Thursday, July 17, 2003

Annul THIS!!!

"Don Jim" Tucker of Dappled Things comments on the subject under discussion on Santificarnos, the weblog for divorced Catholics, about the debate concerning "too many annulments in the US." Don Jim does a good job of placing the issue in proper perspective, echoing what my friend Father Peter Stravinskas has often said: given the state of marriage preparation and the overall culture today, it's a wonder there aren't more annulments.

Of course, he's right. In my experience, most couples I know, be they Catholic or not, are of middle age, have been married at least once, maybe twice, and have resigned themselves to taking what they can get. Some will even approve of pre-nuptual agreements, obstensibly to protect the interests of children from a prior marriage -- which I don't have a problem with -- but which also seek to protect their assets from the person they intend to marry.

Now, I do have a problem with the latter. If you anticipate that your future spouse is out for your money, and you do not intend to share your worldly goods with him, doesn't this constitute a prior reservation with respect to the permanence of the marriage bond? That being the case, are one or both parties walking into the marriage with purity of intent?

I sometimes move in Catholic "traditionalist" circles -- not because they know how to party (as often as not, they don't), but when you have a stated preference for Latin and incense and Gregorian chant, these things can happen. It is in such circles where the divorced Catholic who simply wants to move on with their lives, can often become the whipping boy for the sorry state of married life. The cause of this grief are the overeducated twits who make their living on the Catholic lecture circuit, crying out loud about how "the family is under attack."

Certainly not their family, but mine sure as hell was. So now I've got a boy nearing eighteen who is a recovering alcoholic, with his mother (dare I call her my "wife") complaining to me time and again how I am spared the trials and tribulations of raising him. Maybe I should be the one out on the lecture circuit talking about the family under attack. Then again, who wants to listen to someone who has anything original, even unsettling, to say? People will more likely fork over the money for hearing what they want to hear. What a bunch of weenies!

Anyway, back to yours truly. I remind the mother of my son of how I wanted to have my son under my roof before he started high school. After all, I told her at the time, I was a boy once, and my boy would one day be a man, like I am now, as opposed to a woman, which his mother is now (such as she is). But with self-proclaimed candidates for martyrdom, a straight line of reasoning has little effect.

I even read that annulments are described by some self-proclaimed defenders of orthodoxy as "automatic." Oh, really? Something that takes twelve to eighteen months is "automatic"? Try telling that to a recent correspondent from out west:

"I have been dealing with the annulment process for about 3 1/2 years now. What I found about 2 months ago was that my paper work was misplaced and, could not be found at the diocese. Since then I have been getting more paperwork sent off ( good thing I kept copies) the priest that is helping me. This is a very painful process and I am not sure how much longer this will be. I truly want to do the right thing but, at this point I am hoping to find someway in the canon laws that I can re-marry in the Catholic church. My ex-wife has married this past month and it is hard to see because I am trying to do the right thing and while I have sent my paper work in someone's life is on hold waiting on the church. I am not bitter but, do wish to know if I can do something else..."

This is not an isolated case. When you deal with pin-headed bureaucrats who can't be fired, you deal with a certain number of incompetent people. It's just the laws of probability in action. I've advised this fellow to talk to his tribunal vicar about determining whether his case is being competently handled in the first place.

Under the circumstances, it is very difficult not to resort to the "internal forum" solution, finding a renegade priest who will listen to your story, make a determination on the spot, and wink at the details. If you pull it off right, no mere mortal is the wiser.

The hard part comes where you try to fool God, which you can't. So you end up fooling yourself.

Or do you?

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