Benedict XVI to the Church’s jurists and tribunals: “shun pseudo-pastoral claims”

Benedict XVI and judges of tribunalsFrom CNS about the Holy Father’s address to the jurists of his tribunals.

The Italian text of the Holy Father’s address is here.

Desire for sacraments not sufficient reason for annulment, pope says

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — True pastoral charity and concern can never lead the church to grant an annulment to a Catholic whose marriage is valid according to church law, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"One must shun pseudo-pastoral claims" that look only at the desire of divorced Catholics to return to the sacraments, the pope said Jan. 29 in his annual speech to officials of the Roman Rota, a tribunal that mainly deals with appeals filed in marriage annulment cases.  ["Occorre rifuggire da richiami pseudopastorali che situano le questioni su un piano meramente orizzontale…"  Consider how many things that are wrong are done in the name of being "pastoral".  I am delighted that Pope Benedict uses this phrase: "pseudo-pastoral".  When only the "horizontal" is considered at the cost of the "vertical", the solution cannot be authentically pastoral.]

The pope said helping Catholics be able to go to confession and receive the Eucharist is important, but it cannot be done without taking into account the truth about their church marriage.

The church cannot act charitably toward its faithful without upholding justice and truth, he said.

Charity without justice is "only a forgery because charity requires that objectivity that is typical of justice and which must not be confused with inhumane coldness," the pope said.

For the Catholic Church, he said, a marriage celebrated with the full consent of the couple and following the correct form is always presumed to be valid, and a valid marriage is indissoluble[Pretty clear, right?  Apparently not in all tribunals, especially in the USA.]

Pastors and those who work in church tribunals must beware of "the widespread and deeply rooted tendency" to see justice and charity as totally competing values, the pope said.

Within the church, he said, the idea leads some to think that "pastoral charity could justify any step" taken to grant an annulment for a couple who wants to return to the sacraments.

Defending the permanent bond of a valid marriage is a matter of both justice and love, he said, because it is designed to protect the human and spiritual good of the couple and "the public good of the church," which teaches that marriage is forever [No, marriage is not forever.  It is just until the death of one of the spouses.] and does not use annulments as a sort of church-sanctioned divorce.

"It would be a fictitious good, and a serious lack of justice, to nevertheless smooth the way toward their reception of the sacraments," the pope said

Pope Benedict told members of the Roman Rota that those who work on church marriage tribunals must cultivate the virtues of prudence and justice, but especially the virtue of fortitude, especially "when the unjust way appears easier to follow because it means condescending to the desires and hopes of the couple."

"Both justice and charity require love for the truth and essentially lead to a search for the truth," he said.

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  1. Darii says:

    Huzzah for Benedict! Far too many Catholics view annulment as nothing more than an ecclesiastical form of divorce.

  2. Lee says:

    Benedict XIV (Prospero Lambertini) weighs in-

    “His visitor [De Brosses] was surprised at the unworldly point of view that he could take on occasion; as when a nephew of the French Ambassador to Rome fell in love with a jewelers daughter, eloped with her, and married her at the next convenient village, to the fury of his relations, who had him imprisoned. ‘I passed an evening talking to Cardinal Lambertini about it. He said outright that he thought the marriage was valid. This astonished me, especially as he is an expert in Canon Law. I put it to him that (even setting aside the fact that an ambassador and his family must be judged by the laws of their own nation) the marriage seemed to me invalid wherever it took place, in view of such obstacles as the abduction of the girl and the lack of parental consent. ‘It is true,’ he said to me, ‘that the marriage may be worthless as a contract, and in its civil consequences; but when the grace of a sacrament has hallowed the mutual consent of both parties (the principal religious condition) the union becomes indissoluble…a knot which has become holy.’”

    Renee Haynes “Philosopher King” (London: Weidenfeld and Nocolson, 1970)151

  3. “Comment by Lee — 1 February 2010 @ 3:31 pm”

    The key here, it seems to me, is the free disposition of both parties, and the lack of undue coercion as it affects due discretion. Given the lack of impediment in such a case, it could be presumed invalid. However, if there was an abduction involved, that would be something else again. If she was pregnant at the time of the union, that might (notice the use of the word “MIGHT”) be a factor.

  4. Lee says:

    Forget the particulars of this case.

    Lambertini is considered among the most learned, if not the most learned of the popes. In light of that his comment is completely astounding: ‘It is true,’ he said to me, ‘that the marriage may be worthless as a contract, and in its civil consequences; but when the grace of a sacrament has hallowed the mutual consent of both parties (the principal religious condition) the union becomes indissoluble…a knot which has become holy.’

    This raises the question of how many annulments are invalid in the eyes of God, for I doubt very much that his thinking is reflective of the basis that tribunals act on today.. So far as I can see, all the church courts can do is issue a prudential judgement. In that case, the declaration of nullity does not mean that IN FACT there was no marriage, but only that there is sufficient reason to think there was no marriage- as a basis for the separated parties going on with their lives in good conscience.

    So am I wrong? And is Pope Benedict off base?

  5. Rachel says:

    I know a man who married young, in the Church, and then divorced. He married again outside the Church. The new couple stayed away from the Catholic faith for years and had children together. Finally they returned to the Faith and faced up to the fact that their marriage was invalid. They’ve lived as brother and sister ever since, and the wife says they have much more peace in their relationship now than they did before. She said she doesn’t even think about what they’ve given up; it’s just not part of their life any more. I think it’s generous of the wife to share her story with people like she does; it testifies to the fact that it’s possible to obey God even in seemingly impossible situations.

  6. Tim Ferguson says:

    I think manwithblackhat meant to say “it could be presumed valid” not invalid. There is never a presumption of invalidity – invalidity must be proven to the level of moral certitude. Even in a situation that seems an open-and-shut case (say, for example, two 16-year old kids, pregnant, pushed into marriage by their parents, divorce after two months…) the Church’s presumption is validity until this is overturned by evidence to the contrary.

    And Lee is correct that the Tribunals do not issue judgments of absolute fact. The doctrine of infallibility does not reach down to the local Tribunals, or even the Roman Rota. The level of certitude set forth by the Church’s law for rendering a declaration of nullity is “moral certitude” (see canon 1608) The judge or judges must have moral certitude, from the acts of the case, that the marriage in question was invalidly entered into.

    Further, cases concerning the status of persons (that includes marriage nullity cases) never become “res iudicata” (canon 1643). That means the Church knows that it can never plumb the depths of the human heart and psyche fully to know definitively if the truth of the matter has been presented. The Courts of the Church can only make a prudential decision. For those who believe that a Tribunal has acted rashly in finding a marriage null, there remains open to them the avenue of appealing that decision to a higher Court, and ultimately to the Pontiff himself.

  7. Dave N. says:

    It’s interesting and perhaps telling that this comes out as the Church prepares to receive the TAC. Although at first it seemed that these communities would be allowed in more or less en mass with “no questions asked” I’m now MUCH more encouraged that any irregular marriages in these Anglican bodies will in fact be scrutinized. (Their primate is on #2 or 3, I think, although I don’t know the circumstances.)

    Good news and sound teaching, regardless of the motivations.

  8. JonM says:

    I am not a fly on the wall at (nor have I served in) marriage tribunals. I almost without a doubt never will and am grateful for that.

    Perhaps this is a bit of a ‘Chicken or the egg’ problem in that marriage has been so warped, even in Catholic homes, that many (most, likely) do not have a full idea what marriage is. The tricky part is untangling just how much understanding a couple had that is becomes seperated or in the midst of an annulment process.

    People naturally need to be led by their superiors. Despite what we say, inside we not only know this, we look for it. Without abrupt, in your face clarity, we allow ourselves to make excuses. ‘See, see! He didn’t directly address the issue!’

    Well, Pope Benedict has gone in that . And he is not letting go of it.

    The particularly troubling cases arise from marriages that were stable for years, one decides to go away – but still wants to be ‘in good standing’ at church. Councils in the US are notorious for applying ‘pastoral solutions’ in such cases. Something is seriously wrong when the US accounts for the vast majority of annulments Church-wide.

    Perhaps more troubling is the philosophy guiding some in these councils. Many people have reported priests saying that no marriage is valid for the first few years or that young people who marry do not automatically enter into a valid marriage, even assuming all matter and form is perfectly fine.

    I know this has led to upset spouses leaving the Church and has made evangelization more difficult.

    Dioceses, like Phoenix, rightly are trying to fix this problem. Better marriage prep is certainly part of the mix, but I think more attention has to be paid to catechesis at a young age particularly in the quality. And yeah, that means us WDTPRS posters have to be ready to trade up Wednesday nights for a future that knows, without thinking, VH1 is to be avoided like a king cobra snake, e.g.

    This is yet another reason why we should be praying for and in thanks for Pope Benedict.

  9. “I think manwithblackhat meant to say ‘it could be presumed valid’ not invalid.”

    WHOA! Yeah, that’s right. Good catch.

    “Something is seriously wrong when the US accounts for the vast majority of annulments Church-wide.”

    Yes, and it may or may not be what you think it is. It could be … The X Factor.

  10. Tim Ferguson says:

    The eminent canonist Dr. Ed Peters (father of the oft-cited American Papist) still has the best article out there on the “too many annulments are granted in the US” canard:

  11. “… it testifies to the fact that it’s possible to obey God even in seemingly impossible situations.”

    So far as you know, and so far as grace can build upon nature; praise God whenever it does. But one example from someone who does not live within those walls does not constitute a mountain of empirical data. I love it when people go on about how the family is always under attack, then are shocked to learn that a large number of invalid marriages might be a casualty of that attack.

    Reminds me of something Father Peter Stravinskas once wrote, that given the current state of marriage preparation, it is a wonder there aren’t more annulments.

  12. Elly says:

    Tim Ferguson, thank you for your comments. They answered some of the questions I had. I’m still wondering what the article means by the “desire of divorced Catholics to return to the sacraments.” Can’t divored people receive the sacraments even if they do not have an annulment as long as they are not in a civil marriage?

  13. Unfortunately I am not Rip Van Winkle as I have been fully sentient for the last forty years. I hope the Pope did not make these statements with a straight face. Do you realize how much upheaval has occurred in Catholic families over the last forty years with “Catholic Divorce”, which is exactly what the annulment philosophy has been. I loved it when the Rota, in response to a suit by Sheila Rauch Kennedy, an Episcopalian, threw out an annulment the Archdiocese of Boston had granted to Joe Kennedy, former spouse of Sheila, ten years after it had been granted. Joe in the meantime had remarried.
    Can you imagine anyone putting themselves and their children in the hands of these incompetents? I don’t think Sheila Rauch has any plans to become part of the TAC entering the Church, do you?

  14. JonM says:

    In fact William, it is my understanding that Ms. Rauch wrote in her book in favor of divorce. Her case did shed light on the depths of absurdity that occured in tribunals.

    With all due respect to Dr. Peters, and he does bring up important points, his analysis seems to thinly defended at points.

    For example, the suggestion that annulments are higher in America because De Tocqueville wrote that Americans (in the early 19th century) took religion more seriously than Europeans (perhaps moreso than insane French freemasons) does not directly confront the fact that a massive number of annulments today are of American extraction.

    This can be true given that over half of French (sorry to pick on them, mais c’est vrai et je suis francais) declare either no belief in God or active disbelief in Him. However, I’m not sure if we should count these Catholics in the same statistical lot because they clearly don’t care a bit about the Sacraments even for social reasons and therefore would hardly be bothered with a marriage tribunal.

    Chalking this up to better communications and infrastructure just seems a stretch. If this were a factor, we would expect to see high annulment rates in other areas of active Catholics with such amenities. Perhaps we do, but no data is given.

    But even if we suppose that the vast majority of these marriages never were valid. That only shifts the problem into another category which is what happened to Catholic education these past forty years?. If half of Catholic marriages performed are actually invalid, that is an out and out crisis.

    Again though, how much education is required in order to marry? Hardly are we all expected to debate theological points on the day to day. If good command of Humanae Vitae is necessary for marriage, then perhaps 90% plus married couples ‘are not really married.’

    And this is the tough part I described in my first post. Clearly some idea of marriage, its requirements, what cannot occur in it, etc. must be understood. Where the line is drawn is a serious, difficult thing to determine. Perhaps if Catholic educators and catechists were not so afraid of the word submit (used in lessons such as ‘we are to submit to Church teachings’), then these tedious problems would be less involved.

    Clearly Pope Benedict takes an active concern in this subject.

  15. “I don’t think Sheila Rauch has any plans to become part of the TAC entering the Church, do you?”

    No, but I’m dying to know what that has to do with anything.

  16. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Catholics also have to think about how we look. An Evangelical friend of mine was divorced by her Catholic husband. He managed to get an annullment. She actively fought both divorce and annullment. At this point, she is really angry at the Catholic Church, because she thinks that all it did was give her ex-husband a free pass to marry again. She is not convinced that her testimony was given the weight of a Catholic’s in a the process. She believes that he made a promise to her that the Catholic Church is simply allowing him to renege.

  17. Therese says:

    Father Benedict’s aim never misses the bull’s eye. But are parish priests and diocesan tribunals listening? Or will the same old complaint–that he does not have enough “pastoral experience” to understand these things–arise?

  18. Maltese says:

    God, I would never marry again–it’s so hard. But I am, and my wife is expecting our fifth (another daughter, to make three.) She was married before, and sometimes I wish he had kept her! No, just kidding. But she was obviously granted an annulment and my marriage was actually made valid through our then Archbishop since we had been married in Jamaica (before I was Catholic.)

    Now I’ve gone from left of center to off into the weeds with my beliefs (but, fear not, I still make my daughters laugh their heads-off with my antics, so I am not “stodgy”).

    The major reason the Church is strict about divorce (ie “annullments,” but there is no different in modern America between the two) is that statistically most “marriages” (even that term is relative in America these days–I think of marriage as a Sacrament, not what Brittney Spears does one day, and dissolves the next) end up with a kid, and most, within seven years, end in divorce. So, there is a life caught there in the balance. And the selfishness of the parents take prescedence over the life usually also created in selfish acts. And that life-that baby, that soul, is often caught in the balance, between this and that further selfish wish and desire; this parent want this much time with her, that parent this much time. It’s horrible, and destructive. So we have broken home, and really, broken people, because of it.

    So, don’t judge the Church her stand, she is right. There is a movie, “Divorce, Italian style,” about how you can only get a divorce if you kill your wife. Sanctamonious crap.” It’s like planned “parenthood” arguing that the one out of one hundred thousand women who die in child birth gives right the the 40,000,000 mothers who aborted babies since Roe.

    Those who advocate for divorce use a sickly-sweat sound bite: “Oh, look at the poor mother, from an abusive husband, she can’t receive the sacraments unless she is granted an anullment!” (imagine angry faces all around the poor priest caught in the middle!) Well, as Pope Benedict argues, if you fall into that pastoral and relativistic trap, you are basically damning all those aforementioned children to a life without parents, even where the marriage could easily be saved. Daughters caught-up in a situation where step-father don’t appreciate them, or appreciate them too much; son without a father at all, etc. The family is the basis of civilization; and it is a thing being ripped to shreds in our world where the family and children can be manufactured through gay marriage or artificial insemination….

  19. Re “pseudo-pastoral”: no wonder I’m always suspicious when I hear a priest or bishop described as “pastoral.” More often than not, this turns out to mean that the cleric in question is prepared to compromise doctrine for the sake of making people feel good. I’m glad to know it’s not just me!

  20. Tim Ferguson says:

    the clear solution seems to be for all those folks who maintain that American tribunals are subverting the Church’s teaching to go out and get themselves degrees in canon law and get to work in the Tribunal system to put a stop to it all. Come in, read the testimony in light of the law and, instead of saying nebulously that too many annulments are granted (I hate that turn of phrase, since it is so inaccurate – annulments are not “granted” as though they were “things” – a declaration of nullity is issued when the facts presented provide TWO ecclesiastical courts, comprised of several well-educated, mostly faith-filled – though some of us are sinners – Catholics with the moral certitude that this particular marriage was not truly a marriage because of a defective act of consent), tell us specifically which cases we’re wrongly handling.

    As a canonist, I wholeheartedly appreciate and embrace Our Holy Father and his call to avoid pseudopastoral “solutions” which do disservice both to charity and to justice. His encouragement to those of us who attempt to serve the Church is a yearly shot in the arm, and a reminder – a needed reminder – of the seriousness of our work. Truly, justice and charity are not things to be held in opposition to each other, but are, ultimately, one and the same thing. I rejoice that we have a Pontiff (and have had several in a row now) who praise the Rota and all those involved in canonical work for their diligence, all the while encouraging them to greater and greater fidelity to the law, to the Lawgiver, and to the Lord who informs the law itself.

  21. TJerome says:

    It is my opinion, that when the Church relaxed certain of the canonical aspects of obtaining an annulment thirty or so years ago (I assume on pastoral grounds)it did not establish clear criteria (or at least that criteria was not well known or was disregarded, particularly in the US). We went from one extreme where in the 1950s 18 year olds who barely new each other married and could not obtain an annulment after the marriage lasted only several weeks to the insanity of granting annulments to folks like Joe Kennedy who were mature, married for decades, had several children,and then for “pseudo-pastoral” reasons were able to obtain an annulment, thereby making a mockery of the annulment process. This is not a simple issue and I hesitate to judge others who find themselves in a hellish marriage. Perhaps there is a pastoral middle ground that can be reached which does not make a mockery of annulment nor the Sacrament of Marriage itself.

  22. catholicmidwest says:

    “Perhaps this is a bit of a ‘Chicken or the egg’ problem in that marriage has been so warped, even in Catholic homes, that many (most, likely) do not have a full idea what marriage is. The tricky part is untangling just how much understanding a couple had that is becomes seperated or in the midst of an annulment process.”

    Stupidity & carelessness are NOT an excuses. People are supposed to THINK before they marry and they know this well enough. This can’t be dragged down to the lowest common denominator or it loses its meaning entirely for the great bulk of people, and they know it. The consequence is that marriage becomes cheap as a result. We have to start someplace, and this is the correct start. Pope Benedict is absolutely correct.

  23. catholicmidwest says:

    “I loved it when the Rota, in response to a suit by Sheila Rauch Kennedy, an Episcopalian, threw out an annulment the Archdiocese of Boston had granted to Joe Kennedy, former spouse of Sheila, ten years after it had been granted. Joe in the meantime had remarried.
    Can you imagine anyone putting themselves and their children in the hands of these incompetents? I don’t think Sheila Rauch has any plans to become part of the TAC entering the Church, do you?”

    The Kennedy thing is a special case. The Kennedy’s have a history of “annulments” by request. Do your homework.

  24. Jayna says:

    After reading this, I am interested to go to the annulment information seminar at my church to find out their reasoning on “why the Church is granting more annulments” (direct quote from the announcement). My pastor serves in marriage tribunals (which is why we’re having the seminar), perhaps I should send him a link to this article.

  25. Tim Ferguson says:

    That the Kennedy’s have a history of annulments by request is one of those stories like J. Edgar Hoover’s supposed transvestitism. Everyone “knows” it, but no one has any proof.

    I’ve done my homework. It’s simply not true (and I am far from being an apologist for the Kennedy family). Spreading this totally unsubstantiated rumor casts aspersion on the character not only of the Kennedy’s but of several very good people working in Tribunals.

    Again, if you have a problem with the Tribunal system, get yourself a canon law degree, come on in and help clean it up. I guarantee you’ll be surprised at what you find – a lot of faithful, devout and sincere Catholics (yes, with a few scoundrels in the mix, and quite a few sinners like myself).

  26. I don’t think the Kennedys have a history of annulments. Ted was not grsnted one when he divorced Joan.
    He remarried without benefit of annulment and when he received Communion at his sister-in-law’s (Jackie Kennedy Onassis) funeral in New York, the Archdiocese of Boston’s spokesman, at an open press meeting, when asked how Kennedy could receive Communion in his illicit state, replied that the second marriage was “blessed”. A Catholic reporter, perhaps a reader to WDTPRS, responded that he knew Catholic marriage law and asked the spokesman to point to the canon treating with “Blessed Marriages”. The spokesman declared the press conference was ended.
    You can’t make this stuff up.

  27. Heather says:

    Ted Kennedy did receive an McNullment–he said he wasn’t being honest when he promised to be faithful. That’s how he got it. Whatever. Slime.

    He never should have received one. He obviously bought it.

  28. Ogard says:

    Another side of the coin in this unhealthy state of affairs is that the Church admits, by implication, the she is administering invalid marriages, because it would appear that practically everybody can get a divorce under the pretext of “nullity”.

    On the other hand, what is the way out, when practically everybody can get married in the church, and no conditions are imposed with regard to indisolubility.

  29. MrsHall says:

    The whole annulment thing has been a scandal that caused me to delay my entrance into the Church. I felt it was hypocritical—“Catholic divorce,” as many call it. I still feel that way, to an extent, particularly when it comes to the US. I was relieved when reading that Pope Benedict was not happy with the number of annulments in the US. My father’s cousin has 4 children, all raised in the Catholic Church. One left the Church, married a Baptist, and is happily married with four boys. The other three all married Catholics in the Church, got divorced, got annulments, and remarried in the Church. It is a scandal to Protestants. It really is. It is another cause of division, another reason for the Protestant to look at the Catholic and say, “And he thinks that’s the church Jesus started. Puh-lease.” Something must be done, and Pope Benedict is just the man for the job.

  30. “[H]e said he wasn’t being honest when he promised to be faithful.”

    Question (for a canon lawyer, hopefully): If the party in question did not intend to be faithful at the time of the bond, and if this can be verified, would this not be a defective intention?

  31. Tim Ferguson says:

    If the party in question did not intend to be faithful – and that intention motivated a positive act of the will to exclude fidelity from his act of matrimonial consent, that could indeed invalidate his matrimonial consent. The Court would also need proof of his reason for excluding fidelity, and his reason for simulating (professing externally to be faithful, while internally excluding fidelity).

    I’m still baffled by the comments that the Pope thinks there are “too many annulments granted” in the US. On what basis do people draw this conclusion? Perhaps on the basis that, of the four major tribunals in the Holy See (The Rota, the Signatura, the Apostolic Penitentiary and the CDF Tribunal) three of them are headed by American canonists? Perhaps on the basis that the Holy See regularly recommends canonists from third world dioceses which are trying to establish Tribunals where there have been none to come to the US and Canada to observe functioning Tribunals?

  32. “Comment by Tim Ferguson — 2 February 2010 @ 8:44 am”

    Thank you. I know someone for whom this answer would be pertinent.

  33. Joseph says:

    Does anyone know the percentage rate of the anullments being upheld by the Roman rota, which are initially appealed?

  34. Wow, what an intelligent discussion. Too many comments to reply to, but a couple thoughts might be ok:

    Fr. Z’s: “Defending the permanent bond of a valid marriage is a matter of both justice and love, he said, because it is designed to protect the human and spiritual good of the couple and “the public good of the church,” which teaches that marriage is forever [No, marriage is not forever. It is just until the death of one of the spouses.] and does not use annulments as a sort of church-sanctioned divorce.”

    Good catch, Pater. We could add others, including the Pauline Privilege, which sanctions divorce and DISSOLUTION of valid marriages, and the Petrine Privieleg, which sanctions DISSOLUTION of certains acramental marriages. So, folks obviously need to read the pope’s comments in a broader context or else, they are simply wrong. Perish the thought.

    or again (and here perhaps Fr. Z stumbles a bit] “For the Catholic Church, he said, a marriage celebrated with the full consent of the couple and following the correct form is always presumed to be valid, and a valid marriage is indissoluble. [Pretty clear, right? Apparently not in all tribunals, especially in the USA.]”

    but again, this is not completely true. People need canonical capacity for marriage, too, eh? That fixed, though, the line becomes a tautology, as in, of course, “full consent” (which is more than the law requires, btw) means that marriage is va;id, and no one disputes that. some judges, in certain cases, dispute THAT full (really, adequate) consent was exchanged! but how one can use that stick to beat tribuanls, without COMPETENTLY (not anecdotally) examining specific cases escapes me.

  35. MichaelJ says:

    Tim Ferguson,

    It is my understanding that most (as in, the vast majority) of annulments in the US ade due to a defect of intention. My question for you or any other canonist who wishes to chime in is why are the ministers of the Sacrament of Matrimony held to a much higher standard when it comes to intention than the ministers of any other Sacrament? Isn’t it enough (as is the case with the rest of the Sacraments) for the couple to simply “Intend to do what the Church intends” – even if they have an incomplete or erroneous understanding of what it is that the Church intends?

    In the example above, where the groom lied when he promised to be faithful, are you sure that the lie, in an of itself, is sufficient? Wouldn’t it also require a positive act of contrary intention? That is, wouldn’t the groom have to know what, specifically ,the Church intends and form a contrary intention through a positive act of the will? I know you noted a “positive act of the will to exclude fidelity” in your response, but there still seems to be a piece missing.

  36. wolfeken says:

    The problem is that American Catholics view annullments as a bad thing, unless one is for them.

    This argument is similar to the political discussion in the U.S. Congress concerning earmarks. Bad, bad, bad — except if the road paved with an earmark is in my town.

    Parishes — including conservative ones — have advertised the availability of annullments. Most dioceses approve over 90 percent of applicants. So, either every single novus ordo marriage (and I say that because I’ve never known a TLM wedding since the indult to result in divorce) is invalid, or it’s magic that the exact couples who entered into an invalid marriage came forth to submit paperwork (and payment) to the chancery.

    The pope’s words are welcome. But, like Catholic birth control (Natural Family Planning), some clear instruction on Catholic divorce is needed. Otherwise couples will continue to drive three cars yet have two children, then fill out some forms when the marriage goes south.

  37. ssoldie says:

    What God Has Joined Together, The Annulement Crisis in American Catholicism; Robert H Vasoli,is a retired Professor of Sociology, very good and informative book. I have also read, Dr.Edward N Peters. “Canon 1095”, “Mental Incapacity” gives 3 conditions that would make a person ‘unable’ to contact marriage from mental incapacity:

    (1)who lack the sufficient use of reason;
    (2)Who suffer from ‘grave’ lack of ‘dicretion of judgement’ concerning essential matrimonial rights and duties which are to be mutually given and accepted;
    (3)who are not capable of assuming the essential obligations of matrimony due to causes of a psychic nature. Small wonder that ‘several tribunalist tacitly concede when they state, quite offhandedly, that any marriage can be made susceptible to nullity. American tribunals have been extraordinarily creative with exisisting jurisprudence.
    Tribunals in the United States have exploited the ambiguities of “lack of due discretion” and “lack of due competence” to invalidate hundreds of thousands of marriages.

  38. Tim Ferguson says:


    Actually, it seems that most declarations of nullity in the US are rooted not in a defect of intention (simulation or partial simulation cases, utilizing canon 1101), but rather in a lack of capacity (utilizing canon 1095). Most European cases seem to use simulation or partial simulation, which are referred to as the traditional grounds. A defect of intention, or a defect of will requires that the person know and understand what marriage is (and understand the permanence, exclusivity, and that marriage is ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children), but intends to exclude himself from the requirements of marriage.

    The issue that you bring up of someone having an erroneous or incomplete understanding of what the Church intends is something entirely different than a defect of intention. Ignorance, error and deceit are covered in canons 1096-1098.

    There are a large quantity of Rotal jurisprudence available on the simulation grounds. The preponderance of jurisprudence demonstrates that an explicit contrary intention is not sufficient, it has to be a positive act of the will, but a virtual intention motivating the will can be sufficient to invalidate consent. Two cases frequently cited state: “Only that positive act of the will which is either actual or virtual at the moment in which the declaration is being manifested is capable of neutralizing that declaration (coram Faltin, January 18, 1988) and “A positive act of the will can be absolute or hypothetial, explicit or implicit, actual or virtual. An habitual will, or mere inclination, or an interpretative opinion or will, which remains in the intellect and does not move the will, does not invalidate marriage (coram Bruno, February 1, 1990)

    I’d recommend for further reading (for those interested in learning) some of the Rotal sentences on Msgr. Cormac Burke’s website ( Msgr. Burke was a judge on the Rota for 13 years before retiring in 1990. He now teaches in Kenya. He is (in my opinion) one of the finest – and most easily readable – Rotal judges.

  39. ssoldie says:

    Oops, I left out the Dr.Edward N Peters book, “One Hundred Answers to your Questions on Annulements,” also good and a Review , ‘Til Annulments Do Us Part’ june 1999, http://www.newoxford Annulments granted in America by Roma Rota in early 1960’s to todays figure, by tribunals,of 60,000 annually, a staggering increase. Just some more of those great fruits we have recieved from ‘the spirit’of Vatican II in the last forty five + years?

  40. MichaelJ says:

    Thanks Tim,

    I appreciate the effort you went through, but it did not quite answer my question. Why is the Sacrament of Matrimony different?

    We have all heard the hypothetical example of a pagan, having absolutely no idea about what the Church intends, nevertheless validly administering the Sacrament of Baptism as long as this hypothetical pagan “Intends to do what the Church intends”.

    Why is Marriage different? Why must a person “know and understand what marriage is” for the Sacrament to be valid when that same requirement is not imposed for the valid administration of any other Sacrament?

  41. paladin says:

    Excellent comments and info, but I’m still curious: according to an article in “Culture Wars” magazine (which I just found, and I can’t vouch yet for its accuracy–I know next to nothing about the magazine itself):

    97% of “psychological/consent=issue” annulments in the USA were upheld by the first (American) Church court of review, but:

    95% of all appeals (from the USA) of such “psychological/consent-issue” annulments to the Vatican marriage tribunal are overturned.

    Are you (who say that the USA’s handling of annulments is reasonable) saying that this data is false? It certainly seems to indicate a disconnect between America’s evaluation of “defect of consent” and the Vatican’s…

    (I’m also reminded of an otherwise orthodox priest who “bragged” that every single annulment application submitted to him was approved. That doesn’t seem to presume in favour of the marriage’s validity, in my mind…)

  42. dcs says:

    We could add others, including the Pauline Privilege, which sanctions divorce and DISSOLUTION of valid marriages, and the Petrine Privieleg, which sanctions DISSOLUTION of certains acramental marriages.

    Dr. Peters, I was under the impression that the Petrine Privilege involved cases in which one of the parties to the marriage was baptized but the other was not. Am I incorrect? A marriage in which only one of the spouses is baptized is not a sacramental marriage.

  43. Tim Ferguson says:

    paladin, your statistics (and I’d be curious to know how those statistics were gathered, since the Rota is pretty reluctant to provide statistical information) would only prove the point that American tribunals are lax if every single case were appealed to the Rota.

    Cases which get appealed to the Rota tend to be highly contested cases. The Rota only accepts those cases which merit appeal (the Rota can reject an appeal if it finds there to be no merit ). Again, I don’t know the precise statistics, and I’d be very curious to know how someone was able to assemble those stats without relying on anecdote and hearsay.

    I would also question the orthodoxy, to be quite honest, of the priest bragging about his annulment “stats.” That seems very unseemly at best, and a violation of the confidentiality of the Tribunal at worst. I don’t quite know how someone could possibly be orthodox in all other respects, but unorthodox with regards to canon law. The cafeteria is open at both ends, it seems to me.

    Michael, rather than dig further down what might be considered a rabbit hole here, we might want to take this conversation offline.

    In short, however, there really is little difference between the intention for marriage and the intention for all the other sacraments. The minister needs to intend to do what the Church intends. When that minister (the bride and the groom in the case of marriage), through a positive act of the will, intends something other than what the Church intends, that sacrament would be invalid.

    Most marriage cases in the US, however, seem to focus not on the intention, but the capability of the ministers (the bride and groom). To validly confect a sacrament, the minister must be capable of doing so. Since I am not a bishop, or an ordained priest delegated to do so, I cannot validly confer the sacrament of confirmation. For marriage, the Church has set forth certain requirements (some based on natural law, some on ecclesiastical law) for the ministers of that sacrament. If the ministers lack that capability, (say, because of grave mental defect, or a defect of discretionary ability) then they cannot confect the sacrament.

    Moreover, since not all valid marriages are sacramental, the Church understands that some basic requirements, rooted in natural law, exist for ANYONE to validly consent to marriage. (A man cannot marry his daughter, for example; or someone lacking the discretionary ability to do so cannot consent to marriage). If these natural law requirements are lacking, the person cannot consent to marriage, regardless of what his intention is.

  44. wmeyer says:

    In my case, an annulment took 33 months, which I assure you, was not pleasant. There are some oddities in the implementation, which stem largely, it seems, from being up to each diocese. My first wife divorced me in 1986. I did not rush into another marriage, but was married again in 2002. I have never been baptized, and my ex was not religious. We were married in a chapel in Lake Tahoe.

    My current wife was also married previously. She is from China, and her marriage was to another Chinese, in China. At the time of their marriage, not only was neither of them baptized, they were both atheists. I struggle to imagine how that marriage might have been sacramental.

    I have read Dr. Edward Peters’ excellent book on the annulment process, but it still left many unanswered questions. He does, however, make a very strong case that looking at the number of annulments granted is not useful by itself. What is perhaps more important, in the long term, is to ask why so many marriages are entered into almost casually, and for wrong reasons.

  45. Supertradmom says:

    I think the Pope making a comment is not necessarily for the laity to respond to, but the clergy. One comment I have heard regarding lay spirituality and the capacity for holiness and integrity was from a priest who said “Oh, Lay People. What do you expect?” I think part of the annulment problem has been the lack of discernment, intense scrutiny, and guidance from priests, who do not want to do the hard thing of turning dubious couples away at the church door.

    Tom Ferguson, thank you for your balanced comments and reminding all of us that not all valid marriages are sacramental. Grace will be given, as God is merciful and good, but humans must be able to fulfill the covenant and the natural law demands. Many people just are not called to be married,nor have the ability to be married, which is not discussed at all; and in America especially, there is this pressure to get rather than remain single.

  46. Supertradmom says:

    sorry, “get married” not just “get”. Praise again for our Pope, who is the champion of “objective Truth and Reason”. Would that we all prized reason and objectivity in justice and truth.

  47. cmm says:

    MichaelJ, the difference is that for the other sacraments, the priest is the person administering the sacrament, but in the case of marriage, the spouse are the ones administering the sacrament (to each other, I guess), and the priest is there primarily as a witness.

  48. cmm says:

    MichaelJ, I had not seen your previous comment about baptism. (I only briefly scanned this long thread). I don’t know an answer to your question.

  49. liberanos says:

    “So, either every single novus ordo marriage (and I say that because I’ve never known a TLM wedding since the indult to result in divorce) is invalid, or it’s magic that the exact couples who entered into an invalid marriage came forth to submit paperwork (and payment) to the chancery.”

    Wolfeken, I am sorry to disabuse you of this notion, but I was married in an indult Nuptial Mass, and I have been civilly divorced for four years. My brother was married in an indult Mass, and is divorced, annulled, and remarried. Also, I was made uncomfortable enough over my situation at one TLM community to be relieved when my family decided to join a different one (I’m in St. Louis; we have choices ;)), so it is possible that people in my situation avoid certain TLM circles.

    On the subject of annulments, I would add the following thoughts from someone who is a civilly divorced Catholic who still wears her wedding ring:

    Catholic education – I may have attended the Indult Mass, but I had two very powerful “why didn’t anybody TELL me” moments after I was married: on the difficulty of having a Catholic marriage with someone who was not Catholic; and on Humanae Vitae. It would have been very helpful to have had a stronger background in those subjects (for BOTH of us) before we married.

    Cost – Wolfeken isn’t the only commenter to mention the payment to the chancery. I understand the administration of tribunals costs money. In my diocese, the price of an annulment is an (expensive) flat fee. I homeschool by day, I sling sandwiches by night, and there is no way I can afford it. While I cannot be refused a hearing because of my financial situation, I can be made to feel as if I am ‘ripping off’ Mother Church. Ick. There has to be a better way.

    Process – In my diocese, because the tribunals are short-handed, the priest who performed the marriage is often put in the position of prosecuting the case for nullity. Another Ick.

    Timing – I would like to see some restrictions re the request for an annulment. Too soon after the civil divorce, and the credibility of both parties can be even unintentionally influenced by the bad feelings that process generates. Too long after the civil divorce, and memory becomes faulty, or faded enough to be influenced by the parties’ current circumstances (why do so many people wait until they are seriously involved with someone before they ask the Church if they are free?).

    Results – Protestants aren’t the only ones scandalized by the number of annulments. The primary reason I haven’t asked for a hearing (note – I am asking for a hearing, not a particular result) is that I do not trust the tribunal. I have no strong desire either way, to be free or to be bound. I simply want to know the truth, to the greatest certainty possible, and I do not believe the tribunals will provide that to me. I second Tim Ferguson’s call – get in there and fix it!

  50. insouicesancekills says:

    I have an even clearer solution [than Tim Ferguson’s (02/01/10;10:16 PM)]: Let all the canonists who think they’re hot-shot-psychoanalysts go out and get degrees in psychology, counsel all the couples being pastored to divorce so-as-to apply for guaranteed annulments. Then [instead] there will be hundreds-of-thousands of “happily-married” couples in convalidated marriages [very doubtful they were ever invalid to begin with] instead of ones whose children suffer from the effects of marital abortion!

  51. catholicmidwest says:

    William Phelan, Look it up.

  52. mightyduk says:


    great response!


    don’t you recognize the fallacy of your position that one has to be a canonist on the tribunal to recognize the serious problem these tribunals are a part of? By that reasoning one would need to be a priest to recognize litugical abuse, etc. etc.

  53. catholicmidwest says:

    Or a steer to appreciate a great steak!

  54. catholicmidwest: I have to admit that the piece by Fr. Byron does refer to the “fact” that Kennedy had received an annulment. The explanation was he had reservations about his ability to remain faithful to Joan at the time of the marriage, so the annulment was granted. I can see why the Church suppressed this information, as every man in Christendom could apply for the same annulment whether or not they remained faithful!
    Thank you for continuing my education. I do appreciate it.

  55. Tim Ferguson says:

    mighty, I’m not saying that one needs to be a canonist to recognize a problem. What I’m saying is that if someone is truly serious about correcting what they see as a problem, rather than standing on the sidelines casting aspersions, then he should get himself involved and try to fix the problem. But I know, it’s a lot easier and a lot more comfortable to sit at home and point fingers and critique others than make the effort to learn the teachings and the laws of the Church and get involved. Perfectly understandable.

  56. Supertradmom says:

    Tim Ferguson,

    I apologize for the tenure of some of the comments towards you. Western society and cultures have failed to support either the holy state of marriage or marriage preparation by undo emphasis on romance and sex. Those who work in tribunals have a huge job of holy discernment, speaking in the Name of Holy Mother Church, who either rejects or upholds annulments.

    We must believe that those of good intent, who are trained and who are spiritually prepared to address the problems of annulments are guided by the Holy Spirit, Who guides our Church.

    It is very important for orthodox, traditional Catholics to be involved in these things: by becoming canon lawyers, by supporting diocesan tribunals in prayer and practice, by respecting the priests and bishops involved in these decisions.

    Some of the comments seem cynical and lacking in faith, as well as trust. My own limited experience of tribunals and those who have studied canon law is that these are extremely scrupulous and responsible priest and laypeople who have both the welfare of the individuals and the welfare of the Universal Church at heart.

    Personally, I think those who are wary of tribunals should study the Church documents on annulments and see how difficult the process and decision really is. I know people who were refused annulments as their marriage was considered valid and sacramental by the Church.

  57. Supertradmom says:

    tenor, not tenure–I most of the day in doctor’s clinics and my spelling is suffering from fatigue…

  58. Please forgive this very simplistic comment from a very simple priest.
    All the Pope is saying is that marriages are considered valid unless proven with moral certitude to be lacking in something that is required for a valid, sacramental marriage. It is not simply the fact if some kind of immaturity (who isn’t immature in some form or another?)…it is a willful (deliberate) or some kind of objective, definitive lack (psychopathy, fraud, etc.) that renders a sacramental marriage invalid.
    All this psychobabble is just that; psychobabble. Unless it can be proven, with moral certitude, that someone did not before or at the time of the marriage, willingly or deliberately enter into the bond of marriage (or was not free to do so) there was no sacramental marriage.
    Why is this so hard to understand?

  59. And by they way, Dr. Peters was my Canon Law Prof…hope I did you “good”, Dr.P:<)!

  60. Supertradmom says:

    Thanks, nazareth priest, for bringing up the idea that immaturity is one of the reasons for annulments. It is not in the list of criteria one can find in Church documents. The inability to make a commitment, because of psychological, or other reasons, is a reason commonly confused with “immaturity”. A lack of freedom to enter into a sacramental marriage is much more complicated than simple immaturity, which I think many of us can admit to in one area or another at the time of marriage….

  61. Supertradmom: You are correct about the “lack of freedom”…I believe the objective norms are chronic and substantiated alcohol/drug abuse; a psychiatric disorder that has been diagnosed and verified; fraud, as in the case of someone using a false identity, or even of lying about their past in very serious matters (previous marriage; children; arrests or other kinds of objective criteria)…because Canon Law is so ancient, it also has to do with actual identity of the one who is to be married (as in arranged marriages where someone did not know the individual until the wedding day)…in some cases fraud could be committed by one who said he/she was someone he/she was not. Anyway.
    It’s not just about psychological issues; it’s about the ability to say “I do” and mean it…no matter what.
    That’s not beyond the ability of most people who are somewhat in the “normal” range…good grief, if psychological wholeness was a requirement for any vocation, we’d all be sunk…except for the psychopaths…they can pass any psycho test…because they’re psychopaths!!!

  62. Supertradmom says:

    I believe that previous to the marriage undiagnosed psychiatric disorders and even serious symptoms of such hidden by one of the persons can be grounds for annulment. Am I correct in that, nazareth priest?

  63. Supertradmom: If it can be substantiated that before the marriage there were psychiatric disorders that can be diagnosed by a competent clinician/doctor, yes, this is an impediment to a sacramental marriage. This must, however, be carefully proven and through the testimony of others, as well as a dr. or other professional, substantiated through the process of the declaration of nullity…sometimes not so easy to prove.
    This is usually difficult in matters such as chronic homosexual problems, alcohol/substance abuse or matters such as bi-polar/chronic depression unless the individual involved is willing to be honest and open. But people around them usually know something is wrong; it is just a matter of making this known and an open topic.
    Sometimes very difficult. But it can be done.

  64. Supertradmom says:

    Thanks for the clarification. These criteria are as I thought and have seen applied in some cases, but one never, of course, knows or should know all the details.

  65. Justalurkingfool says:

    One thing that has not been said, I think, is this:

    Can. 1096 §1. For matrimonial consent to exist, the contracting parties MUST BE AT LEAST NOT IGNORANT marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman ordered to the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation.

    §2. This ignorance is not presumed after puberty.

    and, taken in the context that this also is the law of the Church:

    Can. 1083 §1. A man before he has completed his sixteenth year of age and a woman before she has completed her fourteenth year of age cannot enter into a valid marriage.

    §2. The conference of bishops is free to establish a higher age for the licit celebration of marriage.

    together these Canons give evidence of SIMPLE consent which can be exchanged even among adolescents. I am not aware of the US bishops altering the age of licit celebration of marriage.

    I do not see how such simple consent is so, apparently, easily lacking, unless there are very severe, incapacitating issues, which while using other words, is what, I believe, has been taught in the Papal allocutions before the Roman Rota. It seems that the inch has been stretched to the proverbial mile.

    I have not formally studied Canon Law but I would consider it if I had sufficient funds and the time. Unless I win the lottery, however, this will not be the case barring a benefactor with significant goodwill, lots of cash and a willingness to part with it. I am not holding my breath.

    I have lived through the annulment process from January 1991 through the third instance decision by Stankiewicz, et al in December 2002. I also know others who have been through the process and even more who are currently going through the process.

    I have a niece, whom I have gently through her mother(my sister), asked to give this process a thought. But her pain has driven her from the Church and she has also seen, first hand, what I have gone through, so she wants no part of it. I am simultaneously, very sad for her but completely understanding of her desire not to repeat my experiences. She does not understand the world of difference between our circumstances even though I have tried to help. So, I am not opposed to the proper administration of the process. But, to this day, I have not experienced that.

    I have not read all the comments but SUPERTRADMOM,I know the process from experience, I’ve read alot, I’ve spoken to many people with experience with annulments and written to those who have and have not gotten annulments and I can assure you there are far more than a few anomalies that have destroyed lives and destroyed faith due to this process not being sufficiently overseen. I know of some people whose issues have never been addressed in spite of years of efforts. For almost twenty years I have tried to have many issues addressed but have been refused or ignored, in the United States but also in Rome. The problems run throughout the entire tribunal network, at least in the U.S and how it relates to Rome. I have experienced the same in
    numerous dioceses in the U.S., as my wife has moved from place to place.

    In my experience, your comments of being cynical and lacking faith are much more appropriately linked with the clergy/canonists than with respondents. You should NOT give the Church the benefit of the doubt. You should give the benefit of the doubt to the marriage and those defending it. This should be particularly true when the respondent has successfully defended their marriage. In such a case, at least in my opinion, special deference should be given to such a respondent and their opinions should be solicited on many issues related to their experiences in the process. Most certainly, when they allege wrongdoing, there should be immediate action taken, independent of the local bishop’s control and influence, to fully investigate the allegations.

    MR FERGUSON, you said:

    “mighty, I’m not saying that one needs to be a canonist to recognize a problem. What I’m saying is that if someone is truly serious about correcting what they see as a problem, rather than standing on the sidelines casting aspersions, then he should get himself involved and try to fix the problem. But I know, it’s a lot easier and a lot more comfortable to sit at home and point fingers and critique others than make the effort to learn the teachings and the laws of the Church and get involved. Perfectly understandable.”

    I am here to tell you that every single effort I have made to do just as you advised has been thwarted. It does not work. I am not saying you are being untrue. I am saying that, even in Rome, no one cares. The Church has had a small mountain of evidence, for years, regarding many acts of misconduct and outright violations of canon law but I have never seen anything done to address any of them.

    By the way MR. FERGUSON, before I decided HOW to respond to my wife’s nullity libellus, I sought out an old canon lawyer. It was he who advised me of my obligation to defend our marriage, based upon what I had told him. At the time I knew very little of annulments and was completely blindsided by my wife’s actions.

    It was only after having been forced into this process that I learned about it. I had no predisposition to the process one way or the other. I simply, having lived with my wife for all those years, could not fathom that our marriage could be “found to be null”! Throughout our whole marriage we had frequently recommitted ourselves to it, to each other and to our children. We were practicing Catholics and were active in the Church.

    I remain faithful to our vows. My wife is still supported in her adultery with her long-time lover, by the Catholic Pastor, and with the knowledge of the local ordinaries, both the Latin Rite and Byzantine Rite, Bishop and Eparch, respectively. The lover was accepted into the Catholic Church through RCIA, as he impregnated my wife during the annulment process and I had to threaten the Eparch with action in Rome to, at least in public, stop giving communion to the unrepentant adulterers, after Rome, in the second instance, had reversed the American first instance decision and the third instance decision was pending. I would not be surprised if communion is given in private, in spite of the unrepentant and public adultery.

    This entire tribunal process is supported by outlandish pastoral practices often based on the clear abuse of the “living as brother and sister” accomodation. It is a disgrace. As is the abuse of the internal forum, which to my understanding is wide spread and forbidden to be used as it is. There is much that Rome needs to address, which the bishops in America do not, for whatever their reasons are. They are supervising circumstances that are openly hostile and toxic to marriages. They have known this for over thirty years. The Holy Father’s words were clearly appropriate, but too little and too late. He needs to listen to those of us his brother bishops are trying, at least tacitly, to destroy. He needs to listen to respondents who have defended their marriages. We need him to act. We have waited and waited and waited and waited, as our marriages, by the tens of thousands are openly violated and our spouses welcomed with open arms, with THEIR arms around their adulterous partners. Very often the adulterers have custody of our children and we are often the innocent abandoned spouses, who have no say at all in the sacramental life of our children, although the Church is careful to protect the rights of the adulterers and their lovers over OUR children.

    Please help us defend our marriages, Holy Father, against our own Bishops, clergy and our spouses. Do not leave us alone, any longer. By your own words you MUST ACT. Please live up to your words. This husband and father is begging you to directly intervene in the United States!

    Please help us!

    Holy Father, you said:

    “The Church cannot act charitably toward its faithful without upholding justice and truth….Charity without justice is only a forgery because charity requires that objectivity that is typical of justice and which must not be confused with inhumane coldness…Defending the permanent bond of a valid marriage is a matter of both justice and love…”It would be a fictitious good, and a serious lack of justice, to nevertheless smooth the way toward their reception of the sacraments”

    I want to believe these words but they have been spoken before, in other ways, for YEARS by your predecessor and NOTHING HAS BEEN DONE TO HEAL OUR VALID MARRIAGE(s).

    Either your words must mean something and you must feel COMPELLED TO ACT or you cannot expect us to be faithful to OUR VOWS.

    This is NOT JUSTICE. This is NOT CHARITY. I have begged your brother bishops, including my own three…Cardinal O’Connor, Cardinal Egan and Archbishop Dolan, who has put his signature on the Manhattan Declaration but ignores my personal pleas to intervene in our valid marriage; why do these men and you preach one thing, yet seem to practice another? What does that tell us? What does that tell our children? What are you teaching?

    Why is our marriage treated with the “inhumane coldness” you condemn and none of the justice and charity you say a Catholic must practice?

    How can I come home to a Church that acts in an unchristian manner? You have made a place for Anglicans, whose ancestors murdered Thomas More and John Fisher, who stood up for marriage at the cost of their lives, yet you hesitate to heal this marriage. If the bishops in America will not act, where else can we go?

    I do not understand. I never have understood why the Church will do all it can to assist my wife’s adultery but not offer a hand to heal our valid marriage? To what end, then, is a valid marriage; to be mocked by the very Church which witnessed it and upheld its validity so many years later?

    How many times must I beg for help? How much criticism must I bear
    for our marriage and for the salvation of my wife, her lover and her children? Why does the Church not care for these souls?

    When will the priests, bishops and canonists who read this blog understand that good marriages ARE BEING destroyed in this process, in spite of a lot of good hard work? When will these men and women understand that we need their help for our marriages?
    When will you stop making it us and them and make it all US?
    We do not run the process, YOU DO. We are sucked into it by the inertia of the tens of thousands of nullities, EVEN IF THEY ARE TRUE! There is no doubt a very strong current of “entitlement” regarding annulments, which creates its own demand.

    Our marriages and our children are being DESTROYED. LISTEN TO US.


    To fail to address these issues is criminal and unjustifiable. But it has been that way for years and years. This division is artificial and destructive.

    Anyone who reads this post and thinks that it is hostile, is mistaken. It is so fundamentally important, not just to me and our family, but it is essential to the Church itself. This situation is consuming so many families and so many souls. In spite of the significant experience of many good canonists, you do not understand things as we, who have been through this process, understand things. It is for all of US to find ways to help each other and that MUST BE realized. But, I do not have much left from this battle. It is not the same thing to sit as a judge or as a canonist/advocate as it is to be the one and only who is fighting to defend what is real and what is valid. Platitudes should go on the shelf. I lost everything. The life I knew is gone. I never raised our children. I am alone. Do not tell me that our marriage is valid and then support those who violate that marriage. Such falsehood should be condemned but rather, it is encouraged. Do not
    tell the victim to forgive without in the earlier breath telling the guilty ones to repent and acting strongly to bring that about.
    Such is terrible injustice and false charity, which abound in this process, canonically and pastorally. Do not fail to hold to full account those, in the Church and out, who have, knowingly, supported the guilty in their adultery and in their persecution of their victims, which more often than not, include their own children.

    As the saying goes, there are two sides to every story. The annulment process bears that out. But there is only one truth.

    The truth is that “for a valid marriage there is no limit to what should be done to save it”.

    I read this in an email from a young Fordham University PhD candidate in Medieval Philosophy, whom I have known since he was a child. God bless you, John Peter. He was commenting to me on some work by Monsignor Cormac Burke.

    It is a simple truth.

    God bless you all.

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