Sunday, January 18, 2009

Divorce and Annulment

(A bit of housekeeping here. The "Suffragans" thread has become rather unwieldy and diffuse. Questions have been raised regarding divorce, annulment, and remarriage among the clergy. It is becoming increasingly difficult to comment in a thread that bounces between so many different and difficult issues. Both Fr. Hart and I are preparing submissions relating to this area, and Fr. Kirby just added a comment on another aspect of it. Rather than continuing to wrestle with such an overcomplicated thread, I've moved Fr. Kirby's comment on to this separate thread, along with a couple of comments it drew. We are still holding comments by John and Fr, Wells, both of which Fr, Hart intends to address.) ---ed pacht

This, from our Father Matthew Kirby:

While Fr Hart is planning to have a "DAR" thread in the near future, I do not feel it is appropriate for me to wait till then to make some important points.

1. As long as the bishops concerned have valid annulments of any previous marriage, they have in fact only been sacramentally married once, and the claims that the scriptural demand that bishops have only one wife has been violated and that merely "serial" monogamy has obtained (and thus effective polygamy has been committed) are false. That, after all is what an annulment means: the earlier marriage never was one in the full and proper sense. Therefore, strictly speaking, we are not talking of those divorced and remarried (DAR) but invalidly married, this being annulled, then really married for the first time (IMARM?).

2. The quite separate question of whether it is fitting for these men to be bishops is more challenging. But it is a matter of prudential judgement. There is no definitive teaching on the matter. Even Fr Hart suggests a possible exception to the common-sense rule that whatever even seems to undermine the sanctity of marriage should not be tolerated in the clergy. This shows that each case might need consideration on its merits. Given that the details necessary for that will probably not be available to most of us, we should certainly be wary of leaping to condemn any Continuing jurisdiction that has a "IMARM" bishop.


poetreader said...

(posted by Fr. Wells)

Since Fr Kirby writes of "valid annulments," I suppose he must believe some annulments are invalid, or perhaps he even believes some are more valid than others. Perhaps he will share with us the rubrics by which the validity of an
annulment can be ascertained. Does this startling concept mean that an annulment
(which may be valid or invalid) is a kind of sacrament or perhaps an anti-sacrament?

poetreader said...

(posted by John

Fr. Kirby,

You make a valid point but with the extensive number of DAR's William Tighe points to the question arises if annulment has been rather loosely applied for expediency.

That may be beyond the scope of the DAR thread to come but I think it may be the case in some instances. If many of us know that annulment has been abused how then to treat such a situation ?

I am not suggesting a witch hunt but I am curious as to your opinion as to how the CC can move beyond such issues and ensure that any annulments in the future are done with care and according to Catholic teaching.


poetreader said...

An annulment, of course, is not a sacrament in any sense, but is a pastoral judgment as to whether there was indeed a sacrament. If the conditions for a valid marriage were not present, there was no marrriage. I suppose one would call an annulment "valid" if it truly assessed the facts of the case and the ecclesiastical decision that a marriage did nor occur is really justu=ified. I assume further, that barring serious and deliberate abuse, one is simply to accept that what the church has done can stand. This is what the East calls Ekonomia, and seems to be well in accord with Our Lord's decree that what the church binds on earth will be bound in heaven. While I strongly question many annulments that have been made by various parts of the Church, including both Roman and Anglican, I feel that it is necessary, if we are to be able to act as a church at all, to accept what has been done. Now, if a bishop were simply to accept a divorce and remarriage as fait accompli without investigating the validity of the marriage that would not be an annulment at all, therefore a valid annulment would not be in place - and recognition of such a man in the ministry would be, at best, problematic.


This is just me speaking out of my weakness, but it would seem to me, especially as a layman, thatsuch a decision, if made by proper authority, simply has to be lived with -- it just isn't up to me to correct it -- but it certainly is up to me to point out that something looks fishy and we certainly need to find ways to avoid allowing such an abuse to happen again. This isn't simply an Anglican problem. Contrast Henry VIII who at least had a case to make, but did not receive annulment, whereas other monarchs with much less case did.

I'm completely with you in your last paragraph. I think that what is past is terribly difficult to fix, and God, in His mercy has these things in control. What is yet to come, however, is our responsibility. Let's figure out how to do it right hereafter.


John A. Hollister said...

Thank you, Ed Pacht, for the wisdom and clarity contained in your observation that "An annulment, of course, is ... a pastoral judgment as to whether there was indeed a sacrament."

I would go just one step further and relegate the term "annulment" to the rubbish bin, replacing it with "declaration of nullity".

Using "annulment" too often suggests erroneously to the uninstructed that the Church is arrogating to itself the authority to undo something which Our Lord Himself had previously done.

John A. Hollister+

Anonymous said...

I'm becoming a bit uncomfortable with this reprise of a subject that was pretty thoroughly done with a while ago (with Fr Hollister putting us (well, me) straight on a lot of things). It would appear that the rekindling of interest has arisen from a comment made under the cover of anonymity, or pseudonymity, which accused an unspecified two out of three recently consecrated bishops of having had more than one go at matrimony--in circumstances where it would appear that none had done so.

I treat this blog a bit like a large lounge room, in which I can discuss matters close to my heart with friends, and listen while friends discuss matters close to their hearts. Now, it may be permissible to speculate or gossip concerning the private lives of bishops and others of one's betters in a lounge room, but this lounge room is open to the whole world.

Some of us use our own names; others are probably not all that well hidden behind pseudonyms from those who know them in real life. Others cloak themselves in order to say what they want about whom they want--who, in the case of Continuum bishops, probably get to overhear what's said.

If Fr Hart, being a theologian, wants to write a theological treatise on the Anglican approach to marriage, well and good. I'm as old as Fr Hart, and I, too, remember with some discomfort how the rules changed in a hurry when I was young. But this carping about individual bishops, specified or not specified, or about the clergy, generally unspecified, or generally airing Continuum dirty washing, real or imagined, isn't really all that edifying.

Let's remember we're in a public place and can be overheard. Let those who don't use their real names consider whether they'd post what they've written if they had to sign it openly. And we should never be in too much of a hurry to judge, or to cast the first stone.

Some folk will disagree, some folk will tell me to pull my head in. Oh, and I apologise: I should have introduced this little tirade in the proper manner for this group.

'My name is Sandra McColl and I'm a sinner.'

Anonymous said...

My wife and I were married by a non-denominational minister (a fellow who seemed to perform marriages as a side business) before we became Christians.

We've been faithful to the marriage and had 4 children.

Do we have a valid, sacramental marriage or do we need to be remarried? It's crossed my mind since I became an Anglican but I've never asked.

Anonymous said...

"I assume further, that barring serious and deliberate abuse, one is simply to accept that what the church has done can stand."

I'm getting confused. It is starting to sound like "marriages" can be easily reviewed for validity, and "decrees of nullity" can be readily issued by proper ecclesiastical authority. But the "decree of nullity," once issued, is beyond review and must be accepted by all without cavil. Is that what is being said here? I can recall a time when it was the other way around, but perhaps I have lived too long.

And to apply the text about "binding and loosing" to marriage discipline is the most egregious example of eisegesis I have ever encountered.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Pacht, Fr. Kirby,

I have no objection to what has been stated so far if the annulments were proper. But there are a limited number of CC Bishops, maybe three-four Ordinaries to each jurisdiction and a couple of Suffragan Bishops, wIth 4 or 5 jurisdictions having ties to ST Louis that makes 20-25 or so and a couple retired.

If Mr. Tighe's numbers are correct it seems that a disproportionate percentage of these Bishops has had an annulment over the general laity. That suggests abuse and clericalism not happenstance and innocent coincidence.

Can we agree that if we take 25 lay people at random, from all the jurisdictions, and count the number of annulments and come up with as many as has been pointed to by Tighe in the population of the Episcopacy that these annulments may all be valid. If we cannot find as many than I think it safe to say these annulments were performed to advance the career of these individuals or done as a matter of cronyism and I think we lay people have a right to demand immediate replacement.

We cannot change the past be we can certainly demand orthodoxy just as we do of the new continuers and to suggest that nothing can be done is falling short of the task we have all accepted in "continuing" orthodoxy.

If we take seven times seven counts of laity and turn up no such statistic of annulment then I say to you a huge problem does exist and it is plainly evident and it CAN be dealt with according to the Scripture in Matthew. Go to authority- then go before the congregation. That is what we are taught.

If you say nothing can be done and that is a cop out and what you or I are really saying is that we prefer the situation and likely because we draw some earthly benefit or convenience from corruption.

Let us be "clear" we are also saying is that the rest of us are so incredibly off the tracks that the very best of us can do as he pleases regarding the Sacrament of Marriage and that would be a firm and solid testimony to disbelief in Sacramental theology. No Apostle or Saint died because he thought our Lord a myth, madman or liar. And surely no one who is a deacon, priest or bishop would break asunder what God has blessed unless he was sure there was no God in heaven to fear.

Just because you can does not mean you should or that it is acceptable.

I do believe we have capable men to lead us and I do believe that As long as we have mass annulments we will be hampered by the men that performed and or accepted them.

I also believe that the owners of this blog cannot preach orthodoxy to the new continuers when they accept DAR as a matter of fact in their own households without working to over-through it (as is demanded of the New Cont. regadring WO and HO). Timothy and Titus are clear on that point as well.



Anonymous said...

Is it unreasonable to think the Continuing Church should take a stand and flatly refuse to allow bishops, priests or deacons who have ever been previously legally married, then married again? (Unless he was a widower.)

Even a proper annulment does not reduce the symbolism implicit in the consecration.

Otherwise qualified candidates are free to contribute to the life of the Church as laymen. Clearly and powerfully upholding the sanctity of marriage is more important than whatever gifts DAR men may bring to the table.

William Tighe said...

Here are a few historical facts:

1. Henry VIII never "got divorced" in his life, although four of his marriages were declared null.

2. Cranmer came to believe, as all the Protestant reformers did, in divorce for certain causes, following which ther parties to the divorce were free to remarry. He embodies this in his proposed revision of Canon Law, the "Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum," but this was defeated in the House of Commons in 1553, and again in 1571, whien it was introduced by a group opf "reform-minded" laity against the queen's wishes.

3. Nevertheless, in early 1547 Cranmer on his own archiepiscopal authority granted a divorce to William Parr, Earl of Essex and Marquess of Northampton, on the basis of his wife's supposed adultery. Parr subsequently remarried, but after his second wife's death in 1565 Queen Elizabeth refused him permission to marry a third time until 1571, after his original wife's death (he died barely six weeks after his third marriage). Also in 1547, Cranmer upheld the validity of the marriage of Sir Ralph Sadler to a woman whom he married several years after the disappearance and presumed death of her first husband, but who had subsequently reappeared and tried to extort money from Sadler in order to keep quiet about his bigamy."

4. During Elizabeth's reign, while divorces were not granted, strange things happened from time to time. The clergyman John Thornborough received a "separation from bed and board" from his wife, but subsequently contracted marriage with another woman. Nominated Bishop of Limerick in 1591, Thornborough's appointment was vehemently opposed by the Calvinist Archbishop of York, Matthew Hutton -- but the Crown rebuked Hutton for his "scrupulosity" and insisted that Thornborough's consecration proceed (he died in 1641 as Bishop of Worcester). Marmaduke Middleton, Bishop of St. Davids, has a similar matrimonial history, but in his case he was convicted of bigamy and deposed as bishop.

5. Divorce followed by remarirage was absolutely prohibited by the Canons enacted in 1604.

6. Beginning in 1670, with "Lord Roos's Case," the practice of "parliamentary divorce" began. A bill would pass both houses of parliament and be assented to by the monarch which "dissolved" a marriage, conferred on one or sometimes both parties to that dissolved marriage the ability to remarry and exempted from any legal and canonical penalties any clergyman who might officiate at such remarriages. About a hundred such divorces wre enacted in the period from 1670 to 1820, when the attempt of the new King George IV to procure such a divorce from his estranged and loathed Queen Caroline was rejected by the House of Commons amidst public tumults and manifestations of popular support for the queen.

7. Modern-style "divorce" was first introduced in England in 1856; in Scotland, however, it had existed ever since the Reformation.

Fr. Robert Hart said...


The ministers of the sacrament of matrimony are the bride and groom, not the priest (reflected in law, which is why movie weddings never include the vows, the real meat and potatoes of the form both sacramentally and legally). In cases like yours, it is a custom to seek the blessing of the Church, which is sometimes done quietly and simply, and sometimes is treated as a big to do,like a wedding itself.


Some of the jurisdictions have only a few bishops, but your percentage falls apart with the ACC, and it also would not fit the TAC,just in terms of size.

DAR is not a matter of fact in our own households, since none of us have that in our backgrounds. If you mean (as I think you do) to use "households" as a metaphor for jurisdictions, then I am unaware of any real life application to the ACC. Furthermore, we should be asking not about divorce and remarriage, but divorce-declaration of nullity-remarriage. And, in that case the "re" in remarriage is only about the legal side.

The real question here is one of example and community standards. What message is sent out? I am going to post something new, because it will be detailed.

Fr William Bauer said...

This thread caould go on forever. There a couple of thought I have:
1) The Council or Arles, I believe, stated that naughty men could be validly ordained and dispense valid sacraments.
2) Several Continuum jurisdictions contain naughty men who have been ordained.
3) Some jurisdictions, mine included, will not consecrate a bishop who has more than one wife living no matter the jurisdcition of the annullment (Rome included).
It kind of clears the air.

Fr. John said...

"valid annulments" are like "valid ordinations." Some one might claim to have a valid annulment, but if issued by TEC then it would need to be looked at carefully, and probably Rome as well, think of Ted Kennedy's annulment from his wife Joan.

Having served on several marriage tribunals examining requests for annulments I can say that marriage annulments are issued lightly in the ACC, at least if I am on the tribunal.

Should a candidate for the office of bishop be disqualified if he has received a valid annulment in the past?

I agree with Fr. Kirby's implication that each case should be judged on the particular circumstances.

And if one should get by us, why that is a temporary problem that will end with that bishop's death.

Many people got exercised in TEC over VGR's consecration, but had no problem with WO. The VGR situation is a temporary problem that will end with him (of course TEC has made consecration of homosexuals a policy, but let's assume for arguments sake he got through on a fluke) WO on the other hand ultimately would destroy the apostolic priesthood.

My point is that as long as we do not have a consistent policy of consecrating DAR bishops we have no permanent problem.

Having written this, let me now declare that a bishop should be the husband of one wife. There is a higher standard for the clergy.

Fr. John said...

Altar, n. The place whereon the priest formerly raveled out the small intestine of the sacrificial victim for purposes of divination and cooked its flesh for the gods. The word is now seldom used, except with reference to the sacrifice of their liberty and peace by a male and female fool.

They stood before the altar and supplied
The fire themselves in which their fat was fried.
In vain the sacrifice!-no god will claim
An offering burnt with an unholy flame.
M.P. Nopput.

from Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary

Fr. John said...

A grievous error.

I should have written "ACC annulments are not lightly issued."

poetreader said...

Fr. John,
This is an accurate and insightful statement, except for what is obviously a mistyping.

You have to have meant to type:

"...that marriage annulments are NOT issued lightly in the ACC",

(It's a kind of mistake I often find myself making.)

You've expressed some fine distinctions quite precisely.
Thank you.
Fr, Hart has just posted an excellent article. Ir woould perhaps be better now to continue this discussion there


Canon Tallis said...

I have an immensely uncomfortable feeling about this discussion considering that it was begun by a person outside the Continuum and in a jurisdiction historically known for considerable naughtiness among its clergy.

It is one thing to discuss particular cases from a theological or pastoral view, but I get the distinct feeling that we are being invited to count coup against each other and the other's jurisdictions. Having been led down that road before, I want no more of it. However serious the issue is - and I believe it to be very serious indeed - until we have some very serious saints among us (and we may) I would rather discuss theology, liturgy or moral and ascetical theology. I know that even bishops are as likely to be great sinners as your local . . .whatever, but I would prefer we not descend into gossip.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Fr. Hart I was speaking only to jurisdictions in the USA and I did look at the websites to try and see how many bishops there are in the larger jurisdictions. It is a bit difficult to determine so I tried to average based on the number of dioceses I saw. But again Mr. Tighe's stats seem to indicate a larger number of divorces among CC bishops than you would likely find in the same number of randomly selected lay people.

You are correct I did not mean personal households but indeed jurisdictions.

I used 'annulment' when I should have said 'and/or divorce.' I find it all scandalous and disheartening.

Thank you for the correction and the answers.



ps Fr. John points out that these issues are temporary because people die off. That may be true but I am sure we all meet people who do not go to church because they have witnessed various scandals or double standards or blatant disregard of Scripture in churches. While it may seem to be self correcting the problem lies in that when people see the clergy living one way and preaching another they often take it as a sign that the Faith is not serious about it's teachings. Is it worth a soul to elect unworthy men or allow them to continue if an annulment is a sham (and I am not suggesting that they are I am very concerned about the general numbers). Should we be in the biz of seeking that one lamb or driving them away?

John A. Hollister said...

Bruce asked, "My wife and I were married by a non-denominational minister ... before we became Christians. We've been faithful to the marriage and had 4 children. Do we have a valid, sacramental marriage or do we need to be remarried?"

Bruce, if you and your wife both, at the time of your marriage, were baptized Christians, previously unmarried, of full age, in sound mental condition, and intended to do what the Church always does in the Sacrament of Matrimony (even if you misunderstood part of that intention, but especially if you intended to form a life-long, indissoluble union, as it appears you have in fact formed), then you were sacramentally married.

That is because it is not the "minister", nondenominational or Apostolic, who is the true "minister of the Sacrament", but the married couple themselves, each administering the Sacrament to himself and herself and to the other. The "form" (rite or words spoken) of the Sacrament is the expression of the intent set forth above and the "matter" (physical sign) is the couple's consummation of the marriage as husband and wife.

The Church's role in this is, where possible, to instruct, then to bless, and finally to record. While the blessing is not essential to the validity of the Sacrament nor to the graces the Sacrament confers on the married couple, it is of course highly desirable, not least from a pastoral and sociological viewpoint. The formal, public conferral of the blessing reminds the married couple and the congregation of the divine nature of Matrimony and its publicity, and later recording in the Parish Register, is also a matter of good order, decorum, and public decency.

So by all means go to your priest and arrange a formal blessing of your happily long-existing marriage.

John A. Hollister+

John A. Hollister said...

John wrote: "the problem [is] when people see the clergy living one way and preaching another they often take it as a sign that the Faith is not serious about its teachings. Is it worth a soul to elect unworthy men or allow them to continue if an annulment is a sham (and I am not suggesting that they are I am very concerned about the general numbers)."

I'm bothered by the all-too-ready assumption that what Fr. Kirby calls an "IMARM" clergyman is "unworthy". It is certainly Pharasaical (in the sense of the Pharasee who stood in the Temple just north of the publican) for anyone to assume that any particular declaration of nullity is a sham. No one can know that except the parties, their proctors, the bishop who granted it, and that bishop's successors who have access to his confidential files.

And there are ***very*** good reasons for that confidentiality. No one who has not read, evaluated, or analyzed such petitions can really comprehend what has gone on in some of these cases. It is rather unlikely that anyone in a given congregation would know that a woman "married" a man, lived with him for 30 years, had three children by him, then discovered that he had two prior wives from whom he had never been divorced.

So anyone who might be tempted to oppose her (real, i.e., current) husband's postulancy, on the ground that he was married to a woman who is a bigamist, would be perpetrating a gross injustice, one that could only be defended against by stripping these already injured people of the cloak of confidentiality to which they are entitled.

Please understand that I am not accusing John of this, because his comment was balanced and reasoned, but in general these discussions often have about them an unpleasant whiff of "hypothetically holier than thou".

That is why it is better, practically, theologically, and administratively, to trust to the good faith of the bishops involved. If anyone has actual evidence that a particular bishop has been playing fast and loose with the rules, then present him on charges and give him the boot (and that has in fact been done in the Continuing Churches, although not to my knowledge for this particular form of misconduct).

John A. Hollister+