Q. I am grateful for your informative comments in a previous column regarding annulments. But they have generated an additional question for which I seem to be getting different answers. If one of the spouses alone, without any additional witnesses, attests that he/she was not committed to the marriage but went through with it anyway, is that by itself enough to obtain an annulment? (New Berlin, Wisconsin)
A. Generally speaking, no. Such an unsupported statement by one of the spouses would normally not be sufficient grounds for granting an annulment. As you can imagine, this would make the process all too easy and render any serious evaluation of the marriage meaningless.
Instead, you would need the support of witnesses — family members or friends — who could verify, for example, that at the time of the marriage one or both of the spouses did not intend the marriage to be exclusive and lasting or lacked free consent due to family pressure or other circumstances.
I can conceive of situations, however, where such verification might be difficult. For example, let’s say the marriage took place many years ago and people who knew the couple well back then are no longer around or available.
Under this circumstance, it’s possible that a marriage tribunal might accept the simple sworn testimony of a spouse — although that tribunal might also require that someone who presently knows the spouse attest to that person’s veracity and reliability. The best advice I can give is that the person you have in mind should speak with a priest with long experience in handling marriage cases and seek his guidance on how to proceed.
Q. Recently, in answering a question about Mass cards, you indicated that the donation given for the Mass was a free-will offering and that it should be explained as such, rather than as the “cost.” But my experience is otherwise; currently, at our parish, the fixed price is $15. Similarly, when my mother passed away some years ago, I was told by the undertaker that our pastor requested a fee of $100 before the Mass could be offered. That upset me, especially since I was involved in several ministries at the parish. Could you comment, please? (Southwestern New Jersey)
A. Though I’ve said it before, it’s worth mentioning again: The answer to the often-asked question “how much does a Mass card cost?” ought to be “whatever you would like to donate.”
In our parish we usually add “the customary offering is $10” because we’ve found that people do like some guidance. (Additionally, our secretary is instructed that, if she senses that a donation might be a burden, no money should be taken.)
When it comes to funerals, some parishes do have a set charge, which helps with the upkeep and maintenance of the church. For our parish, the charge is $125, but that amount is simply a pass-through to whatever organist is hired to play and sing for the funeral.
The church itself gets nothing. We ask our local funeral homes to explain to the bereaved family the reason for the fee. (And again, we’ve sometimes waived even that charge when a family was struggling financially.)
In the case you bring up, it’s possible that the information you received (about the $100 fee upfront) might have been a mistranslation, in which case you would have been better off talking to your pastor rather than to the funeral director.
(Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.)