Friday, February 19, 2010

Annulment of Marriage Part V: The Result; the Costs; the Aftermath

I believe that in an early post on this subject I stated that in the 1980s English results were delayed by 6 months as a result of having to go to the Appeal Court in Birmingham. (I think this mistake of mine probably stems from the fact that it felt like 6 months whilst it was being lived through.) I now see from the correspondence that only 3 months, five days elapsed between my being told of the necessary involvement of the Appeal Court, and the final result which arrived in a letter from my Advocate dated February 2, 1985. (He now signed himself as 'Dr.' not 'Mr'.)The Appeal Court had upheld the decision of the Westminster Tribunal and had issued the Decree declaring my marriage Null and Void. I would shortly be receiving an official document to this effect and also a note about cost. The Advocate ended his letter by wishing me every joy in the future.

The official document eventually arrived and was in my possession until 1988, when it had to go to Westminster Cathedral with all my other papers, in order to clear the way for me to marry in the Church. I should state here that at the time of the Annulment process there was no question of such a marriage. In fact at the time in question I was inclined to consider the Religious life should the Annulment petition be successful.

I wrote to the Advocate thanking him for everything he and the Tribunal had acieved on my behalf. I made a particular point of my appreciation, that although the process must of necessity be painful in its rigour, I had been very aware of, and grateful for, his efforts to be as kind as possible in the circumstances.

He replied on February 7th to thank me for what I had said. (For the first time I was addressed as Miss Mossendew as opposed to Mrs ******. ) On the subject of costs, my very much reduced circumstances had clearly been taken into account and the Advocat assured me as follows: "I would not think it wise for you to make any undertaking to pay any part of these (costs).The Tribunal does not expect people to put themselves into what can only be described as financially impossible in order to defray the costs." He then suggests that perhaps if I ever had the opportunity to make savings in the future that perhaps I might make a contribution at that future date but goes on to emphasese that first, I must provide for my future and my retirement and in the present circumstances this meant "not making any specific undertakings at the present time."

The generosity of this letter astonished me It completely dismantled everything I'd been led to believe in the press about the cost of annulment. When I told my parish priest of my surprise, he said, "Ah! The Press, the Press!" And then, " The Church is NOT in the business of making faithful people suffer privation when they have already been through enough trauma.

The Aftermath:
If anything this was more difficult to cope with. During the two years before being separated from my former partner, I had fought hard to save the marriage. It was only as the process towards Annulment unfolded that I began to understand the grounds on which its Nullity would eventually be granted, and to believe in that nullity myself. I endured the psycholigical and spiritual turmoil that this stirred up but did not at any stage seek priestly counselling, (outside normal Confession) nor was it offered or suggested to me. I've no doubt that had I sought it, it would have been available. Even before the process started I had battled with deep-seated resentment about my partner's attitude. Now the so-called marriage was officially null, I began to fight this again. He had entered the marriage contract under false pretences. He had effectively taken the precious child=bearing years that remained to me. I was 42 when the decree of nullity was issued. Added to this was the feeling of being duped. I had believed in the marriage at the beginning and during all the years it lasted. Had I known his feelings I would have refused to go through with it and had indeed refused to marry him unless in a Catholic Church.

Very soon after the Annulment, I took the matter of this resentment into the Confessional at Westminster Cathedral. In nearly half a century, I have never had a bad experience in that context. On this occasion I was particularly fortunate to encounter a priest who was able to make me believe that he understood my problems. Moreover, he was able to set me on the road towards what he called 'laying it down'. I say, 'on the road' because in actual fact the process was a long one, not just of dealing with the resentment but of coping with what it would become, namely a terrible and powerless mourning for the children I would never have. Some people may have preferred counselling in this situation and I'm not aware whether such a service exists within the Church. Perhaps it should at least by on offer, at least in the shape of Spiritual Direction if the person so requires. I did not have a Director at the time and did not know how to go about finding one. In any case Spiritual Direction was not as commonly talked about in those days as it is now.

Final comments on the Process itself.

Readers will probably agree that mine was an easy case from the Tribunal's point of view and will note the points, where in more complicated cases the process would take much much longer.
I was scrupulously honest in all my representations, but I expect readers will also spot the areas in the process that are open to dishonesty, or even collusion between the partners and/or their witnesses. One has no idea of the experience of one's advocate, and just has to trust that it is sufficient for him to get to the truth and root out any attempted abuse of the system. I've already said and still maintain that the Westminster and Birmingham Tribunals were completely free of corruption but repeat my acknowledgement that the process I have described is open to corruption, should the lawyers of a Tribunal be corruptible. This whole area begs many questions about how the Church monitors its Tribunals, and what right of redress if offers, or does not offer, to those who demand right of reply or appeal. The fact that cases are held with only the canon lawyers present does not help at all in situations where corruption is suspected or claimed.


Pastor in Valle said...

You are very brave. Thank you for posting this.

Jane said...

Thank you Father. I won't pretend that this hasn't been difficult but as you know I've only done it so that others are aware of what has to be faced.

And Father, a happy and holy time during what remains of the Year of the Priest, and beyond.

Thank you for your own blog of which I keep daily track.

David A. said...

And I would like to add my own thanks here. You have provided an excellent insight into what is undoubtedly a difficult and painful process. In a strange way, your patient comprehensive account of the process brings, at least to me, a greater appreciation of the importance of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

Anonymous said...

I also appreciate your posting your experiences with a tribunal.

Over the past twenty years of my battle with the Catholic Church over our valid marriage it has been the "presumption" of "good catholics", in their profound ignorance and malignant disinterest in what goes on pastorally, in MORE THAN A FEW marriage cases, that a person like myself MUST BE opposed to the concept of annulments.


I am no such thing.

I am opposed to their abuse and when such abuse is seriously alleged by a respondent who has defended their marriage, a bishop should hold their opinion in VERY HIGH REGARD. Instead, we are marginalized as malcontents as our spouses and their lovers are welcomed, rather than the ENTIRE CHURCH taking the position, and backing it with canon law sanctions, that the valid marriage needs support with no limit.

As you know, I have formally defected from the Catholic Church, to my deep sorrow.

In the aftermath of the last Papal address to the Rota, where the entire Church was admonished through that address to DO SOMETHING to restore marriages, remember tribunals are both justice oriented and supposed to be pastoral as well(and why not since the bishop is their head?), I wrote to three bishops who have jurisdication over our marriage due to different Rites and different locations. I asked them to act in view of this Papal teaching and I have heard not an iota from any of these reprobates.

I am going to write a formal request to Benedict and Archbishop Burke to take action to seek the resignations of each of these bishops for their failure to act on behalf of our valid marriage, which was targeted for destruction by pastoral actions and tribunal actions in the United States and through the malfeasence of numerous bishops who have ignored my pleas, for twenty years, for justice to be done and for actions to be taken on behalf of our valid marriage.

I expect to be ignored, which will further confirm the righteousness of my decision to defect from the Catholic Church.

I assure you, Jane, that I am far from alone in suffering under the abusive American hierarchy. This has been known in Rome for decades and all we have heard is talk.

I also, like you, scrupulously told the Church everything I could recall and did so truthfully. But it was to no avail. Testimony was twisted, even of experts, and morphed into two caricatures of myself and my wife, neither of which were recognizable to people who, STILL, know us quite well.

I made the serious mistake of thinking that someone, somewhere in the Church, in a position of authority, would see what has gone on, grab the bull by the horns and see to it that something was done, in the face of, often documentarily demonstrated abuses, to both bring about justice and to help heal a valid marriage.

I was wrong and I was a fool to ever think that anyone would do a thing on behalf of our valid marriage.

I am happy that you had the experience that you did and I do hope that, I do not know how to properly address him, your "putative" spouse comes to grips with all of this in a way that brings him salvation.

Do pray for all of us in this particular nightmare and for all in similar nightmares.

I am not optimistic for a resolution that is good in our situation. This is a case where the husband and his judgement regarding our marriage, should be deferred to, out of respect for a valid marriage and in the view of his efforts on behalf of it, against tremendous odds.