In 1991, Joe Kennedy (son of Bobby Kennedy) obtained a a civil divorce from Sheila Rauch Kennedy which she accepted.  What she refused to accept was the annulment Joe Kennedy received from the Church two years later.  Outraged that this annulment meant there was no marriage in the first place (it had lasted 12 years) and that her two sons were bastards, Sheila Kennedy (an Episcopalian), fought the annulment tooth and nail.

          In 1997 she wrote a scathing book accusing her former husband of pedddling his family’s influence to obtain the annulment.  She provided Vatican authorities with boxes of documents, including numerous letters, showing that her Marriage to Joe Kennedy was valid.  After nine years the Roman Rota (the Vatican’s divorce court) ruled against the annulment and recognized the original marriage.

      Is it any wonder that so many Catholics and non-Catholics are cynical about this process? In any one year there are approximately 40,000 decrees of nullity issued from American marriage tribunals alone.  Some people call an annulment « Catholic divorce ».  Others call it a healing process.  Most people would probably agree on this:  the Church’s system for marriage annulments needs to be reformed.  But don’t hold your breath — it will not happen any time soon.

       Too bad.  Annulments enable the couple to receive communion.  The rejection of an annulment prohibits them from doing so.  What a pity.  So much hypocrisy and cynicism. 



  1. 1
    Barbara Says:

    Don’t get me started…! I have had my own experience with the process and felt like I was being bounced from Peter to Paul! So much for the healing process!
    Just to clarify things, it is not the divorce that presumably excludes one from Communion, it is remarriage.

  2. 2

    That’s absolutely right Barbara. It’s the remarriage that puts a Catholic outide the pale for communion

  3. 3
    SUZANNE Says:

    The problem begins at the wedding stages. The priests aren’t thorough enough in making sure that the future spouses are ready for marriage.

    But I do agree the system is screwed up. Annulments shouldn’t be « catholic divorces »– they should be the exception rather than the rule.

  4. 4
    Barbara Says:

    Trust me, Suzanne, they are the exception.

  5. 5
    SUZANNE Says:

    They are far too common as a ratio of the number of marriages celebrated. Plus,the reasons are often pretty flimsy.

  6. 6
    Barbara Says:

    I am divorced, no annulment, no remarriage. I tried to get an annulment and believed I had legitimate grounds. I went to the Archdiocese in Montreal who told me I had good grounds but that they did not have jurisdiction because the wedding took place in NYC. Why didn’t they tell me that earlier, I wonder? So I reapplied in NYC. They told me they did not think I had grounds.
    Bounced from Peter to Paul with not a thought to healing, regardless of the annulment’s status. It had a profound affect on my attitude toward the institutional Church.
    I just don’t see where it is all that easy to procure an annulment. Tell me where it is so easy and I might try. On the other hand, I don’t want to play their power games any more.

  7. 7

    Thanks, Barbara, for sharing a difficult personal experience.

  8. Just dropped your site Neil

    We had to comment

    Barbara – YOU ARE NOT ALONE


  9. 9
    Karl Says:

    None of you understand that The American Tribunal Sytem is about the systematic destruction of marriage.

    I am a former Catholic as a result of my experiences relating to this subject.

    Annulments are not rare, what is rare is the diligent pursuit of thruth via a process that should severly punish anything related to dishonesty but instead encourages it constantly, while saying otherwise.

    I speak from experience. The Catholic Church has turned a completely deaf ear towards the cries of those of us its « Annulment Mills » have decimated. This includes the Pope.

  10. 10

    Karl: –

    Thanks for your contribution. The pain caused by the flim-flammery of Catholic annulments is incalculable. And of course if you can’t get an annulment you are forbidden to go to Communion.

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