Thursday, March 24, 2005

Would An Anullment Help Terri?

A number of people have e-mailed me over the last couple of days asking if an ecclesiastical anullment of Terri's marriage to Michael would help.

There are several problems with such an approach:

Firstly, tribunals in the United States ordinarily require that a civil divorce have been granted before the proceedings for an anullment may begin. I'm pretty sure that's just a procedural norm rather than anything essential. That's a good question for someone like canon lawyer extraordinaire Pete Vere to weigh in on, though.

Secondly, in order for an anullment to be granted, Terri or Michael would have to petition for one. Terri obviously can't, and I don't see how Michael could be induced to seek one. Michael is not Catholic, and I doubt he cares one whit what the Church thinks of his marriage.

I am unaware of any possibility of a mechanism by which an anullment may be sought for someone by proxy. Once again, that's a question a canonist like Pete Vere could answer.

Finally, though, and most crucially, an ecclesiastical anullment has no effect under civil law. Pronouncements by Church tribunals simply have no standing in the eyes of the government. So the Church could anull Michael and Terri's marriage, and in the eyes of the State of Florida, they'd be just as married as ever.