Vatican reverses annulment decision of Kennedy-Rauch marriage


In a decision that does not happen often, the Vatican has reversed the annulment of former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II's first marriage, which had lasted 12 years and produced two sons. The decision was announced on the Time magazine website.

Sheila Rauch had sharply criticized the Catholic Church for annulling her marriage to Kennedy. She alleged in a 1997 book that the Kennedy family's influence in the Church had made it possible. Rauch appealed the annulment to the Roman Rota.

Rauch and Kennedy, the eldest son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, were granted a civil divorce in 1991. She said she only learned about the annulment after Kennedy married his former congressional aide, Beth Kelly, in a civil ceremony two years later.

"The (original) annulment decision totally overlooked the fact that I felt that we had a very strong marriage in the beginning, we had two wonderful children, and it lasted," Rauch told The Associated Press. "I was certainly happy in the beginning. ... things unraveled, but that doesn't mean you didn't have a marriage."

Rauch was told of the decision to reverse the annulment by officials from the Boston Archdiocese in May, although the decision was actually reached in 2005.

Bai Macfarlane of Cleveland, Ohio, also has a case pending at the Roman Rota, in which she is seeking the intervention of the Vatican and challenging a US Catholic Tribunal's failure to uphold marriage.

In May 2004, Macfarlane had asked the Cleveland Tribunal for an investigation of her marriage hoping that the Church would advise her husband that he never had a licit reason to abandon her to seek a civil no-fault divorce.

The Cleveland diocese would not even accept her petition, so she appealed to Rome. In January 2005, the Roman Rota accepted her case, and on May 9, 2007 her advocate submitted a written argument on her behalf. 

According to the Church’s Code of Canon Law, there are limited reasons to separate from one's spouse (can 1151-1155). Those who agree to marry following canon law can never seek a civil separation or divorce unless it is foreseen that the civil judgments would not be contrary to divine law (canon 1692).  

These cases come at a time when some church officials believe that annulments are being granted too easily in the U.S.

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