Saturday, February 27, 2010

Vespers Hymn for the Sundays of Lent

Audi Benigne Conditor:

(near English translation from St. Andrew Daily Missal 1962)

Audi, benigne Conditor, nostras preces cum fletibus,
Thou loving Maker of mankind, before Thy throne we pray and weep!
In hoc sacro ieiunio fusas quadragenario.
Oh, strengthen us with grace divine duly this sacred Lent to keep.

Scrutator alme cordium, infirma tu scis virium
Searcher of hearts! Thou dost our ills discern and all our weakness know.
Ad te reversis exhibe remissionis gratiam
Again to Thee with tears we turn, again to us Thy mercy show.

Multum quidem peccavimus, sed parce confitentibus:
Much have we sinned; but we confess our guilt, and all our faults deplore:
Ad nominis laudem tui confer medelam languidis
Oh, for the praise of Thy great name our fainting souls to health restore!

Concede nostrum conteri corpus per abstinentiam; culpae et relinquant pabulum
And grant us, while by fasts we strive this mortal body to control,
Ieiuna corda criminum.
To fast from all the food of sin, and so to purify the soul.

Praesta, beata Trinitas, concede simplex Unitas;
Hear us, O Trinity thrice blest! Sole Unity! to Thee we cry:
Ut fructuosa sint tuis ieiuniorum munera
Vouchsafe us from these fasts below to reap immortal fruit on high.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Saint John Fisher, pray for us

Saint John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, pray for the bishops of England and Wales, and for us their flocks.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pope Benedict on Fasting (speaking as Cardinal Ratzinger in 1983)

Twenty seven Lents ago, our Holy Father himself gave the Meditations at the Lenten Spiritual Exercises for his beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II. Whilst waiting for this year's meditations to be published I've been reading the first part of 'Journey to Easter'. This was published in English translation by the then Cardinal Ratzinger in 1987. It reproduces all the Meditations he gave during that week in 1983. The short extract below is from the Meditation for the first Sunday of Lent on the Gospel text of that day dealing with the Temptation of Jesus in the Desert..

"Jesus' road begins with the forty days of fasting, as did those of Moses and Elijah. Jesus told his disciples that a certain kind of demon is not to be cast out in any other way than by prayer and fasting..................................

The primacy of God is not really achieved if it does not also include man's corporality.The truly central actions of man's biological life are eating and reproduction, sensuality. Therefore virginity and fasting have been from the beginning of the Christian tradition two indispensable expressions of the primacy of God, of faith in the reality of God. Without being given corporal expression also, the primacy of God remains with difficulty, of decisive moment in man's life. It is true that fasting is not all there is to Lent, but it is something indispensable for which there is no substitute. Freedom in the actual application of fasting is good and corresponds to the different situations in which we find ourselves. But a public and communal act of the Church seems to me to be no less necessary today than in past times, as a public testimony to the primacy of God and of spiritual values, as much as solidarity with all those who are starving.Without fasting we shall in no way cast out the demon of our time."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Eve of the Chair of St Peter

At 6pm this evening our Holy Father begins his week-long Lenten Exercises. This post represents fervent prayers for his well-being and intentions. May God grant him a holy, restful and fruitful retreat, and renew his strength throughout Lent and the demands of the Easter Triduum at its conclusion

First Sunday of Lent: "Qui habitat"

Josquin des Prez: "Qui habitat":

(Tract of the first Sunday of Lent, 1962 Missale Romanum)

Friday, February 19, 2010

First Mass in St Romain for 17 years, Thursday on the Feast of St. Bernadette; and Lenten blogging restrictions

For some details of Thursday evening's Mass in our church of St. Romain, please see Spiritual Mothers of Priests blog. More about this astonishing and totally unexpected occasion later. Deo gratias.

Beginning on Monday I will only post twice a week on both my blogs during Lent, once on Tuesdays and again on Saturdays. On Sundays appropriate Chant and polyphonic videos will be posted on this Oasis.

Prayers for a holy and fruitful Lent for everyone here.

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.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Have Mercy on me, O Lord!

Allegri's setting of Psalm 51 (abridged), introduced by Barry Rose.

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.

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.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Defend the Pope's visit to England: Pray the Rosary this afternoon

Thanks to the two commenters who have corrected me about the timing of the demo. described below. It will take place, tomorrow Sunday 14 February and not today as stated here. Never mind, we can never pray the Rosary often enough! C. and I will do again tomorrow exactly as we did today!

At 1pm today Catholics will gather peacefully ourside Westminster Cathedral to pray a silent Rosary in the face of demonstrators against Pope Benedict's forthcoming visit to England. Within the next hour, if we still lived in London, Colin and I would be taking the short bus ride down Buckingham Palace Road in order to be present. As it is, we will pray the Rosary together, here in our French home and in spirit will be with our Catholic brothers and sisters. We are praying that they will fill the Piazza. This is an opportunity not only to stand up for the Pope, but also for our Faith and for the Church of Christ. If you can't get there, please pray the Rosary this afternoon.

If you go, please let me know what happened via the combox. We do not have UK TV and in any case there is no guarantee that the event will make the news today.

Father Mildew has suggested that 'Full in the panting heart of Rome' be sung. I think 'Faith of Our Fathers' would be more appropriate!

Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us.

In Christo pro Papa

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Annulment of Marriage Part II: Grounds and early procedures

Possible grounds for Annulment are:
1. Inability or refusal to consummate the marriage
2, Bigamy
3. Duress
4. Illegality (Marriage ceremony not peformed according to Canon Law)
5. At the time of the marriage, one of, or both partners under the influence of, or addicted to a chemical substance
6 Mental incapacity, i.e. being unable to understand the nature and expectations of marriage
7, Lack of knowledge or understanding of marriage as a life-long commitment with priority to spouse and children
8. Psychological reasons, including misrepresentation or fraud (i.e. concealing the truth about the capacity or desire to have children, existence of a previous marrriage, felony convictions, sexual preference, or having reached the age of consent

My own petition was based on the 8th ground. I did not know of its existence until the procedure began but I now gather that possibly most annulments petitions are based on it, that is that the Advocate for the Petitioner makes out a case to the Tribunal that canon 1095 has been violated, in my case by the respondent as having concealed the truth about his desire not to have children.

It is possible that the conduct of cases may have changed in its detail in the 25 years since my own Annulment, but am certain that its proper aims will have remain unchanged. Also I'd be grateful if readers would be aware that I report on the procedures as they involve this 8th ground. I know nothing about possible differences in procedure when one of the other grounds is being investigated.

- First communication from the Tribunal.
This took the form of 1) an invitation to attend the Tribunal Offices for a first interview on a given date. Ample notice was given. 2) an instruction sheet. This sheet apologised for the delay in contacting me and explained that this was because of the large number of cases being dealt with, and for that reason too, I was asked to let them know at least a fortnight before the appointment if I could not keep it. This, so that the slot could be given to someone else 'in the queue'. The same sheet then asked me to do the following:
a) Fill out a basic fact sheet - personal details, date and place of marriage etc
b) On a separate sheet to prepare an account of the marriage under investigation, covering the following details.
i) The first meeting with your partner date, place, circumstances
ii) The courtship
iii) The engagement - dates, any special circumstances, whether broken off at any time.
iv) The wedding - any significant details at the ceremony of reception
v) The course of the marriage
vi) Deterioration of the relationship
vii) Breakdown of the marriage.
c) Obtain copies of my Baptismal certificate, Marriage certificate, and Divorce Decree absolute. These would have to be supplied eventually, but it was hoped I would bring them with me to the interview.
d) Send the completed fact sheet and account of the marriage to the Tribunal, if possible two weeks before, but not later than one week ahead of the interview date.

The instruction sheet concluded with helpful advice as to who to contact in case of difficulty with filling in the sheet or preparing the account. I was asked to note the reference at the head of the accompanying letter and to use it in all future correspondence with the Tribunal. After all these years, I have only just noted that the reference includes the figures 83/186. These would seem to indicate the year and probably that mine was the 186th case to be investigated in 1983.

Next post on Sunday 'Interviews at the Tribunal Offices; giving evidence, spoken and written; the bringing of witnesses."
On other subjects, on Saturday.

Our Lady of Lourdes

G. P. Palestrina, Alma Redemptoris Mater

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Holy Mary, 'Mother of Priests', pray for us.

For those of you who may not have picked it up, I repeat here, yesterday's post from the Spiritual Mothers of Priests blog.

"I think it was January 4 this year when I posted that I intended to write to the Holy Father begging him to sanction a new invocation into the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Loreto), which would honour Our Lady as Mother and Queen of Clergy. Other matters have in the meanwhile intervened to prevent the writing of that letter. But I have never forgotten it, and during the last month Father Mark Kirby has let me know that he thinks this would represent a worthy plea; and then at last Sunday's Angelus, Pope Benedict himself referred to Our Lady as 'Mother of Priests'. I will now write the letter, hoping that it will reach our Holy Father on or before the feast of St. Joseph. I will be gladdened and strengthened by any support you may sendvia comment or email, and when the letter is written will here reproduce its relevant parts.

The major impetus in this plea to the Holy Father, is the fervent desire that the spirit of this Year of the Priest should be perpetually represented before Our Lady in her Litany."

I don't expect to be here again until Thursday when (DV) there will be a musical offering to Our Lady of Lourdes, and the second post on the Annulment of Marriage. In the meantime have a happy and holy Saint Scholastica's day!

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on kto tv and EWTN.

Both these channels will broadcast live coverage of the Holy Father's Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at 9.30am UK time on Thursday, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of prayer for the sick. EWTN will repeat the broadcast at 11.30pm UK time. EWTN has also scheduled documentary programmes on Lourdes, one on the Feast itself and another on Saturday February 13th.

This evening a relic of Saint Bernadette will arrive at the Roman Basilica of St. Mary Major for veneration by the faithful ahead of the Feast. When I last looked Vatican Radio was saying that Thursday is St Bernadette's Feast. Does this mean that in the Diocese of Rome, she shares the day with Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11th being the anniversary of the day when Our Blessed Mother first appeared to her?

When Bernadette was canonised in 1933 her feast day was set for February 18. I can vouch for the statement on Wikipedia that this date is still kept in France. It's a custom I favour because it is so close to Our Lady of Lourdes. However Wikipedia also states that everywhere else in the Church, St Bernadette is commemorated on April 16, the Anniversary of her death.

I pray to her on many days of the year, but speciffically on April 16 for Pope Benedict on his birthday.

St. Bernadette does not appear at all in the calendar at the front of the 'new' English Breviary (1974). This would indicate that she is not listed in our National Calendar which I feel is a very sad omission.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Annulment of Marriage: Part I - Statement of Intent

In an earlier post I said that your responses to me on this issue fell into two broad categories. In the first are those of you whose lives and/or allegiance to the Church have been terribly damaged by the way the Annulment process has been conducted, particularly in USA. On February 1 this year, after the Holy Father addressed the Roman Rota on January 29, Fr Z had a post about it. There were 65 comments, several of which alleged deep-rooted and longstanding corruption amongst the USA diocesan tribunals. As I also said earlier, we had a hint of this in the early 1980s when the results of English cases were delayed because of Pope John Paul's worry that too many 'easy' annulments were being granted in the USA. From the comments on Fr Z's post, on my own, and from your emails, it would seem that many of these annulments were granted, and are still being granted, against long and repeated defences by Catholic and non-Catholic respondents who believed, and still believe in conscience, that their marriages are valid, and that their spouses, with the cognizance, approval and encouragement of the local clergy and Ordinary, have been living, and continue to live, adulterously. These respondents have been faithful to their marriages and it is the unfaithful partner who has been granted the annulment.(The respondent in a case, is usually the partner who defends the marriage as valid. The petitioner is the partner who brings the case.) I thank Anonymous for giving me the link to Fr Z's post and the comments it drew. Here it is.

In my second category of commenters are those of you who are partially or totally ignorant of the Annulment procedure. Many people do not even know of the different grounds that can be claimed. It is these people, and only these people, that I can hope to help in this and subsequent posts on the subject. As an English woman whose Annulment was granted by the Wesminster Tribunal, I am not qualified to make further comment on the situation in the USA, or on the cases that have been described to me. Much as these unsolicited descriptions are the cause of profound sympathy for those involved, and painful anxiety about the apparent conduct of matters, I must now confine myself to the PROCESS as I experienced it, and as far as possible eschew personal details of the case itself.

At the outset I will state my unshakeable conviction and testimony that there was absolutely no corruption in the conduct of my own case which began early in 1983 and concluded in January 1985. You will note the shortness of the intervening period, which in hindsight indicates to me, that from the Tribunal's point of view, mine had not been a difficult petition to uphold.
In 1981, I was not to know that. In fact I knew very little at all, in common, as I suspect, with many Catholics. In that year at the insistent prompting of a close Catholic friend, I first went to see my parish priest on the subject. I went with the commonly held pre-conceptions about annulment - the only grounds were non-consummation, lunacy, or having been forced into the marriage 'at gun point'; it was impossibly expensive for 'ordinary' people; it took absolutely ages. I was not disabused of the first of these notions until my first interview with a Tribunal priest in 1983, and not of the second or third until the process concluded. The other thing about which I did not become clear until the process began, was the difference between Annulment and Divorce. I was under the impression that the former was just a Church version of the latter. In many ways, the truth is more serious and painful because whereas divorce 'dissolves' a marriage that the State acknowledges to have existed, in an Annulment, the Church seeks to prove that such a marriage never existed and is therefore null.

In that first interview with my Parish Priest, I had been startled by his announcement that the Church would not even look at my case until I was divorced. I had been living separately from my marriage partner for 18 months and in keeping with Church teaching had not even considered divorce. Count me naive if you like. I'm sure my PP thought me so, when I said to him in shocked tones, 'But Canon, the Church doesn't accept divorce''. I quote his reply from memory:

"My dear girl, we are not the established religion in this country. Imagine how it would be if the Catholic Church went around handing out annulments to people whom the State still regarded as legally married to each other. It simply would not be workable, not for the couples, not for the Church and not for the State."

After further discussion and questioning, he sent me away to get a divorce. After that had been achieved in 1983, I went again to the new Parish Priest, the Canon having died in the meantime.
The whole process of questioning had to be gone through again. It was not lengthy because I was well known to the parish clergy as a member of the choir. This time I was told the name of the head of the Westminster Diocesan Marriage Tribunal and that in the first instance the PP himself would write to him on my behalf. I would then be contacted by the Tribunal.

Both Canons had been very kind but neither of them gave me any real understanding of the nature of Annulment, nor any clue as to the process I was about to face. I hope this preparatory phase has been improved since my time.

From now on and in my next post on Annulment I will date and order the way things evolved from the correspondence I have kept. The next post will include a description of possible grounds for Annulment, and a statement of the one upon which my own was founded.
I conclude today with a clarification of the role of the respondent. In a 'mixed marriage' such as my own, it is probably very unusual for the respondent to want to defend the marriage. I only know that my marriage partner did not in any way defend it in his evidence, or private remarks to me. However, as in all cases, having taken everything into account provided in written and recorded statements from both partners and their witnesses, the Defender of the Bond should seek to prove the validity of the marriage. It is really an ecclesiasical court case with the marriage itself in the dock. The petitioner's advocate seeks to prove it does not exist and never has done, and the Defender of the Bond, seeks to prove the reverse. Neither the Petitioner nor Respondent, nor their witnesses are invited to appear in court. At least, we were not, and I think that is the usual practice.

At no point were we told exactly what these two tribunal lawyers actually said, and although in my own case, I did not need to know, I think perhaps the Church exercises undue secrecy here in keeping information from the people whom it most closely affects. If there is a will to corruption, it can only be encouraged in such an atmosphere. That said, I never asked to see transcripts and so do not know what happens if you do.

Next post on Annulmen on Thursday.
And on other subjects tomorrow.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

'Catholic Voices' for the Pope's Visit to UK; and news of my intended posts on Annulment

I have been studying my annulment file and hope to publish the first of a series of posts on ANNULMENT on Monday afternoon. I hope not to post again before then.

In the meantime, I found this a couple of days ago at Zenit:

See here. You can reach the site of this newly formed and independent initiative at: The President of the Catholic Union of Great Britain, Lord Brennan, and the Abbot of Worth are the projects patrons. It is independent of the Bishops Conference although apparently that body endorses it.

Have a look. It's really quite interesting and perhaps an opportunity for some of our best bloggers to put themselves forward for training, that is if they have not already signed up!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Petition to support the Pope in the UK; and many thanks for all your prayers

Here is the link to sign the petition. Father Blake had a post earlier today subtitled 'Pray and Pay', which reminds us that these are the best ways to support our Holy Father. I agree wholeheartedly but still think it important that we sign this petition. You have to be a UK citizen to sign it, but you do not have to be Catholic, or even Christian to do so.

The National Secular Society's petition is against the Pope making a STATE visit and at present has 14,340 signatures. The petition to support his journey has 720. There seems to be some confusion about what kind of visit it is actually to be.The Catholic Herald does NOT refer to it as a State visit, although it naturally acknowledges that the initial invitation was made by Gordon Brown. Ruth Gledhill did refer to it as such in the Times last week, I believe.

I think the Holy Father referred to his upcoming 'APOSTOLIC VISIT' during the ad limina visit of the E & W Conference. (I will check that.) However it is the normal practice in countries receiving the Pope for the cost to be shared by the local Church and the Government concerned. If the local Church cannot afford its full share, the Holy See helps out. Officially, as the Herald reports, matters are proceeding smoothy and normally between Holy See, local Church and Govt. Already the BBC Director General has been in consultation with Rome about TV coverage.(How I do wish we had an independent Catholic TV channel, like the French kto which, although endorsed by the French bishops, is not run by them, and certainly does not seem to be under their control. You can buy the package for TV viewing, but it is completely free 24/7 via the internet. Now such a channel would be well worth helping to set up by financial as well as spiritual support. More about this in a later post.)

The Catholic Herald states that the local Church is worried because the visit of Pope John Paul left it heavily in debt. Without mentioning the reasons why, nearly 30 years on, many of its dioceses are currently in debt, I think we can rely on our Holy Father to do everything he can not to worsen their situation. Fr Blake's comparison between his style and that of his Venerable predecessor, is absolutely on the button. Pope Benedict prefers Liturgy in holy places and limits huge outdoor arena Masses as far as he can. Where the latter are desirable because of the number of faithful wishing to attend, these open air liturgies are conducted in the most dignified and deeply recollected manner. I have watched every single one since Autumn 2008, live on kto of course.

What constitutes a State visit in any case? Two external features are known to most of us. These are a trip down the Mall in an open carriage with HM the Queen, and a sumptuous Banquet at Buckingham Palace in honour of the guest being received. The Holy Father declined both of these very early in the negotiations. The Queen will meet him in Scotland and will not have to return to London for the occasion. I'd say that not having the first two has already saved the British government rather a lot of money.

I wish the HOLY SEE would make a CLEAR STATEMENT as to what kind of visit this is to be. If Apostolic, then the petition of the NSS is totally unnecessary. On the other hand, any petition that asks us to support our Holy Father is worthy to be signed.

God bless , and thank you all so much for your promise of prayers via emails, ecards and comments here. They were a great comfort to Russell when I told him about them on the phone last night, and to me too.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sad personal news this morning

I will not be posting again until Friday. Have been deeply shocked to hear from one of my oldest and dearest friends of the death of his mother Joyce on January 25th. She too was a beloved friend. More details are at the Spiritual Mothers of Priests blog. (Russell is a Canon Emeritus of Wells Cathedral.)

Of your charity, please offer a prayer for Joyce's soul, and for Russell in his grief.

Snowdrops and Candlemas

Today, I'd been hoping to explain the rich European and Marian Lore regarding the snowdrop and today's feast. Maybe there will be time tomorrow evening, if not it will have to wait until next year. In the meantime, please sign the petition mentioned in previous post.

God bless all here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Petition to support Pope's visit to UK: Please sign

Link to sign petition at 'Catholic Church Convservation'. Link in my sidebar here. It's new. There were only 7 signatories when I signed a few minutes ago. We have just over 7 months to make a really big statement. You don't have to be Catholic or even Christian to sign it.

More later. In a rush to get to Papal Vespers mentioned earlier.

Candlemas greetings;notice of Papal Vespers this evening

A happy and holy candlemas everyone. As you see, I've had trouble 'wrapping' the promised gift. Please scroll to find it two or three posts below. I'll be so upset if you miss it.

The Papal Vespers with be broadcast live on kto from St Peter's Basilica at 4.30 UK time. EWTN may be covering it as well.

Advance notification: Holy Mass of Ash Wednesday celebrated by the Holy Father, Feb 17 at 4pm (UK time) live on kto.
For dates and times of all Papal liturgies between now and the end of May please Google 'Prefecture of the Papal Household'.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The E & W ad limina is over; and more news on that Dove

Late VIS NEWS (Friday's email not received. There is no email on Saturdays.)

The remainder of the E & W prelates saw the Pope in separate audiences on Saturday and this morning. Speaking to the Conference about his projected September visit to England, and of the assurances the bishops had given him about the faith of English and Welsh Catholics, the Holy Father remarked during his address: 'I shall be able to witness that faith for myself'.

Cardinal Pell was also received separately this morning.

That Angelus dove: (see earlier post)
According to VIS, much to the amusement of the Holy Father, the dove flew back into his study before he eventually managed to release it. This must have happened after the kto coverage concluded.

Annulment: Interim response to your comments and emails

Thank you very much for taking the trouble to send these in.

So far they come from two major groups. First there are those of you who are in almost total ignorance of the Annulment process and who would welcome more information. Theirs is a sincere and definitely not an idle curiosity. Second there are those who have been badly hurt by their experience of how the Church deals with these cases, particularly in the USA. These souls have been deeply and permanently injured by it, to the extent of bitter denunciation and rejection of the Church, her bishops, canon lawyers and the Pope.

I wish to answer the first group as far as I'm able, but the fact that my own experience took place in the UK, does not qualify me to speak on the experiences of commenters from the USA. I can however let readers know the perceptions of people in this second group. On the whole, I think the matter should be thoroughly aired and only one commenter out of 17 so far thinks that I shouldn't open it on my blog. My intention is to wait at least another week to allow time for more comments/emails before posting again on the subject. Aside from that, I need to study what the Pope said to the Roman Rota and to dig out the folder containing all my own annulment correspondence, depositions etc. in order to make sure that everything I may say is completely accurate. Please pray for all commenters, and for me, as I continue to pray and deliberate about what to do.

A special note for 'another anonymous'. I would publish your comment except that I cannot, for reasons connected with the dedication of this blog, see description in banner under the blog title, and my own oath which appears in the sidebar. I would however, with your permission, be willing to quote your experience in any eventual posts on the annulment process. I would much appreciate your response by email at:

A little gift of music for Candlemas:"When to the Temple Mary Went" J. Eccard

  • Johannes Eccard (1553-1611) was German and a one-time student of Lassus. This piece is a motet for 6 voices (SSATBB)
  • Before you listen to the recording, unless you already know the piece, I suggest a glance through the words first. To my ear they are beautiful and Eccard's setting matches them perfectly. The acoustic of St. Paul's is unhelpful to anyone who values enunciation, which is particularly important with the second half of the English version of this motet. The words and more details about the piece apppear below the video.

"The Presentation of Christ in the Temple" - translated from the German by Rev. J. Troutbeck

When to the temple Mary went and brought the Holy Child,
Him did the anged Simeon see, as it had been revealed.
He took up Jesus in his arms and blessing God he said;
In peace I now depart, my Saviour having seen,
The Hope of Israel, the Hope of Israel,
The Light of men.
Help now thy servants, gracious Lord
That we may ever be
As once the faithful Simeon was
Rejoicing but in Thee;
And when we must from earth departure take
May gently fall asleep,
May gently fall asleep
And with Thee wake.

I learned the piece in the mid 1980s. It was one of the few sung in English by the RC church choir to which I belonged. The version we used was from 'Select Vocal Part Music of Various Schools' Edited (and marked for use of the Bach Choir) by Otto Goldschmidt. Our MD was a member of the Bach Choir and I think he got it from the Bach Choir Magazine No.2. It's probably more easily available these days. Perhaps Leutgeb could tell me whether this is the composer Goldschmidt, who married the 'Swedish Nightingale', Jenny Lind. I think it's reasonable to assume that Rev. Troutbeck is the well-known Anglican translator who was once Precentor of Westminster Abbey. He died in 1899.