Pope Francis: bureaucracy and costly system currently in place for Church Annulments. A Path to Justice for one condemned by men in black in hidden Canonical courts by Michelle Clarke

9th September 2015 and Alice Philipson for Daily Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk › News › World News › The Pope in Rome writes an article that allows me to finally understand that I was gravely ill-treated by the Roman Catholic Church.  Summoned to the Church Annulment court; questioned over hours about the most intimate of details relating to a marriage of 12 years duration; a policy of gross dishonesty among the status quo of these Canonical courts; and the total disdain to a letter from my psychiatrist to say that it was inappropriate to proceed.

The irony:  I sustained a traumatic brain injury in a horse riding accident in Zimbabwe.  The outcome a husband who mentally and emotionally ill-treated me while blatantly having affairs with other women.  1995, a two week holiday romance, he told me he did not love me anymore and that his new partner was to take my place.  I left my home for Ireland, because I was given no alternative and the outcome was that she joined him leaving Ireland for Zimbabwe.

Irony, you must ask why?  Well their relationship flourished, she became pregnant, and I presume they married.  I never contemplated seeking an Annulment for the obvious reasons, which are substantiated today in the media.  However, I engaged Gallagher Shatter as my divorce lawyers, Brian Gallagher acted on my behalf and I was granted a divorce in 2000.  Bear in mind in Ireland, divorce is no fault divorce; and what people fail to realise is that ‘there is a second bite of the cherry’ concerning Divorce in Ireland  Many files exist of this fractious divorce and I don’t want to enter into the facts.

2003 my BESS final exams at Trinity College Dublin, I found myself in the middle of a most horrendous experience.  My ex-husband sought an Annulment.  Again, enough is said.  The lever arch file in my possession tells the narrative of sheer pain and humiliation.  I did not leave Trinity with my final BESS exams. Too much trauma.  A divorce followed by a Canonical Court which as the Nullity was granted informs that the procedures could be described as more intimidating and power than in a Court of Law in Ireland or elsewhere.

Today, I feel vindicated.  There are answers.  I went to the lever arch file and I found therein much correspondence but the Degree of Nullity of Marriage (18th December 1982).

Cold and calculated it reads as follows: 

‘The above marriage has been declared null and void by the competent Ecclesiastical Tribunals as follows:

Judgement in Court of First Instance:  20th December, 2002

Confirmatory Decision in this Appeal Court: 9th August, 2004

Since no further appeal has been lodged against this decision of the Court of Appeal, the above mentioned parties are, in what concerns the law of the Catholic Church, free to contract marriage, subject to the normal requirements of Canon Law, and to what may be stated by way of “Special Conditions”.


The Respondent, Michelle Clarke, may not enter a future marriage in the Catholic Church until she has assured the local Ordinary of her due preparedness for Christian marriage.

This Decree of Nullity is issued to the Respondent:  Michelle Clarke

By direction of the Presiding Judge.   __________________Administrator

Given at the Offices of the National Appeal Tribunal, All Hallows College, Grace Park Road, Dublin 9.

Date: 23rd August, 2004.

Note the Bold Print, is the plain sheet of white paper that issues from the National Marriage Appeal Tribunal of Ireland.  Divorce in Ireland is No Fault – what is position here but the villain!

12 years of no marriage; yet a divorce in the Irish courts of law.  The file details my case of serious ill-health and the consistent dialogue and meetings with my advocate KT.  The grounds are not mentioned in this Decree but I am not free to enter a future marriage in the Catholic Church until she has assured the local Ordinary of her due preparedness for Christian marriage. My Advocate KT arduously tried to represent me but I was too debilitated to assist.  All correspondence is documented but the fact that I had sustained a traumatic brain injury, manic depression, anxiety et al was irrelevant and that some other ‘unstated’ conclusion rendered me as defined above….excluded from a Christian marriage.

Only one more point.  If I had known that my marriage would have been deemed to have never existed, I could have, as advised, sought a decree that no marriage ever existed through the divorce courts.  This would have been preferable given the level of contention over possession of assets in my name (which belonged to me at the time I married).  I chose not to choose this avenue for obvious reasons.  My marriage existed for 12 years.

Justice.  Today I am well and I am reading this article ‘Marriage reforms set to cause concern among conservatives’ in the Irish Independent.  Hope for Truth becomes a real possibility.  Conservatives and bureaucracy, my files outline that this is true.

“Automatic appeals for annulments, which were introduced by Pope Benedict XIV almost 300 years ago, will also be scrapped.  Annulment trials will be free except for the “fair compensation of court workers”.  You will note above, letters from medical profession and lawyers, held no sway, in my case and now we know this Rule said the Church had the Power and money could be a major influence.

What is more interesting to my case is that is that quite rightly the proposed new streamlined annulment procedure will be available when both spouses request an annulment or do not oppose it’

Why do I fall into this category with no explanation just conjecture especially when there is a clear reason to declare a marriage invalid such as lack of Faith (highly personal), infidelity (it applied in my case but Ireland and its law courts have opted for “No Fault divorces”, or a lack of desire to have children (how can you prove this?)  The Church quite clearly states in my case that they apply the veto – that the defect that caused the nullity is still present, obviously putting the validity of future marriages at risk!

To conclude:  it is my view that the elites within the Catholic Church played a part in this “Decree of Nullity”.  Opus Dei, Iona Institute and others have powers.  Money and costs are mentioned but yet we never associate them with Annulments.  I didn’t pay because I was not asked nor did my Mother but did the other people to benefit from a Church wedding pay.  I would like to know because my name is defamed.

What would you feel if you received a letter in 2004, and you can access my health file in another document on this site, that stated the nullity of your marriage has now been completed…..In regard to the “Special Conditions” Clause, PLEASE NOTE that you may not contract marriage in the Catholic Church unless the local Bishop can see his way to giving you a special permission.  No such permission could be considered without your agreement to take part in whatever investigation the Bishop might require.  No guarantee can be given that the permission would be granted…..signed by the Judicial Vicar.

Highlighted and enlarged as per the letter.

At the time of this Annulment, media reported about priests who were accused of child sexual abuse working in the Annulment courts.


Letter by Brendan Butler, Malahide, Co. Dublin Irish Times 10th September 2015.

I select this paragraph, the foregoing will it make it obvious as to how I can identify with what you have written in this paragraph.

“To outsiders and indeed to many Catholics on the inside, annulments were seen as a dubious means of marriage dissolution and often seen as privileging rich, aristocratic Catholic families.  I hope that there will be more transparency in the annulment process as a result of this decree by Pope Francis”

So do I.  I want written confirmation as to why I was deemed so inadequate to have engaged in a marriage of 12 years duration, a 4 year hostile based divorce, when the spouse openly engaged in adultery that our 12 years of marriage was scrapped to garbage when this cannot be justified; it is most unjust and immoral and biased towards my position.

January 29th 2016: Spotlight film https://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2015-11-03/-spotlight-charlie-rose is just released. Cardinal Law – The Boston Globe. The Power of the Roman Catholic Church and the might and power of the investigative journalism to do what is their function and make public the abuse of power that can destroy peoples’ lives.  My experience is not of sexual abuse but an abuse of power because of a psychiatric history complicated by a traumatic brain injury leaving me vulnerable as can be identified by this letter which I located today from my files.  I shudder as I read it; the pain.

References to articles written recently:-




9th December 2002

Nullity of Marriage: Garry Clarke Ref: J1-135/97
Dublin Regional Marriage Tribunal
Diocesan Offices
Archbishop’s House
Dublin 9.
The Revd. Aidan McGrath

Let me first say I deem the Catholic Church to be in contravention of Human Rights and are not in line with my right for Civil Liberties, in fact they have been seriously breached.

I am concluding this matter now. I am instructing you to make no further contact with MB. This you did, ignoring my letter to you, with a Psychiatrist’s letter, to say I was medically unable at the time to proceed. You blatantly ignored this, met with MB (who attended the two meetings with Fr. Cahill and myself), and exchanged correspondence regarding me with him. This was totally without my authority. Neither had I given MB my permission although he is a very good friend of mine to meet with you. I had asked him solely to seek a reply to my letter to you which had been sent to you several months before and had not even been acknowledged.

I was interviewed on two occasions: there exists almost five hours of transcribed notes from a person who was seriously unwell at the time. The trauma of the interviews set back my recovery process. Fr. Cahill asked for the name of witnesses, I submitted eight, unaware that these people were to be called for interview and a letter was received the day following my meeting. Certain people strongly objected. I asked MB at the time to phone on my behalf to say I had not been correctly informed. He chose not to. I did – I spoke to Fr. Cahill, he suggested it was too late. I explicitly said I wanted a counter letter to be written immediately. At this point I would like to add that my father’s brother, a Roman Catholic priest, was among the eight I suggested.

I have not been well. I will not accept that you do not take account of my psychiatrist’s letter or take account of my health situation and if I could take this matter further I would. This letter along with remainder of my correspondence regarding this matter is being sent to my solicitor Mr. Brian Gallagher who acted on my behalf in the past and is so appointed to in this instance i.e. provided the Catholic Church incur my expenses. I am instructing that you are no longer to consider me part of the process of nullity proceedings.

One point. The rights of the Catholic Church were curbed within the Constitution by amendment. In 1995 – by referenda, the people of this Nation, if only by minority, voted in Divorce. Who is the Church to ‘invade the private rights’ of an individual with my health case history? I know many good priests but institutions that permits injustices to occur and keep them secrets – I cannot accept.

Please note from the extensive notes you evidently have: I worked, while at the same time studied law by night. I became ill in 1992 and in 1993 sustained serious brain damage……my former husband admitted to the affair at the time of the divorce proceedings…….Joe (for his own reasons) left me in a psychiatric hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe…..and I have fought my way through recurrent illness, into Trinity and am now reading politics and sociology third year (having been hospitalized and recurrently ill with depression necessitating ECT, and a harrowing divorce). I gained nothing from the divorce. I do not receive maintenance. Joe sought money placed in my name by my mother because medically it was said I would never work again…..he walked out on this prognosis, not me, the well person of 1992.

You may abolish your time limits. Canon Law is challenged presently and I am right behind that. I want accountability on a number of counts and I expect, if God grants me the health, to ensure that that comes about. I believe in Truth, Equity, Justice, not in the ability to conceal and harbour facts with subjectivity applied.

Yours sincerely

Michelle Clarke.
‘A human being’

Copy: Brian Gallagher, Gallagher Shatter
Shane Clarke, Brother
Senator Mary Henry – correspond with Senator Henry regarding the lack of rights for those who have mental health problems

Abuse of Power: Ignore the vulnerable party.
Nullity of Marriage: Garry-Clarke J.I.-135/97
26th May, 2003

Personal and Confidential
The Administrator,
National Appeal Tribunal of Ireland
All Hallow’s College
Greenpark Road

To whom it may concern:

Apologies for the delay – I have been unwell.

Point 1: A Psychiatrist’s letter indicated that I was not medically fit for the Annulment process. You deliberately ignored same and dealt with MB without my permission and discussed my case. Ethically, morally this is incorrect, in such delicate circumstances.

I informed you that the matter had been referred to my solicitor and to correspond with him – you ignored that letter.

I now receive this. I ask; have I no say and if so why? I have continually sought ‘what checks and balances apply to the Catholic Church’ and in the absence of communication from all concerned, I am no wiser. I will pursue answers. My marriage ended on 6th December 2000 when the court, having reviewed the evidence, granted same. The rights of the Church were curtailed in the Constitution a number of years ago. There is a conflict here and most definitely discrimination. There was full intervention with the Psychiatrist and the medical report spoke in medical facts.

On the basis of mental health issues I have referred my case to the Human Rights Commission, to Amnesty and to the Attorney General.


I obtained a divorce in 2000. By April approaching my exams, I (yet again) received a most unexpected letter from the Archbishop’s Palace. I was informed by the Church that Joe had spoken with me – he had not. Then I was informed that Joe applied in 1996 and instructed that I not be told. Now this has serious consequences. I would have been in a better position to seek a Church Annulment as the assets Joe claimed belonged to my mother. I regarded myself to have been married and well at that time and chose not to take the route and the mental health implications of it. I was not told until March/April 2001.

4 years ago on this day I was in hospital having my 15th session of ECT. I was in hospital 5 months and have an amnesic gap for perhaps 8. The more episodes one has or precipitating events one encounters, the greater the frequency. The divorce was extremely traumatic; the unexpected letter from the Archbishop’s Palace ‘yet again tactic’ just prior to my exams placed me on a collision course of no exams; homeless; nearly certified; family being medical who are in denial; I crawled out and as I was crawling, the two men who had been kind enough to take me to live with them when no-one would, decided to address the letter. In retrospect, I was not ready.

You will note the young Australian woman spoken about in the media, who became part of one of the latest sects in Ireland, committed suicide. With a person who has a bipolar condition as distinct from depression, it is not advisable to question them too much, it can cause trauma within the mind and most unforeseen circumstances. I had to leave Trinity College and last year returned yet again. Now I am aware my health will never let me repeat and complete my final BESS exams. I do not take maintenance from Joe and the rest is with his conscience i.e. the knowledge that should be within him.

I have no social life. I walked on the marches for Peace and ended up hospitalized on APRIL 2ND 2002. The 4 Gardai did not grasp that my rigid and muscle wasted body was not pulling against them but due to the neuro-psychiatric implications and many drugs – the physical condition is now a real factor. My ill-health arose only 11 years ago – my husband (like so many) went into immediate denial when I fell off the horse, fracturing my skull. I had returned to Ireland to be hospitalized and Mary (his new wife) who would be my little nieces and nephews, aunt, came to meet me to make suggestions). Mary never met Joe until a few years later, when her mother asked my brother, if she could stay for 5 days. I had gone home for a medical. When I returned they had fallen in love……..Joe continually put undue pressure on me to leave – I tried to persuade him……it was not to be recommended and in retrospect I would have left. I ended up in psychiatric in Harare. I had good friends the Little Company of Mary; in fact people have always been good to me.

Can I have my files returned to me (forthwith)? I hope the Freedom of Information Act applies.

Let the Church change their law but NOT BLAME THE FIRST WIFE.

I will not accept what you say.  The adultery is stated in the divorce papers…..those who appeared in the divorce court can confirm this, with the opinions of medical and legal team. It was Joe who brought initiatted separation and divorce proceedings.


Michelle Clarke

Quotation: Catholic Church entrenched stigma questioned in the foregoing letters:

Amnesty 2001 – Mental Illness the Neglected Quarter

‘Amnesty is a worldwide voluntary activist movement working with human rights. It is independent of any government, political persuasion or religious creed.

Amnesty’s vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other International Human Rights Standards’

‘One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental health disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. Treatments are available, but nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help from a health professional. Stigma discrimination and neglect prevent care and treatment from reach people with mental disorders.

Where there is neglect, there is little or no understanding.

Where there is no understanding, there is NEGLECT.

World Health Organisation 2003

About michelleclarke2015

Life event that changes all: Horse riding accident in Zimbabwe in 1993, a fractured skull et al including bipolar anxiety, chronic fatigue …. co-morbidities (Nietzche 'He who has the reason why can deal with any how' details my health history from 1993 to date). 17th 2017 August operation for breast cancer (no indications just an appointment came from BreastCheck through the Post). Trinity College Dublin Business Economics and Social Studies (but no degree) 1997-2003; UCD 1997/1998 night classes) essays, projects, writings. Trinity Horizon Programme 1997/98 (Centre for Women Studies Trinity College Dublin/St. Patrick's Foundation (Professor McKeon) EU Horizon funded: research study of 15 women (I was one of this group and it became the cornerstone of my journey to now 2017) over 9 mth period diagnosed with depression and their reintegration into society, with special emphasis on work, arts, further education; Notes from time at Trinity Horizon Project 1997/98; Articles written for Irishhealth.com 2003/2004; St Patricks Foundation monthly lecture notes for a specific period in time; Selection of Poetry including poems written by people I know; Quotations 1998-2017; other writings mainly with theme of social justice under the heading Citizen Journalism Ireland. Letters written to friends about life in Zimbabwe; Family history including Michael Comyn KC, my grandfather, my grandmother's family, the O'Donnellan ffrench Blake-Forsters; Moral wrong: An acrimonious divorce but the real injustice was the Catholic Church granting an annulment – you can read it and make your own judgment, I have mine. Topics I have written about include annual Brain Awareness week, Mashonaland Irish Associataion in Zimbabwe, Suicide (a life sentence to those left behind); Nostalgia: Tara Hill, Co. Meath.
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7 Responses to Pope Francis: bureaucracy and costly system currently in place for Church Annulments. A Path to Justice for one condemned by men in black in hidden Canonical courts by Michelle Clarke

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