Dear Editor: On my wedding day, I was thrilled. We had dated for about eight years. As I arrived at the altar, the man who told me, “Beautiful, just beautiful!” wasn’t my husband, it was the presider. My husband didn’t even acknowledge me. I couldn’t figure it out. I assumed it was nerves. Later during the ceremony, I was about to cry. Again, it was the priest who said, “Take hold of her, she’s about to cry.” Who thought anything of it then.
Soon after the marriage, I learned he was having an affair. The woman showed up at my house. After confronting my husband, hearing lies, and more confrontation, there was no remorse. The affair was going on for at least a year and a half. We went to counseling once but he refused to return. He refused to wear his wedding ring.
I didn’t want to give up. I aimed for us to see a priest or go for Christian counseling; someone who also would help us make the marriage work. He still refused, but wanted me to go, and said he wanted to remain married. Nevertheless, the conflict and confrontations escalated. They escalated to the point where he became physically violent. I would leave, come home; leave, come home. The violence ensued. I sought the counsel of a priest because I still had hope for this marriage.
During counseling, the priest said, “It’s not like he gambled all the money away. Most people don’t wake up in the morning and say to themselves, ‘I think I’ll walk in front of a moving bus.’”
After a few sessions, (I’d like to say Father made me go, because I really didn’t want to go), Father convinced me to go to a domestic violence group at Catholic Charities.
During the group session, a young woman shared how one minute she was with her boyfriend and the next she was in her apartment, with the police, on the floor, searching for her two front teeth. I didn’t want to be her. With the love and support of family and friends, I left.
It wasn’t long when my ex re-married, but not to the woman he had the affair with. Two Catholics, yet they married in a Protestant church. After years of sorting out the actual legal divorce, and being a devoted Catholic, I pursued an annulment.
It was a serious process. I had to write my autobiography, obtain letters of testimony to my character, petition him, and be interviewed. It wasn’t the violence, it wasn’t the affair, it was going back to the pattern at the time of the marriage and proposal and a lot of other personal issues at the time that when pieced together, there’s something missing. The parties did not enter this contract with the intent of what a Catholic marriage is meant to be.
I had to go before the Judicial Vicar and a defender of the bond of marriage. Vulnerable, humiliated and broken, I can’t imagine having to go through an interview like that without the love, care, and mercy of those in the church. I would expect the same to be shown to the ex-spouse. It was a healing and therapeutic process for which I am eternally grateful.
There are so many people who are living together and not married in the Church because they “need an annulment.” These people come to Mass and refrain from receiving Communion. There are so many people who are misinformed about the process, and they too won’t receive Communion. As a Church, it is our role to work together to help lead people to Christ and not hinder them. It is our role to respect and honor the human dignity of every person. People are complicated and as outsiders we often only know one side of the story and don’t often know all the details even when we think we do. The Tribunal does a thorough investigation. I never met anyone in a pastoral role who wants to see marriages end and people suffering, but rather to bring about healing, freedom and lead them back into the fold.