by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

In watching the funeral mass for Ted Kennedy, I was struck by a question that seems relevant to gay civil marriage: What is the status of Ted and Vicki's marriage according to Church law?

To my knowledge, the relevant facts are (a) they each have a prior living spouse, whom they each married in Catholic wedding ceremonies, (b) each of Ted and Vicki had obtained a civil divorce (but not a church sanctioned annulment) prior to marrying each other in a civil ceremony in Virginia, (c) much later, Ted later obtained a Catholic annulment of his marriage to Joan Bennet, (d) Vicki never received an annulment from her first husband (please confirm) and (e) Ted and Vicki's civil Virginia marriage was never solemnized by the Catholic Church (please confirm).

So does the Church view them as "married"? The officiating clergy during the religious services certainly referred to Vicki as Ted's wife and spouse. If, as I suspect, they are not "married" as defined by the RC Church, then why was Vicki recognized, addressed, praised and prayed for in Church yesterday as Ted's spouse? If we imagine that Ted had a legal and valid Massachusetts civil marriage to a man, instead of a legal and valid Virginia civil marriage to a divorced woman, would his male spouse have been recognized, addressed, praised and prayed for in Church today as Vicki was? Am I seeing some blatant Catholic church double standards, or is their marriage valid under Catholic marriage laws?

Regarding (e), the Boston Globe reported: "[H]is second marriage, to Victoria Reggie, although conducted as a civil ceremony, was "blessed by the church,'' according to Kennedy's office." I couldn't find anything regarding (d) - her annulment. Perhaps a reader with more time and knowledge can help

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.