“Loose canon”: Vatican may tighten rules on annulments

From John Allen:

A Rome conference in late April hinted that the Vatican may be moving towards a more restrictive posture on annulments, the procedure in church law for declaring a marriage null and void, which some critics refer to as “Catholic divorce.”

If so, the fallout could have special significance for the United States, home to just 6 percent of the world’s Catholic population but accounting for roughly two-thirds of the 60,000 annulments issued by church courts each year.

The April 26-27 Rome conference focused on canon 1095 of the Code of Canon Law, which allows a marriage to be declared null if one of the parties lacked the ability to consent because of “causes of a psychic nature.” Of the 15 to 20 possible grounds for an annulment in church law, more are granted on the basis of canon 1095 than all others combined, roughly two-thirds of the total.

As a result, some wags have dubbed canon 1095 the “loose canon.”

Over the centuries, church courts typically interpreted the capacity to consent fairly narrowly – as long as someone was of age, not coerced and not clearly insane, they were presumed to be capable. Yet as divorce has become more common, there’s often a powerful pastoral drive to find grounds for an annulment, given that a Catholic whose marriage breaks up can’t get remarried in the church without one, and if they remarry under civil law, they’re excluded from the sacraments.

Some critics argue that the pastoral desire to help people in difficulty has led to an overly elastic interpretation of canon 1095.

Sheila Rauch Kennedy, who successfully fought to overturn an annulment granted to her husband, then-U.S. Congressman Joseph Kennedy, in 1997, has written that church courts in America have adopted such an expansive reading of canon 1095 that it can now cover “almost anything … from personality traits such as self-centeredness, moodiness or being eager to please, to unproven ‘disorders’.”

If the conference sponsored by Rome’s Opus Dei-run University of the Holy Cross is any indication, that loose canon may be about to become a little tighter.

Polish Bishop Antoni Stankiewicz, dean of the Roman Rota, the Vatican court that handles most marriage cases, told the conference that interpretation of canon 1095 must avoid an “anthropological pessimism” that would hold that “it’s almost impossible to get married, in view of the current cultural situation.”

“We must reaffirm the innate human capacity to marry,” Stankiewicz told the group.

The session during which Stankiewicz spoke was presided over by American Cardinal Raymond Burke, who heads the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s equivalent of the Supreme Court.

Stankiewicz argued that Christian doctrine insists upon a “natural disposition to marriage” because the “gift of Christ is not exhausted in the celebration of the wedding. It extends to all of married life, supporting the spiritual growth of the spouses in the necessary virtues, duties and commitments of marriage.”

His conclusion was that church courts should not be quick to presume an inability to give consent.

Read more.

Comments

  1. Fine this should be necessary to tighten and the Church tribunals should demand evidence of diagnosis of mental disorders to fit that canon. However this will not be good news in general to laity who have been divorced and will make them angrier, as this is a part of the Church’s rules that irritates those in that unfortunate situation. Nothing angers them more than losing participation in the sacraments and guess what, they don’t come back and throw their hats into the “church-haters” or “ex-catholic” pool. And if they have kids, count on them NOT raising them in the faith or raising them to be atheists. Instead of just doing this, how about increasing catechesis for married couples (not stupid life skills and sex questionaires in pre-cana) as in teaching them what being in a marriage is in the Church, how darn hard it will be should it fail to get an annulment, and that they’d better know what they are getting into or don’t get married in the Church and split up (hoping though they don’t rebel and co-habitate or live common law after cause you can’t get “your way”.) We should be working on reducing the number of divorces and loose commitment marriages if the Church wants to tighten the noose also.

    If the noose is to be tightened, priests should also stop being so lax and try to be the first stop gap to couples rushing to the altar. They should inquire hard of every couple and not be so eager to fill in the yearly planner, and if they find anything like wavering commitment, unwillingness to have kids (e.g. birth control, 0 or 1 kid only without legitimate medical issues) or an obvious immaturity on one or both parties, or “I want a pretty church wedding” type indications, the priests should not allow them to do the pre-cana and say you aren’t getting married here. No discussion save a few small pleas.

  2. Nice touch, that, Young Canadian–referring to the sacrament of Matrimony as a noose to be tightened. And now you’d like baby police, too? (No kids or only 1 kid? We revoke your marriage!)

    You’e right about one thing, though. The need to be reconciled with the Church in order to receive the sacraments is a powerful force that drives people to endure the annulment process, which can be difficult, expensive, and demeaning, and requires people to be dishonest before God in claiming that their marriages were not true marriages. And yes, the “loose canon” may be overused.

    But it is still a question of where the pastoral path takes us. Per Young Canadian, and many others, we should simply limit Church membership to the perfecti. That’s the heresy of Albigensianism, but who cares. Or we look seriously at how we deal with marriage as it is lived across the whole spectrum of the human condition, and stop playing the annulment game. Find better ways to prepare people for and support people during sacramental marriages—and I love the notion of speaking the countercultural message that there is a disposition to marry—but allow those in nonsacramental marriages the healing of the Eucharist and the ongoing support of Reconciliation. Is that any worse a heresy than requiring people to lie and cheat their consciences in order to buy their way back in with an annulment? I already know how the combox will answer that, but I have spoken to too many tribunal members who talk movingly of how much hurt surrounds the Church’s marriage laws not to wonder whether there are not better ways.

  3. But one can equally make the argument that nothing angers people more than being denied a wedding in the Church. Won’t they then leave anyway? Must we avoid making people angry at any cost whatsoever so they won’t leave the CHurch and raise little atheists.
    The problem is cultural. It’s me-centered.

  4. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Well, one thing is certain. If we all followed Young Canadian’s advice, there’d be far fewer weddings cluttering up my schedule — and far fewer people cluttering up the pews on Sunday morning.

    As someone who has acted as an advocate for people seeking annulment, I can report that there needs to be another canonical ground for this process — one which is not found in the Code of Canon Law, but which can be summed up in five words:

    “I was young and stupid.”

    DGK

  5. I remember the several women in my parish where I grew up, who were physically abused by husbands. These women maintained marriages as directed by our pastor (who had his own drinking problem) and the priests. I would see these women most Wednesday evenings year after year when I served as an altar boy at the Miraculous Medal Novena followed by benediction. Thank goodness, pastoral counseling has improved. However, this news item makes me wonder if the attitudes still remain. I really think that an organization totally controlled by supposedly celibate men has diminished credibility without far more lay input on this, as well as lay persons with voting powers on any guidelines or canon law changes. Too much church policy on marriage and sex comes from people who have not fully experienced the gift of life. Question: is celibacy contrary to natural law? If it is not, then is it moral for one with good vision to adopt a “discipline” of going through life blindfolded , squandering the gift of sight?

  6. wineinthewater says:

    We have a rather demanding teaching from Jesus forbidding divorce, so we as a Church certainly need to do much more to prepare people before marriage and support them once in marriage. Greater lay involvement in Church governance would be a good thing, and need not contradict the reality of our Apostolic leadership.

    But I think your question about celibacy misses the mark. In celibacy, forgoing sex and marriage is not just giving up a good, like giving up sight. In celibacy, forgoing sex and marriage creates room for another good, the time and freedom to give oneself more fully to service to Jesus and his Church. The analogous person who goes blindfolded does not make room for another good by forgoing the good of sight.

  7. kenneth says:

    I think the “young and stupid” clause is already what 90% plus of the legalisms of annulment usually add up to anyway. Of course “young and stupid” covers a lot of ground these days, since American adolescence has been extended to something like age 38 these days.

  8. wineinthewater says:

    I think it is a difficult balance. We do not want to drive people away from the Church. But at the same time, it can hardly be called pastoral to keep someone from leaving the Church by allowing them to embrace a path that distances them from Jesus.

    I don’t think that we should seek a path of “fewer marriages” in the Church, but we should seek a path of “fewer poor marriages.” Better marriage preparation – much better marriage preparation – better support for spouses, this should be the path forward, not just bringing the hammer down.

    But at the same time, I think that we need to recognize that the voice of society is very loud. Our society tells us that marriage is not permanent, that marriage is just a relationship upgrade, that marriage is about personal fulfillment, that marriage is only about the feelings of romantic love, that marriage is just recognition of the seriousness of a relationship, that marriage has no intrinsic connection to children, is a fairy tale, doesn’t even have to be composed of a man and a woman. The Church’s voice must be loud to be heard over this. And when she hasn’t been, should we be surprized to find out that people have gotten married in the Catholic Church with no intention of entering into a Catholic marriage?

  9. This may sound crazy coming from an apostate and one who is a political adversary of the bishops on many matters, but I think tightening up the annulment process would be good for the Church and certainly its credibility on marriage issues. Right now, the bishops really do sort of ring hollow when they go on an on about “defending marriage” when it’s clear the whole business is handled with a wink-and-nod internally. Annulment is a divorce court, whether Canon Law wants to call it that or not (it doesn’t). If you pay the money, and the time, and don’t say anything stupid, and perhaps have the right “pull” in Church circles, you’ll get the paper. It’s not even a one-time pass. Guys like Gingrich are on what? Third? Fourth? I lose track. The legal fiction is that the marriages, even decades long ones, never really existed. Of course they existed. Just not in the alternate universe of lawyer-world.
    Would a tighter policy on annulments (and performing marriages) cost membership? Probably. On the other hand, most of the people who demand the shortcut wedding in a church are not really there for the religion. They’re there to maintain family tradition, keep the old folks happy etc. Keeping a church running primarily on cultural inertia is a great system if all you want is millions of members on paper. If you want a group of people who are in it for the beliefs, that’s a different matter.

  10. Defending marriage? The whole campaign against same sex marriage has been farcical, and a huge waste of money and volunteer manpower.I have been married almost 34 years, and I have never encountered a gay marriage that threatened mine. The church traditionally taught that only it could administer sacraments. The Catholic sacrament of matrimony is not administered by a non-priest, that is , not by a judge, not by a methodist minister, not by a Justice of the Peace. We have some religions in America that actually applaud gay marriage, such as the Episcopalian bishops of several states. Do we not owe a comity of religious toleration exercised by Catholics toward these other faiths, who want their committed gay couples to marry? On the other hand, I think that marriages are threatened by poverty, debt, materialism, alcoholism, adultery, and sometimes by the church position on “artificial” contraception.

  11. My daughters have mature friends in their twenties and early thirties. Methinks you paint with too broad a brush.

  12. pagansister says:

    Many Catholics skip the annulment process now, and just get the secular divorce, due to the complexity of an annulment. Tighten that and perhaps more will do that and leave the Church too. One Catholic teacher I worked with was divorced and said she wasn’t pursuing an annulment. She still received communion. Is that not allowed? If not, the priest didn’t know it! :o) I tend to agree with you, Deacon Kandra, “young and stupid” should be included as an acceptable reason for an annulment!

  13. Look everyone, I just think other areas could be improved on this issue and to those who are part of this, it’s bloddy harsh and if there’s anything I am unhappy with more on this issue, is the people who are divorced who are cut off from the sacraments. I am also not happy with currently how pre-canas are done with a reduced focus on the sacramental and theological parts of this. I wrote based on a part opinion, part personal involvement with or around people in this situation:

    With regard to the noose tightening: I work in a hospital with people of all creeds and religions, a number of my fellow colleagues being Catholic. One of them, a very professional and mature woman who serves in the leader position on rotation, lamented to her colleagues last week while I was on night shift that unfortunately, the Church has “a lot of rules” and divulged that she herself is a divorcee and under the Church’s rules, she is excluded from the sacraments. This is unfortunate and I can tell combined with the ruled comment she is not happy with the situation. I too feel some pain as a practicing Catholic because being cut off from the Sacraments is harsh and excluding her from a full life in Christ, and I fear for her eternal salvation and well being. So “tightening the noose”, I can see my colleague being more angry and further putting herself not because she wants to, in a spiritual crisis further. and I wish I could help her but I must obey my Mother Church and Magisterium on this one as a meager lay Catholic.

    As to the Pre-Cana comment, my cousin just recently went though and being a curious bugger, I asked about the process. Their 6 week course went like this: Week 1: intro and a 100 question quiz. Week 2: Financial issues. Week 3: parenting. Week 4L Sexual issues. Week 5: ???. Only week 6 just touched on the Sacrament of Marriage, but focused on the ceremony more than ANY of the theological and spiritual concepts of Marriage. And you wonder why it’s not taken seriously by Catholics? Further, there should be more stop gaps so people don’t enter into this. Generally: all levels should be actively ensuring the theological and commital portions of Marriage are LOCK and KEY so that the Church doesn’t have to tighten regulations and also this would avoid both the need for divorce and regulations. There’s much better things to be done here to tackle not the symptoms of the disease, but rather the source.

  14. A few thoughts… first regarding how many couples are married, including those falling into the “young and stupid” category. I am HARDLY a hard nosed person, but I have to ask about how much and what kind of wedding prep is done. That is rhetorical – I do work at a church. However, good marriage prep might help some, not a huge amount, but some.

    Also, to be clear, due to lack of priests, financial challenges, etc do not even have full functioning tribunals as I understand it – this goes beyond US boundaries. That alone presents a challenge about the quality of the annulment process.

    Years ago, my friend’s sister was seeking an annulment in an archdiocese that is undergoing a huge abuse trial and scandal. Young and stupid were part 1 for this woman and her husband, addicted abusive husband was part 2. This woman was subjected to a lot of shaming and scrutiny, beyond what seemed normal. This was long ago, at a time when one would not go against the church. Her divorce was shame enough and the abuse she suffered – that *was* a shame. The net result after her going back and forth, and then struggling to come up with the amount that was recommended (paying?!) took her to the edge.

    She is happily remarried now, but not Catholic. What a shame. I’m not saying that the annulment should have just been handed over, but this woman was treated so poorly. Loose canon? Try the tribunal of that large archdiocese, they were the cannon. Very sad.

  15. Yes Deacon. That would be an unfortunate side effect. But is it not better to have a smaller and dynamic church with nice full families as Benedict XVI has possibly fretted about in his writings, vs. people who will not take the sacrament seriously, contracept, and worse, go through that divorce process and possibly not annul? People need to know TRULY as Catholic what marriage entails. That includes it not being a pretty picture, the theological writings of the Magisterium, and how being Catholic and married differs a whole lot from the picturesque materialistic portrayal of society.

    As for those seeking annulments, well I’m not keen on people reaching that stage where they have to declare “young and stupid” but perhaps then a new condition should be added to the annulment process: Was not taught anything about the sacrament properly by parents, teachers, society, clergy, etc. In other words, they have vincible ignorance to gain the “young and stupid” clause. Come to think of it I kind of like the expression now that you mention it, though it should be worded nicely as “vincible ignorance” in the operating protocol for annuling committees.

  16. “I don’t think that we should seek a path of “fewer marriages” in the Church, but we should seek a path of “fewer poor marriages.” Better marriage preparation – much better marriage preparation – better support for spouses, this should be the path forward, not just bringing the hammer down.”

    Yes wineinthewater! Much more eloquently said than I put it.

  17. Deacon Steve says:

    Divorce does not prevent one from receiving the Sacraments, remarriage while still considered married by the Church does. A civil divorce does nothing to ones marriage status in the eyes of the Church. But you must have the civil divorce decree before you can start the annulment process.

  18. If you want to make better Catholic marriages, you have to make better Catholics. Not a popular solution, but there it is.

  19. wineinthewater says:

    To answer your question, divorce does not prevent you from being able to receive the Sacraments, divorce and remarriage do.

  20. wineinthewater says:

    Drake,

    No one who has had any experience with the annulment process, would characterize it as a “wink and a nod” process. It is hard, it is painful, it can take a long time.

    As to Gingrich, that’s a bit of a straw man. His annulments were for marriages before he joined the Catholic Church. Of course marriages not contracted in the Catholic Church are not valid Catholic marriages! But Canon Law favors marriage, so any marriage contracted by a baptized Christian is presumed valid until it is proven invalid.

  21. naturgesetz says:

    When the culture teaches that marriage can be terminated at will, the Church needs to catechize very clearly that it isn’t just Church rules, but the clear teaching of Genesis, forcefully affirmed by the loving Jesus, that marriage is indissoluble.

    Yes, when there is abuse, the one who suffers the abuse may (actually should) leave, and obtain a civil divorce if necessary to obtain just support from the other spouse. But they need to understand that they are not automatically entitled to another marriage.

    We should have fought a lot harder against no-fault divorce.

  22. Katie Angel says:

    Having been in a committed marriage from the minute we walked down the aisle until my husband’s untimely death, I am not that familiar with the grounds for annulment. How DOES the Church treat marriages where one spouse is physically, emotionally or sexually abusive (particulatly if there was no indication of this before the wedding) or an addict? I agree that there should be better preparation for marriage – and not just the wedding – but there are circumstances that no amount of preparation will cover; especially if one of the parties makes a concentrated effort to “answer the questions right”. it seems that those would be eligible for an annulment but I know that not everything about the Church makes common sense. :-)

  23. I am totally for strong marriages. It’s the best thing I have ever had in life. However, I am also for people whose spiritual lives are crushed in their marriages to be able to get out. I think that this matter of marriage is not all or nothing. After all, the Bible also says “Thou shalt not kill”. In its wisdom (at times!) the Church has come up with innumerable exceptions to that one, to the point that we have chaplains in the military, historically weapons were blessed before battle, etc. Likewise, there ought also to be recognized “outs” from marriage that are more swiftly handled than an annulment process. And wait a minute, I thought that the Church is supposed to be big on the principle of “subsidiarity”. How does sending the annulment documents off for approval in Rome comport with this idea of theirs? I think that “the internal forum” is a great device for resolving many of these cases. Understand, however, that I think that a marital split up should involve some sort of retreat process, counseling, etc. Is the church qualified and equipped to do this? Well, the way retreat houses are shutting down left and right, the way that scarce funds are all squandered on child abuse cases and “defending marriage” in CIVIL law, of course we are short of funds. Would that we had those billions of dollars again !
    By the way, in a denomination that claims a billion adherents, only 60,000 annulments in a year for marriages means that not enough people are getting them. That’s a statistical drop in the bucket.
    If the Vatican is concerned that 2/3 of all annulments are in the USA, well, in what other country do many Catholics still bother going to church, still care enough to get an annulment, have the education to pursue the process, and have the extra money to fork over for the fees and time involved? Certainly not Haiti, a Catholic country. I spent a few years in Rome, and it did not take long to figure out that there is a thinly disguised anti-Americanism within the Vatican that still persists.

  24. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Katie …

    Two situations that would appear to be grounds for annulment are not necessarily so: infidelity and abuse.

    This is because annulment seeks to determine if a sacramental marriage ever existed in the first place — meaning, at the time the two were married. What happened after the wedding is only relevant if it can be shown that one of the parties had no intention of honoring his or her vows at the start, or if the person was somehow incapable (psychologically or spiritually) of understanding what was involved at the time they exchanged vows. For an annulment to be seriously considered, it has to be shown that someone did not get married for the right reasons, or with the right intention.

    It tends to get more nuanced and complicated than that, but that’s for starters…

    Interestingly: the church today discourages women who are pregnant from getting married until after the child is born, because pregnancy can be seen as a kind of coercion, and a possible grounds for annulment in the future.

    DGK

  25. I think that most of the problem here is really society’s problem and not the church’s at all. There is no clear understanding in society of exactly what marriage is and it’s no small wonder that most Catholics have no idea of what a “sacramental marriage” actually is. It’s not all about romantic love or sexual fulfillment, it’s about that tough, daily, grinding living that happens after the honymoon is over, when the couple have to settle down to the not very romantic facts of living together in the sometimes cruel world. Indeed, the concept of “sacramental marriage”, with its total self-giving is one that puzzles the majority of people I’ve ever mentioned it to. It usually brings a huge “Huh?” from most. Non-Catholics definitely have never heard of it, but also neither have most Catholics.

    Like much of Catholic teaching, this has been little served by the upheaval that followed Vatican II. Fifty years of poor catechesis has left a disorganized mess.

    Not mentioned in this is the fact that, as some older friends have told me, the annulment process before the loosening was way too stringent and denied annulments that should have been granted (as for instance, in one case reported to me, of a woman who sought an annulment when her gay husband left her for another man in the late 1950s). As many people left the church then because of that as leave now, so departure is nothing new. I’ve also seen children of annulled persons leave the church because they disagreed with the granting of an annulment to the parent who sought it.

    What I’m trying to say is that the issue is complex and painful for many concerned in it. I think that tightening the current process is not a bad thing, but MUCH better catechesis and explanations are needed as well.

    And, just to chime in with earlier comments — civil divorce alone does not bar someone from receiving the sacraments. It’s civil divorce and remarriage without an annulment that does that. Though barred from the sacraments, they are still part of the church, not excommunicated.

    Marriage to an non-Catholic without receiving the proper dispensation and obtaining a blessing for the marriage is similar. A friend of mine, who got married in a Lutheran ceremony in 1971 was actually denied the request for a dispensation by her pastor at the time. This turned her off the church completely. So, she’s been living in an irregular marriage for 41 years, neither quite in nor quite out of the church. In fact, she was under the impression that she is formally excommunicated (which she isn’t). I’m trying to help her feel her way back, but her husband isn’t terribly interested in cooperating. So, it may take some time.

  26. Deacon Steve says:

    Drake very few annulment cases have to go to Rome. If I am remembering correctly only those using the Pauline Privelege, Favor of the Faith and the Petrine Privelege go to Rome. All other cases are handled at the (arch)diocese level by their Tribunal, and then reviewed by another (arch)diocese’s Tribunal before the final decree of nulity is issued. Most of the cases are resolved at the local level. Cost is not a huge issue for the process, if one cannot afford the suggested donation, the process can still go forward. The idea that annulments are only available to the rich is not what happens in reality, but for some reason that myth is still passed off as fact.

  27. Deacon Norb says:

    I’d REALLY like to know some hard data here but it is my impression that the detailed types of annulments that have been discussed here — those under Canon 1095 — only amount to maybe 50% of the total annulments issued by the various diocesan tribunals for at least the past 50 years.

    It is my suspicion, but I cannot prove it (maybe someone cane come up with some solid data from various dioceses) that almost 50% of our annulments are granted using the “Defect of Form” protocol. That process is short — the several I had some role in were adjudicated in less than ten days — and it is rare that anyone need appear at the “hearing.”

    This is situation is probably what many folks are thinking about when they say “young and stupid.” For those unfamiliar with this madness; IF either party is a baptized Roman Catholic, and they exchange their vows to anyone in a non-Catholic setting — either civilly or through another religious minister — without the written permission of their bishop, they are not married sacramentally in the eyes of the church. These could be what our parents called “Las Vegas” weddings; OR maybe the couple eloped to a wedding chapel just over the state line because there was no waiting and the age limit was lower; OR maybe they just did not care about a Roman Catholic flavor to their marriage ceremony. The SACRAMENTAL FORM was DEFECTIVE and that is all there was to it.

  28. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Norb…

    Defect of Form is different from an annulment. I encounter DFs all the time and you’re right, it only takes a couple weeks to formalize.

    But an actual annulment, involving testimony from witnesses and notarized statements, is much more involved, time-consuming and expensive.

    DGK

  29. So, YCRCM, if I understand you correctly, you believe that parenting, and sex, and financial integrity/harmony have almost nothing to do with the sacrament of marriage? Really?

    This is a sacrament that is a source of heavenly grace but which is lived very much at ground level. In other words, you can’t live the sacrament of marriage in the clouds. You have to know how to deal with differences in attitudes on important, nitty gritty aspects of daily living such as…sex…and parenting…and money…and time management…and division of chores…and communication…and emotional openness/access. How to aim for harmony and how to respect your spouse even when the two of you are NOT in harmony. As someone who has been married for nearly 17 years, I don’t understand how you can separate those daily parts of Christian married life from a discussion of the “sacrament” of marriage in the Church. All those things are part of the sacrament–and part of staying married, and growing in love and Christian integrity, through the good times and the bad.

    And it’s hard work. And very, very deserving of attention during the pre-Cana process. God help us if we cut out discussions of those issues during the time when the couple is engaged. Merely telling them to respect the sacramental nature of marriage, without helping equip them to do so on a daily basis, would be a travesty–something along the lines of sending children to Reconciliation without teaching them to examine their consciences. The nitty gritty details of daily living ARE relevant to the sacraments.

  30. pagansister says:

    Thank you both for your answer to my question. Believe me when I tell you she had no intention of getting married again! :o)

  31. ron chandonia says:

    There is a flip side to the annulment process that has not been considered in these comments: the side of the divorced partner who is now told that his/her marriage (even a longtime marriage) was never sacramentally valid. Afterwards, people in this situation may see their former spouse remarried in the church, perhaps in a wedding ceremony every bit as elaborate as the first because, after all, it is (supposedly) really his or her “first,” former spouses and kids notwithstanding. This may happen even after the original spouse did all in his/her power to hold the family together, and even when the jilted partner has sought neither a divorce nor a subsequent annulment. The pain this can cause is horrific, as Sheila Rausch Kennedy demonstrates in the book from which John Allen quotes, Shattered Faith. I have seen the faith of good people shattered in the process: faith in marriage, faith in the Catholic Church, even faith in God. Anyone who works with the Tribunal needs to read Kennedy’s book and pray hard about what they are doing.

  32. If the annulment rules are tightened you can bank on more defections from the Catholic church. The ultra-conservative Catholics will be one step closer to just what some (not all) of them seem to want (as evidenced by comments on other topics over the past few months); the riddance of parishioners who do not view, practice, or espouse the Catholic religion as they do.

    Now, I make no judgement if that is good or bad, but clearly the “big tent” will be able to replaced with a smaller one. And that smaller tent will be around for a very long time in this country.

  33. RomCath says:

    Tell her to check with a priest about getting a sanation.

  34. It is too little too late in my opinion but I was pleased to read the little that was published of the understanding behind it. I am grateful to John Allen for his good work in getting this information out. I found the discussion edifying.

    The Dean of the Rota, then Monsignor Stankewicz as I recall, was the Ponens(in essence chief judge) in the Third Instance case involving my wife and I. He confirmed the decision of the Second Instance Court. Sadly, I have never been able to read his
    opinion as it is in Latin. I was informed that the case for nullity had not been proven.

    It was the proper decision but twelve years in coming. That length of time is unconscionable. To this day my wife believes I defended our marriage to spite her, which she knows, but will not confront, is not true. I defended our marriage because
    I was there for our nine years and six children and sought the opinions of many who
    knew us, well, over the length of our time together. I also sought the opinion of an old canon lawyer with many years of pastoral service as well. He advised me that I
    was obliged to defend our marriage. I did.

    There is much more that I could say but it should be heard by the Church. I know other respondents who feel the same. Some has been shared in blogs but that is not
    where it is best heard and where real good could come of it. After all these years, however, I no longer trust the clergy to act constructively in these regards. This is due to hard, personal experiences.

    I have read many comments in this stream which could be replied to but I do not care to engage so many.

    Much healing is needed on many fronts but I doubt those best in a position to facilitate it have even had it cross their mind, when, as good shepherds it should be
    in the forefront of their ministry.

    Thank you, Deacon Greg.

    Karl

  35. It needs be said here that an unjust divorce is a grave sin. I am not going to
    argue over the semantics of the conditions for mortal sin or the personal
    responsibility that every Catholic has to inform their conscience in a totally
    Catholic manner, not mitigated by the flavor of the day/month/year “expert”
    secular(and much more often than not Anti-Catholic) opinions of morality.

    Those of you, and you are legion throughout the blog world, who represent
    divorce as some “neutral” act are misleading yourselves and others.

    Karl

  36. Art ND'76 says:

    Marriage?? It appears to me that a high percentage of young people over the last 40 years don’t know enough about their faith, much less marriage. The problems with marriage are the caboose on a very long train of problems that started way, way earlier. I don’t see how tightening up the “loose canon” – in and of itself – helps people who made a big mistake repent of that and get back into good standing with the church to help them on their path to eternal life.

    My first thought about this and a whole bunch of other issues is that the first corrective action needs to be at a much earlier stage than even pre-Cana courses. By the time the engagement is decided, the chance for reason and discernment is past. The engagement decision gets made with whatever knowledge and help the couple involved have on their own, which in too many cases is totally inadequate. Usually the couple makes the decision with no church involvement at all. The church only gets involved afterwards. I look around and don’t see anything to help the high school to young adult crowd they way the CYO did for my parents or a religious community of married people that mentored young singles did for my wife and I.

    I totally agree with the “I was young and stupid” reason for annulment. Given the breathtaking lack of catechesis in the last 40 years that I have observed, I could see that reason being given a lot. Some might say it will be abused, and I am sure it will be. I think that abuse is a small price to pay for the binding and healing of the Body of Christ that it would allow.

  37. To step back a little bit, one thing that is logically inconsistent is using the inherently adversarial legal process and thinking that it is a good way to arrive at the truth. So you have the ex-spouses who totally agree that they want the annulment and work together to get it. Why can’t they put that same work and coordination into staying married? On the opposite end of the spectrum you have the foaming-at-the-mouth-deranged stalker fighting to the death to force the spouse to remain married. The more unhinged the person is, the more convinced everyone who comes in contact with them is that well that is ONE case where the annulment is completely justified.

    But the adversarial process gets both cases exactly backwards. In the first case nobody objects so the Church comes through with with the annulment, while in the second the Church becomes accessory to the insane spouse who uses the process as a way to act out his/her insanity.

    I don’t know what process we SHOULD use, but I’m pretty sure that using an adversarial legal process makes it harder not easier to arrive at the truth.

  38. In addition to the “young and stupid” category; it’s too bad there isn’t also a category for “there was once a marriage, but it died/was killed, and is beyond any hope of resuscitation.” Into that category would fall the marriages which started out with right intentions and full consent, but devolved into abusive behavior, infidelity, drug and alcohol abuse, or criminal activity, etc.
    I believe the Eastern Orthodox tradition handles these things differently than the western Church; not sure if they really have annulments or try to say the first marriage the first marriage didn’t exist. But they do allow remarriage after divorce, (up to three times?). They have the same belief as we do about the sacredness of the marriage vow, but make a pastoral allowance so that people aren’t living in sin and without the sacraments. Since I have no background in that tradition I’m sure I’m missing some nuances. However that approach seems more productive than trying to use an “adversarial legal process” as cathyf said above.

  39. Several commenters have mentioned that better catechesis is needed, and I’m sure that’s true. However looking around at the people I know, the best predictor of intact marriages is the family of origin. People learn what they live with. If they grew up in a family where they saw their parents honoring their marriage, they are more likely to do that in their own marriage.

  40. It isn’t lack of caetchesis. The couples don’t really believe it. They’re just going through the motions to get married “in the Church” for the MOST part. As the veteran of TWO successful annulments, I can tell you that if you research the grounds, you may very well find grounds that will work. For instance, my first marriage was only 20 months to college sweetheart. when I contacted her 12 years later(she had happily remarried and was living in another state) she agreed to participate and help in any way she could. WE decided to use a “premartial greement NOT to have children”(and we didn’t have any).She got her witnesses and I got mine. We both testified and in 14 months the annulment was completed. She was shocked to learn that my best man forged her signature on the Church marraige application after she had said that wouldn’t sign it.
    Another friends husband was able to get his first amrraige annuled by getting his ex wife(who he had lived wioth 5 years before they married)to admit that the ONLY reason that she had married him was because she had chronic medical condition and could only get on his medical isnsurance by being married to him. She also had told a number of guests at their wedding who were surprised by the wedding , the same thing. A number of them testified for him.

    In my second annulment, my ex made it very clear and a couple of her friends testified as well, that the ONLY reason she agreed to marry me in the Church was to get married. She figured that she could pressure me into abandoning my “silly faith” . She also admitted that she felt that I was her “last chance” to get married and decided that she’d do what it took.When we discussed marriage, I made it clear that I wanted a Catholic wedding and that my faith was important to me. I was pleasantly surprised when she agreed and thought that this was a very good sign. Instead I was suckered. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, people don’t change they only reveal themselves. Unless, you really know someones family etc, without a private detective doing a background check, you could run into the same thing I did and I know some others who did. While the second annulment took longer,20 months, it was more positive because I “erased” that mistake from my life.
    I learned about another friend of mine who told the tribunal along with his best man and a groomsman that they had smoked a joint before the wedding because he didn’t really want to get married to the woman, but he didn’t want to shame her by calling it off at the last minute.
    In another case, a friend got an annulment by showing that her parents had pressured her into marrying(and they had).
    The worst case, I heard of was a female friend who’s parents were very prominent in local politics. She had a huge Catholic wedding. Everyone who was anyone was there. Then, a few months later I heard that she was was divorced. 5 years later she told me what had happened. Her new husband had had sex with one of her bridesmaids bewtween the ceremony and the reception. THAT annulment sailed through in record time.
    All that, however, belies the fact that Church weddings in general are in decline(a few years ago 40% of all weddings were civil. Now it’s much higher, near 50%). So are annulments, down from 65,000 in 1991 to 35,000 a year or so ago. People have stopped bothering.
    Some here think that preventing an annulment,especially for a philandering ex-spouse, is the “right thing to do”. I say let them go and let the annulment erase them from your life. You gain nothing by inflecitng more pain. As for trying to save marriages, I say good luck with that.
    When a spouse decides it’s over. It’s over and nothing you can say or do can change it. If they’re willing to go to “Global Thermal Nuclear War”, which divorce is, then the marraige is done. I learned that from my first wife when nothing I suggested, begged for etc changed her mind. She just decided that she didn’t like being married and wanted out. In the other case, I’d had enough and told her so after an all night “discussion”. NOTHING was going to change MY mind. Period.
    Now? I am happily married to the first African-American DRE in our diocese. And yes, I DID do a background check on her. She knows it, too.

  41. Deacon Norb says:

    Melody

    I could not agree more. That is one of the very first questions I ask my engaged couples when they meet me for the first time. I am really not interested in the state of their faith at that moment because it is probably immature anyway. IF, however, their parents have had a long and fruitful relationship, they have had a solid mentorship and thus the chances that their marriage will succeed is excellent.

    In fact, back in late December, I presided at a wedding of two army officers in their mid-twenties. I also presided at the marriage ceremony of the Bride’s parents (some 27/28 years before); presided at the marriage of the bride’s aunt and uncle (25 years before); and preached at the funerals of both of her grandparents. I knew that family well enough that I could push the “mentorship” idea with detailed examples from her family.

  42. Cantate says:

    Deacon Greg,

    Would Defect of Form apply to two Catholics who were married in a Mass but the formula was altered improperly? For example, two people in their twenties who somehow convinced the priest not to mention accepting children because they didn’t want them? I know not wanting children is reason for an annulment, but Defect of Form would be much less intrusive and would probably be easier for the couple that I am thinking of.

    Cantate

  43. My parents were married for more than 50 years before my father died…My inlaws were also married until death took my father-in-law. Six years ago my husband divorced me after 31 years of marriage (the day after returning from taking our younger of our two children to college). It wasn’t a complete surprise because he hadn’t spoken to me in 3 yrs and was refusing counseling.
    Divorce definitely hurts children, but Melody and Deacon Norb–are you suggesting that perhaps the children of divorced parents shouldn’t marry because they’re not likely to succeed??? My children are both married now and doing well–each of them found their way into the mental health professions–my son as a psychiatrist and my daughter as a clinical social worker. Both of them had long talks with their now-spouses about “the silent treatment” and all parties are determined NOT to “use” that passive-aggressive controlling technique in their marriages.
    I facilitate the DivorceCare program at my parish. We also have a companion program for the children called dc4k…the priests/pastor help with the segment about remarriage because the seminar about that, is Christian–but not Catholic-Christian teaching…Encourage those you know who are divorced to attend DivorceCare at a Catholic parish–it is healing…
    As for me, the dream of having a Christian marriage with the father of my children is dying hard… I now believe that even though the form was valid, the marriage was not sacramental. I doubt my husband will cooperate with an annullment because 1–he doesn’t want to spend the $ and 2–he doesn’t really seem to care what the Church teaches anyhow–(even though he is a lifelong Catholic and has a brother who is a priest)
    I don’t know what God has in store for me—just that I don’t want to stop receiving the Eucharist to cooperate with His plan…
    Please pray for us civilly divorced Catholics and our families. I would also gently urge you all to work hard at being compassionate and sparing in your judgements.

  44. “…are you suggesting that perhaps the children of divorced parents shouldn’t marry because they’re not likely to succeed???” Not at all. Just that they may need a little more mentoring. It’s possible to learn from other’s mistakes as well as their successes. What I was really saying is that while good catechesis is a desirable thing, it’s not the whole picture.
    As I said in my other comment, I wish there was a better way than the one we have to help divorced and remarried Catholics be able to receive the sacraments.

  45. Thank you Mary.

  46. pagansister says:

    Yea! for wife #3—pol. 3rd time is a charm!

  47. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    I don’t think so. Someone who knows the nuances of canon law could answer better than I.

    But: the rite specifically says that question may be omitted “if, for example, the couple is advanced in years.” While that doesn’t appear to apply to the couple you’re describing, it does indicate a certain degree of flexibility in the rite, depending on circumstances.

    In that light, the form was not defective.

    DGK

  48. Mary, good luck to you and any who are trying to work their way through this kind of painful situation; I’ll pray for you.

  49. Art ND'76 says:

    Pol: you really confirmed what I said about the lack of Catechesis. There is a point of view about this marriage process that was taught to me that you get settled into your faith first. Then you seriously discern whether or not God is calling you to be married and you do this with the advice of a competent spiritual director, preferably one that uses the Ignatian rules for discernment. Then after a call to marriage is truly discerned (after being open to NOT being married!), you see who it is that you know or need to get to know in a NON-romantic way, but as a friend first. There are other steps along the way that I am leaving out because this post would be too long. This type of thing is part of what I mean by being properly catechized, not merely being able to reply to catechism questions. Knowing the scriptures and the Catechism is foundational, but insufficient in my opinion. I have seen people with a good deal of knowledge of both still make painful blunders.

    All this depends on a powerful desire to obey the first commandment above all else: to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. If that isn’t there, then the scriptures and the catechism will only make a limited amount of sense no matter how much they are studied – and I submit that a person without that desire can not be adequately catechized even though they may be able to repeat back all the teaching. Until the right desire is there for the right thing (Ps 24:3-4, Mt 5:8), the teaching just won’t make sense in the right way.

  50. OK, Young Canadian:
    a) Define a “nice full family”.
    b) One of your definitions of unwillingness to have kids means “0 or 1 kid only without legitimate medical issues.” In other words, you’re saying that financial difficulties (perhaps even loss of employment) is not a legitimate reason to want to postpone having children?

    Just wondering…

  51. Barbara P. says:

    I am familiar with DivorceCare – it not only heals the person from the pain of divorce it also heals the person’s relationship with God. It is a wonderful program.

  52. Barbara P. says:

    i just want to add that anyone who is going through a divorce should consider this program.

  53. midwestlady says:

    I think this move to tighten annulments up is a good thing, and I think you’re right about the superficial response it’ll probably get, YCM. I think that Catholics, in general, are so used to thinking of approaching the altar for Holy Communion as a right, that they think a person can’t be a penitent, but that’s exactly what we’re talking about here.

    No, it won’t make people happy if they can’t get what they want. A lot of things don’t make people happy, but they’ll just have to deal with it.

  54. I believe that if the Vatican is going to “tighten” up a loose canon it better be prepared to prepare young couples better for marriage and they might want to actually start talking about marriage from the pulpit. Priests and bishops might want to start actually teaching people about marriage, sins against marriage, why the church believes what it does on premarital sex, birth control. Schools might actually want to begin teaching real Catholic faith instead of the pop psychology we get here in Canada. Kids make their Holy communion and never darken the door of a church again. They show up for Confirmation and that’s it – usually until they get married. How can you possibly expect these people to even begin to understand what Catholic marriage is about when they have no understanding of their faith, no moral formation?
    I do agree that the family of origin is important but with many young people coming from broken homes, there better be a lot more effort put into screening and preparing couples. I am divorced – my husband left me after 11 years most of them filled with him cheating on me, behaving like a child, and accruing enormous debt. A spiritual director told me that given my husband’s family background – this should have been a red flag immediately to the priest. Of course, the priest never asked. We saw him once. And then another priest married us because of course the diocese moves priests frequently. My parents tried to tell me but for reasons I won’t go into, I didn’t listen. You can’t bring to a marriage what you don’t have. And he had nothing. I agree very much with what pol said ” people don’t change they reveal themselves.” And I also agree that most people are simply going through the motions – often to satisfy parents etc. And when a spouse decides it’s over – its over. There is NOTHING, NOTHING for couples in crisis in the Catholic church. I was told, “Well, you know these things happen.” Really? I have four children – and that’s all you have to say to me!
    I’m sorry. I love the Catholic faith. But “tightening” the canon without doing anything else is just reprehensible. The church needs to get with it.

  55. midwestlady says:

    See, here it is–what I was talking about up-thread. Church membership isn’t just one way of being and it isn’t a set of rights. We have lost the concept of the penitent, the person who’s gotten into trouble and then prays and waits on God as a Catholic. It’s very powerful and it’s a witness we’ve lost, both to ourselves and to others.

  56. midwestlady says:

    Correct. It’s the American option.

  57. midwestlady says:

    The Church doesn’t need to be smaller. Rather, people need to come to an understanding that having a robust and genuine spiritual life isn’t only being a card-carrying member with a list of rights. That’s not Christianity and it’s not been Catholicism til the 20th century.

  58. midwestlady says:

    This is true too.

  59. midwestlady says:

    “should we be surprized to find out that people have gotten married in the Catholic Church with no intention of entering into a Catholic marriage?”

    This is reason #1 why it needs to be tightened up. It’s also reason #1 why people need better marriage preparation and a wait time.

  60. midwestlady says:

    People just get the secular divorce, skip the annulment and pretend nothing happened, all the time. We don’t ever ask unless they try to join a 3rd order (rare) or try to get another marriage in the Church (more common). Otherwise it never comes up.

  61. naturgesetz says:

    PTPH, isn’t a firm intention never to have children a defect which is grounds for a decree of nullity?

  62. midwestlady says:

    It’s an interesting thing: The Scriptures say that we should evangelize because Christ himself preached to the people. But would he have said, ” Do anything to get them in the doors, and once in, let them do anything so they won’t leave?”

    Christ did forgive the sins of the truly penitent, but always in scripture, they had to approach him for this to happen and admit their sin or identify their trouble. The scriptures don’t tell us how many were not able to approach, and how many didn’t even try to approach. We only hear about those who did approach him.

  63. midwestlady says:

    Kenneth,

    There’s a lot of merit to your comment. There is such a thing as a non-existent marriage but I believe they’re quite rare, and there is usually some genuine pathology involved-the kind that can be characterized by a doctor. Persons involved in those kinds of situations should not really consider second attempts for obvious reasons.

    I also think there’s a lot to be said for your last couple of lines about the difference between “keeping the Church running on cultural inertia to get millions of memberships on paper” vs. “being in it for the beliefs.” Ultimately it shouldn’t be either/or, but to a shocking degree it is.

  64. midwestlady says:

    A person can still receive the sacraments if they’re divorced. The sacramental problem only really comes up if they remarry. I won’t ask, but you should ask yourself, did she remarry? If she’s divorced but not remarried or living with anyone (etc), she may have a misconception going. Some people do.

  65. midwestlady says:

    Yes, the problem only comes up when they remarry or cohabit and then want to receive the sacraments.

  66. midwestlady says:

    In answer to your question: I’ve seen this situation happen to someone I know. A person who being abused in a marriage can divorce, and if he/she’s in genuine danger of being killed, they should! This person can still receive the sacraments during and after the divorce.

    The problem with not receiving the sacraments only comes up if this person tries to remarry or if takes up living with another “mate” outside of marriage. Then this person must refrain from the sacraments because a) they’re engaging in adultery because they’re still sacramentally married to the former mate, and b) they’re in a state of sin on a regular basis.

    As long as the divorced person lives singly there’s no problem.

  67. midwestlady says:

    Yes, it’s not whether you liked how the marriage turned out or not. It’s whether there was a marriage or not. They’re very different statements.

  68. midwestlady says:

    Thank you for taking the time and care to tell us this, Mary. I have a family member whose story is similar to yours. She has not remarried and will not, because she loves receiving the Eucharist. The situation has matured her and deepened her spiritual life and she has become more patient and gentler. I don’t think she’s gotten an annulment, but I don’t know that she considers it very important at this point. She’s older and her plans don’t include remarriage.

  69. Yes, the colleague did re-marry. That’s why she knows about the statement and is upset.

  70. midwestlady says:

    Defect of form is kind of hard for me to get my head around.
    a) It can’t be the case that it results in a marriage, whether the parties think it does or not. So if they don’t know, they’re running around not married but thinking they are. But the Church doesn’t decide until it comes to light, which because we don’t ask these things, is only if & when it breaks down. Hmmm. Wonder how many “marriages” are really like this. Church marriages have been dropping. How many Catholics are really out getting “married at the beach” like everybody else these days?
    b) If one or both do know, but they get married at the beach anyway, what is that? Other than a very fancy kind of cohabitation, I mean. Do people do this just in case “it doesn’t work out?” [Yikes.]

  71. midwestlady says:

    And I think I just answered my own puzzlement. In the case of a) it’s fine until it’s found not fine. This is how it’s done, right?
    And in the case of b) it’s still [Yikes.]

  72. I’m not saying that those aspects of marriage should not be covered. What I am saying is that pre-cana courses should not focus JUST on those areas. There really HAS to be a theological, sacramental component which teaches principles of those such as in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Scripture, encyclicals like Casti Conubii, etc. Perhaps then the practical solution is to Not limit to just the 6 sessions but make it longer or each session longer to cover that sacramental & theological component. he courses can’t leave them hanging on just the material/social aspects. Otherwise why the heck get married in the church? They could get all those things though financial planning, couples counselling, etc. and just marry civilly in the courts. In fact you have alluded to my viewpoint in this:

    “How to aim for harmony and how to respect your spouse even when the two of you are NOT in harmony. As someone who has been married for nearly 17 years, I don’t understand how you can separate those daily parts of Christian married life from a discussion of the “sacrament” of marriage in the Church”.

    The sacramental portion is what’s NOT being incorporated into these courses or taught so poorly that the coupled don’t get what being in a TRULY Catholic marriage entails. It isn’t just about balancing the checkbook and just having your kids there for the sacraments and mandatory prep for them and just being “nice” to everyone. Catholic marriage entails more. Parents have to get in there, know their own faith, be OPEN to life and not limit family size to just a kid or two (or contracept by any means including abusing Natural family planning) without viable reasons (and yes you were valid to point out economic reasons too, just didn’t think of it at the time as I had to shower up to get ready for work) and also rear up their kids in the faith when their separate schools fail to do so.

    Also sacrifices may have to be made to be truly Catholic and raise the family in the faith. It might take the form of not accepting a higher pay career as that would eat into time spent with one’s family, not enrolling junior in an activity that will make him lose time for homework and place Christ 2nd or dead last in his life, enrolling him instead in a youth ministry like Edge or Lifeteen, and maybe teaching junior and junior miss things contrary to what their teachers and society do and standing by that, because they are of the primary teachers of the faith as outlined in the Vatican II document on education. These things must be incorporated as part of the Pre-Cana IN ADDITION to the necessary work needed on financial/social/sexual issues. Couples have to get what being in a “Catholic” marriage will entail as a whole vs. being in a secular soceital marriage.

  73. midwestlady says:

    And we really need to make a big deal of letting people know they can’t get married at the beach, but the justice of the peace, by my uncle who’s a protestant minister, etc etc.

  74. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Yes, but you would have to go through the annulment process.

    There’s a good overview at this link, describing the situations and circumstances that require a formal annulment, and those which are simply a defect of form.

    In brief:

    The rule in the Catholic Church – stated below – is that Catholics marry in the presence of the Church’s minister. If a Catholic chooses to marry without the minister as a witness, the marriage is not valid. The marriage may be declared invalid by The Tribunal through a lack of form, also referred to as a defect of form. Basically, it is declared so, as the Catholic party (or parties) broke the law of the Church.

    Can. 1108 §1 Only those marriages are valid which are contracted in the presence of the local Ordinary or parish priest or of the priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who, in the presence of two witnesses, assists, in accordance however with the rules set out in the follow canons, and without prejudice to the exceptions mentioned in canon 144, 1112 §1, 1116, and 1127 §2, §3.

    DGK

  75. Fiergenholt says:

    Ella; You said:

    “There is NOTHING, NOTHING for couples in crisis in the Catholic church.”

    Wrong Answer. It is called “Retrouvaille” and it DOES WORK!

  76. Lester Alberque says:

    The following writing has been attributed to Joseph Ratzinger.

    Is this true and do his remarks accurately reflect the Catholic Church’s quasi-acceptance of remarriage in the Orthodox Churchs?

    “First of all, against a misunderstanding that is becoming ever more wide-spread, what is fundamentally common to both structures must be here underlined. Even the eastern Churches’ very extensive practice of divorce retains the structure of the position of Origen-Basil. That is to say, also for them there can be no valid sacramental marriage while the first spouses are alive; the second marriage does not become a properly ecclesial marriage. It remains a tolerated marriage, and the reception of the sacraments is permitted by way of tolerance (today termed economy). What shifts is not the doctrinal structure, but the proportions in practice: the marginal possibility becomes a daily affair and thereby covers up in practice what in doctrine remains the ideal and fundamental form.”

  77. Deacon Norb says:

    In the medical community, the term “risk factors” is held in very high regard. Here are some examples of how this works.

    –If you are a guy whose biological father and grandfather died of some form of heart disease, you are at a much higher risk for that disease than most men.

    –If you smoke, you increase your risk of heart disease and cancer regardless of sex.

    –If you are a lady whose biological mother and grandmother contracted breast cancer, you are at a much higher risk than most women for contracting that same condition.

    –If either of your parents were alcoholics, your chances of becoming one are very high.

    –If you were abused by your parents when you were growing up; chances are very high you will be an abusive parent yourself.

    –If your parents divorced when you were growing up, you have a higher risk of divorce.

    NOTE: I said higher risk; not an absolute assurance — but a higher risk

    Medical folk teach us that if we have those risk-factors for heart disease or cancer, we should be prudent enough in our life-style to know that and to change what we can and carefully monitor what we cannot.

    Now there are risk-factors in marriage as well; some I mentioned above. A wise deacon or priest has to recognize those factors when talking to engaged couples. Sometimes those risk factors can surface in that interview or sometimes those risk factors will not surface until the couple takes a FOCCUS test or something similar. Hopefully, they will surface before any wedding ceremony — that way the couple can carefully examine them first!

  78. I wouldn’t think there would be much of an attrition rate if the rules were to tighten up. True Catholics know that their spiritual life rests in the holy eucharist. The blessed elements are the living Christ within us. And I don’t know any priests that if a couple made mention of any type of birth control would have any chance at all of getting married. I would find it interesting though how many of those wanting to tighten the restrictions are themselves already married and in a relationship. I think it’s easy to make it harder for others to find happiness when you yourself are already content and happy. Just saying. Peace.

  79. Simple solution. Just change your last name to Kennedy and you will get an annulment easy peasy.

  80. I would argue that when you have a person thinking from the get-go that “marriage” means having your own personal punching bag that this is a pretty straightforward example of lack of consent — this person goes in “consenting” to the acquisition of a victim, not a spouse according to what the Church teaches spouses are. Likewise when you have someone who goes in to the marriage thinking that sexual fidelity is for other people and doesn’t apply to him/herself.

    I think that the distinction there is between someone who might lose control and hit the spouse, or commit infidelity in a moment of weakness, but be able to be truly repentant and make an actual attempt to reform the behavior. As opposed to someone who doesn’t really believe that the abuse or the infidelity is wrong.

    Or, shorter, we should be able to make a distinction between a sinner and a sociopath. In the case of the sociopath, the marriage really WAS invalid from day one.

  81. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    You’ll get no disagreement from me.

    But what matters is what was going one when the couple entered into the marriage. It’s the intention at the outset, not what developed later.

    If a wife can make a persuasive case that her husband entered into a marriage never intending to be faithful, or that he was emotionally unstable from the outset, or that he had issues that were intentionally kept hidden (a tendency to violence, or same sex attraction, for example), that’s strong grounds annulment because of deception, fraud or emotional immaturity.

    In a nutshell, it’s all about the state of mind and intent on the wedding day.

    DGK

  82. Well…..I was young, 22, and stupid and a self absorbed non believer when I got married (in the Church, to please the folks). My parents had a very bad marriage but stayed together out of guilt for the kid’s sake and severe money problems. You may think you know where this is going. But, later, much later, we both converted to the faith quite strongly and have been married happily for 28 years.
    If you were to give us odds of success all those years ago, they would be quite low. Our pre-Cana was weak and one priest actually did decline to marry us. I guess I really don’t know how to qualify people for marriage. Like a lot of young people today, we knew nothing about Catholicism and had few virtues. Though I do think my parent’s fidelity to their vows gave me confidence and the belief in perseverance. You just never know what grace God will give certain people. Who knows- maybe my parents’ weaknesses and faults gave me an eye opener to marriage that I wouldn’t have had if they had been happy. I got much more fulfillment than I thought was possible.
    By the way, my older brother also married young and is still today!

  83. naturgesetz says:

    Except Mr. Kennedy lost in Rome when Mrs. Kennedy appealed.

  84. Can someone explain why a mass murderer who confesses can receive the Eucharist, but a person who remarried after being led to divorce by an adulterous and unresponsive first-spouse, is denied it?

  85. Repentance and change of behavior.

    A person living in adultery is not repentant. Consequently, not disposed
    to the reception of the Eucharist.

    Do not harden your heart against justice for the sake of false charity.

    I was “lead into divorce by an adulterous and unresponsive spouse” who
    remains my spouse according to the teachings of the Catholic Church,
    which I accept. Consequently, I observe our vows, embracing the
    celibacy that was thrust upon me, unjustly, which I work at offering
    for the salvation of the souls of my wife and her lover of more than
    twenty years, for their two children, for our five living children and our
    many grandchildren who see, everyday, a witness to unfaithfulness and
    faithfulness between their parents. I also know it is a profound
    injustice to hold my wife solely responsible for our marital difficulties.

    Thank God, He has blessed me with this chance to atone for the
    contributions I have made to our long-wounded marriage.

    Perhaps one day my wife will realize things from different perspectives.

    Regardless of that, though, as my parents taught me “two wrongs don’t
    make a right.”

    God bless you, Jim.

  86. Well my experience with Retrouvaille was not a good one. The woman I talked to, seemed very distressed over her own marriage. I was really turned off by her and the discussion of “egg shell topics” – things that the couple can’t resolve but which often really reflect a difference in values.
    What I am talking about here though – is actual marriage crisis teams who work with a couple, especially the spouse who is in the process of leaving to convince him or her to give the marriage a try. Unfortunately by the time one spouse is aware that the other is halfway out the door, the spouse leaving has often grieved and is in the process of moving on. And couples who are having marital problems – these things don’t just start suddenly. Usually there is a long history of problems.
    A couple in crisis needs immediate help on all levels; priestly, from lay couples and from counselors. Although trying to find a catholic counselor is another big thing. Every couple I know who has gone through counseling has not been able to save their marriage because marital counseling often takes the form of encouraging self-acutualization rather than self-sacrifice.

  87. I am one who believes that people can make a choice to be different. I have made a choice to do some things in parenting that are very different from what my mom did.
    Although my kids come from a “broken home” – a term I loathe, it won’t be because of their so called problems, but likely the judgmental attitudes that they will experience from the “good” Catholics. I’ve experienced it and sadly, they will too. I have friends who are “good” Catholics who have broken up relationships their children have had, without ever meeting the date, simply because that person came from a “broken” home. It is despicable and disheartening.
    There’s no doubt divorce is very damaging. I even agree that parents should stay together for the sake of the children who are terribly innocent in all this. Divorce is not only damaging spiritually and emotionally, but also socially as I’ve said. But through prayer, making good choices, spiritual guidance, and not the least, the grace of God, you can raise children who are good people and who are determined to make good marriages.

  88. I propose that married Catholics are not instructed to follow our own Church’s teaching in regard to divorce. In the dioceses in the United State, has the Holy See or the Apostolic Signatura issued a prorogation of any bishop’s faculties so they are dispensed from the procedural obligations of canon 1692? Please John or Kenneth, look more carefully at canon 1692’s requirement for bishops involvement before any Catholic can file for divorce.

    At least the scandal of no-fault divorce and malicious abandonment could be prevented amongst Catholics, if the Church responded to children and reliable spouses who don’t want divorce. Some number of families could be saved if their bishop simply asked people to follow canon law and the Church’s teaching. Bishops could point dissatisfied spouses to experts with experience helping couples, rather than being a silent bystander every time someone files for divorce.

  89. Karl – questions:
    1) Are all Protestants who married in Protestant churches, unrecognized by the Church, committing adultery?
    2) If the person, who was spurned by the adulterous spouse (but not given an annulment), chooses the re-marry someone else out of Christian love for them, then recognizes in their heart that they maybe have stayed within the Chruch’s teachings, they ARE repentent. To regain communion with Catholicism, should this person divorce the second spouse? Refuse to have marital relations (that is, might as well start divorce proceedings)? Jesus forgives His sheep for un-fixable mortal sins, from mass-murder to vasectomies. But not the loving act of a re-marriage?
    3) What is a better example for one’s children – showing them how to rebuild one’s life and re-exemplifying the Catholic vocation of Marriage, OR showing them a remaining life of loneliness as directed by the Church they were educated in? (There is no doubt: that is how 95% of young people would see that life, and do see it, regardless of the face one puts on.)
    4) Has the Church become a legalistic, Pharisee-like body, or an instrument of Jesus’ love for His people?

  90. correction… …”recognizes in their heart that they maybe SHOULD have stayed within the Church’s teachings”…

    Karl – I don’t know if you are speaking from your perspective or not. I respect that perspective you speak from, and wholeheartedly believe it is loving and Christ-inspired.

    But I fail to see that the other way can’t also be inspired out of love and Christ.

    Last question – How would the Church view a remarried Catholic woman pouring perfume on Jesus’ feet, or a remarried woman talking to Jesus at the well?

  91. I do not believe that the Catholic Church teaches that a person born and raised in a
    Protestant household commits adultery in marriage in their tradition, so I would adhere to that.

    Since the second marriage is adulterous for the validly married spouse(I Presume) I would see no other valid recourse then to divorce but I would not flippant about it by
    any means. I would do it as compassionately as I could discern but I could not and
    would not remain in such a relationship, as I believe.

    To your third question and I am not avoiding it, it is a loaded question that must be
    bluntly answered. One cannot do wrong to do good. It really is that simple. It seems hard but it is not.

    No, with respect to nullities, the Church has been placed, BY OUR DECISIONS…………
    OURS, in the position of having to attempt to minister to an overwhelming number of
    wounded people, on both ends of the “marital see-saw”. It must follow its teaching that come from Christ, it has NO AUTHORITY to WING IT. I absolutely concur with its
    understanding that a POSITIVE CHOICE it essential to give marital consent. A doctoral
    discertation could not cover how that plays out but I hold, like the Church has for centuries, that a natural valid binding marriage is easily contracted by the vast majority of humans, provided they are of the opposite sex. If everyone is as “mentally”
    impeded as modern psychobabble seems to say to us, then this cannot be true.

    No, the Church is not at all legalistic in this. Others are just lazy and want their dalliances blessed as Holy.

    The Church has been wrong, for at least four decades, in applying the meaning of this
    Canon 1095, which has only existed as such since the new Code came out in 1983, I believe. But the groundwork for it was laid years before in other legal decisions. I am
    not a canonist so this is over my head now. It is the “getting an inch and taking a mile”
    application of psychology that I am referring to in the four decades, ot the specific
    Canon 1095.

    Simply put, once a marriage has come into being…..it is. Moving on is a lie. I do not care one iota that people live their lives as if marriages are transient and “whatever they want them to be”. That is not so according to Christ and how the Catholic Church
    sees what He taught. It is bound for collision with societal beliefs.

    Jim, and I say this with no malice, if a person believes they can move on with another
    “spouse” when their spouse is living(regardless of what went down to make that happen), they are not following Christ or the teachings of the Catholic Church. Such is not an application of Christ’s love. He does not move on when we sin. He is always
    there……waiting, if you will, for our “coming to our senses.” That is Christ’s love. He
    is always faithful.

    You seem to be searching for a way out of a dilemma. I say this because I have been
    there and I am not saying that I do not revisit there, from time to time, because of the
    reality I face. Nor do I mean to seem to say that I am Christ’s spokesman. But, it is what it is……I spoke a vow to my wife, period. I am bound to honor it regardless of
    whether she does or not. Having another person take her place or giving to another person that which I promised to her(which is all of me) is a violation of that vow. Whether or not I “marry civilly” another person, I AM SPOKEN FOR. I am no longer authorized to give me to anyone else. That fidelity IS a MARITAL expression of the
    faithfulness of Christ’s love. That IS what happiness is in the most REAL sense, to a follower of Christ. Even our concept of happiness must be conformed to HIS.

    Little Peggy March said it well, as my Presbyterian Father used to sing to me when i was about 9.

    I will follow Him
    Follow Him wherever He may go
    There isn’t an ocean too deep
    A mountainside that can keep, keep me away.

    Sometimes mom and dad did not get along
    and worse. But I am much better for the wear.

    I learned from my Protestant Father
    and my Catholic Mother to hang in there.

    No, they did not prepare me for what I face,
    but they gave me the tools.

    God bless you, Jim

    Karl

  92. I really believe that the Catholic church’s response has to be much much more than just the bishop asking people to follow canon law. It is distressing to see how poorly the church has addressed the situation of Catholic marriage in the last 60 years. No wonder we’ve had little success in defending marriage. The church simply MUST do more to help marriages in distress. Retrouvaille is not enough. The response needs to come from the bishop to the parish but be on a parish level with truly Catholic counselors and couples who can help couples in crisis. There must be much better screening before marriage. Someone mentioned the FOCUS questionnaires which I know are very helpful. Priests must be willing to stand up to couples and say “I cannot marry you.” instead of turning a blind eye to years of cohabitation and contraception, personality disorders, and men and women who are simply too immature and selfish. Of course the sad thing is that these couples will always find a priest to marry them. And we need to find a way to address the cohabitation and contraception issues among young Catholic couples because these are significant factors affecting the sacrament of marriage.

  93. Thanks Mary for you comment. There seems to be little compassion at times for those who have suffered through divorce, from those who claim to be “faithful” Catholics. My experience is that there is still very much a hierarchy of “faithfulness” in the Catholic church, with “good” Catholics shunning/looking down on those of us who have been divorced (against our will).

  94. RomCath says:

    I don’t think people look down on divorced people at all. I think there is disapproval however for those who disregard Christ’s teaching regarding remarriage and the indissolubility of a Sacramental marriage.

  95. naturgesetz says:

    Jim —

    I’d like to add a couple of points to what Karl has said so well.

    You appeal to the loving Jesus in opposition to the legalism you impute to the Church, but the Church is simply trying to apply the teaching of Jesus himself: “Whoever who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” Mark 10:11-12 (see parallels in Matthew and Luke) You can’t you a generalized image of the loving Jesus to nullify his direct words. The Church does lovingly use the exception found in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 — “unless the marriage is unlawful” — to consider whether a marriage was defective in some way that enables us to say honestly that it was never truly a marriage. But we can’t simply ignore what Jesus said.

    The woman at the well was someone Jesus was calling to repentance and conversion. The woman who poured oil on Jesus’ feet is one who had repented. One who marries after divorce from a valid marriage is called to repentance also, and the actions you describe are signs she is at least on that path.

    We need to realize that for people talking as we are about hypothetical cases and moral principles, there is no way to have the insight into the heart of a real person who seeks pastoral care within the Church. As has been mentioned in discussions about other issues, a person can’t always change a way of life overnight. We, the Church, try to encourage them to seek to know and understand God’s will for them and to conform their lives to it. We understand that the guilt of sin is diminished or removed to the extent that one does not realize the wrongfulness of one’s actions or has less than total freedom to do the good and avoid the evil. Finally, we commend the person to the mercy of God. But none of that means that it’s simply okay to remarry when one’s first marriage was valid.

  96. naturgesetz says:

    *should read
    - “‘Whoever divorces …’”
    - “You can’t use a generalized …”

  97. RomCath says:

    Jim, please stop playing games with your questions. A mass murderer who truly repents and changes his life is forgiven. A remarried person who continues in an adulterous reltionship has not amended their life. Of course they could live as brother and sister but I guess that is out of the question.
    And by the way, a marriage that ended because of adultery does not mean that it was not a valid sacramental marriage from the beginning. An annulment says that a marriage was invalid from the begginning not because of something that occurred later on in the marriage. Of course if it were proven that the adultery was because of some psychological issue that pre existed the marriage, it might very well be “annulable” to coin a phrase.

  98. We ignore what Jesus says every day. We are imperfect, we are selfish humans, we sin, in so many ways contrary to His teachings. He forgives. He redeemed us.

    In the situation where a person whose annulment was denied and got remarried out of what he/she thought was loving another fully: I cannot believe that my Catholic Church would recommend a second divorce. I cannot believe that Jesus would tell someone to divorce their new spouse then. Like the woman at the well, He’d tell them to “do not sin again”. The sin he’d tell us not to do again: leaving an innocent poor and alone.

    I believe that Jesus would forgive that sin of re-marriage, that imperfection in judgment (if that’s what it was), just as he forgives all others. If the sin can be undone, we should undo it, ask for pardon, never do so again. If the sin cannot be undone (like murder, re-marriage, vasectomy(?), etc.), we accept this mercy and love Him even more, pray for continued mercy, and make the best of the earthly situation our imperfect beings created.

  99. Deacon Steve says:

    Jim the Church recognizes all Protestant-Protestant marriages as valid. So they are not committing adultery because they are not bound by Canon law becuase they are not Catholic. In the case of re-marriage while the original spouse still lives and the Church recognized that the first marriage was valid sacramentally then the spouse who remarries is committing adultery against their first spouse. That person is not free to marry again in the eyes of the Church. If they chose to remarry civily they are not free to receive the Eucharist because they cannot go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and be absolved of the sin since they will be living the sin again so how can there be repentance. Unless they go and live as brother and sister. Jesus taught against allowing divorve as prescribed under Mosaic Law because it was not God’s Law, but man’s because they badgered Moses into allowing it. What you propose in allowing remarriage means that the Church has to change its approach to marriage being permanent and basically give in to the secular understanding that marriage can be left at any time.

  100. naturgesetz says:

    Now we’re getting somewhere.

    “We ignore what Jesus says every day.” But we shouldn’t. And even if we can expect mercy when we’re sorry for ignoring his words in our deeds, that does not justify ignoring his words when we try to construct and argument supposedly based on his teaching.

    What you said in your second paragraph is pretty close to what I said in my third. I’m glad you recognize that remarriage after a valid first marriage is wrong. As I understand it, making the best of an invalid second marriage (which Jesus calls adultery), is living as brother and sister, which allows for the couple to continue to have the companionship and support of their mutual love without ongoing acts of adultery. I’ve never been in that situation, so I can only guess that it is much easier said than done, but I hope those who call upon God’s mercy would be willing to at least make the attempt.

  101. RomCath says:

    Jesus forgives sins that one repents of and has a purpose of amendment. A person who remains in sin with no intention of repentance remains unforgiven. I don’t know what “my Catholic Church” means. There is only one and it ours.

  102. Deacon Steve says:

    Jim the reality is the second person is not their spouse according to the teaching of Jesus and the Church. Yes Jesus does forgive sins, but there needs to be a sense of repentance. To get remarried while still married and then say I know I did wrong but forgive me while I continue to do wrong isn’t what Christ taught. He did forgive, but he also said go and sin no more. With no repentance nothing changes. The sinful behavior continues with no indication of change. That is not what Jesus taught. And that is not what the Church teaches.

  103. Jim,
    Since you mentioned, the thought has crossed my mind:

    In the circumstance you describe, what should the abandoned spouse do
    who remarries without nullity, when the abandoning spouse repents,
    seeks forgiveness and sincerely seeks restoration of the marriage?

    Karl

  104. naturgesetz:

    As I see it “brother and sister” is a boondoggle, the “companionship and support of their mutual love”, is adulterous whether or not there is sex involved. The marital vows promise, EXACTLY, that type of relationship with ONLY their spouse. How can a man “love” another woman the way he is supposed to love his spouse? If adultery only involves sex, then only sex is required for a marital vow, not love! It is one or the other, brother. Sex is an expression of the love one OWES IN JUSTICE ONLY TO ONE’S SPOUSE, PERIOD BROTHER!

    This is where ENDLESS ERRORS reside and where the Catholic accommodation has virtually
    destroyed the understanding of marital relationships.

    This type of issue can be discussed forever. I am not going to do that. Take or leave it.

    I know, personally, numerous marriages being destroyed by this “brother and sister” heresy!

    Karl

  105. I am in a relationship right now, where my husband and I married 10 years ago outside of the church by a member of the clergy. I am a woman who suffered in an severely abusive relationship before my marriage and I suffer from PTSD and many anxiety disorders because of it. My husband is now considering becoming Catholic, but I absolutely terrified of the convalidation of the marriage, because my husband is psychologically and emotionally abusive and actually has an abusive past that he cannot get over. It is a lofty ideal to think that marriage is permanent and for the sake of children (of which we have none) it makes for a much better homelife. I wonder if children of Catholics end up with higher rates of abuse because women feel forced to live out their days in unhappy marriages. Let’s face it, the world is not as it once was and the Catholic church can’t make it so. It is a church run by men, who would love it if women’s lib never happened and that women stayed home with however many children they end up with. I have used birth control, my sister who was married in the church has used birth control, even my mother also married in the church has used birth control. Today, women have rights and one of those rights is to not be abused. Why should the church refuse me the sacrament of the Eucharist when there are likely hundreds of people in the church who knowingly are involved in affairs, criminal behavior and many other sinful acts. All of these people get to say “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”, and receive communion and I can’t? In my mother’s roman catholic church they even allow Protestants to take communion. That not only seems hypocritical, but absolutely cruel. My mother didn’t even know that we had to be married in the church, just to give you an idea of how well catholics teach their children. Do we want people leaving the church in droves? That seems to be what Pope Benedict wants, only the perfect people who never make mistakes and live out their days as perfect disciples. How is living faithfully with a man for 10 years not sacramental? Why should I be forced by the church to civilly divorce my husband, so that he can become Catholic? The system is completely upside down and backwards. We need to have a Vatican III that takes into account the current state of the world and the rights that have been give to women and children. I do not know if my marriage will last or not, but I only have control over myself and not my husband. I do not believe it is up to the church to make a determination about my future happiness. I have been a faithful Catholic all my life and probably live a much more Christian life than many. I do not believe that I am going to Hell for marrying outside of the church as some ascribe and I am starting to believe that I should not be part of a church that frightens me into submission. So much for compassion, love and the forgiveness of Christ.

  106. I am a Catholic who endured an abusive first husband for 25 years, divorced, remarried outside of the church, and after eight years have recently received an annulment of the first marriage. Soon my second marriage will be blessed in the Church so my husband and I can receive the Sacraments that we have been denied for so long. I found the annulment process to be intrusive and painful, to say the least, and the very process seems to encourage people to believe a lie. In my mind, I cannot deny my first marriage and the four wonderful children it produced. Neither can I deny that my second husband and I have been married for the past eight years. Besides these issues, I keep wondering how the ideals of repentance and forgiveness are supposed to relate to my situation. I do not truly repent either marriage. The first, although miserable and eventually intolerable, produced four wonderful human beings who are blessings to me, and I would not deny them their lives. The second has given me the true partner that I longed for, one who is loving, kind, respectful, and an active participant in our spiritual growth as individuals and as a couple. Yes, Jesus condemned divorce, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy myself. Knowing myself, though, I in my frail humanity am unable to face life alone. I hope that God will forgive my weakness. I also hope that one day our Church will wake up, because folks like me need forgiveness, love, and pastoral understanding, not condemnation, and the current system seems to be heavy in bureaucracy and light on compassion.

  107. Still Catholic in St Louis says:

    What about this situation: My wife and I married in a Catholic church, were married for 12 years and had 3 children, and then divorced. She, shortly thereafter, left the Catholic faith and took on a different religion. Am I entitled to an annulment? Do I even need an annulment? Doesn’t this automatically void the marriage as she is no longer a Catholic?

  108. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    You still need an annulment. You were both Catholic at the time of the marriage. What mattters is the situation/circumstances/intention at that moment — THAT determines if a sacramental union took place. You should talk to a priest or someone from your local tribunal for more information.

    Deacon Greg

  109. Still Catholic in St Louis says:

    If the death of a spouse after a divorce nulls the need for an annulment, why wouldn’t a person leaving the Catholic faith and becoming baptized into another faith do the same?????

  110. As a woman whose marriage was annulled after 22 years at the request of a husband who left me for a younger woman he ended up NOT marrying, the entire process needs to be more transparent in order to be fair. I was too ill to travel to the tribunal. I didn’t have the money to travel there. His witnesses, the friends he never wanted me around because I wasn’t any fun were willing to say what he wanted. The whole thing was a mysogenistic farce. I never got to speak to anyone on the Tribunal. I was judged by people who never met me.

  111. Fiergenholt says:

    Cathy (1/20/13: 6:19pm)

    I will not presume to know the answers about your situation so I would ask that you not presume to know the answers about why the church ruled the way it did. “Mysogenistic farce” ? No as likely as your gender-based prejudice seems to suggest.

    The real reason may simply be that there is a very different legal precedent at work here.

    Roman Catholic Canon Law (within which the Marriage tribunals function) works under the almost three thousand year tradition of Roman (Civil) Common Law.

    American Constitutional Law (within which almost all of us are used to functioning) works under the maybe 800 year old tradition of English (Civil) Common Law.

    That difference usually explains any misunderstandings between everyday US Roman Catholic folks and wider church authority. In order to understand the way things happened, you might have to sit down with a good book on that difference.

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