The Annulment Dilemma: Revisiting a complicated process

No clear guidance emerged from last fall’s Synod of Bishops on the Family for divorced and remarried Catholics who wish to receive holy Communion. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, O.F.M.Cap., among others, has suggested that streamlining the annulment process may be the best way to provide relief for couples whose second marriages are considered invalid by the Catholic Church because of a prior valid marriage that has not been annulled. While this may be appropriate in some cases, even a streamlined process will not address the real pastoral questions that the annulment process raises.

Over the course of 40 years as a priest, I have helped many couples pursue an annulment in order to be free to validate their current marriage in the eyes of the church. I usually begin by explaining in simple terms the reason why their current marriage is considered invalid by church standards. This is a very hard nut to swallow for two people who have pledged their love and fidelity to one another and who have been enjoying the fruits of their relationship for more than a few years. Though insulted by this judgment, many couples still decide to forge onward with faith and humility.

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In explaining what an annulment is, I often hold up a pen with its point retracted. The assumption is that the pen contains a cartridge and is suitable for writing. If I take the cartridge out of the pen, it still looks the same as before. It is not until I try to write with the pen that I discover there is no ink. While the pen looks like any other writing instrument, it is not until I look inside and discover that something essential is missing that I understand why it will not write.

All marriages look alike from the outside. When a marriage ends in divorce, the annulment process tries to look inside the marriage to see what may have been missing from the very beginning. When an essential element is determined to have been absent, a declaration of nullity is made by the church (i.e., it declares that the marriage was invalid, that it was not, in fact, a marriage.) In so-called “shotgun” weddings, annulments are relatively easy because a pregnancy and a desire to do the “right thing” are seen as factors that limit the freedom of both parties.

While this may seem to be a simple case, the process for achieving a declaration of nullity is not simple at all. Initially it requires the petitioner, the person seeking the annulment, to write an autobiographical essay, beginning with childhood and continuing through adolescence, assessing his or her relationship with parents, the history of dating, sexual activity, courtship, proposal, marriage and significant events in the marriage. This is the first obstacle, and for many people, it is an insurmountable one. In my experience, only one in five petitioners makes it past this first step. For college-educated individuals who have written major reports or term papers, the idea of a 10- or 15-page essay is not intimidating at all. But for countless others who have never written more than a one page letter, this autobiographical essay is a mountain too high to climb. I have set aside upwards of 50 applications for annulments that never made it past this initial obstacle despite numerous encouraging conversations.

The annulment process also stalls at this juncture because it is simply very difficult and painful to relive the events and emotions of a marriage that has failed. For some, this process can become very cathartic and healing, but for many others the wounds of a failed marriage are too painful to touch. Try as they may, reliving the past through an autobiography that others are going to read is humiliating for many divorced people.

Pastoral Challenges

For those who are contemplating a second marriage, the challenges posed by the annulment process are equally daunting. It takes time for a divorced person to regain his or her self-confidence and composure once the divorce is final. When true love finally comes along and marriage is the next step, it is very disheartening to learn that it is impossible even to set a date for a church wedding until an annulment has been granted. Given the fact that weddings are often planned a year in advance and that the annulment process may take 18 months, two and a half years seems like an awfully long time to wait. Throw in the biological clock, and the wait becomes even worse.

The way the church understands annulments frequently causes special concern for divorced mothers and fathers. They assume that if a marriage is annulled, the children of that marriage must be illegitimate. Explanations that this is not true because they were civilly married at the time of the birth of their children fall on deaf ears because the church’s position is that a valid marriage never took place. For many couples in a second marriage, the idea of harming their children in any way is absolutely out of the question. The logic here is unassailable.

In contemplating the possibility of an annulment, one of the first questions raised by a potential petitioner has to do with the respondent, the other party in the failed marriage. The fact that this person will need to be contacted and invited to provide testimony is often a source of great anxiety. Divorces are never easy and never without pain. The thought of having to involve the other party can oftentimes be a bridge too far.

When Catholics have been divorced and are seeking an annulment, there is an implicit understanding that this is a Catholic thing. The explanation as to why an annulment is needed becomes much more complex when the marriage that needs to be annulled is a marriage between two non-Catholics that took place at city hall, on the beach or in a Protestant church. Because the two parties are not Catholic, they are not obliged to follow Catholic form (i.e., to be married in a church by a priest before two witnesses). Their marriage, therefore, is considered to be a valid marriage that will require a full-blown annulment (i.e., canonical trial) in order for the divorced Protestant or whatever to marry his or her new Catholic spouse in a Catholic church. This is very difficult for the non-Catholic partner to understand.

As a corollary, in the case of a second marriage where the non-Catholic partner has been married before, an annulment is needed before that person can be received into the full communion of the church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Where the non-Catholic believes that his or her first marriage was a valid union now ended by divorce (and therefore not annullable by Catholic standards), it becomes impossible for this person to be welcomed into the Catholic community.

In contrast to these cases, should a Catholic be married by a justice of the peace on the beach or at city hall or even by a Protestant minister in a Protestant church, this marriage, should it end in divorce, can be easily annulled in a matter of weeks by the Catholic Church. This is called a documentary annulment or a defect of form annulment. In this case, all the Catholic divorced party needs to do is present a copy of his or her baptismal record and a copy of the divorce decree. For a small filing fee, the church will issue a decree of nullity based on the simple fact that the Catholic party was obliged to follow Catholic form when getting married and did not do so. Therefore, the church regards this marriage as being invalid for lack of form. It does not matter if this marriage had lasted a month or 40 years.

The irony of all this is very clear. Catholics who marry outside the church usually are not observant Catholics. They may have been baptized and never catechized. Or they may be individuals who have slipped away from the practice of their faith. For them, the annulment process in preparation for a second marriage in the church is very simple. But the practicing Catholic who gets married in the church because it is the right thing to do has to go through an 18-month ordeal before an annulment is granted and they are free to marry in the church once again. The lapsed Catholic has an easy time procuring an annulment, while the faithful Catholic has to endure the lengthy and arduous process of a canonical trial.

Witness Testimony

Another tricky part of the annulment process has to do with establishing the testimony of three or more witnesses. In the annulment process, a witness is a person who does not weigh in on the merits of the petitioner’s case but rather explains what they saw in the relationship and the marriage prior to the divorce. What is on trial in an annulment process, a canonical trial, is the bond of marriage. Did it or did it not take place at the time of the marriage? Witness testimony is needed to provide information that suggests something was lacking in the relationship before the marriage took place. Witnesses are not finding fault or placing blame for the marriage’s breakup. They are merely attesting to what they observed in the relationship that is being examined. Immaturity, a lack of good judgment or diminished freedom can emerge from this kind of testimony. The challenge, therefore, is to find people who have this kind of intimate knowledge about the marriage being studied and who understand the nature of what is being sought in their testimony.

There are also some very serious ecumenical questions about our understanding of marriage. Jesus’ statements in the Gospels of Matthew (9:3-8), Mark (10:2-9) and Luke (16:18) are the foundation of the Roman Catholic teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. And while the sacramentality of marriage is seen to be rooted here, it was not until the 12th century, at the Council of Verona, that our current understanding of the sacrament of matrimony began to develop. At the same time, over the centuries, most other Christian denominations have read the same Scripture passages and come to a very different place. Many Protestant groups do not regard marriage as a sacrament.

Certain steps can be taken to help improve the annulment process. In the Diocese of Springfield, Mass., for example, statements are taken orally rather than requiring a lengthy written report. Annulments could also be sped up if pastors were given a greater role in deciding cases at the parish level. Unfortunately, streamlining the process will do nothing for the Protestant, now married to a Catholic, who cannot in conscience apply for an annulment because he or she believes that his or her prior marriage was valid.

The fact of a divorce should be proof enough that something essential was missing in a marriage or that the marriage has died. To insist that a person who is happily married for 25 years to a second spouse is still, in fact, married to the first spouse flies in the face of both reason and experience. When we think of the complexities of the current annulment process, we really should be asking: Is this what Jesus intended? For many of us who pastor parishes and try to shepherd God’s people, the answer is a resounding no.

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David Pasinski
2 years 8 months ago
Thank you so much for this summary and common sense approach. Many years ago I served as an Advocate despite my rather poor canon law background and grew to believe the whole process was fatally flawed since it was nearly a solipsism as I understood it, that is "this 'marriage' was not 'REAL (valid) marriage' because it failed and it 'failed' because it didn't ever have the components of a 'REAL'(valid) marriage- even though we who made that decision at the time thought it did at that time and someone else - priest, minister, JP - obviously thought us competent enough and free enough at the time to 'contract' it" That takes some stretching.. "Is this what Jesus intended?" The perfect question and the answer I'd also make ... "no."
MICHAEL BRINKMAN
2 years 8 months ago
Your explanation of the annulment process and its often insurmountable difficulties is excellent. How sad it is that the Curia seems not to realize this situation, grow in compassion, and change the rules so as to have them actually reflect how Jesus would deal with annulments in today's world. The Curia's rules clearly seem to be anti-Christ-ian!
Vincent Varnas
2 years 8 months ago
Well written, Msgr. Garrity. I believe your Scripture reference to Matthew should be Matt. 19:3-9. From the RSV verse 9 reads: "And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery." The fact that (in Matthew's version) Jesus cited an exception for divorce brings into question the Church's position on divorce. Some exegetes have cited verse 3 as the "key" to Jesus' response. In Matt. 19:3, the Pharisees ask Him: "'Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?'" This was a trap laid by the Pharisees, reflecting the divergent opinions of the Hillel School of thought on divorce and the Shammai School of thought. The former being more liberal and asserting that a man should be able to divorce his wife for most any reason and the latter being more conservative and holding that marriage was indissoluble. Whichever way Jesus answered, He would offend one faction or the other. Jesus follows the more conservative view, but with an exception. Therefore, would it not be correct to conclude that Jesus did intend for divorce in very limited and restrictive circumstances? For example, in Jesus' time, abuse of one's wife was not recognized as the serious crime that it is today. Thus, Jesus might not have included this circumstance in His exception clause ("unchastity"). Also, alcoholism was not considered a reason for divorce by Jesus because it's ramifications upon the spouse and family were not at issue (albeit temperance was a moral question). Therefore, is it not likely that Jesus might have included these and perhaps other exceptions to the prohibition on divorce if He had been speaking of circumstances unique to the present day with regard to our social, moral and legal standards and not responding to the Pharisee's "test"? If Jesus had addressed today's marital social norms, no one would have understood what He was talking about. It would have been nonsense to the Jews of the First Century. Consequently, the Church should accept divorce between Catholics in otherwise valid marriages and in LIMITED cases without the need for annulment. - Deacon Vince Varnas, Anglican Province of America
Paul Ferris
2 years 8 months ago
Very enlightening Deacon Vince. Thank you.
Henry George
2 years 8 months ago
The oddities that Catholics not married in the Church have a far easier time re-marrying in the Church and the hardships involved in seeking a 'Decree of Nullity' do cry out for reform. Perhaps requiring more marriage counseling before marriage in the Church ? More sympathy for those who were abandoned by their spouses ?
Mark Loyet
2 years 8 months ago
This was a good article until the last paragraph. The statement "The fact of a divorce should be proof enough that something essential was missing in a marriage or that the marriage has died." is, in my opinion, hogwash at best. It is like saying, "the fact that I punched my friend 'should be proof enough that' he deserved it." This is a non sequitur. If we use this faulty logic in reverse, we are forced to conclude that if a couple does NOT divorce, then their marriage must in fact be valid. I think not. Further, based on Catholic teaching, it is not possible for a valid marriage to "die." If a marriage could "die," then so could a baptismal seal, a confirmation seal, and an ordination...and all that would be needed for "proof" of those deaths would be a loss of faith. By this logic, we are forced to conclude that if someone loses faith, then obviously their baptism and confirmation didn't "take." Or, if a priest leaves his ministry, he must never have been ordained. Feelings can be allowed to die. A relationship can be allowed to die. But sacraments cannot die because Christ is their guarantor and he conquered death.
Paul Ferris
2 years 8 months ago
Great article by an obviously loving and pastoral priest. I think most people go into a marriage thinking it will last forever or at least wanting it to last forever. Yet too many marriages fail. I think marriages fail because people are more sinners than saints. That is why they need confession and communion to heal and strengthen them for decisions and commitments they make in the future. Yet the Church who knows this makes it difficult for them to belong to the parish in any meaningful sense. Recently Benedict XVI in editing his writings, has changed his previous opinion where he would allow people in a second marriage to receive communion . Now he wants them to approach the priest, with arms crosses for a blessing at communion. Yes and maybe they could wear special clothing with a big A on the front. Contrast Pope Francis' attitude who in a recent interview with Elizabeth Pique said: "I pointed out that we had not addressed any part of the doctrine of the church concerning marriage. In the case of divorced people who have remarried, we posed the question, what do we do with them? What door can we open for them? This was a pastoral concern: will we allow them to go to Communion? Communion alone is no solution. The solution is integration. They have not been excommunicated, true. But they cannot be godparents at baptism, they cannot read the readings at Mass, they cannot give Communion, they cannot be catechists. There are about seven things they cannot do. I have the list over there. Come on! If I tell all this, it seems that they are excommunicated de facto!" And then the Pope Francis clincher: "The testimony of a man and a woman saying, “My dear, I made a mistake, I was wrong here, but I believe our Lord loves me, I want to follow God, sin will not have victory over me, I want to move on.” Any more Christian witness than that? " The Church puts too much emphasis on the canonical form and not enough on the substance of marriage. Karl Barth once said the Catholic Church has a theology of the marriage ceremony, not a theology of marriage. We have a lot to learn from our Orthodox and Protestant sisters and brothers. Here is an example from the article that illustrates my point. To tell a couple that their children, a gift from their Creator, are not illegitimate because the civil law says so is what I would call a category mistake and a cop-out. Msgr Garrity agrees. The only pen with a cartridge missing is the one the Church uses to make policy in regard to the sacrament of marriage and how it adjudicates divorce. I think this article will draw countless responses. It bothers me, in a way, that articles on war, peace, torture, or other important articles that America Magazine covers every week will draw only a handful of comments. I think this says a lot about the state of the marriage between Christ and His Church. It is a marriage that also needs to be studied and looked upon. Is it really what it should be?
James O'Connell
2 years 8 months ago
"But they cannot be godparents at baptism, they cannot read the readings at Mass, they cannot give Communion, they cannot be catechists. " Apparently, you haven't been to too many vibrant, active, and thriving parishes. At many parishes, you'd be hard-pressed to find catechists, youth ministers, or -- yes! -- even godparents who aren't divorced-and-remarried.
Timothy Vickery
2 years 8 months ago
There are so many problems here I don't even know where to begin. Right off the bat the source of the "pastoral dilemma" could be seen: While ostensibly the article began trying to demonstrate the difficulty in ascertaining the reality or validity of a marriage by arguing that on the outside they seemed all valid, immediately afterward we are told how painful it is for people to relive "a failed marriage" when applying for an annulment, which was supposed to mean a non-marriage. This would be like a defense lawyer trying to persuade a judge that while his client stole the car, he isn't really a thief; or the prosecutor leading a witness along the same lines. It is a loaded statement. Stealing is morally impossible and makes the person by definition a thief. So talking of a "failed marriage" betrayed the mind too much: already it was evident that someone believed the marriage to be valid. A wiser man might have said "failed relationship". Moreover, I am certain this article will quickly become a favorite for schismatics of all sorts as they go about using it as a proof that the Catholic hierarchy really does just want to role over and get the question of marriage out of the way, because they don't feel like Jesus could really be so mean as to make marriage indissoluble so long as both spouses are living. The reason why this is a problem today should be obvious for those who know their history. In bygone days it was only the powerful elites who even attempted to play fast and loose with marriage: kings and princes. Democracy, however, has resulted in the expansion of political power to more and more people and, not surprisingly, they too in their turn want the Church to just roll over and succumb to their whims at times. This is not, however, meant to trivialize the real mistakes, errors and traumas people live through; it is only intended to remind people of the very real possibility that some people might just be demanding a license to wed and divorce because they think that should follow given how important they are; that if the Church had any sense she would pander to the powerful or else face their censure. Finally, I can't help but lament that our elderly pastors, somewhat as a consequence molded by a different time and circumstance, are to that extent once removed from reality on the ground in the present and up and coming generation, wherein the backlash against divorce is enormous, especially outside of the Church. Pastors may say, "we live day and day with people of all ages". Granted; but you are thinking predominantly of Catholics; e.g. Catholic school kids. The Church beyond her walls, as it were, is facing a generation of youths who feel they were trivialized and humiliated by their parents who forced them to suffer through divorce and remarriage (often many), multiplying their obligations often to virtual strangers; and frequently all Henry VIII like forcing them to consent or face virtual orphanage. The children are dependent on their parents and have little or not political power in that context and so are very much forced into consent and placed in impossible and painful dilemmas. But where is the pastoral tear-jerking over these suffering souls who feel alone and trapped in the world? So our pastors have a choice: make annulment easy and give the impression that divorce was the right idea and not at all frequently deeply mistaken or selfish, or stand firm and remind the world that they should actually think about the children who are politically and economically helpless first, because they bear the brunt. Children, after all, can't (yet) demand a writ of divorce from their parents as well as half their inheritance.
Paul Ferris
2 years 8 months ago
Your comment about the effect on children of divorced is a compelling argument against divorce. I am sure many people stay married "for the sake of the children." But no one is denying that divorce is a sin that causes damage. It seems to me that the Church policy which tries to establish that a broken marriage was not really a marriage has the unintended consequence of justifying divorce with a semantic sleight of hand by calling it an annulment. My solution to this is to teach simply that anyone who marries in the Catholic church can never get a divorce through the Catholic Church. Knowing that the Catholic Church gives you one shot or one bite out of the apple may force people to face the seriousness of marriage in the Catholic Church. I understand the immediate objection to this as that it would be an injustice to one of the spouses in many cases of abuse or abandonment but I think this would be obviated by allowing someone in a second marriage to receive communion. This is what Francis means by saying the change in the doctrine of marriage was not the issue nor under consideration by the Synod. Let is compare the situation of divorce to the pedophile priest. Both cause lasting damage but I think it is a sign of the maturity of the laity that no one has suggested that pedophile priests be excluded from communion. Repentance is always an option. No these priests or bishops may be "reduced to the lay state,"...a phrase I find offensive in itself as if being a layperson is a reduction in dignity. Finally it is important to keep in mind that in the final analysis, no one can fool God. He sees the heart. He judges and his judgement may be his mercy as the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus teaches us.
Justin Bianchi
2 years 8 months ago
..
Paul Ferris
2 years 8 months ago
Whatever happened to the principle of identity or non-contradiction first articulated by Aristotle and then by theologians such as Thomas Aquinas. Something cannot be and not be at the same time and place in the same way. This principle is violated every time a priest or canon lawyer addresses the issue of annulment which is nothing more than divorce Catholic style. If you don't believe me try to parse this sentence above by Justin Bianchi to a sane rational couple: "It also helps to be honest. it helps to say upfront, "You know, this process looks at the state of the relationship at the time of the marriage." That doesn't mean granting an annulment implies that "your marriage never existed, that you did not love each other, that you did not act in good faith, that your children are illegitimate, that you did not try to keep the marriage together." In other words, it's not an indictment of the conduct of one or both parties." Even Dorothy eventually woke up and found she was back in Kansas ! Let us heed the words of a non canon lawyer, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit, presently occupies the chair of St. Peter, Pope Francis: "The testimony of a man and a woman saying, “My dear, I made a mistake, I was wrong here, but I believe our Lord loves me, I want to follow God, sin will not have victory over me, I want to move on.” Any more Christian witness than that? "
Justin Bianchi
2 years 8 months ago
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Justin Bianchi
2 years 8 months ago
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Bruce Snowden
2 years 8 months ago
The annulment question sinewed to denial of Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics is truly a dilemma. Subscribers post, I read and say, “Yeah, I agree!” Other postings with opposite points of view are read and I find myself saying, “Of course, why not?” Different aspects of truth? Maybe. Searching for some kind of unanimity I offer the following “teaological” solutions, nothing other than theological musings while sipping tea! Does Genesis offer an answer in the story of the Fall, in how God reacted to the Original Sin of Adam and Eve, the First Parents of the First Family of God, a special Family taken perhaps from the existing human gene pool, singularly graced and revelationally evolving into the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, God’s most perfect family? Using hyperbole I think, the inspired writer conforming to human understanding said in effect, after the sin, God “threw them out of the Garden of Eden,” the writer’s way of saying “Adam and Eve lost Sanctifying Grace?” What did God do? Did the parental sin bring hopeless rejection? No, it brought an immediate promise of forgiveness and redemption. Is there a solution there on how the annulment dilemma may be addressed? Then too, in Romans 11:1 St. Paul says, “Is it possible that God has rejected his people?” Answering his question Paul says, “Of course not!” Is there a clue there telling that no matter what, God never rejects his people and there is always redemption and forgiveness possible, even mandated? I hope “real” theologians dissecting these suggestions may find help in solving the above mentioned dilemma. Just as an aside but morally linked to the question at hand, I know someone near and dear to me who tried for an annulment but the cost of $2,000 ended the process. May those with Christ’s authority to initiate change listen to the gentle coo of the Spirit Dove!
James O'Connell
2 years 8 months ago

A number of divorced and remarried Catholics have spoken of the irrelevance of the Tribunals and annullment process: If the marriage is found not to have a fault -- it's valid, licit, and otherwise irrefutable -- then the Tribunals cannot make any difference against the indissolubility of the Grace-filled covenant. Conversely, if some fault is found and sacramental marriage never took place -- then the Tribunals seem to have no jurisdiction over a 'non-event'; what is it, then, the Tribunals feel the need to comment on?

Do we really need to wonder, then, why so many practicing, faithful Catholics seek laicised clergy for second marriages?

Paul Ferris
2 years 8 months ago
Much of this discussion shows that the church is more interested in legalities than the actual experience of a married couple. Here is an egregious example: I know of a couple who was married by a Latin priest. One of the couple was an Eastern Rite Catholic who never got permission from her Bishop to allow a Latin priest to marry them. Thus her marriage is considered invalid and can be dissolved. In this case the spouse who was baptized Eastern Rite never really went to Eastern rite church because of geography. The Church was too far away. There is an underlying reason for this rule which is the desire to preserve the Eastern church, a noble goal itself but not at the expense of a marriage. If this marriage ever hits the rocks it would be no problem for the Church to say the marriage never took place and can be easily annulled. Church Law trumps the reality of a particular marriage. Note that one of the defenders of the church policy here said that yes the marriage looked like a duck, quacked like a duck, and walked like a duck but in the eyes of Church law was not a duck. I often think of time machines when the church considers divorce. Let's go back to the day of the wedding and find something wrong with the form. Only time machines are the stuff of fiction as is the whole annulment process. One person commented here that marriage rules were originally made for kings like Henry the eighth who wanted a divorce but now common people follow suit. Actually kings and queens would marry for dynastic reasons to children from other countries they had never met. Thus we had the rule of ratum and consummatum. It was not enough to sign a paper to validate a marriage, there had to be actual intercourse between the parties. This of course has nothing to do with modern marriage.
Martin Eble
2 years 6 months ago
Since annulments are a legal process within the Church, legalities are the very crux of the process. Assuming in the case you describe that permission was required from the Eastern Rite bishop for the bride to marry in the Roman Rite, it seems unlikely that a Latin Rite priest would officiate at their marriage. A complete record has to be made of compliance with all the canonical requirements, including baptismal certificates, which would identify the bride as Eastern Rite. When you say “her marriage is considered invalid and can be dissolved”, you write as though an annulment was not sought. Either you do not have all the facts or you are not relating them clearly. In any case, a marriage either is or is not validly contracted. All these additional comments may reflect some interest or concern of yours, but are really quite irrelevant.
Christopher Siuzdak
2 years 7 months ago
If canon law experienced rapid development and expansion during the Middle Ages when the vast majority of the populace was illiterate, why wouldn't present-day Tribunals be able to handle individuals who prefer to communicate their autobiographical information orally? The fact is that Ecclesiastical Tribunals in the U.S. are very accommodating; the real problem lies with antinomian priests and lay pastoral ministers who prefer to be cynical about matters canonical. While I found several parts of Monsignor Garrity's "The Annulment Dilemma" interesting and helpful, other parts were infuriatingly silly. He observes the problem of uncompleted applications. As a graduate student in theology and aspiring canonist who has interned in Tribunals, I can testify that most if not all Tribunals are very accommodating of people's needs and capacities. I have worked with people who prefer to converse rather than write their story. After conversing for an hour (more or less), I type up their testimony and organize it logically. The problem is not with the process, the problem is: (1) with insufficient financial and human resources being given to Tribunals to aid individuals with the annulment process or (2) with pastors who are unaware of the resources to which they could be referring their annulment-seeking parishioners. The willful ignorance of certain pastors is often due to their antinomian attitudes. It may sound harsh, but it is (sadly) true. Monsignor Garrity also wants to see pastors have a greater role in the process. With all due respect to our priests, most do not possess a basic literacy of matrimonial jurisprudence or even marital theology. To have pastors issuing verdicts and sentences would be equivalent to having a fortune-teller write out prescriptions for anti-depressant medications. The current process for formal cases has been refined over the centuries and it is much sounder than most people would suspect or like it to be. The present process protects the rights of both parties to the highest degree possible. As a Tribunal intern, I have fielded phone calls from priests who ask such elementary questions about the annulment process that one wonders who let them pass their seminary classes without baseline pastoral competency. While some priests should become canonists and work with marriage cases, not all priests should be made canonists. Using the buzzword of subsidiarity (see Letter to Editor by T. Severin) is not prudent at all. Monsignor Garrity's piece contains many other misguided points (explicit and implicit) that deserve to be rebutted, but for now I must rest my case...As a Tribunal intern, I have a petitioner to assist in telling her story and moving forward in healing.

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