Sunday, February 14, 2010

Annnulment of Marriage Part III - Interview; Evidence; Witnesses

The letter mentioned in the previous post, and which was accompanied by the instruction sheet, was received about 6 weeks after the first approach to them and offered me an interview at the Tribunal Offices about a month ahead. I was asked to accept the appointment and send in the account of marriage within two weeks of receipt of the letter. This would give the Tribunal a fortnight to study what I had written. (Had it been impossible for me to attend, another appointment would have been made.) The letter also informed me that if my case was accepted for investigation, I 'may expect the whole process to take a minimum 0f 18 to 22 months, although it may take longer if there are any special difficulties'. Whilst I was already impressed by the thoroughness of the Tribuanl's approach, I also noted from the central paragraph that they made every effort to avoid unnecessary prolongation of cases by giving firm instructions to reply within a give time frame and explaining clearly why they did so. The letter was signed by the Tribunal Secretary who was female. I was not informed as to who would interview me.

The Interview

Confidentiality and privacy:

This was so scrupulous as to border on the surreal. I cannot remember whether there was a reception desk, but I do know that the only person I saw in the Tribunal building was the person who interviewed me. On the way in and on the way out, I went through a series of interconnecting rooms and it was explained that this was in order, that I should neither see, nor be seen by anybody else. Clearly this was done to obviate the risk of people recognising each other. I appreciated that but could have believed that there was nobody else in the totally silent building. On the other hand the idea that it was full of other people hidden behind closed doors was a little unnerving, particularly in an already stressful situation. There was not much else they could do about it to preserve one's privacy but the effect was of being hermetically sealed off from the world and the rest of humanity.

The Interviewer

We were alone in a tiny office. He was wearing lay dress. This surprised me as I had been told in the earlier stages that I would be interviewed by a Tribunal priest. At the time I did not know this man was to be my Advocate. He was very kind and gentle. In subsequent letters he signed himself as Mr. not Fr. I had not known that the Tribunal employed lay Canon Lawyers. Since the matter under discussion is so personal and intimate details of a marriage are to be spoken about, I should have much preferred a priest, or even a laywoman over a layman. I have since wondered whether they used 'Mr' in letters to make one feel more comfortable. Initially that didn't work with me and it took considerable time for me to feel at ease. At the stage of the first interview, I didn't know what he was, but because of his dress assumed he was a layman.

Content of Interview:

1, Recording my evidence

The Advocate had my 'account of marriage' on his desk. He questioned me further and thorougly on certain points. Then he announced that with the help of the account and the notes he had made on my answers just given, he would speak a composite of the two into a tape recorder. I was to listen carefully and if he made any mistakes or left anything out I was to interrupt and tell him what was wrong. I can only remember making one such interruption. He stopped the tape, listened to what I had to say and then restarted the recording and inserted the correction.

2. Witnesses

i. For the Petitioner

I was asked to approach witnesses (as soon as possible) who would be willing to give evidence to support my account of the marriage and who had knowledge of my marriage partner's attitude to the having of children. I think it must have been at this point that I mentioned my former parish priest in the area of the country where I had lived with my former partner. I may remember it incorrectly but I think I was told that Fr **** would be approached in any case. I know for certain that he was approached and was pleased and relieved because he had been my Confessor, Director and also mentor in a Catechetics course I had been doing just before the marriage finally foundered.

ii, The Respondent

I was asked to approach him (also with the least possible delay) and let him know that I was petitioning the Church for Annulment. I was to ask him if he would be prepared to be interviewed by a Tribunal lawyer and whether he too would supply witnesses.

The interview took at least two hours and was gruelling but I have to repeat that every effort was made by the Advocate to keep the stress to a minimum.

Just under a month after the interview I was able to write to the Advocate with the names of my witnesses and to let him know that my former marriage partner had agreed to be approached, and then interviewed at the Tribunal offices. He had agreed to bring witnesses, although they would both prefer to give evidence by letter. All three of them lived in the quite distant part of the country where I had lived with him during the marriage.

My witnesses were my mother, and a cousin; his were his superiof at work and the friend who had been his best man at the wedding.

Next Annulment post on Tuesday: The Case proceeds: Evidence of the Witnesses; further correspondence with the Tribunal Advocate

No post tomorrow.

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