ridiculing the Church's knowledge and authority regarding marriage.I recently wrote to our paper defending marriage via the defense of valid annulments (including the reputations of those who have received annulments). It has not been published but THIS Kennedy story splattered right in my face!
Providence Journal
>Letters to the Editor
>May 31, 2007
>Louise Dion's letter, "Get out the tin" (May 23) proves the value of having church tribunals, rather than society, judge the validity of a sacramental marriage. The Church does not hand out or refuse annulments frivolously, but with prayerful discernment and right reason.
>The annulment process, to petitioners, is an agony akin to digging up one's own bones from the grave and participating with a pastor and at least two tribunals (one for ratification) in one's own autopsy, while at the same time subjecting one's living family to scrutiny. it is not an easy way out
of a hopeless situation but an excruciating request for permission to come back to life. As in any healing and reconciliation process, the reward is well worth the trial, but a trial it is.
>Children are taken into particular account by the Church Tribunal. Although children suffer from the separation of their parents, sadly, it is often the children who most need protection from an invalid marriage. Certainly, no shame is due the Church "for what it has done to these children". Annulments
are granted (or not) after the fact of civil divorce.
>Accurate, myth-busting information on marriage and annulment is available from any Catholic diocese or parish and also from your local Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Church's teaching is not dull and dusty but always surprisingly beautiful for those who care to do the research.
>Regardless of your understanding, if you know anyone who is petitioning for or has received an annulment by the merciful hands of the Church, please do not discourage or criticize them, but support them in their ordeal. After
all, who are we to judge God's mercy?
>Joanne Ciocys

Ouch. Double ouch. But beyond that, and beyond the sneak attack on marriage, what does the media attention over the Kennedy annulment hope to accomplish but disruption of the faithful? I don't like it, and I don't think it's innocent.


It is not wonder of the corruption in the Church when the powerful and rich can obtain ecclesiastical divorces. I am pretty close in reaching a decision in leaving the Catholic Chruch, since it is clear that the corruption of the times of Martin Luther has returned, thanks to the II Vatican Council, Paul and JPII (the Great (?)).

Who needs a church that is a corrupt and the Catholic Church, and inside the Church, the U.S. Catholic Church is the most corrupt.


Incredible, if you want to find a pristine church with no sinners in it, then--of course--the Catholic Church isn't for you. Churchmen have always had moral failings; it is part of the effect of original sin.

Moreover, I have seen no evidence to show that the opinion reached by the tribunal of the first instance in Boston was obtained unlawfully. Until the Roman Rota releases its opinion--5 or 6 years from now, maybe--then we'll know the actual facts of the case (even the book, Shattered Faith, was pretty light on the facts of the canonical case). If you somehow have personal knowledge of untoward actions on the part of the Kennedys, then please let us know.



The Church Militant (the part of the Church still in this world) is made up of a human element and a Divine element. The human element is prone to sin and is constantly trying to thwart the Divine. For this reason, Our Lord instituted the sacraments. It is called the Church Militant because we are struggling.

It has been this way since the beginning. Read the Book of Acts, or read the Gospels concerning the behavior of the apostles. Our Lord chose twelve apostles. One of them turned out to be a complete traitor, and the other eleven didn't behave so well.

If good Catholics leave the Church because they are scandalized, then what will become of the Church? The Church is not made-up only of clergy. You are also part of the Church.



It may be helpful to draw a distinction between the Church's teaching on annulment and how the teaching is implemented by imperfect human beings.

We can defend the Church's teaching on the issue without reservation. However, we must be able to admit that people can make procedural mistakes (or even be corrupt).


I deserves to be mentioned though that TIME seems to have gotten a number of aspects horribly wrong. Ed Peters has much more on that: (posts of june 20th and the 21st)

He also has a few points that might interest Steve.

Mary Ellen

The Catholic Church in the United States has always seemed to step to the beat of a different drummer. When I went to the marriage prep classes 34 years ago, the priest took about 10 minutes, total, to talk to my husband and I. He asked if we loved each other, have we ever been married before and if my husband to be would be a suitable husband. That's it.

We are still married, but not because of the so called "marriage prep" we had received fromt he Church. Priests are human beings who have never been married. They are not capable of determining if someone is going into marriage prepared to meet their sacramental vow. Therefore, IMO, they are not capable of making the decision if someone is worthy of an annulment.

The advice that we received from our pastor when my daughter was entering a marriage that we thought was doomed to fail, was to get married in a protestant church so if she got divorced she wouldn't need to get an annulment to get married into the Catholic Church. Loopholes...there are always loopholes.


Mary Ellen, fact-finders are asked to determine the subjective intent of persons all the time, and just because they have not experienced a situation does not mean they are ill-suited to do so. For example, if a defendant in a murder case interposes a self-defense claim, the jury must determine whether the defendant was indeed afraid for his life. Most jurors will never be in a situation requiring that they use lethal force to protect themselves, yet they still qualify as fact-finders. Similarly, a priest who is a member of the tribunal deciding on a petition for nullity may not have ever been married, yet he is still called on to determine facts.


The annulment had been granted in secrecy by the Catholic Church after the couple's 1991 no-fault civil divorce. Rauch found out about the de-sanctification of their marriage only in 1996, after Kennedy had been wedded to his former Congressional aide, Beth Kelly, for three years.

Is it normal to grant an annulment without the "non-petitioner" first being consulted? I don't know much about annulments, but that doesn't sound right to me.

Priests are human beings who have never been married. They are not capable of determining if someone is going into marriage prepared to meet their sacramental vow. Therefore, IMO, they are not capable of making the decision if someone is worthy of an annulment.

Mental health specialists treat psychological conditions without having first-hand experience of them. Why should experienced and properly-trained priests be unable to handle the task?

The advice that we received from our pastor when my daughter was entering a marriage that we thought was doomed to fail, was to get married in a protestant church so if she got divorced she wouldn't need to get an annulment to get married into the Catholic Church.

I would find a new pastor.


Is it normal to grant an annulment without the "non-petitioner" first being consulted? I don't know much about annulments, but that doesn't sound right to me.

I don't necessarily know that she wasn't consulted. Her book, Shattered Faith,is remarkably light on details. If she was never offered an opportunity to respond, though, that's probably the reason for the Rota's disagreement with the tribunal's findings.


I've seen psychological abuse where a husband won't convalidate their marriage in the Church to keep a psychological hold on his wife by saying: "you're living in sin and you can't receive communion." These women suffer. In this case Sheila Rauch, even though they've been divorced and Mr. Kennedy who believed his union with her had been annuled and moved on with his life, now can say to him I still have you and you can't get away from me: "you're living in sin and can't receive communion." He is being psychologically abused and she needs help. I'd file a new petition for annulment.


Perhaps things have changed since then? Now, after the petition is made , the annulment cannot continue until the other party has been informed and has been invited to fill out the sam e questionnaires, call witnesses, and whether he/she has chosen to defend or add to the evidence, view all the evidence.
And, yes, I am continually being reminded that some people do abuse mercy and charity, and some people lie. But this is lousy timing, and just as the divorce of a same-sex couple in RI will probably be used to "prove" same-sex "marriage", this celebrity annulment reversal will be used to discredit the Church as an authority on marriage.
I continue to pray and write.



Your responses seem to indicate that you think anyone who wants a annulment should be granted one.

Sheila Rauch was hurt when an annulment was initially approved (prior to being sent on to Rome).

An annulment essentially means the marriage was never valid, and that lack of validity necessitates a defect in one or both spouses.

If Sheila Rauch knows those defects are not present and can demonstrate that, as she apparently has done, then she cannot possibly be psychologically abusing her husband.

Mr. Kennedy "married" the woman he now calls his wife years before being granted any sort of go ahead from his local diocese on an annulment.

If not being able to receive Holy Communion were something that was that psychologically damaging to him, he propbably wouldn't have done that.

As a staunchly pro-abortion Democrat, Mr. Kennedy shouldn't be receiving Holy Communion anyway, and truth be told, if I were Mr. Kennedy, I'd be even more concerned about what God thought of my public support for baby killing than of my adulterous second marriage (even though that also places his soul in jeopardy).

It's not about not being able to receive Holy Communion or not being able to have people see you receiving Holy Communion. It's about not sinning and not living in the state of sin.

If the marriage between Mr. Kennedy and Sheila Rauch was valid (and it appears that it was) then no human being can dissolve that union, not matter how much either Mr. Kennedy or Sheila Rauch or anyone else might want the union dissolved. Wanting an annulment is not sufficient grounds for declaring a marriage invalid.

In order for a marriage to be invalid, the marital consent at the time of the marriage must be fundamentally defective. In other words, there has to be some impediment to the validity or the consent in the will of one or both people entering the invalid union which impedes their freedom to fully and validly consent to marriage.

These defects would be the same classical defects (essentially) that impede freedom in any human act, namely: ignorance, concupiscence, fear, violence, habit, hereditary taint, and nervous mental disorders.

Concupiscence is generally a factor in any moral lapse, but in itself, is not enough to eradicate culpability, and consequently, is not enough to invalidate a marriage.

Ignorance could certainly invalidate a marriage if it prevented one or both parties from knowing the basic fact that a marriage is a union between one man and one woman, in sickness and in health, until death, and who are open to bringing new life into the world through the marriage act.

Fear and violence would also invalidate a marriage, because when acting under the influence of either a person is not free.

Hereditary taint (temperament) would generally fall under the same category as concupiscence in terms of its influence on the validity of a marriage. Although such dispositions may strain a relationship, these issues would likely only contribute to reasons for a marriage being invalid. They would never be the sole cause.

Nervous mental disorders (mental illness) would only invalidate a marriage if a person's moral capacity was significantly diminished by mental illness at the time of the marriage while giving consent.

Mental illness which presents itself after marital consent is given would not invalidate a marriage at all. There is a reason the marriage vows include the provision: "in sickness and in health".

Habits could invalidate a marriage, but only if they demonstrated a defect of the will in terms of validly contracting a marriage. A person who attempts to contract a marriage while under the sway of a powerful habit like drug addiction, alcoholism, or habitual sexual incontinence may not be able to freely consent to a valid marriage, but it is hard to imagine someone with habits this powerful entering a union where their partner was wholly unaware of these issues, ad the partner (and any priest witnessing the marriage) should know that such a union would likely be invalid and should not go forward with attempting to create such a union.

Finally, one or both parties could simply never genuinely give their free consent to a union between one man and one woman, in sickness and in health, until death, and who are open to bringing new life into the world through the marriage act.

Unless the defects I have described are present when the two parties contract their marriage, none of these issues would be grounds for an annulment should they present themselves after marital consent is given.

Now, people can tell tribunals whatever they want. Tribunals must do their best and must rely on the honesty of the participants in the annulment process. If people, for the sake of outward appearances or the desire to have the validation and approval of the Church or other people, abuse the annulment process, or corruption or a lack of faith in Christ's teaching on the indissolubility of marriage is present within the tribunal (but not in the couple) then there cannot be an annulment.

How often such things are the case is something known to God alone, and none of us can judge anyone else.

If anyone seeks to fool others, themselves, or even God when it comes to such matters, that is something they must account for at the time of their particular judgement.

All that can be offered here are principles that can be applied to particular circumstances, but the application of those principles to those particular circumstances is between the individual Catholic, who will be judged according to their own conscience, the authority of the Catholic Church, and ultimately, Almighty God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.



marc rousso

The most controversial "marriage that never was" in recent U.S. political history is back. I do not think so. Marc rousso

Chuck Griffin

What has this blog become...a POLITICAL Arena?
What ever happen to sticking to getting the traditional Latin Mass back into our churches?? Seem all we read here is political news! News we can read in our daily paper. I mean who cares about Joe Kennedy's first marriage, middle marrige or third or fourth Marriage.

Tell that to the late Frank sinatra, who has been married more times than one can remember, and yet he got back to the Catholic church. And who cares if he did or didn't?


Sorry Charlie (Chuck),

This isn't a political story. It's about annulments in the Catholic Church.

I realize that Democrats and liberals don't like reading what conservative Catholics have to say, but nobody forces them do so.

I'm confused about what Frank Sinatra has to do with anything that has been said here. That bit smells like a whole bucket full of red herring. Perhaps you think Frank Sinatra to be something of an icon with certain Catholics. I have never admired Mr. Sinatra for anything more than his singing and the songs he made popular, and I would certainly never hold him up as any kind of moral example.

This blog has never been solely about "sticking to getting the traditional Latin Mass back into our churches".

Many, many subjects pertaining to Catholicism are discussed here (and even some subjects that don't).

I blog about things that interest me. The other bloggers here on Roman Catholic Blog do the same.

You are more than welcome to start a blog about "sticking to getting the traditional Latin Mass back into our churches" and I hope many people read it.



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