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The Marriage Anulment

Married couple's hands clasped together showing wedding rings.

By Fr. Frank Hoare

I have returned to Fiji from holidays and met with Fr. Theo I was anxious to get the news of a marriage case I had been involved in investigating and writing up for the Marriage Tribunal. 

A good friend, Pargasum, had approached me a few months previously to know if we could do anything for his Catholic friend and neighbor Manikum. Manikum had married a Catholic girl about 25 years before. But when he repeatedly mistreated her, she ran away. After some further mishaps he finally he found a partner who stayed with him. This partnership lasted and the children attended Mass and the sacraments regularly. However Manikum could not receive communion, and he could not be married in the Church since his first wife was still alive. 

I interviewed an elder who had been involved in arranging Manikum’s first marriage. He claimed that both parties were asked and had agreed to the wedding. I then visited Manikum’s first wife and asked her about the wedding. 

“I never wanted to marry him,” she declared. “He had a reputation as a scoundrel and I knew he would treat me badly.” 
“But you agreed to marry him when you were asked,” I replied.  
“Yes, because I knew that my father would beat me up if I refused,” she retorted.  
“Did you show any sign that you were unwilling?”    
“I cried all day before the wedding, I cried the whole day of the wedding and I cried all the next day too.”

I asked Fr. John Doyle, who celebrated the wedding, if he remembered it. “I’ll never forget it,” he said. “I know that all Indian brides cry leaving their family after the wedding. But I never experienced crying like that before or since. She never stopped!” I was happy that now I had confirmation of the lady’s witness. I wrote up the case and handed it into the marriage tribunal before I left for holidays.

Fr. Theo told me that Manikum’s marriage was annulled while I was away. I said confidently, “the annulment must have been given on the basis of ‘force and fear.” “No,” said Fr Theo with a wicked smile. “They were first cousins and they hadn’t applied for a dispensation from the bishop.” All my careful detective work was overridden by a technical hitch! 

Manikum marched proudly up to Communion the following Sunday. He then wasn’t seen at Mass for months.

Columban Fr. Frank Hoare lives and works in Fiji.

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