Saturday, November 26, 2005

The X Factor

Somewhere in the Catholic blogosphere, they're still talking about why there are "too many annulments" granted in the USA.

To a little boy or girl from what we used to call "a broken home," the pain of knowing that Mommy and Daddy aren't getting back together again, will not be lessened by any letter from any chancery. When you look at it that way, one annulment is one too many.

According to the statistics, the overwhelming majority of petitions for a declaration of nullity in the USA are granted a favorable decision. In other words, their marriages are declared null and void. This development by itself seems like a big deal, to the point of scandal. And it very well might be, were this to be the whole picture.

It is not.

First, you have to consider that roughly five out of six divorced Catholics who remarry, do so outside the Church. So it doesn't sound like they'll be adding much to the paperwork anytime soon. Then you must take into account, should it appear evident that a petitioner will not be granted a favorable decision, that the common practice is to discourage him or her from going forward with their petition. So that's an undetermined number of marriages whose validity is upheld, before they even enter the system. What you are left with, then, are the ones that do get through the system.

It would be interesting to hear from any number of parish priests and canonists on this subject -- you know, people who actually know what the hell they're talking about, as opposed to those of us in the peanut gallery who read so much we just think we do.

So then, the question of "too many" is answered one way or the other, without all the variables -- one more good reason to look elsewhere, to the beginning of the process, and not the end. Some would call it the "root."

In a related story...

You wouldn't guess I'd be hanging around with the "Tridentine Mass or Die" crowd, now, would ya? But over at Traditio in Radice, two guys whose real names are Nicholas do a pretty good job. One of them has a series, now in three parts, on "Things I Wish I'd Known About Dating." No, it's not the one about chaperones that I wanted to bring up here (as I have a hard enough time as it is if I think I'm being followed by somebody), but the one about marrying non-Catholics.

To this day, the Church officially discourages marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic, and there are very good reasons for it. It's actually harder than it looks, as unfortunately, there are divergent ideas of what it means to even be a Catholic.

You've got your garden-variety Catholic who attends Mass at his parish church which uses the reformed Missal (what some people call the "Novus Ordo"), in English, with the priest "facing the people," all done with varying degrees of reverence, or a lack thereof. Then there's the ones who prefer the classical Missal (or the "Trid Mass," if you will), and attend the "Old Latin Mass" in a parish that has the permission of the local bishop. On top of that, you've got followers of the late Archbishop Lefebvre, which is the Society of St Pius X. Apparently they don't think that "Novus Ordo Catholics" are Catholic enough, or something like that. Then you've got those from the Society of St Pius V, who broke away from the "Lefebvites," apparently because even they were compromised. From this point, we get into the "sedevacantist" crowd. That's from the Latin "sede vacante," which means "the seat is vacant." These are folks who don't believe there's been a legitimate Pope since Pius XII, or thereabouts. Some of them are convinced that another man is the rightful claimant to the Throne of Peter. One such pretender is in Montana, another in Kansas, still another in Quebec. Then there are two or three in Europe, last time I counted.

So, if I were a younger man today, and I wanted to find a "nice Catholic girl," I'd probably be doing things the old-fashioned way -- meeting them in bars and (swing) dance halls.

That's not a good sign, is it?


Anonymous said...

Our RCIA works with an average of 35 adults per year. Four to eight have annulment cases each year. (About the same number fail to join RCIA when they discover an annulment is needed for themselves or for their spouse). The vast majority of these are annulments of marriages between Protestants. It would be interesting to know how many of the annulments granted in the US are for unions involving only Protestants. Jim McCullough, DRE, Our Lady of Grace, Greensboro, NC

David L Alexander said...

"It would be interesting to know how many of the annulments granted in the US are for unions involving only Protestants."

Indeed. This is one factor that is overlooked, inasmuch as it is outside the realm of marriage problems solely among Catholics. I suspect that the data is available for this. Whether it has been collected in one study is something else again.

Are there any canonists out there?

Dad29 said...

You may still be able to get (online or otherwise) back issues of Homiletic & Pastoral Review; if so, about 10-15 years ago there was a series of articles and letters on the topic.

ONE of the individuals was a Monsignor from a Southern Illinois Diocese (a tribunal member) who maintained that there ARE 'too many annulments' in the USA.

If you can find Fr. Ken Baker by phone, he may recall the precise dates.

The series was very enlightening.

David L Alexander said...


I have read HPR over the years. While I find some pieces to be rather opinionated, every issue is guaranteed not to disappoint. In fact, I probably read the article(s) to which you are referring.

But that's not all I read. A piece in Catholic World Report by Msgr Cormac Burke appeared about the same time, which took quite a different view of the situation. As I recall, it was quite informative as well.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to include online links to both magazines and their articles, should I decide to touch on this subject again.

There appears to be a demand for it, eh?

John L said...

You usually approach your parish priest before going to the tribunal, who gives advice on whether you have a case - I can't remember if this is required or not - which is liable to reduce the number of cases that don't have a good foundation. When I did canon law of marriage I was told that the only mixed marriages where the Church is liable to raise objections are those between Catholics and Muslims, mainly because of bad experiences with such marriages.

Mary Alexander said...

David, Have you read Sheila Rausch Kennedy's book "Shattered Vows"? I got it at the bargain bin sometime ago. Very interesting and very sad. Gave several case studies- anecdotal- yes I know, however they focused on mainly husbands who found a newer, younger model/trophy wife (I will not use the unladylike term) and were able to gain annulments. It grates on you I must say.

David L Alexander said...

No, Mary, I haven't. But I did read a lengthy book review when the book came out. A rare occasion for traditional Catholics to look to a Kennedy for inspiration. (At least now we know what it takes.)

"Trophy wife" works for me.

Mary Alexander said...

Well that was rather a low blow but as Mark Shea has proven there is money to be made by bashing the right people (traditionalists- the real enemy). It doesn't make any difference to me whether Sheila Rausch (Kennedy by marriage) is a Kennedy or not. The fact is that she entered into a marriage and her husband was able to get an annullment and marry his secretary. She was hurt by the fact that the Church told her that her marriage never existed. And maybe b/c you are not from New England you don't know this so I will enlighten you, there is a HUGE difference between the Kennedy women and the Kennedy (so-called)men.

You can bash me for being a Traditionalist all you want, carry on and have sport. After all that is how most of us became Traditionalists. Having too many kids and actually believing what the Church teaches has a way of getting you kicked out of the average N.O. parish.

David L Alexander said...

"Well that was rather a low blow..."

Mary, please, take a moment here. You're a good egg, and I don't want you thinking for a moment that you are unwelcome in this forum.

You have made the unfortunate assumption that I'm speaking of Traditionalists as "them," when in fact I am usually referring to "us." Just because I don't meet someone's expectations of what a "traditionalist" should be or say or think, doesn't change anything. If you had the chance to read my stuff here, particularly my experience growing up with the Old Mass, you'd know better. I can tell you better privately if you ever have the time, or wish to share anything yourself. If I can find the post that tells my story I'll send the link to you. Or you'll have to wait for a future installment of "Critical Mass," one where I tell of growing up in Cincinnati as a Catholic "back in the day."

Now, back to the subject of the book. As I told you, I read about the book years ago. Frankly, I could never understand what her beef was, since she wasn't even Catholic, and could do as she pleased. And the idea that the Church told her "her marriage never existed" is ludicrous. The most they would say on the record is that it was merely "putative." That is to say, it was attempted, but in retrospect lacked the conditions necessary for validity.

I am no defender of the behavior of the Kennedy "men." (We read the newspapers in Ohio, you know?) When my parents voted for Nixon in 1960 when they could have voted for a Catholic instead, I was old enough to want to know why (five, going on six). I got my answer over the years. I also learned of saintly women like Rose Kennedy, who endured the suffering brought on her by that cad husband of hers, and of how Jacqueline Bouvier was loyal to her to the very end.

Well, I hope that addresses some of it.

David L Alexander said...

(Note to Mary Alexander: You left two questions with answers on the matter of male-female friendships. What was the title of the post, as I cannot find it on my weblog?)