Italy: Marriage annulled for thinking about an affair

This article was last updated on June 18, 2022

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It was first reported on November 9, 2010 that Italy’s highest court had granted an annulment to a marriage for the unprecedented reason of a "virtual betrayal". Apparently the woman in question has never had an affair; she hasn’t done anything wrong but she has discussed the concept of an "open marriage" with her husband.
The husband admitted to have willingly married his wife despite her views on faithfulness but at some point, decided to leave his wife. The couple’s Catholic wedding was then annulled by an ecclesiastical court in Modena but the woman, fearing the loss of alimony, appealed against the annulment in Italy’s civil courts, only for them to back the church’s ruling. Privacy rules prevented the couple’s names, ages and occupations from being divulged.
Gian Ettore Gassani, the chairman of the Italian association of matrimonial lawyers, was quoted as saying."I find it shocking and very perplexing that the court should rule on what is a virtual betrayal when real betrayals frequently go unpunished."
The case was considered by the Court of Cassation in Rome, Italy’s highest judicial authority after being heard in Modena and then Bologna. It sided with the husband. In its ruling, the judges said: "We fully support the lower court’s findings, despite there being no evidence of the woman having relationships with other men." The wife will not be entitled to claim maintenance under the judgement. According to judicial sources, both the husband and wife told judges that she had often "theorised" the freethinking idea that a marriage does not necessarily have to be based on sexual fidelity, but "never put the idea into practice."
The case is believed to establish a precedent in Italian history although it is not the first time the Court of Cassation has aroused controversy. Ten years ago judges ruled a woman wearing tight jeans could not have been raped as her attacker could not have pulled them down without her help. In another ruling, judges said "patting or pinching a woman’s bottom was OK as long as it was sudden and isolated" and four years ago they said it was acceptable for a married woman to lie to police to cover up an affair.
Catholics who divorce in civil court are not allowed to remarry in church, prompting many to ask ecclesiastical courts to annul their marriages on the grounds that they were never truly valid.
Annulments in Italy hit a peak of 8,000 in 2008, up from around 2,000 a decade ago. It was reported that Gassani said, "Thanks to some spurious claims including husbands being too attached to their mothers, use of cannabis by one spouse and unwillingness to have sex. It had descended into anarchy as people realised that it could be quicker and cheaper to get an annulment through the church than a divorce through Italy’s sluggish courts."
Gassani said "repeated" appeals by Pope Benedict XVI to his ecclesiastical courts to stop handing out easy annulments meant only 6,000 were granted last year – part of a worldwide total of around 40,000. "But virtual betrayal still made it through and was then upheld in a civil court, showing that we appear to be in the hands of judges with some very strange views," he added.
Jimmy Carter
In November 1976, former President Jimmy Carter granted an interview to Playboy magazine in which he was quoted as saying, "I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times." You have to picture this coming from a man who is very religious and what some may call "straight laced". That statement feels very much out of place coming from his mouth.
There has been over the years a lot of ink used to dissect and analyse this statement but at last look, his wife Rosalyn has not divorced him.
My brother
Kids will be kids and I know that over the years I’ve said on a few occasions when responding to something he may have done which I didn’t approve of, "I’m going to kill him!" I suppose that could be interpreted as conspiracy to commit murder.
Well, if it’s "virtual murder", I would expect a "virtual sentence" in a "virtual prison".
How about a virtual divorce?
Click HERE to read more from William Belle
Wikipedia: Annulment
Wikipedia: Jimmy Carter
Carter was interviewed by Robert Scheer of Playboy for its November 1976 issue, which hit the newsstands a couple of weeks before the election. It was here that in the course of a digression on his religion’s view of pride, Carter admitted: "I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times." He remains the only American president to be interviewed by this magazine.
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