June 22, 2007

"It wasn't that God didn't bless the union. To put if off on God I didn't feel was valid."

The Vatican has reversed the annulment of the marriage of Sheila Rauch Kennedy and Joseph P. Kennedy (the oldest son of Bobby Kennedy):
"When you try to defend your marriage, the army that comes after you is pretty brutal," Rauch Kennedy said yesterday from her Cambridge home. "You're accused of being a vindictive ex-wife, an alcoholic bigot, an idiot."
Isn't there some reason to see it as vindictive, though?
"In the eyes of the Catholic Church [Kennedy and Rauch Kennedy] are still married and therefore he cannot remarry and maintain good status as a Catholic," said Michelle Dillon, a University of New Hampshire professor who has written extensively about Catholicism. "It means he's stigmatized. . . . But he's not alone. Like the other divorced people in the pews or the people who use contraception or are same-sex couples, he's in a state of sin."

Rauch Kennedy, who is Episcopalian but took required classes with Kennedy to be married in a Catholic church, said she fought the annulment "almost entirely because we had two children."
If you yourself believe divorce is acceptable and the other person needs an annulment in order to go on in life without being in what his religion counts as a state of sin, wouldn't it be better to be generous about it? Wouldn't that be more Episcopalian?

43 comments:

Gahrie said...

Wouldn't that be more Episcopalian?

Perhaps. But there is a reason that the Episcopal Church is referred to as "Catholic lite". (and was long before Robin Williams)

Ann Althouse said...

Gahrie, that's my point. It would be more Episcopalian to be cool about it.

Brendan said...

To be honest I had the same impression of this episode.

While it's clear that Rauch Kennedy feels that she was incredibly mishandled by the Catholic Church when her annulment was initially granted, seeking to overturn it could really only reasonably be fueled by vindictiveness. Her reference to her children as the focus seems bizarre to me, because annulling the annulment has no practical impact at all on the children. What the overturning does, of course, is cast aspersions on what Joe Kennedy did, and this almost certainly was the main motivation for Rauch Kennedy's actions relating to this. The Vatican, alarmed at the high level of annulments granted in the United States, was only too happy to cooperate with her vindictive act.

One other thing that struck me was how little Rauch Kennedy understands about the theology of annulments as well. Your headline quote is indicative of this. An annulment does *not* say that "God didn't bless the union". It simply says that there were deficiencies of some sort in the union from the beginning. Far from putting "it off on God", it very much puts it off on the parties to the marriage as failing to cooperate with the grace given by God.

Gahrie said...

Althouse: Upon further reflection, especially in light of the heritage of the Episcopal Church, I grant your point.

Brendan: An annulment means that in the eyes of the Church, the marriage was never valid, making her children bastards in the eyes of many Catholics (despite canon law).

tjl said...

"in light of the heritage of the Episcopal Church"

Wasn't the Church of England created for the specific purpose of granting divorces?

Gahrie said...

Wasn't the Church of England created for the specific purpose of granting divorces?

Close. It was created because the Pope wouldn't give Henry VIII an annulment.

(Most perople forget, or are unaware that Henry had to get a special dispensation from the Pope to marry Katherine in the first place because she had originally been married to his older brother Arthur.)

Bruce Hayden said...

Never having been a Kennedy fan, this doesn't bother me in the least. The Kennedys pulled a fast one and got caught.

I also think this whole annulment thing is a bit bizarre, but then I am Protestant. I do know several women, probably now nearing 80, who have technically stayed in failed marriages for 30 or so years just because the Catholic Church demands it. In one case, the partners have lived about 250 miles apart for that time, and each has had, and continues to have, very long term relationships.

I don't accept RC dogma, but I figure that if you want to consider yourself Catholic, then you have to live within the constraints of that church. It isn't always easy, as noted with the Kennedys, but it is part of being Catholic. JP Kennedy should have done what Henry VIII did - leave the RC Church for the Episcopal one if he wanted to marry another woman.

Meade said...

Vindictive? As in seeking revenge? Possibly. It's difficult to judge isn't it?

But it's also possible she simply wanted vindication from the assertion, made by her former spouse's annulment of the marriage, that the union which produced two children and continued successfully for 12 years was somehow invalid - that a valid marriage did not take place.

Meade said...

Brendan said...
...Far from putting "it off on God", it very much puts it off on the parties to the marriage as failing to cooperate with the grace given by God.

Right. By rejecting the annulment, I think Rauch Kennedy is rejecting any claim that she, as one of the parties to the marriage, failed to cooperate with "the grace given by God." Why, just to be considered "cool" or "Episcopalian" or generous, or whatever, should she agree to something she believes to be false?

Barge118 said...

There is a big difference between being (1) someone who got married, had kids, raised a family for 10 years and then had her husband leave her, leading to a divorce, and (2) never having been married in a church service, having had kids and then having the husband leave.

The annulment said that the husband and wife did something wrong AT THE BEGINNING OF THE RELATIONSHIP ("that the marriage was flawed from the start"). A divorce may occur for many, many reasons, but here it seems to have been focused on the husband's decisions after the marriage (and the kids) were a fact.

An annulment assigns responsibility differently than even a no-fault divorce because it says there was (1) shared fault and (2) at a different point in time (the relationship's blessing).

Ruth Anne Adams said...
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jimbino said...

Wow, Ruth Ann!

Hearing that priests are not indispensable in observation of the sacraments sounds like support of "the priesthood of believers" to me.

Martin Luther could have saved himself a lot of time if he'd heard that.

I think folks should suffer as a result of Roman nonsense, for lots of reasons. First, the Roman church promotes and values suffering. Second, if more influential people suffered, the pope might admit his mistake and apologize, as he did for Galileo.

Tim said...

"Close. It was created because the Pope wouldn't give Henry VIII an annulment."

Indeed. The cool thing about the protestants is that divorce is the father of their movement - they're all about splintering off into infinite factions. Divorce is the reason for their existence. Don't like your church? Divorce yourself from it and go start your own. Who says you cannot? No one. So now we see the Anglicans splintering off and divorcing over homosexuality. Who could have ever predicted that? Divorce is their DNA - they can't help themselves.

Internet Ronin said...

Vindictive? Yes. Is what Sheila Rauch Kennedy did really anyone's business except hers and her ex-husband's? No. Ideally, this should have remained a private matter between the two and the church. In the end, whether or not Joseph P. Kennedy can remarry within the Catholic Church is of interest only to Joseph P. Kennedy, his ex-wife, and his future bride. If one doesn't like the rules of a church, don't belong to it. At the same time, it seems to me that Sheila Rauch Kennedy is entitled to insist on her rights as defined by the church. She did, the church agreed, and for that she deserves criticism?

Ruth Anne Adams said...
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Ruth Anne Adams said...
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Simon said...

I think I basically agree with Meade's comments.

Ruth Anne Adams said...
"That's why no one ever asks in a Catholic marriage ceremony "who gives this woman?" because in a valid marriage she freely gives herself to him and he freely gives himself to her."

A point of convergence between Catholicism and Feminism, perhaps? The woman is not property to be "given away" from one man (her father) to another (her prospective spouse)?

Tim said...

Ruth Ann,

The protties don't care, just by why of hoping you don't get your hopes up. Conversion is an internal process, or at least it was for me.

Tim said...

"A point of convergence between Catholicism and Feminism, perhaps?"

Cahill (an unrepentant, old-school, closed-minded liberal if there ever was one, and Catholic) wrote an interesting book on the Middle Ages in which he makes exactly that point - that Catholicism established both the intellectual and cultural foundation for modern feminism, esp. relating to Hildegard of Bingen. And while I think he's full of sh*t on theology (he's into liberation theology), I think he makes a persuasive case. Too many folks though are blinded by anti-Catholic prejudice to see the point, sadly.

Simon said...

Tim,
Alas, anti-catholic bigotry is one of the few remaining forms of bigotry that is socially acceptable for liberals in good standing, as Prof. Stone reminded us the other month.

Ann Althouse said...

Ronin: "Is what Sheila Rauch Kennedy did really anyone's business except hers and her ex-husband's? No."

When she wrote a big memoir and used her case to make an argument about annulments it she gave her private matter over to the general public.

Ruth Anne is making married sex sound so lofty.

Maxine Weiss said...

What happens to poor Joan Kennedy?

In the eyes of the Church, Teddy and Joan are still married, I guess.

Ruth Anne Adams said...
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Meade said...

Married sex can be lofty. Adultery is always low.

I have to say I see the reversal of this annulment as upholding justice for, giving fair treatment to, and withholding undue reward from a member of a long line of male Kennedys whose patterns of behavior reflect a belief that the rules which apply to others do not necessarily apply to themselves.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Meade: Is that Kennedy-male pattern balledness?

Meade said...

Ruth Anne: Comic gold!

bearing said...

Ann's a lawblogger; Ed Peters is a canonlawblogger. He has explained the legal intricacies of this case. I recommend you check it out here if you are interested in the legal details. Ann, I think it would be reasonable for you to add this link to your original post, if you don't mind my suggesting.

Internet Ronin said...

When she wrote a big memoir and used her case to make an argument about annulments it she gave her private matter over to the general public.

I understand that, which is why I ventured my opinion on the subject.

Meade said...

Careful, AA, easy... easy...
It could be a Vatican Vortex!

Brendan said...

Actually I don't think that it was any easier for Kennedy to get an annulment because he was a Kennedy. The US accounts for something like 80% of the worldwide number of annulments granted, and it isn't that hard to get one at all, even in contested cases. Most people do not bother to appeal to get an annulment overturned, but the Vatican grants a large % of these requests because it thinks that the American dioceses give annulments too easily. If anything, the prominence of Kennedy as being a party to this marriage probably ensured even greater scrutiny by the Vatican, not less.

I'd have more sympathy for Rauch's actions if she were a Catholic herself and believed these things. The fact that she isn't Catholic really skews this towards vindictiveness --- it has no impact on her, as an Episcopalian, and it only serves to restrict him, as a Catholic. Why should Rauch care what the Catholic church thinks of her former marriage, when her own Episcopal church would clearly recognize the civil divorce? It has no impact on the children (the children of an annulled marriage are not "bastards" in the church's eyes, and most Catholics know this).

Maxine Weiss said...

Those children will now have the stigma of being illegitimate. The other school kids won't talk to them.

Illegitimate children are always shunned.

Revenant said...

Those children will now have the stigma of being illegitimate.

Um, no... because their parents are (so far as the church is concerned) married.

Anyway, this sounds vindictive to me. I wonder what the reasons for the divorce are. If he was cheating on her (like father, like son) I can see her wanting to forbid him the chance at legitimate sexual relations in the future.

Meade said...

I don't get it, Brendan -- by not being Catholic, she's therefore being vindictive for not being willing to accept something she believes to be untrue - that she somehow failed to "cooperate with the grace given by God?"

She may not herself be Catholic but hers was a Catholic marriage witnessed, as Ruth Anne pointed out, by the Church. Presumably, the children produced by that now-ruled valid marriage are also Catholic.

What sort of parent would model such dishonest and self-deceptive behavior for his or her children? Wouldn't that have a harmful impact on the person regardless of her religion?

Please help me understand -- if only she were Catholic, her appeal for reversal of the nullification would be, what, a legitimate non-vengeful seeking of justice?

Internet Ronin said...
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Internet Ronin said...

I'm with you Meade, but then I'm also with the "Yeah, she's being vindictive. So what?" crowd, as this undoubtedly arises because Joseph could not keep his peter in his pants.

Meade said...

You mean his carrot stick in its properly breaded onion ring?

I hear you, IR, but the term "vindictive" carries for me connotations of evil-for-evil and revenge-seeking. I sympathize with her and, based on the available apparent facts, I find that to be an unfair attack on her character.

Meade said...

BTW, IR, I agree with what you said earlier: "If one doesn't like the rules of a church, don't belong to it."

Or, as Bruce Hayden suggested above, "JP Kennedy should have done what Henry VIII did - leave the RC Church for the Episcopal one if he wanted to marry another woman."

amba said...

Divorce court is the last place to expect to find Christian charity.

Internet Ronin said...

Touché, Amba. Touché.

Pogo said...

I thought it said:
It wasn't that God didn't bless the onion.

And I thought that that would actually make sense in the article.
Weird.

Peter Palladas said...

I've been away. No possible time to catch up on all Althouseana, merely to comment that if Tony Blair does become a Catholic then I'm going to apply to the Vatican to be excommunicated.

carly said...

Blessed are those who fight hypocrisy with all their might.

Annulment? Bah! This (highly lucrative) practice of the RC Church is simply a way around the divorce ban--a way that makes it easy for anyone with big bucks to get what he wants.

It may be vindictiveness that drove Rauch to pursue this, but what she did should be considered a public service. Anytime a Kennedy is thwarted in his effort to be an authority unto himself, the public interest is served. And God--if she exists--smiles.

Synova said...

Considering the hoops a soon-to-be-formerly Catholic person has to jump to marry a Catholic in the Catholic church, it seems like that person would be more offended by annulment rather than less. Consider they've been told that any other marriage doesn't count. No other marriage is real... it's got to be a Catholic one.

And then you get told you were never married. Not EVER.

It seems to me that a Catholic person would be more willing to accept annulment since they didn't have this issue of "yours isn't good enough" at the start to deal with. Plus, a Catholic would probably care about being able to get married in the Catholic church again in the future, so would suck up the shame.

I'd be vindictive too. You bet I would be vindictive if I were bound by someone elses rules but then it turned out they could just pretend it never happened.