I am still in shock that Benedict XVI abdicated, so really there is no point talking to me about the latest news about Pope Francis.
I mean, Benedict abdicated!
What pope abdicates unless he is darned well forced to, or because he was really an anti-pope, or was pope only because he was some mediaeval pawn? Cardinal Ratzinger is the greatest German theologian still living today. He's no mediaeval pawn. So what the hey? The Queen is 88 and still going strong, up at dawn, having her cup of tea, reading the contents of her dispatch boxes. She's been doing this since she was 25 years old. It does not occur to her to abdicate. And nobody wants her to abdicate, just as nobody except a handful of vengeful and imaginative theology profs ever dreamed that Benedict might do so.
However, the latest news or rumour or gossip or MSM wishful thinking is that Pope Francis picked up the telephone and told a woman civilly married to a divorced man that she could go ahead and receive communion. The divorced man then quite understandably made this public. But so far we only have the lady's and her civil husband's word for the whole thing. Ear-witnesses to Pope Francis tell me that it can be hard to understand what he is saying, as he speaks in an informal, off-the-cuff, sort of way, which is a complete contrast to Benedict's measured discourse. So we can give the lady and her civil husband the benefit of the doubt that they did not get what Pope Francis was saying.
As a divorced-annulled-and-unmarried Catholic, I feel that I have a valuable point of view in the whole Divorced-and-Remarried Issue (which seems to be rapidly turning into a Crisis). And my first question is how many divorced Catholics bother applying for an annulment and if not, why not? It is my belief that so many Catholic marriages fall apart relatively soon because Catholics are no long mature enough to marry or have the freedom to marry. Society is raising us to be materialistic teenagers, and I am positive this is stunting our growth. I had a very teenage mentality until I was thirty-two or so. I'm not kidding. Thus, there may be many more Catholic couples that we know of whose marriages would be found invalid through reasons of immaturity or lack of freedom. I know a guy who was visibly drunk when he made his vows. After their divorce, his ex-wife didn't apply for an annulment; she just married outside the Church. Well, hello?!
I despair of the Baby Boom generation, really. But for my own generation, I beg that the annulment process be demystified. When I applied for one, I tried to find a book on the subject and found nothing It was if someone though just having decent information about it would encourage divorces.
The first rumour about annulments that must be cleared up is that they are expensive or some way of lining clerical pockets. Let me settle that right away. I paid for mine in 1999, and it cost me personally $600. It would have cost my ex an additional $600, but he wanted nothing to do with the process, so my diocese paid the extra $600. (I wonder if I put that much in the collection over the five years I was in the diocese. Oh, actually! Maybe I did!) I paid less for the annulment than I paid for my divorce lawyer, who took one look at me and actually said, "Legal Aid rate, I think."
The second rumour about annulments is that there is no point getting one unless you want to remarry. No. No. No. You must apply as soon as the ink on your divorce certificate has dried because the annulment team will want to talk to witnesses who know both you and your ex-spouse, and they can't do that if those witnesses are now dead or scattered across the world, address unknown, can they?
The third rumour about annulments is that they are somehow ludicrous and you don't need the Church to tell you that "Jesus still loves you". The Church which has the power to bind also has the power to unbind if it turns out your marriage was not sacramental. And that is very handy to know if you are divorced-annulled-and-remarried and you run into a member of the "Rubber Stamp" faction. The Rubber Stamp faction, who have no access whatsoever to your trial notes, are wont to disbelieve in your annulment and even to insinuate that you are fooling yourself and are now just a scrubby adulterer like your divorced-and-remarried brethren. Or, if you are dealing with an angry divorced-and-remarried member of the "Rubber Stamp" faction, that you are fooling yourself and are just a goodie-two-shoes suck up who thinks she's better than everyone else. The angry divorced-and-remarried person is easier to forgive for his/her nastiness, as obviously there's a lot of fear and pain there.
Well, I must bake a cake now, but those are my thoughts on the matter. I don't think the annulment process needs to be "streamlined"; I think it needs to be demystified.