Friday, November 17, 2006

Beginning the Annulment Process

Last week, I had my first meeting with Father Bernie regarding the annulment of my previous marriage.

First off, I really like Father Bernie. I know I liked several of the pastors I had while I was a kid, but I really haven't held any opinion of any minister I've encountered in my adult religious life until I met Father Bernie. From the moment he greeted me for the first time before the Rites of Welcome and Acceptance, he has exuded a sense of warmth, friendliness, and flat-out "cool" that immediately put me at ease. I've seen him several times -- before the Rites, my first RCIA session, our "Meet the Coach" stewardship meeting, Mass, and my annulment meeting -- and each time, he has greeted me by name with a warm smile and a handshake or hug. When I expressed nervousness over the annulment process via e-mail, he made it a point to reassure me when he saw me before Mass the following Sunday. And when he has blessed me during Mass, I've seen true caring and joy in his eyes, and I know he is the kind of priest I will comfortable turning to for guidance.

Father Bernie's role in the annulment process is to act as my defense attorney of sorts. To me, this annulment means everything. Quite simply, I want to remarry someday and raise a family of my own, and the idea of a mistake I made when I was 23 preventing me from fulfilling that dream is scary. For those unfamiliar with the Church's view on marriage, it should be emphasized that the Catholic church views all marriages between baptized parties within any church as sacramental (i.e. valid) and that sacramental marriages are permanent. In other words, a civil divorce isn't sufficient to end a marriage, and those who remarry without having an annulment granted are entering into a state of mortal sin because their new marriage would be considered adulterous to the first. Therefore, a case has to be built to prove the marriage was never sacramental in the first place, and if it can't be proven, the original marriage stands as sacramental in the Church's eyes.

Though I had researched the possible grounds for annulment, I didn't quite know what to expect during my meeting with Father Bernie. I knew we would discuss my relationship with The Ex prior to and at the time of the marriage, but I wasn't sure how much bearing his behavior during the marriage would have on the case. Honestly, I had hoped we'd be making one of two arguments: that The Ex's remarriage had released me from my obligation to the marriage (though I wasn't sure if that had any canonical basis) or that as someone raised Protestant, I honestly believed civil divorce was sufficient to allow for remarriage within the church. But apparently, neither of those are going to hold enough water to float a raft.

Instead, Father Bernie feels that my illness during the time The Ex and I dated, the acuteness of the illness at the time I accepted the proposal, and the complexity of my recovery during our engagement and the first part of our marriage contributed to a situation in which I was not truly rational enough to realize the magnitude of the decision I was making. Throw in his behavior and my own lack confidence, and it looks like the case might hold enough water to float an ark instead of just a raft. I hope. It's difficult, after so many years of our issues and the ultimate breakdown of our marriage being The Ex's fault, to admit the initial problem might have been my own lack of judgement. But it's also freeing, in a way, because it means that when I made the decision to walk away, I didn't fail. In the end, I'm learning that my mistake wasn't in walking away but was, instead, in entering into my marriage by my own human weaknesses and will instead of by God's will. Hopefully, the Church will agree that the circumstances surrounding my marriage attest to that and will allow me to move on with my life. But for now, my job is to give Father Bernie the information he needs to help them understand what I already know. Yes, it's possible the Church will deny the annulment, and if they do, I will be heartbroken. But there is a point in every petition to God that, while we continue to do our best to help ourselves, we must stop praying for what we want and start praying for what He wants (and the abililty to accept it). Only then will we find out what God has in store.


Post a Comment

<< Home