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If Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right, Would Three?

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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