Friday, March 27, 2009

Annulment: Divorce, Catholic Style - NOT!

'Annulment is a Catholic divorce.' Odds are pretty good that you've heard something like that: or read it. 'Everybody knows' that when a Catholic couple is tired of that love, honor and (yukkkk!) obey stuff (that is so nineteen-fifties!), they get a divorce: just like everybody else.

Except it's called an annulment, and the Catholic Church used to be so behind the times with that thing. Why, they actually expected people to get married before getting it on.


I ran into a witty, urbane, sophisticated, intelligent - you get the picture - post about those Catholics today. Here's how it starts:
Mother Church can be rigid, but at times—bless her—she can think like a $700-an-hour K Street lawyer. Annulments are granted for a number of reasons: lack of discretion (I didn't realize the bum was a drunk at the time); defective consent (The bum lied—he didn't want kids all along); psychic incapacity (The bum was a schizophrenic!); prior bond (see 'ligamen,' above). As the Rev. John Catoir, a doctor of canon law, points out, 'Forty years ago, people were told "You made your bed, now sleep in it." ' Thank God this is no longer the Church’s guiding philosophy. If the church had been this progressive in the matter of annulments back in the 1530s in merry olde England, the Archbishop of Canterbury would today be a Roman cardinal. But back to Newt….
"The Audacity of Poping"
Blogs and Stories Christopher Buckley (March 26, 2009)
I don't blame Mr. Buckley for assuming that what he describes is the policy of the Catholic Church. Quite a few Catholic priests in America have, for decades, been giving every indication that they know less about Catholic beliefs and practices than the doctor of canon law cited by Mr. Buckley.

Unhappily, priests who are on the same page as Catoir are ignoramuses. That's not a naughty word: An ignoramus is a know nothing, an uneducated person or an ignorant person (Princeton's WordNet)

Catoir is, obviously, not an uneducated person. You have to sit through a whole lot of classes, and give the approved answers on many tests, before you get a piece of paper that says you're a doctor of canon law.

I don't know where Catoir got his documentation, but quite a few priests in America have been cranked out by seminaries whose faculties apparently had a bold, imaginative vision for what they thought the Catholic Church ought to be teaching: and would, if they were in the top slot.

Getting a Degree and Getting an Education

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) are, let's face it, a bunch of eggheads. Seriously educated men. 'Educated' as in taught how to assemble, assess, analyze, and compare information, form conclusions based on the information and check those conclusions against what others have found.

In some circles, they're not considered very intelligent, since they didn't learn to parrot back what the department head wanted to hear: and don't have politically correct views on important issues.

Actually, some of the USCCB's views do seem to be politically correct. Liberals aren't always wrong: and conservatives aren't always right. Keep digging, though, and you'll find that the USCCB teaches things that might cause myocardial infarctions among both liberals and conservatives. That's a whole different topic.

'Annulment is a Catholic Divorce:' Reality Check, Please!

'Everybody knows' that an annulment is what Catholics call a divorce. The USCCB doesn't seem to realize that. Neither does the Holy See, but I'll get to that later.

FAQ About Marriage - Catholic Style

The USCCB's "Frequently Asked Questions about Marriage" has some eye-openers about what the Catholic Church really teaches about marriage. For example:

"19. What is an annulment?

"An annulment is a declaration by a tribunal (Catholic church court) that a marriage thought to be valid according to Church law actually fell short of at least one of the essential elements required for a binding union (see question #3). Unlike civil divorce, an annulment does not erase something that was already there, but rather it is a declaration that a valid marriage was never actually brought about on the wedding day. A declaration of nullity does not deny that a relationship ever existed between the couple, or that the spouses truly loved one another."

That's a rather long paragraph, so I put some of the points in bold

A quick review: A Catholic annulment
  • Is not a divorce
  • Is a declaration that a valid marriage never existed
That Makes the Kids Bastards, Right?

Back to that FAQ page:

"21. If a marriage is annulled are the children from it considered illegitimate?

"No. A declaration of nullity has no effect on the legitimacy of children, since the child's mother and father were presumed to be married at the time that the child was born."

I hope that's clear: The kids of a couple whose alleged marriage was annulled are considered legitimate.

There's quite a lot more on that marriage FAQ page: I recommend reading it.

There's More to the Catholic Faith than a FAQ Page

There's a translation in English, of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Actually, there are at least two floating around. One is a quite imaginative take on what the Holy See should have written, in the opinion of the translators.

The other, more accurate, translation is available online at the USCCB website.

There's a whole section of the Catechism about Marriage: "Article 7
The Sacrament OF Matrimony

Most of Article 7 doesn't have much to do with annulments. It's about what a marriage is: not what it's not.

Another recommendation: If you're interested in what the Catholic Church has to say about marriage, and English is your first language: read Article 7 of the Catechism. It's heavy reading in spots: but it's accurate. Which is more that I can say for Catholics, educated and otherwise, who go to the first church of Pelosi, and believe in the Gospel According to Newsweek.

Marriage: Catholic Style

You want to know what the Catholic Church really says about marriage? Or anything else? Don't ask some dude: even if he's got a title. The Catholic Church is pretty good about letting people know what's what.

It's up to you to learn, though.

A few bits and pieces, from Article 7 of the Catechism:
Marriage is Real
"...The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator...." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 16303)

Maybe that's why divorce hurts so much. Just a thought.
You Mean, You Want KIDS?!
"...Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator's eyes. And this love which God blesses is intended to be fruitful and to be realized in the common work of watching over creation: 'And God blessed them, and God said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it." '..." (1604)

Remember what I said about myocardial infarctions: The Catholic Church isn't in the business of keeping up with intellectual fashions. You don't like it? You can leave. I don't advise that you do: but my job ends with passing on facts. What you do with your immortal soul is, as I've written before, up to you. Back to marriage.
Marriage in the Catholic Church? Yeah, it's Kind of a Big Deal
"On the threshold of his public life Jesus performs his first sign—at his mother's request—during a wedding feast. The Church attaches great importance to Jesus' presence at the wedding at Cana. She sees in it the confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth marriage will be an efficacious sign of Christ's presence." (1613)

If you'd rather think that Mary having Jesus get more drinks for everybody is a purely spiritual thing: fine. As I said before, that's your business. Fact is, though, the party was running out of wine: and Mary was very insistent about her son doing something about it. Which he did. (The story's in John 2: 1-10.)
A Catholic Marriage Involves Consenting Adults
"The parties to a marriage covenant are a baptized man and woman, free to contract marriage, who freely express their consent; 'to be free' means:
  • not being under constraint;
  • not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law."
No Consent? No Marriage
"The Church holds the exchange of consent between the spouses to be the indispensable element that 'makes the marriage.' If consent is lacking there is no marriage.

"The consent consists in a 'human act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other': 'I take you to be my wife'—'I take you to be my husband.' This consent that binds the spouses to each other finds its fulfillment in the two 'becoming one flesh.'

"The consent must be an act of the will of each of the contracting parties, free of coercion or grave external fear.130 No human power can substitute for this consent. If this freedom is lacking the marriage is invalid." (1626-1628)

"For this reason (or for other reasons that render the marriage null and void) the Church, after an examination of the situation by the competent ecclesiastical tribunal, can declare the nullity of a marriage, i.e., that the marriage never existed. In this case the contracting parties are free to marry, provided the natural obligations of a previous union are discharged." (1629)
Short Version: It Takes Two to Make a Marriage; One to Make an Annulment
If one of the adults intends to be part of a Catholic Marriage, and the other doesn't - but says he/she does at the time of the ceremony - a Catholic Marriage did not take place. Demonstrating that one of the parties didn't consent is what can make an annulment take so long.

But, Father Schmoo Says Divorce is Okay

I don't know how to break this to you, but some Catholic priests aren't quite up to spec. You may have heard about a few naughty priests, who liked to have sex with young boys? It was in the news a few years ago.

They really were (and, in quite a few cases, still are) Catholic priests. That didn't make what they did right, and it certainly didn't mean that the Catholic Church teaches 'go and sin some more.'

Which is a can of worms I'll leave for another post.

The point is: A Catholic priest can do something that isn't approved of by the Catholic Church. Priests are human beings. Sometimes they do bad things.

I'm just grateful for all the priests who are good, practicing, Catholics: and don't get their names in the news, and aren't asked to appear on talk shows.

Go Ahead: Look it Up

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, English translation, is available online, as I wrote earlier. It's not the easiest reading in the world, but I think it's worth it.

Particularly if you're seriously interested in learning what the Catholic Church teaches.

If you just want to seem 'intelligent,' read blog posts like "The Audacity of Poping" - or read Maria Monk's classic.

After all: What would the USCCB know? They're Catholics: and everybody knows what they're like.


Anonymous said...

The practice of annulments are far different than the theory you have expounded, Brian.

I left the Catholic Church over annulments, even though I won our case in the Roman Rota, which upheld our valid marriage, twice.

Some of us know what goes on, from a very personal and very destructive perspective, in these tribunals.

You should not listen to just what the books say. You should talk to some people who have defended their marriages, or are trying to, as respondents, and see what they have to say.

I formally defected from the faith via the canonical procedure due to my experiences in the Catholic Church over trying to seek its help to heal our marriage.

I assure you, that I would say the same words to the Pope, if he took an interest in speaking to me about what I experienced.

No one, would help us to heal our marriage. There, however, was no shortage of people telling my wife to divorce me and to seek nullity. There has been, now for twenty years(almost), an endless supply of clergy and laity who support my wife and her adulterous lover and will not raise a finger to intercede in the interest of truth, justice or a valid marriage.

The Pope would, likely, disbelieve me as I think you will. You would both be wrong.

While the theory regarding annulments says it is not Catholic Divorce.

In the opinion of this former Catholic, who defended his valid marriage through twelve years of inquiries, it IS CATHOLIC DIVORCE.

I will not argue with you over the semantics.


Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Anonymous Karl,

I'm sorry to hear that you left the Church.

I'm also sorry that you had a bad experience.

I do know that quite a few parishes and dioceses in the American Catholic Church are run along imaginative lines - deviating from Catholic practices in 'liberal,' 'conservative' and 'I'll do it my way' directions.

I do not listen to just what the books say.

I do listen to what the deacons and priests in this town, the bishop in this diocese, and other Catholics say.

Not every body had a hard time.

For what it's worth, you're not alone. I brought up the child abuse cases in this post, as a reminder that some priests - and bishops - are human beings (actually, they all are) - and some of them do bad things.

They aren't the Catholic Church.

But, it's hard to see that when you're hurting.

I am truly sorry that you feel bad - and it sounds like you were not treated well.

But, I can't help it: I write about the Catholic Church, not local cliques.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Reviewing posts about marriage in this blog, I ran across this one - and the comment by Anonymous.

I understand that he feels bad about his experience, but semantics matter. Words mean things - and things affect people.

I came back to the question of how best to understand the Catholic Church: Whether it's better to look at the accumulated experiences and wisdom of saints and scholars over what will soon be two thousand years, or rely on my own personal experience and that of people I've met.

More, at Trusting People, Trusting the Church , in "Kennedys, Catholicism, and Abortion: So That's What Happened." (August 26, 2009)

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.