Ex-Kennedy wife say Vatican overturns annulment

BOSTON – After a decade-long crusade, Sheila Rauch Kennedy said on Thursday the Roman Catholic Church had overturned its annulment of her 12-year marriage to former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy.

Rauch Kennedy had taken her appeal of the Boston Archdiocese’s 1996 annulment of their marriage to the Vatican and in May was informed of the decision, she said in a telephone interview.

“It’s been a long haul,” said Rauch Kennedy, 58. “My joy is a bit tempered in that I think unless people know that they have the right to appeal to Rome, they don’t get a fair shake here if they’re trying to defend their marriage in the United States.”

The couple also had a civil divorce and Rauch Kennedy took her campaign against the annulment public in 1997 with the book “Shattered Faith.” It came at a time of trouble for prominent Democratic political family — which produced President John F. Kennedy and John’s brother and Joseph’s father Robert F. Kennedy, both of whom were assassinated, as well as current Sen. Edward Kennedy.

In the wake of the book’s publication, as well as the death of his brother Michael in a skiing accident, Joseph Kennedy withdrew from politics. Today he heads Citizens Energy Corp., a Boston-based nonprofit group that focuses on making energy affordable for consumers.

Calls to Joseph Kennedy’s office seeking comment were not returned. He has since married Beth Kelly Kennedy.

Divorce is prohibited in the Roman Catholic Church and an annulment, which is an official ruling that a marriage was never valid, is required for Catholics who wish to remarry in the church.

Rauch Kennedy said she had objected to the idea that a marriage that lasted from 1979 to 1991 and produced twin sons, now 26, had not been valid.