#1Feb 2nd, 2007
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters Life!) - Smoke got in his eyes. Too much of it, so he asked the Roman Catholic Church to annul his marriage when his wife refused to kick the nicotine habit.
That is just one of the, well, hazy cases that wound up before the Vatican's Sacra Romana Rota, a top court which hears the most complicated of marriage annulment requests.
Others included women who wanted annulments because their husbands were "mammoni" (mamma's boys) who were not able to cut the psychological umbilical cord with their mothers even though they are in their 30s or 40s or beyond.
The cases have been reported in the Italian media since last Saturday, when Pope Benedict delivered an address to the court's judges asking them to be more careful in granting annulments.
An annulment in the Roman Catholic Church is an official ruling that a marriage was never valid, that it effectively never existed.
Among other reasons, annulments can be granted because of psychological immaturity of one or both partners at the time of the marriage, a hidden factor not known to one partner, problems of consent, lack of sexual consummation and forced marriages.
In the case of the non-smoking husband, the health and physical fitness enthusiast asked his girlfriend to marry him on condition she would eventually quit smoking.
She said yes and after they tied the knot she tried her best but her addiction was stronger than her and the marriage went up in smoke -- at least from the husband's point of view.
A first diocesan marriage tribunal granted him the annulment but a second tribunal overturned that decision. They are still married in the eyes of the Church and the case is now before the Vatican's Rota.
The odd cases that made it to the Vatican court were contained in an annual report prepared by the judges for their yearly meeting with the Pope.
Others included cases where one of the partners, usually the men, had a "morbid dependence" on their parents -- a not uncommon occurrence in Italy where many men tend to stay at home until they marry even if they make top-dollar salaries.
One other case involved a man who asked for an annulment because his wife stopped taking care of herself and her looks after she got married and he considered himself "tricked" into marrying a person who turned out to be different.
Although divorce has been legal in Roman Catholic Italy for more than 35 years, it is still seen by many as a social stigma and some prefer to have their marriages annulled so they can remarry in Church.
Thousands of annulments are decided locally by diocesan tribunals around the world each year. The Vatican court rules on several hundred of the most complicated, many of them appeals.
In 1992 the Vatican granted an annulment to Princess Caroline of Monaco, which made her 1978 marriage to Frenchman Phillippe Junot never valid in the eyes of the Church.
The Church never recognized her divorce from Junot in 1980 or her civil marriage in 1983 to Italian Stefano Casiraghi, who was killed in an offshore boating accident in 1990.
Copyright © 2007 Reuters Limited.