a short story by Edd Doerr
Brendan was twenty-two when he met Anne. He was working full time and taking night classes to finish his degree. Anne was nineteen and working as a receptionist in an office downtown. They hit it off immediately and after a few weeks decided to get married. But where? Neither was a member of a church. Brendan was indifferent, but he knew that his Irish grandmother would be more than merely mystified if the wedding were not in a Catholic church.
But Brendan, though raised Catholic, considered himself to be a naturalistic humanist. His transition from Catholic to humanist had been fairly rapid and quite painless, unlike the situations of others he knew of. The problem was that Brendan had discussed his transition with a priest from his old parish, Father Steiner. So he went to see Steiner to see if he would officiate at the wedding, knowing that Brendan was asking him only in his "civil" capacity. Steiner was friendly but not really sold on the idea. Brendan made the point that it all had to do with his grandmother's feelings and happiness. Steiner acceded and the wedding was held in the church rectory, as Anne had never been a Catholic.
The marriage lasted two years and ended with an amicable enough divorce. Two years later, after Brendan had finished his degree and was teaching school, he met Ingrid, also a teacher, and they got married, this time by a Unitarian minister.
Not long afterward, Brendan learned that a Catholic diocesan marriage tribunal was investigating him to see if there might be grounds for a church annulment of his marriage to Anne, who had become engaged to a Catholic. Pissed off, Brendan phoned the priest at the marriage tribunal and told him to butt out, that if he had any questions about his religious beliefs to ask him and quit annoying his friends and relatives. He assumed that the marriage tribunal people could find no grounds for an annulment.
A few months later Brendan heard that Father Steiner had been killed in a car accident. Too bad, he thought, Steiner was really a nice guy. Then he thought to ring up the marriage tribunal priest. He told him that he had the solution to the annulment problem, that the priest who had officiated at his an Anne's wedding had known that he had left the church. The marriage tribunal priest got angry and yelled, "Why didn't you tell us this before?"
Brendan replied, "Look, Father Steiner bent or broke the rules to do a favor for my grandmother. It would have been unethical for me to rat out a guy who had done me a big favor. So put that in your pipe and smoke it."