A REGULAR BLOG READER HAS ASKED ME FOR MY OPINION ON CATHOLIC MARRIAGE ANNULMENTS.
Can I start off by saying that I think that both the human and Christian IDEAL is that every marriage should last for life.
That's the ideal.
However as in many other things in life we humans often fail to reach or to live the ideal.
So what do you do when a marriage gets into trouble and breakdown. Do you take the hard line and tell someone - especially an innocent party, that they have made their bed and must lie on it - and condemn them to a lifetime of loneliness or a lifetime of being a church leper?
The whole point of Christianity is that JESUS came to be the BRIDGE between God and man and woman - and the bridge between the ideal and the real.
So on this question - as on all other questions - we need to ask ourselves WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?
Many people do not understand the difference between DIVORCE and an ANNULMENT.
A divorce is when a civil court makes a ruling that a marriage that was legally valid is now being ended.
An annulment is when a church court says that there never was a valid marriage in the first place due to something lacking in a couple or their attempted marriage. In the church's eyes that can be something like a couple deciding before marriage that they will never have children; one party marrying out of fear or not giving full consent, or one party being secretly a homosexual and not declaring it to the other party.
I do not have much respect for the Roman Catholic Church's marriage annulment carry on for the following reasons:
1. It can take many years to get an annulment. I've met people who have waited 10 plus years.
2. The investigators are mainly priests and they often ask both parties very intimate questions about their life and sexual history.
3. If you are famous, wealthy or well in with especially some senior clergy you can get an annulment easier than and sexual lives. or Mary Bloggs can.
4. If you are living in the USA it is easier to get an annulment than if you are living in Ireland.
And generally speaking, annulments are ways of controlling people at the level of their emotional and sexual lives. Why should any man or woman have to give a supposedly celibate priest a blow by blow account of what happens in the bedroom?
The RC Church did not really get involved in marriage until the 12th century. Before that time it was a civil, legal matter.
Of course, people like to think that they have God's blessing on their life and marriage. Traditionally they have done this by asking a priest to bless them or give them the Sacrament of Marriage.
But any couple can sit on a sofa together and ask God to bless them, their marriage and their children and God WILL do just that.
And there is nothing at all wrong with a couple having a church marriage presided over by a priest. In many ways such marriages are more meaningful than a quick visit to a lady at the state registry office.
But I would like the Church to STOP controlling people through marriage, sexuality, schools etc.
The church and the priest should be there to SERVE - not to DOMINATE.
I have been looking after Catholics and others who have had broken marriages for 31 years now. In fact I have celebrated over 4,000 marriagesd and blessing at people's requests. Many of the people I look after have been turned away by judgemental priests - or priests insisting on an annulment. Believe me I have heard horror stories about how people were treated by parish priests, curates and priests in church tribunals.
I always tell people to ignore the whole annulment procedure. I tell them to sort out their affairs through civil divorces, wills and good arrangements for children.
And then I remarry them.
Sometimes - but far less often these days - people ask me if my marriages are recognized by Catholic Canon Law.
I tell them: NO.
And I go on to tell them that when I marry them they will be married in the eyes of the law of the land and in the eyes of God.
And I ask them: "If you are married in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of God do you really care what some priest, bishop or pope thinks"?
Most people these days do not care about these men and their man-made rules which were manEVEN THE RCufactured as control mechanisms.
And I always say to them:
"IF ALL YOU ARE GUILTY OF IN LIFE IS REMARRYING AND FINDING LOVE AGAIN YOU WILL HAVE NO REASON TO FEAR MEETING JESUS AT THE END OF YOUR LIFE. YOU WILL HAVE FAR LESS TO ACCOUNT FOR THAN MANY OF THE PRIESTS, BISHOPS ETC WHO ARE QUICK TO JUDGE YOU".
If your marriage gets into trouble - do all you can - including getting counseling to save it.
If your marriage is truly over try and part friends with your ex and look after all your responsibilities to them and especially to your children.
And when you are ready - and if you want to - be open to God sending someone new your way and when they arrive see them as a gift of God - and not a sin.
Life is short.
Life is tough.
Make the most of every good thing that comes your way - while of course, always being responsible, just and moral about it.
EVEN THE RC CHURCH TEACHES THAT IT IS THE COUPLE WHO ARE THE MINISTERS OF THE SACRAMENT - AND NOT THE PRIEST.
Is God going to refuse his grace because a priest is not present?