Vexations and Conundrums
By Katina Pontikes
A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon something I’d pushed out of my mind. The pandemic afforded everyone extra time to assess their lives, perhaps organize things better for that day when we emerged to a changed world. I too decided to do a bit of organizing and downsizing with the time I had due to isolation.
During the course of filing some documents, I opened a plastic filing bin, dusty from its corner place on the floor of my closet. I rarely retrieved any files from this box as it contained the type of documents one usually labels “miscellaneous.” As I opened the front file folder, one lone envelope, still sealed, became visible. I examined it with a strange mixture of regret and consternation.
The envelope was addressed to me and came from what I will refer to as “The Archdiocese of Somewhere.” This was not like a tax envelope from the government, a document that normally inspires fear and dread. A tax envelope is usually opened in haste to see how much money one may owe, or conversely, whether one may be receiving an unexpected refund (Hope, hope!) No, this was an envelope that could cause all sorts of emotional responses, possibly even upset my peaceful existence.
I had decided when I received it that this correspondence was better left unopened. I considered burning it, but it was summertime, so I had lazily decided to file it away for later action.
The background on this letter will give the reader a better sense of why I would do such a strange thing.
I have been married, my second marriage, for twenty-five years. Several years ago I had received a rare phone call from my first husband. He informed me he was going to need to seek a religious annulment of my first marriage for reasons related to his wife. I’d been divorced for over twenty years at the time, so this call was a bit shocking. I had no interest in the emotional drama that a “Catholic divorce” might entail. I informed my ex-spouse that I would not contest the action, but that I would not be participating. My words were, “I won’t fill out a single piece of paper.”
Normally, annulments are difficult to obtain, and complicated technicalities are weighed for many years. I shared my strange predicament with a girlfriend who understood the rules and regulations of the Church. She had done a bit of research of her own and called me. “Don’t fret. It will be years and years before you get a resolution on this,” she had assured me.
I received a very heavy, large envelope shortly after that. I opened it to find a thick paper questionnaire. Ah, the papers I would not be completing. I threw the envelope in the trash without even reading the questions, as I had heard from a friend who had considered an annulment that the questions were highly personal, many of a sexual nature. I felt no need to engage even for curiosity’s sake.
However, in what seemed like a very short time, not “years and years,” I received a second, impressive-looking sealed envelope in the mail. The envelope was both thin and light. The verdict. I was surprised at the swiftness of the process. I assumed working with only one party must have sped up the administrative aspects of my matter.
I looked at the important return address, surprised I had not had to sign that I had received it, that it was not registered. I wondered briefly if my marriage was just annulled or whether I had also been “excommunicated,” a term for kicking one from the ranks of a formal faith. I decided I really had no interest in knowing what the letter contained.
Now, as I held the envelope in my hand, my dilemma was whether to destroy the envelope or let someone else open it after I died. Once again, procrastination won out. I placed the envelope back in the folder and closed the file box. I felt power in not knowing.
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