Some high-profile people have obtained annulments – USA TODAY
The issue of annulments, now in the news after Pope Francis said he wants to simplify the procedure, has bubbled up before amid a swirl of questions including this one: Are they just for the rich and famous or can anyone get one?
One of the most high-profile people to have received an annulment from the Catholic Church was Sen. Edward Kennedy. The Massachusetts Democrat received the annulment from his first wife, Joan, in the 1990s after he reportedly admitted that he wasn’t being honest when he vowed he would be faithful. The couple, who married in 1958, divorced in 1983.
The annulment didn’t become public knowledge until Kennedy took Communion at the funeral of his mother, Rose Kennedy, in 1995, according to Kennedy biographer Adam Clymer.
News that Kennedy’s second marriage to Victoria Reggie in a civil ceremony in 1992 was blessed by the church set off another ripple of questions and criticism about whether annulments were for the privileged or easily obtained by anyone, even people at odds with their Catholic faith, as some viewed Kennedy.
Kennedy’s nephew, Joseph Kennedy II, had his marriage to Sheila Rauch Kennedy annulled after their divorce in 1991. He argued that he was mentally unable to enter into marriage at the time. In a remarkable turnabout, Rauch-Kennedy sought and won an appeal in 2007 from the Vatican that invalidated the annulment of the 12-year marriage.
The celebrity match of Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise also put annulments in the news when the 10-year union between the actors dissolved in 2001. Experts said Kidman didn’t need an annulment because in the eyes of the Catholic Church her marriage to Cruise, a well-known Scientologist, didn’t happen. The wedding was performed in the Church of Scientology and wasn’t recognized by the Catholic faith.
An annulment is a ruling that a marriage is not valid because certain conditions are not being met, such as free choice, psychological maturity and willingness to have children. The ruling is based on a finding that the marriage contract was fundamentally flawed from the start and invalid in the eyes of the church. On Tuesday, Pope Francis announced a more streamlined procedure for speeding up the process.