Lawyer involved in Schiavo case works on marriage tribunal

Lawyer involved in Schiavo case works on marriage tribunal

A little New York newspaper is trying to speculate on the link between Michael Schiavo’s wedding and an attorney for the hospice where Terri Schiavo died who is also on the diocese of St. Petersburg’s marriage tribunal. It’s a good effort, but I think they overreach.

I was made aware of David Ridenour’s connections to death-crusading attorney George Felos, the hospice, and the marriage tribunal recently, but decided it was too early to print a report on it. There’s no “there” there yet. Fr. Rob Johansen has already emailed Mark Shea (who put it on his blog) that the article is somewhat off target:

I’ve been onto this story for a couple of weeks now, but haven’t been able to gather enough to do a publishable article, as there’s no “smoking gun”. It is true that this David Ridenour was an attorney for Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, and now he works for the Tribunal in St. Petersburg, as a Defender of the Bond. BTW, he was also a priest of the Diocese some decade ago, before he was laicized and married.

However, as _unusual_ as all that might be, it doesn’t _prove_ any wrongdoing, much less a quid pro quo of some kind.

I spoke with Ed Peters about this, and he has said that Ridenour’s presence on the Tribunal isn’t really relevant to whether Schiavo’s marriage is licit/valid or not. The key official here in this case is not the Defender of the Bond. The Defender of the Bond has nothing to do with dispensations. The key official in this case is the Promoter of Justice.

There are a couple of errors in the article. One of them is the contention that Ridenour as Defender of the Bond had something to do with giving the OK to Schiavo’s marriage. Not true. The Defender of the Bond has the task of making sure that any alleged grounds for nullity are legitimate in _annulment_ cases. As I said, the Defender of the Bond has _nothing_ to do with whether Schiavo and Centonze were given the proper dispensations.

There _are_ canonists working on this issue to challenge the marriage and the procedures followed by the St. Pete Tribunal. But Ed Peters and others have assured me that the Ridenour business, while it doesn’t pass the smell test, is a side issue in this.

I am trying to contact the people at North country Gazette to apprise them of the problems in this piece. I wish they hadn’t jumped the gun on this, as publishing incomplete and inaccurate info can do more harm than good.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli