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Archive for November 8th, 2005

An Open Wound

Recently we received news that a couple we know, a couple we were once
close to, had received an annulment.

They had been married for twenty-odd years, had brought nine children into the world, and had homeschooled them. They were an NFP teaching couple and had taught marriage preparation classes in their diocese. The husband for years earned his living working for a Catholic prolife apostolate. In other words, this was the archetypal Catholic countercultural family, deeply committed to their faith: well-read, articulate Catholics. Then a few years ago the wife, in what her friends can only suppose was a fit of menopausal madness, left her husband and children (remember when midlife crises were only a male
phenomenon?). After some time she applied first for a civil divorce, then for an annulment. To everyone’s dismay but hers, the annulment was granted.

I understand that the annulment process is highly personal. Perhaps some deep dark secret lurked in their past. If so it must have been deep indeed: to all appearances the husband is a fine fellow, even-tempered and loving. The wife, while unduly intense, struck everyone who knew her as bright and
devout.

This annulment seems to those of us who knew them as a hypocritical outrage. My reaction was if they can get an annulment anyone can.

While I recognize that there are valid grounds for annulments, and know many cases where this is true, when I see this sort of apparent abuse, I think that in such cases, where clear grounds for annulment do not exist, it would be better to adopt the Orthodox approach: remarriage is allowed as a concession to human weakness, but it is not a sacramental union([and remarriage to the partner
in adultery is not allowed). The service is penitential, and the couple is expected to abstain from Holy Communion for a fixed time afterwards.

At least with this praxis the offending party cannot pretend all is well. As it is, my friend, who initiated the breakup of her marriage and inflicted untold harm on her family, can marry her new man in a big Catholic wedding if she wishes, walking down the aisle with a conscience assauged by the Church itself.

That the Church has come to this–providing excuses for sins against God and man–is a scandal, an open wound in the Body of Christ.

Lord have mercy.

Daniel Nichols

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