Who Is This Amy Welborn?

April 2003

Este artículo: en español

We've been reading Amy Welborn's columns in Our Sunday Visitor for a while, and we almost always agree with what she has to say. Moreover, she writes engagingly. Of late we've been wondering: Who is this Amy Welborn?

She reveals a lot -- more than we wanted to know -- in her article in the January 17, 2003 Commonweal titled "My Husband, the Priest." It turns out that Mrs. Welborn is forty-something and is, after an annulment, in her "second marriage." Hmmm. We thought Catholics could only be married once. If you have an annulment, your "first marriage" was an attempted marriage, which is to say no marriage at all, and your "second marriage" is your first marriage. Or maybe Mrs. Welborn just played by the rules, but doesn't accept the theology behind the rules, for she makes a point of telling us this: "My history runs around the house or calls on the phone -- three children ages twenty to eleven, plus an ex-husband. That marriage has been over and annulled for ten years, but the evidence still sits at the dinner table and checks come twice a month." As we say, Mrs. Welborn writes engagingly, and, yes, we do sense the difficulty of walking by faith rather than by sight -- and sounds and checks.

And Mrs. Welborn gives us a taste of the poignant melancholy of it all in this one-sentence paragraph: "As is the case with any second marriage, both with histories we bring, histories living and dead, histories brought out and laid on the table and worked over and through, histories left alone because they are too painful or because there really is no point." Even though we're not sure that's a complete sentence, we certainly get the idea.

And add to the pain the fact that Mrs. Welborn's "second" husband is an ex-priest: "formally laicized -- 'reduced' -- as official church lingo puts it -- to the 'lay state.'"

She tells us that she and her husband are "in a rather odd spot theologically. I guess you could call us 'orthodox.' Mostly. We're both well schooled in modern interpretations of faith, and have found them wanting.... But theology is not ecclesiology.... So here we are, suspect, to tell the truth, on all sides, depending on who finds out what about us first.... Those who know us first in relation to our writing are surprised at our attitudes toward things like canon law, clericalism, and a married priesthood. Those who know the history first -- the laicized priest married to the previously married woman -- are surprised by our comfort in tradition, our prolife convictions, and our lack of interest in being anything but Catholic.... The 'liberals' aren't interested in us because we make fun of them. The 'conservatives' like us until they find out our histories, because there's no worse epithet -- not 'pagan,' not 'Protestant,' not even 'heretic' -- in a conservative Catholic's vocabulary than 'ex-priest,' a word which comes with a 'p' conveniently built in so it can be virtually spit out of contemptuous lips." (We don't know which conservative Catholics she's referring to, but we can think of a whole bunch of worse epithets than "ex-priest.")

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New Oxford Notes: April 2003

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Great editorial on the sacredness of vows! The seriousness of vows are one of the reasons I coverted to the Catholic faith, after nearly two decades in several flavors of Evangelicalism.

On a practial level I would like to make one comment. Many of us who have received the Declaration of Nullity (the proper Catholic Term for an Annulment) may still refer to our "former marriages" as well, "marriages" simply because Catholic Tribunals do not claim to "annul" marriages. That is, there is a recognition that a vaild (in most cases) Civil marriage existed. So, referring to the former "attempted marriage" as a "marriage" becomes a kind of culturally understood shorthand.

In fact, I will conjuecture that a precious orphan growing up in a Catholic orphanage in a third-world country has a better shot of one day being able to enter Sacramental Marriage than vast numbers of American youth who have been force-fed a "pleasure-for-me" driven "divorce&remarriage" culture, much of the time by one, or both of their parents who have broken the family home.

A massive rebuilding of the "infrastructure of virtue" is the only antidote to the erosion in the sacredness of vows and matrimony in our Catholic communities.
Posted by: BriBow
June 28, 2007 03:38 AM EDT
It should also be noted that not only did the former Episcopalian minister and the Eastern priest not take a vow of celibacy, but they were married *before* they became priests and won't be permitted to marry again if they outlive their wives. Posted by: ancillaDomini
June 28, 2007 08:05 AM EDT
The Church would consider her former union to be a "putative marriage," so to refer to the current one as a "second marriage" is not entirely out of line. Besides, what else do you call them? Posted by: manwithblackhat
June 28, 2007 01:24 PM EDT
Every time there is an article critical of annulment abuse, here comes manwithblackhat to slap it down. Methinks he protests a bit too much. Feeling unsure about your annulment, eh? Posted by: galwithwhitehat
November 23, 2012 05:11 PM EST
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