April 26, 2014

UPDATED: Aleteia: Inside the Painful, Messy World of Annulments

UPDATED: See below for Professor Van Ornum's reply to my comment.

From Aleteia.org, an article that obviously hits extremely close to home and to which I felt compelled to respond. Click the link to read the entire article, excerpted below, and my posted comment following that:

Inside the Painful, Messy World of Annulments

A psychologist with 25 years of experience working in the annulment process explains why it can be so hard.

William Van Ornum

"During the 1990s I used to visit John Cardinal O’Connor to talk about different topics related to psychology and developmental disabilities. Cardinal O’Connor was extremely interested in these topics because he himself had a master’s degree in psychology. After one meeting, when I was thinking about another criticism of annulments – that they are given out too freely – I asked Cardinal O’Connor what he thought. He responded by saying that  the Church needed  to provide any and all resources to a divorced person that would help them to free themselves to go back to the sacraments. I took this to be a very liberal and affirming outlook. Cardinal O’Connor is greatly missed.

I remember one priest involved in annulments – if I can ever figure out how to do this I will nominate him to be a saint. His name was Fr. Bill Murphy and he was a Franciscan friar of the atonement. His ministry, supported by his religious order, was to work with the Separated, Divorced, and Remarried (SDRC) groups  which were fairly common in the Church at the time. He taught himself canon law and offered his services freely and fully to help people complete their annulment statements and see the psychologist.  He served as their advocate through the entire process. I suspect that he helped bring hundreds if not more people back into the Church as well as closer to God....

How will the Church balance the need to affirm Christ’s command concerning the indissolubility marriage while at the same time preventing what may truly (and tragically) be called “collateral damage” or “friendly fire.” The Hippocratic oath may be relevant here: Do No Harm. (This should be a requirement for any Church procedure, yes?) "

My posted comment to the above article:

"The Hippocratic oath may be relevant here: Do No Harm. "  This says it all, doesn't it? But it is a false and naive notion. There are always the silent sufferers in all this who have no voice in the matter,  but yet bear the brunt of its effects - the children. It is the children who bear the scars far into their lives and whose very lives will always be the most affected long after the parents have turned to dust. It is the children who are left out of the equation in annulments, let alone divorces. It is the children who loose their security, their parents and their rights to a stable home life, all from the whims and wishes of those around them. It is a travesty of justice and charity that those who are the most affected and the least considered are forgotten of - by the Church, let alone the parents. Do the Parents / Tribunals think just because Mom or Dad are free to find a new Prince/Princess Charming that everything resets to zero as far as the kids are concerned? How many times can children be asked to divide their Love  between one or more step-parents? How many times can it be assumed children can "move-on" with their lives, when those lives have been so shattered? Even once is far, far too many. 

I am in the 4th year of a divorce/annulment that ended a 22 year marriage, the fourth year of estrangement from over 1/3rd of our ten children, the fourth year of watching my children carry the mistakes of the parents into their own futures, the fourth year of honoring my vows to their Mother and the fourth year of my Love and Fidelity to her and her alone. So, no...their is little I can agree with in this article as to the goodness and efficacy of annulments. Though I know there are valid grounds for annulments, there are many cases that have used the DSM for the greater good of one person alone - the petitioner. It is that person and that person alone who benefits and no other, especially the children.  Children - like many respondents, including me - are simply along for the ride. And like No Fault Divorce, there is little either of them can do to stop the juggernaut. All that can be done is to try and minimize the pain and sorrow that is the inevitable result of actions not of our choosing. 

Professor Van Ornum's reply to my comment:

william van ornum 7 hours ago

You are correct in the points you make. Now that they are up here others will become aware of these problems. The issue of certain petitioners using the process to "start over with a new Prince Charming/Princess Charming" is a real one, one needing examination. Unlike civil divorces, there is no one who serves as an "advocate for the children" during the annulment process (as it is in divorces where "the needs of the children" may be considered); in my understanding, this is not addressed at all in canon law.

Perhaps if Canon Law had much more input from la persons there would be a wider examination of the entire situation; unfortunately, as I've mentioned, it doesn't seem, to me at least, to be a career offering a great deal of financial security or advancement--a person, especially a young person, would much rather opt for a legal career which (even in these times?) would offer more.

Thank you for writing with this example and I hope its specificity will be understood by all who work in this process.

Copyright 2014 David Heath - All Rights Reserved


  1. Divorce is tough on the kids; there is no doubt. Unfortunately, marriages take two and if one isn't willing, what is the other to do? Luckily, this is not an issue in my life, so I'll let the Church handle it.

    Welcome to the St. Blog's directory. I'd like to invite you to participate in Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. We are a group of bloggers who gather weekly to share our best posts with each other. This week's host post is at http://rannthisthat.blogspot.com/2014/05/sunday-snippets-catholic-carnival_17.html

    1. Thanks, RAnn...I will check out your site.


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