- Posted by Mary's Advocates
- On June 23, 2017
Prominent Catholics know that the Church’s marriage annulment process in the United States has been abused for years. We can now see, by reading a Tribunal’s own website how they get away with it, while almost creating a paper trail that looks like they are following all the procedures required for a just, and truthful, outcome.
Excerpt from EWTN’s The World Over Sept. 10, 2015 Here
Bishop Robert Morlino, of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, says, “The annulment processes in the United State, honestly, have been abused for many years. … This wouldn’t be anything new.”
On June 8th, a recorded conversation that occurred in a public forum with Cleveland Diocese Tribunal canon lawyer, Lynette Tait, was made available on YouTube. She taught, “I find cases of accountants, engineers [and] lawyers — they tend to overanalyze things from an intellectual perspective but the emotional perspective isn’t there, so that definitely has a bearing on your ability to consent to marriage.”
In the Catholic Code of Canon Law, looking at things from an intellectual perspective, and lacking sufficient emotional perspective (whatever that means) are not grounds for nullity of marriage. However, having serious mental problems at the time of marriage could be a ground for nullity (canon 1095). Saint Pope John Paul II taught that this ground is only applicable for those who have a “grave psychic anomaly” (Pope to Roman Rota, Feb. 5, 1987).
How do canon lawyers like Lynette Tait so easily rule that marriages in which one party is an accountant, engineer, or lawyer are invalid? During the entire proceedings, except for the final ruling by the judge, the Tribunal keeps secret the fact that the petitioner is accusing himself of having had a serious mental problem.
[(Added June 26, 2017 3:41 pm) In public session, Lynette Tait teaches about putting the ground on the petitioner, and how the personality problem of being a people-pleaser is a ground for nullity.
Tribunal keeps secret the fact that the petitioner
is accusing himself of having had a serious mental problem.
Laws for making an accusation of nullity against one’s marriage are similar to the laws of governmental courts. Someone wanting a decree from a judge must show the basis in law for the complaint and sign an affidavit describing the facts alleged. For example, if you were a person whom I believe stole my car, I would bring a complaint to a judge with the help of the police and a city prosecutor. My complaint must include a statement from me describing my car, and the time and place from which it was stolen. You would be informed of the accusation being made against you.
A formal petition for nullity of a marriage is no different. The person asking for a decree of invalidity of a marriage must show the basis in law for the marriage to be invalid and give, at least in a general way, the facts and proofs demonstrating that the marriage is invalid according to said basis in law (D.C. Art. 116 /2, /3). In the Catholic Code of canon law, the basis for nullity is called the grounds. For example, if I married my fiancée’s identical twin brother in a Catholic ceremony, that marriage would be invalid on the ground of “error concerning the person” (canon 1097). If I wanted an annulment, I would have to describe in my petition the grounds (even if not in canonical terms) and give an account of what happened.
In certain circumstances, those with grave mental problems, or inability to think straight, are unable to validly enter marriage. Canon 1095 applies to these cases. Thorough explanations about these grounds can be found in 57 pages of the book published by Ignatius press in 2015, with a preface by Cardinal Raymond Burke, When Is Marriage Null? Guide to the Grounds of Matrimonial Nullity for Pastors, Counselors, and Lay Faithful. The most popular ground for nullity for psychological reasons is Canon 1095.2. However, the canonical terminology has its own vocabulary: “those who suffer from a grave defect of discretion of judgment concerning the essential matrimonial rights and duties mutually to be handed over and accepted.”
In the Diocese of Cleveland (where the canon lawyer thinks that looking at life from an intellectual perspective is a clue of invalidity of marriage), annulments were granted in 99% of the cases in 2014. In 2011, Cleveland was one of the 33 dioceses that decided 100% of cases had invalid marriages. Cleveland granted more annulments than any other diocese reporting, except Los Angeles (see statistics).
Saint Pope John Paul II cautioned against misusing the balance between justice and mercy. “A valid marriage, even one marked by serious difficulties, could not be considered invalid without doing violence to the truth and undermining thereby the only solid foundation which can support personal, marital, and social life. … The roads leading away from justice and truth end up in serving to distance people from God, thus yielding the opposite result from that which was sought in good faith” (1990 Address to Roman Rota).
The Cleveland Diocese “Tribunal Procedures” show how they pull it off. They teach all petitioners to mandate a diocesan employee to speak on the petitioner’s behalf (the canonical name for this person is procurator).
The 2016 “Tribunal Procedures” states, “The procurator must never discourage someone from presenting a petition to the court, even if the procurator may feel that the person does not have a strong case” (p. 4).
The diocesan formal nullity petition form has a page to show a narrative about the marital situation. The 2016 instructions show, “It is better for procurators to address the general factors in the relationship which could be evidence of invalidity rather than concentrating on any specific grounds” (pg. 17). Furthermore, “[t]he procurator will need to exercise considerable guidance in helping the petitioner to produce a statement which is relevant to canonical reasons for matrimonial invalidity. This statement should not cite specific grounds” (page 7).
In addition to the formal petition, the Tribunal has the petitioner complete a lengthy preliminary questionnaire. After seeing the petition and the answers to questionnaire, the tribunal judge informs the petitioner and the other party which ground for invalidly has been chosen for investigation. No petitioner is going to know that he’s being accused of having a serious mental problem when he reads, “We shall be investigating whether the petitioner suffered from a grave defect of discretion of judgment concerning the essential matrimonial rights and duties mutually to be handed over and accepted (c. 1095.2).”
Canon law requires that a petition must include two parts: the grounds and the narrative demonstrating those grounds. However, the Cleveland petition form only shows a narrative. The 2016 instructions from the diocese tell the petitioner (and his procurator) NOT to specify grounds (page 7).
A previous 2008 version of the Cleveland “Tribunal Procedures” has the opposite problem. An earlier edition of the formal petition form required the petitioner to put a checkmark in front of one of three listed grounds. “Incapacity to give consent to marriage (canon 1095)” was the most popular ground. No narrative of facts and proofs demonstrating the invalidity of the marriage were supposed to be shown on the formal petition form.
The formal petition is required, by law, to be given to the other spouse, the respondent. For respondents who want to defend the validity of their marriage, both the old annulment petition form and the current form are troublesome.
Before a trial begins, if you were defending yourself against auto theft, you would have to be given details about the auto theft for which you are a suspect. Similarly, a respondent, defending the validity of his marriage in an annulment case, must be given, in a general way, the description of the facts and proofs proposed to demonstrate invalidity of the marriage. On the contrary, the 2008 version of the Cleveland “Annulment Procedures” showed the obligation of the petitioner’s procurator to write a general summary, and this general summary was shown to the judge, but not to the parties. A procurator has the authority to write a formal petition on behalf of a petitioner, without the petitioner ever reading it; so, this is where the procurator could secretly accuse the petitioner of having had a serious mental problem.
In other dioceses, the respondent is not shown, from the start of the case, the general facts alleged by the petitioner to demonstrate nullity. Instead, after the witness testimony has all been collected, the respondent is allowed to read the petitioner’s answers to a lengthy questionnaire. The diocese of Toledo publishes their preliminary questionnaire on their website. See eight pages of single spaced questions: page 11 -18.
Defending a marriage against answers to lengthy questionnaire is unfair, because they do not do what the law requires. It does not specify in a limited, general way, the facts and proofs, upon which the petitioner is relying, that to demonstrate the invalidity of the marriage based on the ground asserted by the petitioner. A respondent cannot defend against accusations of invalidity of his marriage, when he is not advised of alleged facts supporting the accusation.
2008 Cleveland “Tribunal Procedures”
2014 Cleveland Petition form with no facts and proofs demonstrating nullity, and vague grounds.
2015 Cleveland Petition form with no grounds, and narrative general factors in the relationship
2016 Cleveland “Tribunal Procedures”
2016 Toledo Diocese Petition form with no specified grounds, 8 pages preliminary questionnaire