Skip to comments.Vatican Declares 1996 Kennedy Annulment Invalid; Justice Denied For Years
Posted on 06/26/2007 3:15:21 AM PDT by topher
Vatican Declares 1996 Kennedy Annulment Invalid; Justice Denied For Years
Sheila Rauch Kennedy not informed of 1995 Vatican decision until May 2007
by Phil Lawler
June 20, 2007 (CWNews.com) - Now the story can be told-- or at least part of the story. The parts we don't know, but should, are still more interesting.
Long ago an informed Vatican official-- possibly having sipped one more glass of good Italian wine than was medically necessary-- informed CWN that the Roman Rota had ruled in favor of Sheila Rauch Kennedy, affirming the validity of her marriage to former Congressman Joe Kennedy. But our Vatican source asked us to keep the matter quiet, and we did.
Now, however, Time magazine has broken the story. The decision by the Roman Rota has been confirmed.
Here, in brief, are the facts as we know them:
* In 1991, while serving as Congressman from Massachusetts, Joseph P. Kennedy II divorced his wife Sheila Rauch Kennedy.
* In 1993 the Congressman sought a decree of annulment from the Boston archdiocese. Without waiting for the result of his petition, he entered into a second marriage with a former aide, Beth Kelly; that wedding did not take place in a Catholic church.
* In 1996, Sheila Rauch Kennedy learned that the Boston archdiocesan tribunal had proclaimed that her marriage to Joe Kennedy was a nullity. Rauch, who is Episcopalian, was appalled by that decision, and contested the tribunal's judgment. She also wrote a book, Shattered Faith, denouncing what she saw as corruption in the annulment process. Rauch complained that Church officials in Boston never gave her an opportunity to demonstrate the validity of the marriage; nor did they inform her about her right to appeal the decision to Rome.
* Nine years later, in 2005, the Roman Rota reversed the Boston tribunal's decision, saying in effect that in the eyes of the Church, Sheila Rauch is still Joe Kennedy's wife.
We do not know the grounds for the annulment originally granted by the Boston tribunal, nor do we know why the Roman Rota reversed that decision. That is right and proper; we have no right to know the intimate details of their union.
But we do know that the final decision from Rome came nine years after the original annulment. "Justice delayed is justice denied," the old adage teaches, and in this case the long delay is an injustice. If Sheila Rauch was indeed married to Joe Kennedy, didn't she have the right to a reasonably prompt determination of that fact? If the marriage did not take place, didn't Joe Kennedy have the right to know that he was free to enter into a new marriage in the Church?
Next, notice that the Roman Rota reached its final decision (that is, barring the possibility of another appeal) in 2005. CWN heard about it in 2006. Sheila Rauch reports that she was not officially informed until May 2007. Is that lengthy delay not a further injustice? According to the Time magazine, the formal notification to Rauch, the petitioner, was delayed "while the official written notice was being prepared." Really? You might think that, after pondering the case for a decade, officials of the Vatican tribunal would have their thoughts sufficiently organized so that they could write up a decision in less than 18 months.
The final decision by the Roman Rota lends weight to Sheila Rauch Kennedy's argument that she and Joe had a real, albeit unhappy, marital union. The way this case was handled lends even more weight to her criticism of the annulment process in the Catholic Church.
And the media coverage of the overdue Vatican decision illustrates yet another problem with that annulment process. A spokesman for the Boston archdiocese, Terrence Donilon, declined to comment on the Time magazine revelation about the validity of Joe Kennedy's marriage. Such matters are appropriately private and confidential, he told AP.
Nonsense! The reasons for an annulment are confidential. We have no need to know the details that led Church officials to determine that Joe Kennedy is or is not married to Sheila Rauch. But we do have a right to know whether or not the couple-- or any other couple-- is actually married.
Marriage is a public act. Except under the most extraordinary circumstances, marriages are announced to the public, and Church officials would quite rightly be suspicious of a couple wishing to marry secretly.
Oddly enough I have made this argument before-- a decade ago, in a case involving Joe's uncle. In the eyes of the Catholic Church, is Senator Ted Kennedy married to his first wife, Joan, or to his current partner, Vicki? To this day, no Church official has answered that question for the record. But if the sanctity of marriage is important to the Church-- and it is vitally important-- then the answer to that question is an important one: an answer the public should hear.
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But anyone who knows the history of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., knows that he was a woman-izer who abused women... And it seems to run in this family -- unfortunately.
(Jackie Kennedy had to put up with John F. Kennedy's infidelity; Joan Kennedy had to put up with the scandalous death of Mary Jo in Teddy's car. The list goes on and on...)
PP editing. The Vatican overturned Boston in 2005. If the details of this story are all true it sounds like not only did that cesspool known as the Archdiocese of Boston screw her but the lawyer she had representing her did too.
Joe Kennedy III is also the slug whose reckless driving resulted in Pamela Kelly being paralyzed for life.
you can take a Kennedy out of the shanty, but you cant take the shanty out of a Kennedy.
Its a trade off. Some people will marry to gain access to wealth and notoriety, with little regard to anything else.
Interesting that he attended Mass with his Sister-In-Law and brother Robert's litter? Err-uh Patrick, the future 6-term Congressman from RI, must have been passed out from sniffing too much model airplane glue.
America’s “royal family”.
That would be Kerry. Then he divorced his 1st wife to marry a... richer woman! America -- what a wonderful country.
The Catholic church bastardized my two children, too. And we are also Episcopalian. How does the Catholic church get away with nullifying an Episcopal rite?
The decree of annulment in current RC law "bastardizes" children no more than an Episcopal decree does. The Episcopal canons specifically stated that no declaration of the status of a marriage has any bearing on the status of children.
How does the Catholic church get away with nullifying an Episcopal rite?
I guess it depends on which you prefer. Should the RC Church acknowledge as valid marriages entered into in other churches or not? If they were NOT to consider them valid then if anyone wanted to become an RC they'd have to be re-married and everyone married outside the RC Church would be considered to be fornicating, cohabiting and so forth. On the other hand, if they ARE to adopt the default position of considering them valid in general, then it seems to me they can have, express, and act on an opinion about a particular marriage.
That has nothing to say one way or the other about the correctness of the decision in a particular case, it's just about jurisdiction in general.
Further: back in the day when the Episcopal Church gave some evidence of concern about marriage after divorce, if a couple wanted to be married in the Episcopal church and one member had been previously married in the RC Church but then had become an Episcopalian, s/he could ask the bishop for a ruling on his marital status, and nullity would be a possible conclusion, but again the default would be that s/he HAD been validly married before and consequently the canons about marriage after divorce would have been applied.
I hope this addresses the issues raised in your post.