January 2008 Primo's divorce from Bertha is finally done. All the delays because the lawyer was having elective surgery and didn't tell Primo and didn't bother to have anyone backing her up in the office and because Bertha sent in the wrong papers and nobody from the lawyer bothered to tell Primo and because Bertha told the lawyer that she and Primo weren't getting divorced after all* are over.
Now we can work on the annulment.
Bertha is not going to be happy about this, Primo warns me.
But she didn't even bother to get her first marriage annulled before she married you, I point out. She and her first husband married in the Catholic Church, but when they divorced, she didn't file for annulment. She obviously didn't care whether about being involved in the Catholic Church - she had been attending a Presbyterian church for some time. Why would she give a darn what the Catholic Church thought about her marital status?
Bertha and Primo married in a Presbyterian church, Bertha in full white regalia, I might point out, even though it was her second marriage and she had two daughters. Not that it's any of my business what someone wears in her wedding but do you do the whole muffin thing the second time? No, this isn't about whether the dress signifies virginity (ha - like anyone thinks that any more). But wouldn't it have been more financially prudent to have a simple dress?
I do some research. Primo talks to the canon lawyer at the diocese. Turns out that unless he has to have a big formal annulment,** the kind where they examine witnesses and take statements and can drag on for months if not years, Bertha does not even have to know about this.
Turns out that Primo can have a documentary annulment, which is basically a "You didn't follow the proper procedures to get married in the first place so the marriage never existed" thing, kind of like committing fraud on your life insurance application (lying about smoking or medical conditions) and the insurance company invalidating the policy later.
With Primo and Bertha, the procedures they violated were 1. Bertha never got her first marriage annulled and 2. they were married in a Presbyterian church. Not that the Catholic Church thinks that Presbyterian marriages are not valid, but if you are Catholic, you have to be married in a Catholic church for it to count.
If you have a documentary annulment, the other party does not have to agree. Does not even have to know about it. Maybe the thinking is that if the other party cared about being considered married in the eyes of the Catholic Church, the other party would not have created the conditions necessary for a documentary annulment in the first place.
I do all the work to get the annulment going. I track down Bertha's baptismal certificate. Bertha's marriage certificate from her first marriage. A copy of Primo and Bertha's wedding license. We complete the application for annulment.
We make a big mistake.
We put Bertha's address on the application. Because they ask for it and we are too dumb think it through.
When I submit the application, I tell the office manager at the diocese both over the phone and via email that Bertha is not to be contacted. That if she has to become involved, Primo will call her first. That she has cancer. Is not happy about the divorce. That we do not want her to hear about the annulment from the diocese.
The annulment is approved in two weeks. The same afternoon that we learn about the approval, Primo gets a phone call from Bertha. "You f---! You're despicable!"
Primo is gobsmacked. How did she know?
Oh. Our helpful friend at the diocese, whom I had told repeatedly NOT TO TELL BERTHA. He sent a letter to Bertha.
I call him and ask what the heck had happened?
Oh, he knew I had said not to send a letter but he had sent one just in case we needed the formal annulment. You know. To be efficient.
Thanks a lot.
* Oh yes. She did.
** Which Primo has categorically said he will. Not. Do.