A Requested Catholic Church Annulment On My Mind

Posted on 13 Nov 2010 at 11:44pm

It’s been a difficult week for me, this past week. I’ve had writer’s block that hasn’t been because of a lack of ideas to write about, but because my mind has been focused on other things.

The big issue is that my ex-wife is pursuing a Catholic Church annulment of our marriage. We were together for about thirteen years, and separated about six-and-a-half years before our divorce was finalized. We were never Catholic — I actually joined the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints (The Mormons) as a product of our relationship; we were active in the Mormon Church for about a year-and-a-half before giving up on the idea of she and me should have a Mormon Temple Wedding.

After my ex-wife’s and my divorce was finalized, my ex-wife joined the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church by default considers my ex-wife’s and my wedding a valid and binding marriage. Since the Catholic Church doesn’t grant divorces, but instead only annulments…well, to quote from the website AmericanCatholic.org:

The Catholic Church presumes that marriages are valid, binding spouses for life. When couples do separate and divorce, therefore, the Church examines in detail their marriage to determine if, right from the start, some essential element was missing in their relationship. If that fact has been established, it means the spouses did not have the kind of marital link that binds them together for life.

Obviously, the Catholic Church may consider my coming out as a transsexual (after our divorce) as a possible essential element that would explain why I didn’t enter a “marital link that binds [my ex-wife and I] together for life.” The website explains essential elements in a little more detail in a section entitled On what grounds does the Church declare nullity for some failed marriages?:

In technical language, the most common reasons are insufficiency or inadequacy of judgment (also known as lack of due discretion, due to some factor such as young age, pressure to marry in haste, etc.), psychological incapacity, and absence of a proper intention to have children, be faithful, or remain together until death.

These grounds can manifest themselves in various ways. For example, a couple, discovering her pregnancy, decide to marry; only much later do they recognize the lack of wisdom in that decision. Or one spouse carries an addictive problem with alcohol or drugs into the marriage. Perhaps a person, unfaithful during courtship, continues the infidelity after marrying.

In cases like these, the Church judges may decide that something contrary to the nature of marriage or to a full, free human decision prevents this contract from being sound or binding.

Many of us are aware what the Catholic Church thinks about transsexuals. In the same Christmas 2008 Message where Pope Benedict stated (per an audio translation by Australia’s ABC News):

We need something like human ecology, meant in the right way. The Church thinks of human nature as man and woman, and asks that this order is respected. This is not out of date meta physics, but comes from the faith and the creator, and listening to the language of creation.

…Adding that the distinction between male and female gender is blurring, and stating that human beings deserve to be protected from self-destruction:

Rainforests — yes — deserve our protection, but the human being, as a creature which contains a message that is not in contradiction to his freedom, but is the condition of this freedom, does not deserve it less.

The Pope took a more subtle stab at transsexuals in that same Christmas message. According to Time Magazine‘s The Pope’s Christmas Condemnation of Transsexuals:

Without actually using the word, Benedict took a subtle swipe at those who might undergo sex-change operations or otherwise attempt to alter their God-given gender. Defend “the nature of man against its manipulation,” Benedict told the priests, bishops and cardinals gathered Monday in the ornate Clementine hall. “The Church speaks of the human being as man and woman, and asks that this order is respected.” The Pope again denounced the contemporary idea that gender is a malleable definition. That path, he said, leads to a “self-emancipation of man from creation and the Creator.”

Fr. William P. Saunders-Herald took the Pope’s basic statement regarding transsexual people a step farther in a Catholic Herald piece, entitled Straight Answers: The Morality of ‘Sex Change’ Operations, arguing condemnation:

[A] transsexual will never be able to enter validly into the sacrament of Matrimony. A man who undergoes sexual reassignment will never really be a woman, or vice versa; rather, a man will be a man (or a woman will be a woman), except with a mutilated body and profound psychological disordering. Moreover, a transsexual will never be able to consummate the marriage in the fullest expression of love of husband and wife, and never will there be a real openness to life and the creation of children.

To destroy organs purposefully that are healthy and functioning, and to try to create imitation organs which will never have the genuineness and functioning of authentic organs is gross and lacks charity. Such surgery which purposefully destroys the bodily integrity of the person must be condemned.

Need more? Well, the Catholic News Service reported, in a January 16, 2003 news brief entitled Vatican says ‘sex-change’ operation does not change person’s gender:

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — After years of study, the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation has sent church leaders a confidential document concluding that “sex-change” procedures do not change a person’s gender in the eyes of the church. Consequently, the document instructs bishops never to alter the sex listed in parish baptismal records and says Catholics who have undergone “sex-change” procedures are not eligible to marry, be ordained to the priesthood or enter religious life, according to a source familiar with the text. The document was completed in 2000 and sent “sub secretum” (under secrecy) to the papal representatives in each country to provide guidance on a case-by-case basis to bishops. But when it became clear that many bishops were still unaware of its existence, in 2002 the congregation sent it to the presidents of bishops’ conferences as well. “The key point is that the (transsexual) surgical operation is so superficial and external that it does not change the personality. If the person was male, he remains male. If she was female, she remains female,” said the source.

An Associated Press article from January of 2003 spoke to the Catholic Church’s views on transsexuals as well. From the piece entitled Vatican Denounces Transsexuals (link added to text):

Transsexuals suffer from “mental pathologies,” are ineligible for admission to Roman Catholic religious orders and should be expelled if they have already entered the priesthood or religious life, the Vatican says in new directives.

The Vatican’s orthodoxy watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, sent the directives to the superiors of religious orders worldwide. The leaders were told to implement the directives or turn cases over to the Congregation for handling, Vatican officials said Friday.

The directives were the latest in a series of Vatican pronouncements on eligibility for the priesthood issued ahead of a long-awaited set of guidelines for seminaries in accepting candidates for the clergy.

…In the new directives, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said transsexuals should be barred as priests, monks, friars, nuns and brothers in religious orders.

“When, from clear external behavior and the testimony of those assigned to formation, there emerges the prudent doubt about the presence of transsexuality, the superior should arrange for a careful medical and psychiatric exam,” said the directive, which was reported Friday by Adista, a liberal Catholic news agency…

So, the Catholic Church considers me to have a mental pathology, as someone who isn’t respecting a divine order of male and female, and considers me to be engaging in “self-emancipation of man from creation and the Creator.” And, of course, this is to be condemned.

My ex-wife is likely expecting the Catholic Church diocese that’s handling the annulment request to give a lot of weight into to previous comments of mine, such as one from a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) My Story piece on the Human Right’s Campaign (HRC) website. In that piece, I stated:

At fourteen a flashbulb seemed to go off in my head, and the reason I had felt “off” for most of my childhood became clear: my body [in puberty] was starting to develop in a way that didn’t match my female gender. The discordant feelings I’d always felt [had,] for a short time[,] became very lucid. However; the mantra at the time was that male-to-female transsexuals needed to be sexually attracted to men to be considered “true” transsexuals, so I was particularly confused that I felt female, but was nominally attracted to women…and not to men at all. Because I wasn’t by the standards then considered a transsexual, I identified myself as a transvestite.

But I said more than that in that accounting of my personal history. I also said:

I graduated high school in 1977 and seemed to drift a few years, identifying myself as an “ex-transvestite,” with most of the trappings that apply these days to “ex-gays.”

I went to some reparative therapy in 1978, which was the foundation of my self-delusion that I was “cured.” I entered into my marriage without trying to evade marital responsibility — I very much loved my now ex-wife, and I wanted (and did have) children with her. I disclosed that I considered myself an ex-transvestite to my ex-wife before we I asked her to marry me.

However, I have to admit that one of the unarticulated, unconscious reasons I entered into marriage was wanting to become the man I subconsciously knew I wasn’t. Although that particular reason was far from the primary reason I wanted to marry my ex-wife, it was among the reasons I married my ex-wife — even though it was at the time it was a subconscious reason. Just because I now consciously understand it was one reason among many reasons of why I wanted to get married, I didn’t understand that as a personal truth then.

As I said, my ex-wife and I had children together. My oldest son was adopted, and the adoption was contested. We first took that son home the day after he was born, but the adoption wasn’t completed until about five-and-a-half years later — there was a long court case involved in the adoption.

I currently have a good relationship with my oldest son.

I also have twin boys though who currently want nothing to do with me. Those sons were conceived through in vitro fertilization as my ex-wife and I both had conditions that contributed to our infertility as a couple. So, it took several years of trying various treatments to reach the point where they were conceived and born.

My ex-wife’s and my children, in other words, weren’t products of sexual intercourse in the marriage bed. These children weren’t accidents, but instead were brought into our then family with great effort and by great expense.

One of the difficulties I’m having with the idea of the Catholic Church annulling my ex-wife’s and my marriage is what I see as secondary effect. That secondary effect would be the Catholic Church functionally declaring the three children of my ex-wife and my marriage to be illegitimate children — at least, that’s my take on what that would mean. From an integrity standpoint, I don’t want the Catholic Church to functionally state that my children are illegitimate children. These three children were all wanted by my ex-wife and me, and these children were outgrowths of a marriage that I know to have been a real marriage — a real marriage in both the spiritual and secular sense.

There is going to be a tribunal taking up my ex-wife’s request to have the Catholic Church annul our marriage, and I’m asking the tribunal to deny my e-wife’s request. It irritates me to realize that if I had not decided to contest my ex-wife’s request for annulment, the Catholic Church would have likely grated her request pro forma, with the assumption that I didn’t honestly intend to enter into a lifetime marital link with my ex-wife. I know I actually intended no such a thing — I know I entered into my past marriage with full intent to have it be a lifetime marriage.

There are things I can point to that indicate my ex-wife believed, and still believes, our marriage was a real marriage, but I don’t plan to make those things public in a Pam’s House Blend article for reasons of privacy — but I will be bringing these up to the tribunal. My ex-wife is aware of the basic arguments that I’ll be bringing to contest the annulment.

Well, even though my ex-wife’s pursuit of a Catholic Church annulment for our past marriage isn’t the only issue that has contributed to the writer’s block I experienced last week, it certainly was the biggest contributor to that writer’s block. Hopefully the writer’s block is over, but if my writings seem a bit infrequent and sparse for a bit into more the future, you’ll have an idea why — This requested Catholic Church annulment is on my mind.

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