September 8, 2015

Now, the Pope is changing the meaning of marriage.

Suddenly, it's easier to annul marriages.
Francis himself has said that obtaining annulments can be too cumbersome and costly, dragging on for years and costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

"Some procedures are so long and so burdensome," the pontiff said in 2014, "and people give up."
Some people give up on giving up on their marriages. Or should I say their marriages that are not really marriages because they are nullities and these poor people are deprived of the benefit of the formal recognition of the nothingness of the thing that prevents them from moving on and getting a real marriage?


mikee said...

The Church used to sell indulgences.
Now it is changing the price of the annulments it sells.
No biggie.

Maybe next they will have a sale on some other service offered, like blessing of water.

The brand name is still good, some of the products just need updated every once in a while.

tim maguire said...

Annulments are supposed to be hard to get. They are also supposed to be completely unavailable for most married couples.

Renee said...

Nothing has changed.... sigh

In 2010 Pope Benedict wanted to "crack down" on annulments, but this is the same reforms Pope Francis is implementing for him.

Just media doing it's thing.

rhhardin said...

He's not changing the meaning of marriage. He's changing the rules for Catholics concerning what the church will do about marriage.

Catholics speak the same language as everybody else.

Mother: Given my vast experience with divorce... and it is vast... my guess is that there's a lot of wiggle room. Hell, you could probably get it annulled as long as you didn't...

Daughter [winces]

Mother: never mind.

-- Laws of Attraction

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Now, the Pope is changing the meaning of marriage.

To paraphrase Twain:

There are lies, damn lies, and liberal commentary about same sex marriage.

Unknown said...

What a sucky thing to say about a tragedy ("Changing the definition of marriage").

Ann Althouse said...

"He's not changing the meaning of marriage. He's changing the rules for Catholics concerning what the church will do about marriage."

You're playing with language, just like everyone else. What's the meaning of "meaning"? To my mind, the whole idea of calling a divorce "annulment" is an embarrassing language game. To put the Pope above meaning changing is to revere the Pope as an authority with special powers. Compare the Supreme Court "saying what the law is."

Renee said...

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis issued two Apostolic Letters motu proprio on Tuesday, by which he introduced reforms to the legal structures of the Church, which deal with questions of marital nullity. One of the Letters motu proprio, known by its Latin title, Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus – or “The Lord Jesus, Clement Judge” – reforms the Code of Canon Law (CIC) governing the Latin Church, while the other, Mitis et misericors Iesus or “Clement and merciful Jesus” – reforms the Code of Canon Law for Oriental Churches (CCEO).
According to the prefatory remarks attached to both Letters, the reforms are the result of an expert group appointed to study the current state of law and practice in the Church as far as marriage law is concerned. The Holy Father goes on in the preface to explain that the reforms are guided by seven specific criteria, ample excerpts of which Vatican Radio offers below in its own unofficial English translation:
That there be only one sentence in favor of executive nullity – It appeared opportune, in the first place, that there no longer be required a twofold decision in favor of marital nullity, in order that the parties be admitted to new canonically valid marriages: the moral certainty reached by the first judge according to law should be sufficient.
A single judge under the responsibility of the Bishop – The constitution of a single judge in the first instance, who shall always be a cleric, is placed under the responsibility of the Bishop, who, in the pastoral exercise of his own proper judicial power shall guarantee that no laxity be indulged in this matter....

Renee said...

part 2 of the story

The Bishop is judge – In order that the teaching of the II Vatican Council be finally translated into practice in an area of great importance, the decision was made to make evident the fact that the Bishop is, in his Church – of which he is constituted pastor and head – is by that same constitution judge among the faithful entrusted to him. It is desired that, in Dioceses both great and small, the Bishop himself should offer a sign of the conversion of ecclesiastical structures, and not leave the judicial function completely delegated to the offices of the diocesan curia, as far as matters pertaining to marriage are concerned.
Increased brevity in the legal process – In fact, beyond making the marriage annulment process more agile, a briefer form of trying nullity cases has been designed – in addition to the documentary process already approved and in use – which is to be applied in cases in which the accusation of marital nullity is supported by particularly evident arguments. In any case, the extent to which an abbreviated process of judgment might put the principle of the indissolubility of marriage at risk, did not escape me [writes Pope Francis – ed.]: thus, I have desired that, in such cases the Bishop himself shall be constituted judge, who, by force of his pastoral office is with Peter the greatest guarantor of Catholic unity in faith and in discipline.
Appeal to the Metropolitcan See – It is fitting that the appeal to the Metropolitan See be re-introduced, since that office of headship of an Ecclesiastical province, stably in place through the centuries, is a distinctive sign of the synodality of the Church.
The proper role of the Bishops’ Conferences – The Bishops’ Conferences, which must be driven above all by the anxious apostolic desire to reach the far-off faithful, should formally recognize the duty to share the aforesaid conversion, and respect absolutely the right of the Bishops to organize judicial power each within his own particular Church.
There-establishment of vicinity between the judge and the faithful, in fact, shall not be successful if the stimulus does not come from the Conferences to the single Bishops, along with the necessary assistance, to put into practice the reform of the marital nullity process.
Appeal to the Apostolic See – It is fitting that the appeal to the ordinary Tribunal of the Apostolic See, i.e. the Roman Rota, be maintained: this, in respect of a most ancient juridical principle, so that the bond between the See of Peter and the particular Churches be reinforced – having care, in any case, in the discipline of the use of said appeal, to contain any and all abuse of right, in order that the salvation of souls be given no cause for harm.
Indeed, the prefatory remarks make clear from the very start, that the single most important principle guiding the Holy Father’s action and the work of reform undertaken, is that of salus animarum – the salvation of souls – which is the suprema Ecclesiae lex – the supreme law of the Church."

Pope Francis cites Vatican II, but most people don't realize Pope Benedict XVI pretty much wrote Vatican II prior to being elected the Pope.

traditionalguy said...

Legal Separation is a lawyer's extra fee levied on Catholics who pay for to get a non-divorced divorce until the real divorce called an annulment that is bought from a Clerical Office. It makes them feel better. But it is all about fees.

The new Pope is loosing the Clerical bonds over lives of the members a little bit. That is like letting the dogs on the leash have more a little leash before pulling them back.

Renee said...


I think these reforms process is to help out converts the most, who were married outside the church/divorced. The Church recognizes these marriages as a matter of natural law.

What is interesting is that if a recent convert/revert was in a same-sex marriage, she or he may not need this process because the church does not recognize this as marriage. Simply a good confession....

rhhardin said...

"He's not changing the meaning of marriage. He's changing the rules for Catholics concerning what the church will do about marriage."

You're playing with language, just like everyone else. What's the meaning of "meaning"? To my mind, the whole idea of calling a divorce "annulment" is an embarrassing language game. To put the Pope above meaning changing is to revere the Pope as an authority with special powers. Compare the Supreme Court "saying what the law is."

The meaning of marriage changes if you allow same sex marriage, because it no longer covers the ways that man/woman marriages succeed and fail, which depends on those sex differences.

The word covers that because that's the interest people have in this hugely popular arrangement. The word marriage has a performance in various contexts specific to man/woman.

Meaning covers those performances. That's what the word is for. It's for thinking about and talking about man/woman arrangements and their fate, in the way that man/woman arrangements go.

It gets a certain amount of honor and reversence that gays want for themselves; alas that shifts the word to something else, as a side-effect.

Call it stolen honor.

The honor is stolen not from the actually honorable ones, but from society and what it can talk about.

Farmer said...

If the war is over and the issue is settled, why do you keep taking cheap shots? Poor winner, or worried that maybe it ain't really over after all and all your huffing and puffing to the contrary is just wishful thinking?

Renee said...

I know in my own parish, we have a lot of people who want back in and probably made good on their confession, but the annulment of a situation that really was a hot mess can seem really hard to address not just from a canon law view but pastoral.

"The President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts went on to explain that the concern of the Holy Father is in the first place for the good of all the faithful, especially those of the faithful whose situations have been a cause of difficulty in living the Christian life as fully as possible. “The problem,” he said, “is rather of an exquisitely pastoral nature, and consists in rendering marriage nullity trials more swift and speedy, so as the more solicitously to serve the faithful who find themselves in such situations.”
Three specific changes most directly address the question of speed in the process: the removal of the need for a twofold conforming sentence from both the court of first instance and then from the appellate court, which automatically reviewed the acts of the first instance trial – meaning that a single trial in the first instance will be considered sufficient for persons, whose presumed marriage has been declared null, to enter into new marriages under Church law; the introduction of the possibility for a single judge to try and issue rulings on individual cases; the creation of an expedited trial process for certain cases, in which the evidence of nullity is abundant, and both parties accuse the marriage of nullity."

Gabriel said...

@Ann:To my mind, the whole idea of calling a divorce "annulment" is an embarrassing language game.

It is, and you are the one doing it. An annulled marriage is one that retroactively never happened because it never should have been allowed to happen. Like if you find out your husband is already married. It's not the same as divorce and never has been.

"Certain conditions are necessary for a marriage to be valid in canon law. Lack of any of these conditions makes a marriage invalid and is a basis for annulment. Accordingly, apart from the question of diriment impediments dealt with below, there is a fourfold classification of other grounds for annulment: defect of form, defect of contract, defect of willingness, defect of capacity.

The contract is defective of form, if the marriage ceremony is invalid, such as the case of two Catholic persons being married outside of the Catholic Church.

The contract is defective of contract, if it was not a marriage that was contracted, such as if there was a defect of intent on either side. This can occur if either party lacked the intent to enter into a lifelong, exclusive union, open to reproduction. In the Church's understanding, the marriage contract can also only be between a woman and a man.

The contract is defective of will because of "mental incapacity, ignorance, error about the person, error about marriage, fraud, knowledge of nullity, simulation, conditioned consent, force or grave fear".

The contract is defective of capacity, if either party was married to another and thus unable to enter into the contract. Also, certain relationships of blood render the parties unable to enter into contract.

For annulment, proof is required of the existence of one of these defects, since Canon law presumes all marriages are valid until proven otherwise."

When a person who has made a lifelong study of the law distorts words in this way, I have to assume it's deliberate.

Lewis Wetzel said...

We have reached peak Althouse marriage incomprehensibility. Or maybe she gotten some kind of degree in church law at an online school?

Renee said...

From Rome Reports....

"Justice, so that you may be fair and justice for those who wait. Justice and also charity, because many people need an answer from the Church on their marital status. They need the 'no' or the 'yes' but the answer must be fair. Some cases end up being so long and cumbersome that they don't help and people give up."

The Pope said he's concerned about the high price tag some of these cases carry, whether it be with lawyers or the tribunals.

"We must be very careful, so that the process doesn't follow economic interests. I'm not taking about hypothetical cases. There have been public scandals. I had to remove a person from the Tribunal, some time ago, because he would tell people 'Give me $10,000 dollars and I will take care of the civil and ecclesiastical proceedings.' Please, prevent this from happening."

During the Synod, bishops also discussed the possibility of making the annulment process free. The Pope talked about this option. "


Reforms do not mean that an yes to an annulment will be easier, but that you will get your judgment faster of an yes or an no.

But I've became severally burnt out when it comes to weddings themselves, that I enjoy funerals more.

"Oh yes, what a beautiful gazebo..... what super cute center pieces... Isn't the dog as the jr. officiant just adorable. Oh yay another highly coordinated groomsmen dance.

Just stay married, and don't get a divorce."

Anonymous said...

In the old days you pretty much had to be a Kennedy.

Shouting Thomas said...

Fucked up fag hag laughing over the destruction she's wreaked.

Renee said...

Paul, Pre Vatican II everything had to be transcribed into Latin and sent to Rome. No email- No Fax.

I knew a lady in her 70s at the time. She was engaged to a divorced protestant and they needed his marriage to go through the annulment process. By the time it was done, they had broke off their engagement and she just ended up marrying someone else with was not previously. The news of the ex-fiance's annulment came just before her wedding day to the other person.

Anonymous said...

Terry: We have reached peak Althouse marriage incomprehensibility.

Nah. She's churned out lower-quality sophistry than this on the subject. I'll bet there's plenty more to come.

Farmer: If the war is over and the issue is settled, why do you keep taking cheap shots?

I hear Weimar was a snarky place.

David said...

The Popes read the newspapers too.

Jason said...

The last two days in a row I've had the occasion to say "watching the secular media try to cover the Church = lulz."

This morning I'm saying "Watching Althouse try to cover the Church = lulz."


Once written, twice... said...

I hope the battle over marriage continues. The longer conservatives continue the battle the better it will be for Democrats.

Lewis Wetzel said...

I am just barely old enough to remember the pro-no-fault divorce arguments of the late 60s and early 70s. I believe that no-fault divorce was supposed to be good for women?
How did that work out? Goodbye to marriage to an insensitive lout, hello welfare, section 8 housing, and a string of "boyfriends."

Renee said...

The only way I can explain this thread...

Ben & Frank order pizza

People like graphic story lines so it will help.

Once written, twice... said...

Ann wants this battle to continue because she deviously likes to poke her Althousehillbillies with a stick. You are such a bad girl Ann.

Now all you Althousehillbillies go buy something through her Amazon portal!

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

What I try to do is appreciate that there are probably a bunch of different sub-categories of things that are considered holy.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Some holier than other, depending on the circumstances, perhaps I should add.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

I should think that one of the main things a Pope does is to set priorities when it comes to reclassification.

Kind of like a CEO moving the boxes around on an organizational chart.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Jesus gets credit for putting an end to the institution of ritual sacrifice.

And why not?

But somebody had to do it, whether God or man, truth be told, once it became clear that the practice had become economically impracticable.

wildswan said...

They didn't change the law; they eliminated some of the worst money-making lawyer-driven aspects of the process. And the media is trying to assimilate this to the recent change in the definition of marriage in America. It isn't the same.

Annulment is not a cumbersome form of divorce; it isn't about how you get tired of each other and begin cheating on each other and divorce each other; it's about how right from the start you never intended to love honor and cherish the other and any children who came. It's about intending to cheat on the other in one way or another - right from the start. It's about hating the idea of children - right from the start. It's about proven and intentional lies or deceptions - right from the start.

It isn't about struggles along the way; it is about deliberate lying - right from the start.

Michael K said...

"Annulments are supposed to be hard to get. "

Yes but they have been easy for 25 years.

"But you can't say an annulment within the Church is the same thing as a secular divorce."

Sorry, thus is bullshit.

Some years after our divorce, my first wife offered me an annulment. I don't know why. Maybe she wanted it for herself.

I asked her if she wanted our three kids too be illegitimate.

Deirdre Mundy said...

So, a good rule of thumb is to assume that any MSM outlets reporting on the Vatican are confused and are talking about the "Imaginary Catholicism" in their heads, not the actual Church. So...

Mini-Catechesis on Catholic Marriage:

All Catholic Sacraments (remember, anullments deal in sacraments, not civil marriage) have a form, a matter, and a minister. (Form=words. Matter=stuff. Minister=person who makes the sacrament happen.)

In Marriage, the Form is the vows exchanged by the couple. The Matter is ALSO the vows. And the Minister is the couple themselves. The Sacrament needs all of these to be legit, or it's not a sacrament.

So, for instance, in the Church, if you're drunk you can't make binding vows. So if the groom was drunk? The marriage never happened.

If you said the words with the intention of lying? Then it wasn't a vow. So, if, for instance the couple vowed to accept all children with love (part of the Catholic vows) but intended to abort every baby that came along? The marriage never happened.

If one member of the couple was unable to marry in the church because of a previous marriage? Never happened.

If one member was too crazy to be able to make a vow (sort of like 'unfit to stand trial?) Never happened.

The sacrament was never there. Even though they were legally married. The annullment doesn't mean the kids are illigitimate-- legitimacy is a legal issue, not a sacramental issue.

So.... Francis has done nothing to change the rules on who can get an anullment. He's basically just 'federalizing' the process. More of the paperwork can be done at the local level, because Rome doesn't need to rule on every "The groom had a shotgun at his back and made the vows under duress, the Bride didn't want to go through with it, but her mom said they'd already paid the caterer's fee so she damn well better walk down the aisle or else."

If you have grounds for an annullment in your marriage, you've probably known about them all along.

On the other hand, some couples do start out drunk or crazy or scared and make a successful go of it. They need a lot of support and help, but they can do it. And so, marriages are presumed to be sacramental unless you ASK for an anullment. Hearts can change, people can start living their vows. But some marriages are doomed to fail from day one.

(Guy slept with the Maid of Honor the Night Before the Wedding and went into the whole thing assuming he'd screw around and make it up to her with Jewelry later? Anullment! Man intended to be faithful, slipped up once? You can legally separate, or get a divorce, but you can't remarry in the church until he's dead.)

Did that help?

Lewis Wetzel said...

Blogger Eric the Fruit Bat said...
Jesus gets credit for putting an end to the institution of ritual sacrifice.

I thought the Romans got the credit for that when they destroyed the 2nd temple.

Marc said...

Apart from whatever Althousian cleverness is going on, the part of the post beginning at "Or should I say..." is an accurate summary of what happens with declarations of nullity. It is no news that AA isn't Catholic.

Deirdre Mundy said...

I'm a catechist. I get to explain this EVERY YEAR! ;)

I just wish the MSM would ask Robert Barron or James Martin or some other Catholic with a basic understanding of the faith to explain these things. If Althouse is confused on this point, I'm sure many others are too.

Actually, I can never understand why the MSM bothers to report on every drib and drab of Catholic News. You don't see them doing that for Lutherans or Presbyterians, except when there's a major meeting.

Why is "Slight change to bureaucratic norms" such a big deal? Are all reporters lapsed Catholics seeking annulments or something?

traditionalguy said...

As an act of mercy to Catholics, I cannot fail to tell you that the reformation has set you free. That is why it is called the Good News.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Michael K said...

Some years after our divorce, my first wife offered me an annulment.

What authority did your wife have to offer annulment? Was she a Catholic bishop? ( If so, I suspect there would, in fact, be good grounds for an annulment. )

Deirdre Mundy said...

Oh! Ann, one more thing. Sacramental Marriage doesn't mean "official recognition of marriage" for Catholics. it's not the Catholic equivalent of registering your license with the county clerk.

In the Catholic view of Sacraments, these are physical ceremonies, instituted by Jesus, that confer grace on the participants. (Grace, if you've ever picked up a Catholic religion textbook, is God's life within us)

The graces from a sacramental marriage give us additional strength and help to resist the temptations and sins that would sink the marriage.

Grace can help a marriage succeed. People can refuse it, of course (Catholics believe in free will) but sacramental marriage is a gift from God to the couple who is marrying. You can have a non-sacramental marriage. Sacramental marriage only occurs between baptized Christians.

So, what's the point? Marriage is hard. The idea that two fallen humans can successfully join their lives and raise their kids and help each other to heaven? It's insane! Unless you have God's help from the very beginning.

The Church also has a procedure for solemnizing non-sacramental marriages. So if spouses were outside the Church and married at the courthouse or on a rock somewhere on a mountain or whatever, and they join the church, they can have the pre-existing marriage solemnized and receive the graces of the sacrament.

mikee said...

The Church also has a waiver for marriage to a non-Catholic, which I used when I, a lapsed Roman Catholic raised in the Tridentine Mass tradition, married a heretic (per my mom) in a Methodist Church.

This waiver only cost us a few hundred dollars and insured the presence and silence of my Catholic fanatic Mother at my wedding.

The waiver required three classes in Catechism, taught by a nun wearing civilian garb, for the heretic and I; a solemn promise to raise any fruit of the union as papists, (which for violating in toto I am going straight to Hell upon death); and a very strong suggestion to avoid all sin and near occasions of sin (NO SEX) from the time of that meeting until the day our marriage was solemnized, accepted by my heretic fiance, for which I still have not forgiven that damn nun.

Any huge organization has a bureaucracy that can handle any situation, often with aplomb, and usually with only a bit of palm greasing. The Catholic Church could accept the arrival of Space Aliens as long as they didn't want to abort their babies.

Deirdre Mundy said...

The dispensation to marry a non-Catholic (or a non-Christian) should be free. If you were charged for that, you were wronged.

The stupid pre-cana classes are required for everyone who wants to marry in the Church. I agree that, in most places, they're next to useless and just a means of checking of a box. This also needs reform, but since it's a local, not a global issue, the US Bishops and not the pope are really the ones to address it.

Mary-- I'm formulating a response, but waiting to see if you get deleted from the thread before I answer, because I don't want to have to type it and post it and then have it deleted!

Deirdre Mundy said...

And also, because I think it's nuanced. A Catholic's response to a legally married gay couple depends on the situation. So we'd bake the cake. If you're a secular business who extends health insurance to any couple with a legally valid marriage, you need to extend it to gays. Adoption is a different issue because of Catholic theology on the family. Teachers in Catholic schools are a different issue, but if you crack down on Lesbians who get in vitro, you must also crack down on straight couples who get in vitro. And you need to make policies clear at the time contracts are signed.

But yes, we're called to deal with our gay neighbors like we do with other neighbors who live in accord with social norms but not Church norms. As people. We don't harangue our neighbors, we don't expect them to understand what we believe, we try to explain but we accept that, for instance, if you don't believe that God has a specific plan for marriage, you may think a string of live-in boyfriends is a great way to live your life. We'll feel sorry for you and pray for you and wince at the unecessary pain you're causing yourself, but we won't treat you as less than human because you make bad choices.

I.e. the same old "Love the sinner, hate the sin". On the other hand, we also wouldn't hire you to be our Director of Religious Education!

But we'll still bring you dinner when your live-in lover has surgery.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Also, yes, the fact that people are willing to LIE DURING THE WEDDING, just to get a big white dress and the church where the pictures look prettier is proof that we've failed at teaching several generations what marriage is and what it is for.

In a sense, the reason Gay Marriage is a legal reality now is because we'd already reduced marriage to "A day where you get to be the center of attention, followed by a few years of bickering and then divorce. Or, if you're lucky, you'll have someone who sticks around and helps run the kids to activities."

Deirdre Mundy said...

We've lost the whole sense of wonder at "Here, at last, is Flesh of my Flesh and Bone of my Bone!"

Drago said...

Mary Glynn: "See the difference?
In an annulment, your marriage is considered never to have existed. THus, your children would be considered bastards, born out of wedlock. (Bardardry being a legal word, with a certificate formerly formally issued.)"

Catherine of Aragon certainly understood what it all meant for her daughter Mary.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Mary- the thing is that the essence of marriage, even a non-sacramental one, is "two become one flesh." Children result except when a health issue prevents it. Children have mothers and fathers.

Adoption is always a response to a tragedy. Children living without their natural parents is always because something tragic happened.

But, you can have a 'natural marriage' that's not sacramental. For instance. Two Hindus. Marriage, not sacramental. If they don't have a 'legal US marriage" they can still be in a natural marriage.

Gay marriage can never fit the form of a 'natural marriage" because it lacks the key components to a natural marriage -- A man and a woman.

There's no way to change that. Laws can't change nature. If the Supreme Court declared tomorrow that the accelleration of gravity was now 7 m/s^2, it wouldn't change nature. It would simply impede our ability to understand nature.

This seems to be where a lot of people get confused. You can't legislate reality. You can't legislate morality. Something can be legal, yet still be wrong. You can only legislate crimes, punishments, taxes and fines.

Renee said...


Disagree. Though part of the problem.

The problem stems from adoption laws. If a child needs a family, that's fine. But let's face it and own it, we should not be falsifying BIRTH certificates. Original birth parents on original, but then clearly noting a certificate of legal adoption (not birth).

In Massachusetts, if a straight couple can pass off children as their own with sperm/egg donation, the court equally applied it.

Nothing will change, if we don't address this. Somehow infertility gives couples this pass, not not others?

Deirdre Mundy said...

Drago - Though in Catharine's case, that's because the legal concepts (inheritence and bastardy) were based on the Church's definition of valid marriage. But...from a theological view, a declaration of nullity has nothing to do with inheritance laws.

The Church doesn't have a say in inheritance. It's outside Rome's purview.

Marc said...

Deirdre Mundy, I appreciate all the time and effort you've spent on this thread trying to explain about marriage, annulments etc. Qui habet aures, audiat.

I tried reading an article in the Washington Post this morning by..., oh, it doesn't make any difference: he seems to be sure that revolutionary! Francis is going to revolutionise everything! who only last week! told priests to forgive abortion! Pft, and nonsense.

chorister said...

You're playing with language, just like everyone else. What's the meaning of "meaning"? To my mind, the whole idea of calling a divorce "annulment" is an embarrassing language game. To put the Pope above meaning changing is to revere the Pope as an authority with special powers. Compare the Supreme Court "saying what the law is."

Even in civil law there is a difference between divorce and annulment in the law of most states. A 12 year who gets "married" doesn't get a divorce. She was under the legal age to get married, and the state annuls it -- treats it as if it never happened. Ohio has six such conditions under which a marriage is annulled, including coercion or failure to consummate. The Church annuls marriages when conditions that existed at the time of the marriage precluded a valid marriage from ever taking place.

Annulment is not the same as divorce. Really not that hard to understand.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Marc-- I think the US media is too parochial to see the REALLY big story here.

By putting more of the process in the hands of the local ordinaries and not forcing all cases to go through Rome, he's again decentralizing some of the Church's work. This doesn't pave the way to 'free abortion for all!", but it does pave the way for a reunion between East and West, a repair of the breach in Christendom.

And that is HUGE, and world-changing.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Anyone who has read Sheila Rauch Kennedy's book on her own annulment is going to be mightily suspicious of this development. That was a marriage of long standing (with two kids, IIRC), and her husband had it annulled purely so that he could both remarry and continue to take communion. The grounds for the annulment were unclear, and don't fall easily within Gabriel's and Deirdre's neatly-laid-out categories; it amounted to "the husband didn't understand what he was signing on to." Why shouldn't he have? He was an adult and a Kennedy.

Meanwhile, her marriage was deemed never to have taken place. Her kids (contrary to some comments above) were not bastardized, though their legal position, like all such offspring of annulled marriages, is to say the least murky. And she herself had no say whatsoever in what he did.

Hers isn't the most extreme case, by any means; I think her book recounts a marriage annulled after 32 years.

Big Mike said...

In the past annulments were always available to people (e.g., the Kennedys) with money and power.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

chorister: "Failure to consummate"? Seriously? I really did think that that, at least, had disappeared from modern law.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Big Mike, it's not by any means "in the past."

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...


I am fascinated by your last comment. If you think Francis is really going that way ... yes, the devolution makes sense. The move on abortion makes sense. (It never was a move; you can receive absolution for absolutely anything, and always could. Why this was viewed as revolutionary I put down to the beliefs -- if any -- of newspaper writers and TV broadcasters.) But, as it were, outsourcing redemption ... golly. And this new move is much the same.

Now, filioque, OTOH, might still be a tough nut. The Eastern churches split off over this about a thousand years ago. I don't think either side is likely to give up.

Thorley Winston said...

If the war is over and the issue is settled, why do you keep taking cheap shots?

Because Captain Picard stubbornly keeps saying that there’s only four lights.

Jason said...

This just in: Fucking law professor doesn't realize there's a difference between an annulment and a divorce.


HoodlumDoodlum said...

Deirdre Mundy said...Actually, I can never understand why the MSM bothers to report on every drib and drab of Catholic News. You don't see them doing that for Lutherans or Presbyterians, except when there's a major meeting.

I've wondered that myself, but I think it's more like asking why John McCain got good Media coverage right up until he was the Republican nominee...stories that are seen as attacking or undermining things the Media doesn't like get air. A wavy gravy pope fits a narrative, I guess, accurate or not.

Michael K said...

"What authority did your wife have to offer annulment? "

She offered to apply, knowing that an uncontested request would easily be approved. You mean you don't know this ?

Marc said...

Deirdre, MDT, I'm only just beginning to read Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus and so have no substantive comment on it but if the media reports are right and the local ordinaries are granted a more central role in the process... maybe that's a good thing, maybe it's not: the programmatic advocates of decentralisation never seem to take into consideration that Bishop Noname's governance of Podunk may be just as questionable, or even worse, than the Pope's governance of his Curia at Rome.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Michael K said...

She offered to apply, knowing that an uncontested request would easily be approved. You mean you don't know this?

I'm not sure what this refers to. If it refers to your wife offering to apply, no, I didn't know that because you didn't tell us that.

If it refers to uncontested requests being easily approved, no, I didn't know that because I got married for realz, so I never had to look into what it would take to get an annulment or divorce.

Theranter said...

Diedrre and Gabriel, great clarifications, thank you.

I recently was lamenting (only during a moment of despair) having raised my children Catholic, as my daughter is married (in the Church) to a monster that is brutal to her and my grandchildren. I wondered if I had not raised them Catholic would she have left him by now?

So, it was good to see that there was some loosening of the accessibility in these cases, however, the local Bishop thing is concerning only in that will there be in effect, "forum shopping" as some Dioceses gain reputations for "easier" annulments?

AlbertAnonymous said...

Gabriel at 8:10

"@Ann:To my mind, the whole idea of calling a divorce "annulment" is an embarrassing language game.

It is, and you are the one doing it..."

This. 1,000 time this.

Professor. You really should put your biases aside and spend an hour on reading (and trying to obtain some real understanding) about the catholic faith and Canon Law.

Never look to the Main Stream Media for anything related to the Catholic Church.

Every year at Christmas time I have to endure knuckleheads in the MSM saying something like "Christmas, the most important holiday for Catholics..."


Ignorance is Bliss said...

Christmas, the most important holiday for Catholics...

Obviously the most important holiday for Catholics is Fat Tuesday. Beads and boobs, what more could you want from a holiday?

Gabriel said...

@Drago:Catherine of Aragon certainly understood what it all meant for her daughter Mary.

The issue with Mary was not her legitimacy. The issue was that England had never had a legal queen regnant, and had just got over four generations of wars between rival claimants.

And so Henry VIII was willing to bend laws in order to secure the succession to a legitimate male heir; Catherine could no longer produce any. Henry VII, being a theologian in his own right, decorated by the Pope for it, knew perfectly well he was trying to pull a fast one and was rightfully refused. From this perspective it did not matter whether Mary was or was not declared retroactively illegitimate.

The fact that some people have abused annulments in order to obtain legal cover, for what were actually divorces, does not meant that annulments are no different from divorces.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...


The difficulty is that your daughter's marriage, ugly as it seems to be, may not be illegitimate. Annulments are supposed to apply only when a marriage was materially deficient in some way. "I married a monster accidentally" doesn't really qualify, the American Church's laxity on this matter notwithstanding. You aren't granted an annulment for a failed marriage, only for one that couldn't/shouldn't ever have taken place at all.

And by the last clause, I mean according to Gabriel's directions above. The criteria are actually pretty clear and limited. The one stretched beyond recognition in the US has to do with whether both parties to the marriage are sufficiently mature to realize what a marriage entails. As a practical matter, essentially everyone not mentally defective understands the basics of marriage, but that has been the loophole for most Catholics who have wanted de facto divorce-with-remarriage in the US.

Birches said...

The problem stems from adoption laws. If a child needs a family, that's fine. But let's face it and own it, we should not be falsifying BIRTH certificates. Original birth parents on original, but then clearly noting a certificate of legal adoption (not birth).

I agree with you on this Renee after a few years of hearing your arguments. I don't think I'd given it much thought before. Now it just seems ridiculous.

And thank goodness for Deirdre.

AlbertAnonymous said...


Sorry about your daughter's marital plight. No one should have to put up with a monster for a husband (or father).

But there's nothing in the Catholic teachings that prohibits a woman from leaving her husband (and taking the children) especially if he's a "monster to her and [the children]." So, Catholic or not, she can leave him for her own safety and the safety of the children.

She would not be able to remarry without an annulment, and having "marital relations" with anyone else would be sinful, but she can leave him.

I think the church would want her and the children safe, and then counsel her to work to repair the relationships (if they can be repaired).

Donal said...

Drago according to canon law since 1917 - " Can. 1137 The children conceived or born of a valid or putative marriage are legitimate." So annulments don't make children bastards now.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Michelle-- Except JP2 actually left the Filoque out of some documents during his reign. (When I was in college, there was a symposium on one-- I forget which now, darn it) and Cardinal George and Paul Griffiths got into a huge discussion about it.

Reunion of East and West has been the endgame since Vatican 2 at least, I think. I mean, from a Catholic perspective, Jesus prayed that all would be one, like he and his father in heaven --so the split in Christendom is a huge cause of scandal and source of weakness. And Rome is taking steps (slow steps, because that's how they are) to fix it.

Lydia said...

Here's what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has to say about abusive marriages:

Finally, we emphasize that no person is expected to stay in an abusive marriage. Some abused women believe that church teaching on the permanence of marriage requires them to stay in an abusive relationship. They may hesitate to seek a separation or divorce. They may fear that they cannot re-marry in the Church. Violence and abuse, not divorce, break up a marriage. We encourage abused persons who have divorced to investigate the possibility of seeking an annulment. An annulment, which determines that the marriage bond is not valid, can frequently open the door to healing.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...


I practically dropped out of RCIA over filioque. I mean, I did eventually drop out, but one major cause was a visiting priest who said that "of course" the split between Catholics and Orthodox had nothing to do with this petty theological issue, and everything to do with disbursal of Church property. I said, "What about the profound disconnect between Western and Eastern Christian art? The way Eastern ikons suggest direct descent from the Father, while Western art suggests descent from both Father and Son?"

I'm afraid I wasn't understood.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...


Again, what the US Bishops are saying is counter to the Catechism as I understand it. A nasty, terrible, no-good marriage is still a marriage, unless it's actually materially deficient in one of the ways set forth by Gabriel.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

I'm shocked to hear that there are American Catholics who actually live by the rules of their religion. Most of the Catholics I know (including my family) get divorces or support abortion rights without any reference to, or consideration of, the Catholic Church. They'll sling the rosary beads when it suits their purposes but taking the Pope seriously? Forget about it.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Filioque is huge except... according to some of my Eastern friends, it's less that they think the Holy Spirit proceeded only from the Father than that they're annoyed we added to the creed without a proper ecumenical council?

Anyway, I have high hopes for some sort of reunion in our lifetimes, because I think it's meant to be. :)

Maybe I'm overly optimistic, but I think it will happen in the next 50 years, and that it will be huge and earth-shaking (in a good way) when it does.

CStanley said...

No, he's not. Clearly.

Joe said...

This is all smoke and mirrors anyway. The only people denied communion were either those who were beyond honest and those with really strict priests.

The problem with annulment is that it pretends the marriage never happened, which is utter bullshit.