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The recent controversy over Joe Kennedy's annulment gave only a glimpse of American Catholicism's open secret: that contrary to official Catholic doctrine, American churches grant annulments wholesale, freely declaring marriages nonexistent so that one or both partners can remarry in the church.
The United States is home to only 6% of the world's Catholics, Robert Vasoli points out, but it now accounts for 75% of all Church annulments, two-thirds of which are granted on ostensibly psychological grounds. The real scandal, though, is not simply the numbers, but that Church marriage courts annul thousands of marriages that are actually valid according to Catholic teaching. Drawing on considerable research, the author details precisely how these courts let divorced Catholics--and many non-Catholics as well--bypass Catholic teaching and law. He shows, for instance, how they often help petitioners manufacture grounds for annulment, which are justified with specious psychological reasoning that are counter to the letter and spirit of canon law. Indeed, it may even be alleged that lack of emotional maturity at the time of the wedding can invalidate marriages that have lasted 30 years. The result has been a tidal wave: in 1968, the American church granted fewer than 600 annulments; today it hands out more than 60,000 a year. But Rome has not smiled on the performance of U.S. tribunals: of those psychological annulments appealed to the Roman Rota (the Vatican's highest marriage tribunal), more than 90% are overturned.
This revealing look at annulment weaves painstaking analysis with a wealth of evidence as it illuminates the degree to which the U.S. Church has gone its own way since Vatican II on what constitutes valid marriage.
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