Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Vatican Revises Annulment Rules:

Just over six percent of the world's Catholics live in the United States. Yet the U.S. church generates 70 percent of the church's 56,000 annual annulment requests. That number may increase under revised annulment procedures released yesterday by the Vatican:

A rule in the new document makes an annulment slightly easier to obtain by allowing a church appeals court to uphold an annulment grant by a lower court even if the appeals court's conclusion differs slightly from the original tribunal's on why the marriage should be voided. On the other hand, the new rules still require an appeals court to rule even if all parties and the initial tribunal agree that an annulment is permissible.

The document disappointed some American Catholics who had hoped that the Vatican would dramatically tighten the rules. "In America we are swamped by a culture that treats marriage very lightly," said Charles Molineaux of McLean, who belongs to a lay group devoted to defending church orthodoxy. "The church is supposed to be confronting the culture, not floating with it."

Indeed. Some may remember the small scandal that broke out a few years back when the church granted an annulment to US Rep. Joseph Kennedy, who was married to Sheila Rauch-Kennedy for 14 years and has two children with her. Kennedy's request for an annulment was granted on the ground that he lacked "due discretion," a term which means he did not possess the proper mental capacity to enter into marriage at the time of the weddinig.

One could be forgiven for wondering why a priest would not have noticed such a decifiency during the ceremony. But this may be a bit unfair. Ascertaining the mental capacity of another human being can be quite difficult, after all. This may be why most churches require only that the two have the right combination of genitalia. That, and enough money to pay the wedding fee.

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