A Kennedy Scorned
Joe Kennedy and Sheila Rauch Kennedy in 1985. Richard Sobol/Time Life Pictures/Getty. Used without permission or shame.
The big story for the week came across the desk of mwbh last night: a member of the Kennedy family didn't get their way:
The most controversial "marriage that never was" in recent U.S. political history is back. Sources tell TIME that the Vatican has reversed the annulment of Joseph P Kennedy II's marriage to Sheila Rauch. The annulment had been granted in secrecy by the Catholic Church after the couple's 1991 no-fault civil divorce. Rauch found out about the de-sanctification of their marriage only in 1996, after Kennedy had been wedded to his former Congressional aide, Beth Kelly, for three years....
Shiela Rauch Kennedy, an Episcopalian, is the author of the 1997 book Shattered Faith, "which lambasted her ex-husband and was severely critical of the Catholic Church's proceedings, which made the marriage (which had produced twin boys) null and void in the eyes of the church. Rauch argued that Kennedy was able to unilaterally 'cancel' nearly 12 years of marriage because of his clan's influence in the church." She was able to appeal the decision of the Boston tribunal to the Sacred Roman Rota, which is the high court of appeals in the Church (second only to the Apostolic Signatura, the decisions of which can only be overturned by the Holy Father himself).
Those Catholics who have been going on for years about the "automatic annulment" process in the USA, will see this as a victory of sorts. Never mind the inability to explain how a process that takes from six to twenty-four months can ever be considered "automatic." Never mind that they reach this conclusion based on a very incomplete scenario. The latter was the subject of a November 2005 piece entitled "The X Factor," as well as a more recent piece in June 2006 entitled "Meow!.")
The formerly-former-now-not-so-former Mrs Kennedy is pleased with the results. "There was a real marriage. It was a marriage that failed, but as grown-ups we need to take responsibility for that. The [annulment] process was dishonest, and it was important to stand up and say that."
I believe it was G K Chesterton who once said, that having a right to do something does not always mean you are right when you do it. Even as a non-Catholic, Sheila Rauch Kennedy was entitled to the justice of the Church, particularly in the defense of the bond. But one cannot help but wonder why anyone who remains outside the Church would even care, particularly if there is no intention of living out the conditions of the bond, which by definition includes... well, living together as husband and wife, for example.
Does this leave us with a woman grounded in principle, or a woman scorned? Hell hath no fury, after all, don't you think?
Or don't you?
[UPDATE: Ed Peters is an eminent canonist, who tells us "what we don't know about the Kennedy-Rausch case." Read it before making this the subject of YOUR next book-signing-and-lecture tour.]