Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Annulment of Marriage Part IV: Evidence of Witnesses; more correspondence with Tribunal

Evidence of Witnesses:

My mother was interviewed and gave evidence at the Westminster Tribunal offices, and Fr ***** and my cousin by their local diocesan Tribunal. Their interviews also took about two hours. I was not present on any of these occasions and did not discuss with my witnesses the evidence they intended to give, although it would have been possible to do so. I've already described Fr *****'s role in my spiritual life and had every confidence that he would represent me accurately and fairly. I had equal confidence in my mother and cousin because both, particularly my mother, had separately witnessed the most distressing arguments between me and my then marriage partner on the subject of having children. Afterwards both relatives gave me a verbal account of what they had said and both remarked on how everything had been done to put them at ease. Neither of them was Catholic incidentally. As for Fr *****, I think he was interviewed at his presbytery. When I spoke to him afterwards, he could not of course give me any indication as to how my case was going, but said everything he could possibly say by way of encouragement.

As already stated, my marriage partner was interviewed at the Westminster Tribunal Offices.
All four sets of evidence were given in the late autumn and winter of 1983, there having been a two month gap between my supplying details of the witnesses I would wish the Tribunal to approach.

Further correspondence:
I heard nothing further until mid-January 1984.
On January 17 I received a letter from my advocate which told me that the evidence of 'main witnesses ' having been collected, my dossier had been examined by one of the 'Officials of the Court'. The Advocate then reveals details of the evidence given by my partner, and afterwards states that he feels it shows my partner as a respondent who had not only attempted to make a 'post factum' rationalisation of his own behaviour and attitudes but had also tried to indicate that I was a person of 'rather instantaneous enthusiasms' which I 'drop or grow tired of very quickly'. Having made it clear that he did not accept this judgment of me, the Advocate then asked me to send him a written rebuttal of my partners claims. I wrote the rebuttal and sent it in on January 25th. It was not difficult to write a defence. It was however extremely painful because it meant revisiting memories I was trying to forget, and it had to be lengthy (5 pages of typescript) because of the nature his accusations and the need to respond in detail. I mention it here to demonstrate that the petitioner is given every opportunity to defend his or her position, character and record, in every aspect of life including the spiritual.

In the same letter, and strangely, I did not note that it was indicative at the time, the Advocate tells me that my partner had not as yet provided any witnesses and states his intention of writing to him again about it. Reading this letter now, it seems likely that the case would have gone ahead without further evidence.

Further and late evidence:
At some point between January 25th and February 2nd further evidence must have come to the Advocate, from my partner's best man at the wedding. For some reason there is no written record about it in my file. This may be because it was the most shocking and painful piece of evidence and one that even I did not expect. Or it may be that in my memory is engraved an occasion when the Advocate repeated it to me face to face which means I must have gone to the Tribunal Offices a second time. I remember being so distressed that I must have since blotted out all other detail of the occasion. All the evidence so far had been based on what happened after and during the marriage, not before it. Now, the Best Man had sent written evidence to the Tribunal stating that my marriage-partner-to-be had said the following words to him on the eve of the wedding, "Well if she thinks she's going to have children, to fill the pews of the Catholic Church, then she's got another think coming!" Neither had been under the influence of alcohol when this was said, the 'stag' night having taken place on the previous evening.

I had to come to tems with the fact that my former partner had lied to me, had lied to the priest who prepared us for marriage, and intended to commit the ecclesiastical equivalent of perjury before the altar during the wedding. In a strange way this realisation was more painful than all the rows and wrangling that had taken place between us during the marriage itself.

Further cprrespondence and the waiting begins:
On February 2 1984, the Advocate advised me by letter that the case was to be read by another canonist and I would be informed as to how things progressed. If there were other letters during the next 8 months I didn't keep them.

Initial result from the Westminster Tribunal:
On September 28 1984 the Advocate wrote to inform me that on the previous day the Westminster Tribunal Judges had met to hear my case and had been satisfied that nullity of marriage seemed to be indicated. He then explained that two concurring decisions in my favour were needed before a decree of nullity could by granted. The dossier would have to go to the appeal court, that is the Marriage Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Birmingham. That court would decide whether it could grant a decree without further investigation, or whether it must consider the case at greater length. If the latter should happen, I would be sent another form to sign by which I would re-appoint my Advocate. It was implicit at this point that if it proved necessary, the whole thing would begin again. In either case the period of waiting for the Appeal Court's decision would be at least three months.

Next, and I hope final, Annulment post on Friday: The Result, the Costs, and the Aftermath.

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