Cleveland Canon Lawyer Criticizes Catholic Teaching on Marriage

by Church Militant  •  •  June 8, 2017   

Lynette Tait promotes Holy Communion to civilly remarried, contrary to Church teaching and practice

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By Bai Macfarlane

Though the Catholic Church officially upholds the indissolubility of marriage, statements made by Lynette Tait, a diocesan canon lawyer, lead me to question whether marriage is being upheld in the Cleveland diocese.

Tait has her two-year degree in canon law from St. Paul University in Ottawa, Canada. She teaches how to apply for a decree of invalidity of marriage (a.k.a. annulment) in well-publicized sessions. After an annulment is granted, a party can marry a different person in the Catholic Church.

After one of her sessions, Tait answered questions for an attendee who said his marriage seemed great when they first married. Tait told him to just "give us the best you can." That is, he should complete the annulment application.

She assured him that he should try not to "analyze" it. When the attendee said that he does analyze, she implied that overanalyzing is a personality problem that would make one incapable of entering a valid marriage.

"I find cases of accountants, engineers [and] lawyers — they tend to overanalyze things from an intellectual perspective but the emotional perspective isn't there, so that definitely has a bearing on your ability to consent to marriage," she claimed.

Tait teaches the Catholic deacons for the Cleveland diocese and has been a Defender of the Bond at the diocesan tribunal. In an annulment case, the Defender of the Bond has the job of arguing that the marriage is valid. However, according to Tait, anyone who decides that his or her spouse looks at life from an overly intellectual perspective (whatever that means) evidently has an invalid marriage.

We are supposed to exercise reason when making choices and not be driven by our emotions, so Tait's comments are absurd. Prudence requires that intellect guide our willful choices, not our emotions and passions. Parties who engage their intellect when choosing marriage would be more capable of consenting to marriage, not less capable.

Before Tait made her statement about accountants, she said when there is a cantankerous respondent, the tribunal will put the grounds on the petitioner. She also said that "the grounds are not on somebody because we are judging them as a person. We are judging the consent that was exchanged." (Listen here at minutes 45:00–46:58). According to canon law, though, an investigation for the nullity of a marriage cannot be started until after the petitioner gives a reason, based in law, alleging his marriage is invalid. The most popular ground for annulment in the United States is canon 1095.2: grave lack of discretion of judgment.

I find problematic that Tait says the tribunal won't be judging the petitioner as a person, because Pope St. John Paul II taught that this ground (canon 1095) is only applicable to those who suffer from a grave psychic anomaly (1987). He prefaced his instruction by stating, "I wish to devote particular attention today to psychic incapacities, which especially in some countries have become the ground for a high number of declarations of nullity of marriage."

It is disingenuous for Tait to tell a petitioner that the tribunal will not be judging him as a person, when the tribunal is judging whether the petitioner had a serious mental problem when marrying.

In a recent presentation on May 5, 2017, Tait offered a talk titled "Tribunal, Annulments, and the teaching of Pope Francis (Amoris Laetitia)." She told listeners, including several priests, that because the local bishop has not given any guidelines on how to interpret Amoris Laetitia, the priests are free to follow the instructions from the bishops of Buenos Aires and Malta, which opens up Holy Communion to the civilly remarried, contrary to longstanding Church teaching and practice. Listen to the presentation and read my analysis at Mary's Advocates.

The Cleveland diocese reported in 2014 that 99 percent of the year's 228 judgments granted the annulment.

Priests following the directives from Buenos Aires and Malta exercise discretion to give Holy Communion to those who are in second so-called marriages, who plan to continue having sexual intercourse, and who do not have an annulment. Tait criticized the teaching in the Catechism that shows those who are not married to each other should not have sexual intercourse and should live as brother and sister.

"What's the problem with that particular thing?" she asked. "First of all, the requirement to live in full continence; if you're telling someone that you can't have sex, you are taking away one of the basic aspects of marriage and that is really not a good thing."

She seems oblivious to the distinction between sex within marriage, and sex among adulterers outside of marriage.

My concerns about the diocese of Cleveland upholding the indissolubility of marriage are illustrated by the results of the tribunal's annulment cases. In the most recently available public records, the Cleveland diocese reported in 2014 that 99 percent of the year's 228 judgments granted the annulment.

Bai Macfarlane is founder and president of Mary's Advocates, an apostolate that supports those who remain faithful to marriage after separation and divorce.


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