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Below you will find the current episode of the series, Tony's Town. New episodes appear occasionally and when replaced by a new episode, are generally included in the Archives library.  Additionally, we occasionally rerun an earlier or archived episode on the Tony's Town Reruns section.  We do this if an episode is relevant to a current event, particular to a recognized holiday or universal time of celebration, or if it is requested by our readers. The Archive library follows this 'Reruns" section below. 

If you are new to the series,we suggest you avail yourself of the archived episodes, especially the first four. They will introduce you to the people, places, and themes of the series as they appear. So, to paraphrase someone well known to us;

Welcom to our neighborhood, friend.

Tony's Town



I was recently asked a question by a friend concerning what she heard called 'Catholic Divorce' A series of stories currently entitled RCIA, Ben and Joey's Way is being prepared and will appear on the Additional Offerings page.  This episode is one of those stories and I've included it here as it is evident to me that this term is quite common and a widely perceived misconception.

Also, in the Reruns section immediately following this episode, is an episode I wrote relevant to the upcoming Mother's Day celebration.  I hope you find it edifying. 

A RED PONY                                                     

     “Okay Lois, let’s say, you buy a new car.” 

     “Sounds good.  What kind?”

     “A Mustang, fire engine red, white rag top. chrome reverse wheels, and a turbo charged V-6 plant.”

     “You’re my kind of guy Mr. Karlsen.”

     Nate chuckles.  “O.K.  Now say you trade in a low mileage four-year-old Chevy, you put four thousand down, and agree to $375.00 a month for 36 months.  You sign the contract and drive off in your new red pony.”

     “I’m headed to the beach, already,” Lois chuckles.

     “So, you enjoy the car for several weeks and your first payment comes due.  The statement says you owe four hundred and twenty dollars. You scratch your head and wonder where this extra forty-five bucks came from.  A quick calculation and you realize you’re looking at over sixteen hundred dollars for the life of the loan. Sixteen hundred you didn’t agree to.”

     Lois scowls. “Alright, now you’re ruining my day.”

     Muted laughter ripples through the room. Chuckling, Nate continues.

     “So, you call the finance company.  They tell you it’s a standard charge.  You counter it’s not in the contract you signed and you’re not going to pay it. They agree it isn’t in the contract, but again they say it's their standard procedure and if you don’t pay it, they’ll repossess the car.”

     “So, what do you do?  You sue, right?” Nate asks.

     “Right! You’re on retainer, counselor.”

     Another chuckle is heard.  Shaking his head, Nate continues.

     “Okay, we go to court and the judge hears both sides. His verdict; since the extra charge wasn’t revealed at time of purchase, the contract is null and void. Why,  because you could not render informed consent to a condition you knew nothing about. The finance company must return your Chevy, your four thousand dollars, and return you to the state you were in at the time you signed the contract. And pay your attorney's fees.”

     Saying nothing, Lois nods and smiles.

     “You see, Lois, that scenario is essentially what an ‘annulment’ is in the Church.”

 

     Hi, Tony Baggz here.  Another Wednesday night and another RCIA class. Last week’s class concerned the sacrament of Matrimony and during it, several questions came up about the concept of annulment; one candidate named Lois going so far as calling it “Catholic Divorce.”  So, Joey decided to address that question this evening.  Helping him is Nate Karlsen, a local attorney, a member of St. Kate’s parish, and an advocate in the process of petitioning for a decree of nullity in broken marriage situations.  And tonight, Father Bob is sitting in on the discussion.

 

      So, what do you say we listen in….?

 

     “Father Bob, I’m sorry about that ‘Catholic Divorce remark’, Lois says.  It’s just that the pastor at a church I once attended called it that, and not very charitably either.”

     “No problem Lois.  It’s not something I haven’t heard it before … even from some of my own parishioners.”

     Setting down his coffee cup, the priest picks up the conversation. “In fact, just last weekend a group of us were here having dinner and, a friend of mine,  one of the ministers of another denomination used the same term, but not as an insult.”

     “How so?  It was always insulting when I heard it used.”

     “Well, my friend was performing a marriage ceremony for a member of his congregation. It was the gentleman’s third marriage and her second. My friend lamented he was tired of performing marriage ceremonies for people for the second, third, and even fourth time. It was discouraging to him in light of Christ’s words; ‘what God has joined together; no man may divide.’” 

     “I’ve always taken great joy in uniting a couple in marriage,” he said, “but I’m starting to ask myself, what do people think; Christ’s words are frivolous or meaningless? Or out of date? You know, Bob, I’m starting to feel like a hypocrite.” 

     “I can understand his frustration,” Lois says.

     “Granted, but what he said next really surprised me.”

     “And that was?”

     “He said, you know, I’m beginning to see the logic in Rome’s position. You would refuse; why, because your bishop won’t let them marry unless it was decided any previous marriage was null. … That marriage is meant as a one-time life experience. Something set forth by Christ himself.”

     “I thought it was just hypocrisy until I realized what the word annul means and how your church understands it. Granted, we don’t see eye to eye on some things, but I’m beginning to believe Rome has the right idea and its protocols are a genuine attempt at both justice and mercy, and not the ‘catholic divorce’ it’s so commonly called.” 

     “You see,” Joey says, picking up the conversation, “when the church issues a decree of nullity, commonly called an annulment, it is saying a condition existed at the time the vows were exchanged that one of the parties would not freely consent to, had that party known the condition existed. Therefore, the marriage never existed. You cannot divide something that doesn’t exist. You cannot give full and free consent to something you know nothing about. Just like Nate’s car purchase analogy.”

     “Okay, but where did this authority come from, Tom Jenkins asks?  Is this something I’ve heard others call a man-made tradition when criticizing Rome?”

     “No, Tom.  Rome understands the authority originates in Jesus’ words to Peter. From the gospel of Matthew, He said to Peter in the company of the apostles, ‘to you I give the keys to the kingdom of heaven …  Whatsoever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’”

     “And it is that authority you cite for the church’s justification?” Lois asks.

     “Yes. What the church is investigating in the process is like Nate’s auto loan story.  In the case of the loan, a just judge will declare the contract null because you were unaware of a condition to which you would not have knowingly consented.”

     “And the church says the same thing about marriage?”

     “Right. Again, one cannot give full and free consent to something one knows nothing about.”

     “Like, say, spousal abuse?” 

     “Exactly.  What woman would agree to a union where several years down the road she was going to be beaten and abused?”

     “What if the abuse is not be evident at the time of the marriage,” comes a question from the back of the room.

     “True, it usually isn’t, but there might exist an inherent condition in the abuser, not evident at the time the vows were exchanged. Something discovered in investigating the situation and the parties involved.”

     “But isn’t that simply divorce, just by a different name? Aren’t you really just splitting hairs?” Tom asks.

    Father Bob sets down his coffee cup. “Not really. Let me clarify.  Say, a man marries a woman and several years later, he is unfaithful. The wife divorces him and appeals to the church for an annulment. In this case, the 'cause,' his infidelity, occurred after the vows were freely exchanged and unless there were other circumstances, the marriage is determined as valid. No annulment would be forthcoming.”

     The priest pauses, then continues.   

     “However, if it were proved that, prior to the vows being exchanged, he indicated to others he had no intention of being faithful, and had she known that, she would not have freely given her consent and the marriage may well be declared null based on what is called a “defective intention against fidelity.”

     “Are there more?”

     “Yes. For example, one party deceives the other saying they want children and then takes measures, unknown to the other, to assure children will not be conceived.”

     “A defective intention against having children, I take it?” 

     “Precisely.”

     “And there are others?”

     “Well there are some things that automatically render a marriage invalid, and there are any number of defective intentions and conditions that also render a union null …  too many to go into here.  But that is the reasoning behind what so many derisively call, “Catholic Divorce.”

     “And you’re saying it’s a means of mercy and healing, not just gaming the system,” Lois says, a look of understanding creeping into in her eyes ...    

      ... “I understand that now.”

     What God has joined together; no man may divide.  Jesus’ words.  A marriage demands full knowledge and consent by both parties to be both valid and sacred in the eyes of God. A sacrament or a covenant.  And if some condition, unknown to one or both parties, exists, where full and free consent to the union would not be forthcoming, that marriage never occurred, and is neither sacred or valid.

     Kind of like that extra $1,600.00 bucks on Lois’ car loan.

     Thinkaboutit … I’m Tony Baggz. 

©2018 Tres Angeli Publishing, LLC 

Please note.  The above is a very cursory look at a complex situation. Pursuit of a “decree of nullity” is a complicated legal process. If one feels their particular situation might quality for this judgment, it is imperative to contact a Catholic priest to investigate your concern further. He is highly qualified to assess the particular matter at hand. The laws of the Catholic Church are very specific and it is not the intention of Catholic Stories to give advice on intricate and specific matters of canon law.


Tony's Town Reruns

FLOWERS FOR MOM

     “To be honest Susan, both mean the world to me.”

     Pausing, Kristi lovingly moves the glass with the little yellow flowers, and rearranges the roses.

     “And let me guess, you can’t decide which is more precious?” Susan asks.

     Shaking her head, Kristi chuckles. “You know me too well, Sue. When Darryl gave me the roses, my heart just melted.”

     “And the bearer of the dandelions?”

     Again, Kristi shakes her head, her laugh betraying the slightest touch of annoyance. 

     “Well, to be honest, at first, I wanted to strangle him.”

 

     Hi, Tony Baggz here.  We’re in the living room at Darryl and Kristi’s home.  The Martinsons host a Mother’s Day cookout and most of the neighborhood gang shows up and brings a dish. It’s become a tradition. The guys do all the cooking, serving, and cleanup.  It’s a day of rest for mom; the kids love it, and the men enjoy the camaraderie. 

     Kristi, her friend Susan, and Rabbi Green’s wife Rachel are in the great room talking by the stone fireplace.  On the mantle are two dozen red roses in a beautiful Victorian crystal vase. Next to the vase are six dandelions floating in a Scooby Doo jelly glass.

     The girls are enjoying the beauty of the flowers as several others amble in.  From Kristi’s last statement, I’m curious to hear her story. I don’t know why, but I think it just might be epic.

     What do you say we listen in ...?

 

     “You wanted to strangle who” Rachel asks, surprise in her voice.

     “Bobby,” Kristi says, laughing gently.

     “Your little Bobby … your four-year-old?  … Why?”

     “Well, last evening we went to the Vigil Mass so we’d have time to prepare for today. I wake up this morning and in walks Darryl and the kids carrying two trays with coffee, orange juice, toast and our favorite family breakfast, blueberry pancakes.  And this beautiful bouquet of roses.” 

     “Sounds like the royal treatment.”

     “Oh, it was. We had a wonderful breakfast, Peter and Lauren cleaned up the dishes, and Darryl went downstairs to put the roses in the vase.  He’s gone a couple of minutes when I hear, ‘oh no, Bobby what are you doing’ in his ‘call 911 there’s been a disaster’ voice.”

     “I hear a calamity in the making,” Rabbi Josh says, laughing gently.

     “Yea, Rabbi. So, I’m putting on my robe and it dawns on me Bobby was missing from breakfast. I hurry downstairs and there’s Bobby, climbing on a chair trying to reach the mantle where Darryl placed the roses. And there’s mud everywhere … I mean everywhere.  He even had mud in his ears.” 

     “What’d you do?”

     “Well, I rushed over to Bobby.  He’s trying to put this jelly glass with six dandelions floating on whatever water he hadn’t spilled on the chair on the mantle next to the roses. And he turns to me, his face just beaming …

     “And?”

     And with a smile an angel would have to practice for a month to get right, looks at me and says, ‘these are for you Mommy, Happy Muhvers day … I wuv you, Mommy.’”

     “Let me guess,” Josh says, “you didn’t know whether hug him or clobber him?”

     “Exactly Rabbi.  I mean, he had no idea of the mess he’d caused. Part of me wanted to because I knew how long it would take to clean up his mess.  And all the time he’s standing there looking up at me.” 

     “… with that angelic smile still plastered on his face, right” chuckles Father Bob.

     “Oh yes,” Kristi says softly

     “And your reaction?” Susan asks

     “My heart almost burst.”

     “Let me guess,” the priest says, “that desire to strangle him just sort of … disappeared?”

     “It went poof!” Kristi laughs.

      A twinkle lights up Rachel’s eye. “And you forgave him for everything, right?”

      “Oh yea … everything.”

      “So, what happened next?”

     “Well Darryl took Bobby upstairs to clean him up, and I put the dandelions up next to the roses. Then, we both proceeded to clean up the mess.”

     “Where did Bobby get the idea for the flowers?”

     “Well,” Darryl says, walking into the room, “I took Bobby with me on Friday when I ordered the roses.  He asked why I was buying flowers and I told him Sunday was a very special day for mommy and giving mommy flowers is our way of telling her we love her.”

     “Cute,” Rachel chuckles.

     “Bobby had this incredibly earnest look on his face, as if he was getting in on this big, important secret.”

     “The way we figure it,” Kristi says, laughing softly, “Bobby was in the flower garden in back this morning, and it was muddy from last night’s rain. He must have been crawling around looking for flowers and not being able to pick the larger ones, he pulled some dandelions from the lawn.”

     “Anyway, we got everything in order, and finally was able to concentrate on the cookout.”

     Looking at the roses, Darryl shakes his head then turns to the priest. “The funny thing was, Father, while Kristi and I were cleaning up the mess, I kept looking at the dandelions and they reminded me of something you once talked about.”

     A hint of surprise lights up Father Bob’s face. “And what might that be?”

     “Well I was thinking of the story Christ told about the enemy who sowed weeds in a man’s field, and we think of dandelions as weeds. You used the parable in a homily earlier this year. Don’t know why I thought of it at that moment. In the story, the owner of the field ordered his servants not to damage the wheat by letting the weeds coexist. I thought it odd not to eradicate them.  I know that’s what I would have done.”

     “I remember, Father Bob says, chuckling softly, “nice to know someone was listening.”

     “Funny you should say that honey,” Kristi says, looking at Darryl.  “Looking at the dandelions it struck me that while we see dandelions as weeds, Bobby sees a treasure. Maybe what we see as weeds, could be something else?”

      An impish look lights up the Rabbi’s eyes. “Great minds think alike. It’s something I’ve always thought to be true, Kristi.”

     “Thought what, Rabbi?” Susan asks.

     “That what appear to us as weeds, might look quite different to God.”

     Josh pauses, then continues. “Well, think about it,” he says, “who are the weeds in your life?”

     “Weeds … you mean like, people …” Susan asks. “… like people who harm you?” 

     “Well, yea, but more like people who annoy you, who you’d rather avoid.” 

     “Like…?”

     “Like the guy who cuts you off in traffic, the rude girl at the checkout counter, or the coworker constantly making a mess. Elderly people who get in your way or accost you with the same story they’ve told a dozen times, and you have to smile and listen all over again.”

     “’Weeds’ who have two legs” Father Bob says, picking up Josh’s thought.  “The elderly, the unborn, kids with Down Syndrome and other debilitating physical conditions, the delinquent teen constantly causing problems, or those living on the margins of society. People we see as ‘weeds’.  I think Christ would tell you He doesn’t.  That He offered everything for not only the green grass but also the ‘weeds’ in the lawn. And at times, we’re all weeds.”

     “They may be the dandelions in the front lawn of your life,” chuckles Josh. “But in the eyes of God, as valuable as you and me.” 

      Susan and the others nod gently as Father Bob, winks at his friend.

     “Well said, Josh, well said.”

 

     “Unless you become like unto these little children you shall not see God, for such as these little ones is the kingdom of Heaven, made.” Words from One who definitely knows.

     A little boy picks a small yellow flower and transforms a common weed into a statement of unconditional love. Or tells you with absolute certainty that Santa Claus and his reindeer are coming Christmas Eve. In the eyes of a small child, we see perfect faith, trust, hope, and love; the true path to God. 

     And one other thing about little ones; they don’t act on prejudice, they simply accept something as beautiful and use it for good.  Like little Bobby with a handful of dandelions on Mother’s Day.

     A thief on a cross offered a plea for a simple remembrance, a dandelion you might say.  And God rewarded him with a garden in paradise.

          Like the Rabbi asked; who are the “weeds in your life? And do you think the Creator made dandelions to teach us a lesson?  That what we think of as unattractive, irritating, or useless are important in their own right?  And in the sight of their Heavenly Father?

     A dandelion is a weed?

     Well … not in the fist of a four-year-old …

     … and not in the heart of God.

     Thinkaboutit … I’m Tony Baggz. 

© 2017 Tres Angeli Publishing, LLC


Tony's Town Archives

Below you will find prior episodes. The have been included here in the order they appeared through the first four episodes; Church and State to Amish Race Car Drivers. Many of the people, places, and themes of the episodes are set in those first four. Also, the Tony's Neighborhood portion found immediately below is a overall view of the people and places you will find in our neighborhood. If you are new to our little neck of the woods, may I suggest you avail yourself of these so as to familiarize yourself with our little world.

Please enjoy.


TONY'S SOUTHSIDE NEIGHBORHOOD  - PEOPLE AND PLACES    Come meet the neighborhood gang and their favorite haunts.

 CHURCH AND STATE    In today's culture, what does structured religion provide society?

NAMES    Get to know many of the neighborhood gang more closely.  And what popular recording artist might need to change his nickname?

THE REPAIR    Sometimes the most trivial work is the most important.  Discover it in a conversation that occurs before, "movie night."

AMISH RACECAR DRIVERS     The 'glue' that holds uncommon relationships together puzzles a young man.  Listen to a rabbi set him straight..  

TWELVE CENTS      Sometimes the very valuable lessons in life, come at little cost.

ROLL TIDE     An prolife episode shows us sometimes those very valuable lessons come from the least likely person you would expect. 

DILEMMA     An unexpected windfall is a challenge to "do the right thing."

BLACK OPAL     Some of God's most beautiful, yet unlikely, creations, speak to us of beauty and depth beyond what's see on the surface. 

MISTER DRISCOLL    Riches from an unlikely source.

SALT IN CHOCOLATE      A necessary evil?

A SCARY STORY    Sometimes nice guys do finish last.