A bizarre twist to annulment journey


#1

Last night when my husband and I were finishing up his formal paperwork requested by our parish priest to start the annulment process, we learned something very upsetting about the priest who had performed the ceremony. I am being very careful here because neither of us have any interest in causing any type of disruption or pain to the people who were affected by this priests actions. In short, before performing their ceremony, he had be reassigned almost every year due to severe issues with alcohol that had caused him many legal issues (way more than DUI's) and also with a conviction for molestation and some other pretty awful things. He is a troubled person and I trust that the Church has and will continue to work with him in whatever way they deem appropriate. However, he was reassigned again right after their ceremony due to "dereliction of duty" for lack of any other words, for being impaired while he was working with the public (baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc.) The worst thing is, he was fairly recently convicted (both in criminal court and the Church court) of an unthinkable crime that occurred under horrific circumstances.

Why is this important? I'm wondering if a marriage performed by a priest who had a long, long very well documented history of a serious alcohol and drug addiction is valid when there is some concern that he may not have been sober that day (along with the bride). He had been reassigned almost every year since he had been ordained because of improper conduct with children, drug and alcohol problems until they finally led up to the worst one.

The priest was very lax about everything and didn't offer or perform any marriage counseling. The only thing he did was have them sign some papers stating they had all of their sacraments and where, that they weren't intoxicated or mentally ill or related, that they would have children and raise them Catholic and a few other questions, about a page. That was it and then he performed the ceremony a few hours later. This was a big wedding with all of the trimmings so it's not like they just walked into a chapel in Vegas. They both lied on the form because there was never any intention to have children, she did not want them and made it a deal breaker if he wanted to marry her, so he agreed not to have children. She made it very clear to him, his family, coworkers, etc. that no child would ever come into existence through her, she would use whatever means necessary to be certain. My husband did want children but was willing to go along with her because he was (in his eyes) getting to the age where he was too old not to be married yet, especially since all of his siblings were married with children already and his entire family questioned him endlessly about it. After their short marriage, he met me, I made it clear I DID want children and we have 6 :)

The priest was aware that literally 2 hours before the ceremony, my husband had called his father (who was not attending) to check on his mom (who was very sick) and learned that she might not make it through the day. Understandably, my husband was a mess and wanted to go home immediately to be with her. But his former spouse became livid because of the money spent, the guests already being there, etc. and said if he left, she was done with him. So he stayed and went through the ceremony, barely able to see straight from grief. His mother had a terminal illness and the end was definitely in sight. My husband also had begged his former spouse not to drink because she became irate and unpredictable and he was afraid of how she would be during the wedding. She didn't honor his request. So now we have a priest with a known drug/alcohol problem, a bride with a known alcohol addiction and a groom who felt like he had to go through with the wedding or suffer the loss of his mother and his fiance at the same time. He said he couldn't even button his own shirt from crying and having shaking hands. And my husband is not a dramatic person so it hurts me to know this. He has felt guilty for all of these years for not going home, especially considering how the marriage turned out anyway.

So what I'm wondering is, how do we bring this up with our parish priest? I have no doubt that once we tell them the name of the officiating priest, they will know immediately who he is. Does this make the annulment even more complicated? I absolutely want to do everything the way it is supposed to be without hiding anything, changing any facts to suit his case, etc. But it seems wrong to me that a priest with such poor character should be officiating weddings or other important events dealing with the public. But I'm new to all of this, maybe that is the only choice for them?

I am not in any way condemning the priest, the church or anyone. I'm just concerned that all of this new stuff is going to make it even more of a tedious process and neither my husband or I know how to proceed. My gut tells me to just talk to our parish priest as he knows us since he's been teaching us RCIA for months now (my husband is going through it with me because he didn't feel like he learned anything when he did it before his wedding all those years ago).

And oddly, I am troubled about how his former spouse will feel when she receives these papers. I've never met her and don't know anything about her, but I certainly don't want to cause her pain. I hope she can understand that our reasons for doing this have nothing to do with her and everything to do with our relationship with God, the Church and my view towards eternity. I know this makes me sound like a complete ingenue :blush:

I'm sorry this is so long. I think too much and our parish priest is busy, so I like to be prepared as much as possible to make the best use of our time together when we meet. I just don't know what to do or say about this, if anything.


#2

The priest is simply the official witness of the Church,

The couple themselves are the actual Ministers of the Sacrament.

So the sobriety of the priest, or his character, have no bearing on the validity of the Sacrament


#3

[quote="Brendan, post:2, topic:345595"]
The priest is simply the official witness of the Church,

The couple themselves are the actual Ministers of the Sacrament.

So the sobriety of the priest, or his character, have no bearing on the validity of the Sacrament

[/quote]

Yes, it's the state of mind and the intentions of the man and woman reciting the marriage vows which is the focus.


#4

Thank you for explaining it so simply. I am very new to Catholicism and still have a long way to go. I am very detail orientated and tend to overthink things so I wasn't sure if this was something that should even be brought up or not. My husband was completely clueless about the Catholic faith when they married so I don't think he had any idea the importance of what he was agreeing to. His former spouse was pretty much the same, she fulfilled her obligations as a child and never stepped foot in a church again until the wedding. It all seems very strange to me, to have such strong and clear rules about the sacrament of marriage and still have two people who have no intention of keeping any of the sacraments get married in the Church by a priest. It's hard for someone like me, who is coming to the faith as an adult and taking everything very seriously, to understand how it could happen. It seems like the priest should be reasonably sure that the people he is joining in marriage understand what they've agreed to and make sure they really mean it. :shrug: Otherwise, it's really no different than a civil ceremony, is it?


#5

[quote="Graceejou, post:4, topic:345595"]
Thank you for explaining it so simply. I am very new to Catholicism and still have a long way to go. I am very detail orientated and tend to overthink things so I wasn't sure if this was something that should even be brought up or not. My husband was completely clueless about the Catholic faith when they married so I don't think he had any idea the importance of what he was agreeing to. His former spouse was pretty much the same, she fulfilled her obligations as a child and never stepped foot in a church again until the wedding. It all seems very strange to me, to have such strong and clear rules about the sacrament of marriage and still have two people who have no intention of keeping any of the sacraments get married in the Church by a priest. It's hard for someone like me, who is coming to the faith as an adult and taking everything very seriously, to understand how it could happen. It seems like the priest should be reasonably sure that the people he is joining in marriage understand what they've agreed to and make sure they really mean it. :shrug: Otherwise, it's really no different than a civil ceremony, is it?

[/quote]

From you description of the priest involved, it surely sounds as though he gave inadequate preparation, and possibly should not have been doing marriage prep at all. Still, that's a separate issue from the validity of the marriage.

Marriage validity requires that the parties intend fidelity, permanence, and openness to life. Since it is the couple themselves who are the ministers of this sacrament, it is their intentions when they said the vows that matter.


#6

It's true that the sobriety of the priest wouldn't have any bearing on the annulment, but the sobriety of the bride might.

Also, the willful exclusion of children is grounds for an annulment. As are force and fear.

Of course knowing how things were and proving them are two different things. You would have to have witnesses about these things.

I would get an appointment with someone from the tribunal and tell them what you have told us about the circumstances surrounding the wedding. They would be in the best position to know how it would affect the annulment.


#7

Please tell your priest and include the facts about the one that married you. I can't say if it will make the annulment easier or harder, but I think the Church needs to hear about it. I would suspect that this has come up through others.

He simply can't go on doing this to more people, and I would stress that concern frankly. It is this type of thing that has caused so much trouble over the sex-scandal. We need to stop transferring priests around when they are a problem. Instead they need to be disciplined, and if necessary reported to the law and "defrocked."

I am sorry for all your troubles and hope things work out. From the rest of your comments I would imagine that you have solid grounds for the annulment, simply based on your former spouses unwillingness to have children. Just my own opinion.


#8

[quote="elizaveta01, post:6, topic:345595"]
It's true that the sobriety of the priest wouldn't have any bearing on the annulment, but the sobriety of the bride might.

Also, the willful exclusion of children is grounds for an annulment. As are force and fear.

Of course knowing how things were and proving them are two different things. You would have to have witnesses about these things.

I would get an appointment with someone from the tribunal and tell them what you have told us about the circumstances surrounding the wedding. They would be in the best position to know how it would affect the annulment.

[/quote]

Thank you, I very much appreciate your response. There were many witnesses who are willing to say what they were told (by the bride) about children (because they were shocked that my husband would agree to it) and how they deliberately didn't say anything to him about his mother, not knowing that he had called home already and spoken to his dad. Unfortunately, the mother of the bride and the best man (the only sibling of the bride) are both deceased, along with both of my husband's parents so they are not an option for witnesses. And there are many police reports regarding her problem with alcohol, so that shouldn't be an issue.

I honestly would not pursue this if I truly believed the marriage was valid, despite my own wishes because I can't claim to hold sacred the sacrament of marriage and at the same time, try to prove a valid bond invalid. But, as a person who did not know my husband or his former spouse back then, I do know that when we met, I asked him why he didn't have children because children were very important to me and he explained why. His sisters all told me the same thing, as did his father when I was pregnant with our first child - they were all thrilled that their brother/son was finally having children and told me many, many times how "former spouse" didn't want kids and couldn't even stand to be around them and how it caused major problems in the family. My husbands father (my father in law) was the grandfather of 23 grandchildren when we married. Kids were/are a BIG deal in his family so this was a huge issue (and the reason why most of his family didn't plan to attend the wedding originally, before their mom got sick).


#9

[quote="Graceejou, post:1, topic:345595"]
.... I'm wondering if a marriage performed by a priest who had a long, long very well documented history of a serious alcohol and drug addiction is valid when there is some concern that he may not have been sober that day (along with the bride). ...

The priest was very lax about everything and didn't offer or perform any marriage counseling. The only thing he did was have them sign some papers stating they had all of their sacraments and where, that they weren't intoxicated or mentally ill or related, that they would have children and raise them Catholic and a few other questions, about a page. ...

They both lied on the form because there was never any intention to have children, she did not want them and made it a deal breaker if he wanted to marry her, so he agreed not to have children. ...

The priest was aware that literally 2 hours before the ceremony, my husband had called his father (who was not attending) to check on his mom (who was very sick) and learned that she might not make it through the day. Understandably, my husband was a mess and wanted to go home immediately to be with her. .... So now we have a priest with a known drug/alcohol problem, a bride with a known alcohol addiction and a groom who felt like he had to go through with the wedding or suffer the loss of his mother and his fiance at the same time. ...

So what I'm wondering is, how do we bring this up with our parish priest? I have no doubt that once we tell them the name of the officiating priest, they will know immediately who he is. Does this make the annulment even more complicated? ....

[/quote]

Hello,

I'll differ with other comments and say that it certainly matters whether or not the priest is intoxicated. He needs to be able to ask for and receive the consent of the couple, in the name of the Church (c. 1108.2). This clearly requires a human act and if he lacks the use of reason, due to whatever cause, he is not able to do this. In the situation you describe, however, it seems unlikely that the priest lacked the use of reason and it seems even more unlikely that it could ever be proven that he lacked the use of reason at the time of the wedding. So, I think you can leave this issue to the side. You can also leave the pre-marital preparation to the side. Personally, I had absolutely no preparation whatsoever with the priest. You might be surprised at how often (especially prior to...let's say 1985) prenuptial files will contain nothing other than what you described.

Regarding the woman's intentions regarding children and her use of alcohol--that is certainly essential. The man's emotional state at the time of the wedding is also worth exploring. As far as what the Judge will pursue among these issues: it all depends on what can be proven and what the Parties and witnesses establish.

Bring everything up. Don't worry about complicating anything. It's not that complicated for people who deal with these sorts of things on a daily basis.

Dan


#10

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