Skip to comments.Pope says “no” to hasty, bureaucratic judgements on marriage annulments
Posted on 11/09/2013 3:08:36 AM PST by markomalley
If a Defender of the Bond wants to serve well, he cannot limit himself to a hasty reading of the acts or to bureaucratic and generic answers, Francis said in his Audience with the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church. In his address he spoke about the important function of the Defender of the Bond in the marriage annulment process, urging him to "harmonize the provisions of Canon law with the concrete situations of the Church and society.
The Defender of the Bonds faithful fulfilment of his task does not mean taking over the ecclesiastical judges duties. His task is simply to present the case, the Pope said. His task is to present all proof, exceptions, complaints and appeals are presented in respect of the truth and in defence of the marital bond.
When the Defender of the Bond presents an appeal to the Roman Rota against a decision he deems detrimental to the truth of a bond, he does not abuse his office by carrying out tasks that belong to the judge; rather, the thorough work carried out by the Defender of the Bond helps the judge perform his job.
In his address to members of the Apostolic Signatura, he recognised the work it did to ensure the correct administration of justice in the Church. Your job is to promote the work of the ecclesiastical Tribunals that are called to adequately respond to faithful who turn to the Churchs justice system to obtain just decision.
Finally, the Pope addressed those whose ministry is dedicated to ecclesiastical justice. They act on behalf of the Church and they are part of the Church, Francis underlined. So it is important to maintain the link between the evangelical action of the Church and the Churchs administration of justice. Service to justice is a commitment of apostolic life: it requires to be exercised with ones gaze fixed upon the icon of the Good Shepherd, who bends himself toward the lost and wounded sheep.
At 12 oclock this morning the Holy Father Francis received in audience participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature. Here is a ZENIT translation of his address.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This, your Plenary Session, gives me the opportunity to receive all of you who work in the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature, expressing to each one my gratitude for the promotion of the correct administration of justice in the Church. I greet you cordially and I thank the Cardinal Prefect for the words with which he introduced our meeting.
Your activity is geared to fostering the work of the ecclesiastical tribunals, called to respond adequately to the faithful who turn to the justice of the Church to obtain a correct decision. You do your utmost so that they function well, and you support the responsibility of bishops in forming suitable ministers of justice. Among these, the Defender of the bond carries out an important function, especially in the process of matrimonial nullity. It is necessary, in fact, that he be able to fulfill his own part with efficacy, to facilitate the attainment of truth in the definitive sentence, in favor of the pastoral good of the parties in question.
In this regard, the Apostolic Signature has offered significant contributions. I am thinking in particular of the collaboration in the preparation of the Instruction Dignitas connubii, which explains the applicable trial norms. Placed in this line also is the present Plenary Session, which has put at the center of its works the promotion of an effective defense of the matrimonial bond in the canonical processes of nullity.
The attention given to the ministry of the Defender of the bond is without a doubt opportune, because his presence and his intervention are obligatory for the whole development of the process (cf. Dignitas connubii, 56, 1-2; 279, 1). Foreseen in the same way is that he must propose all sorts of proofs, exceptions, recourses and appeals that, in respect of the truth, foster the defense of the bond.
The mentioned Instruction describes, in particular, the role of the Defender of the bond in the causes of nullity for psychic incapacity, which in some Tribunals constitute the sole reason for nullity. It underlines the diligence that he must put in assessing the questions addressed to the experts, as well as the results of the opinions themselves (cf. 56, 4). Therefore, the Defender of the bond who wishes to render a good service cannot limit himself to a hasty reading of the acts, or to bureaucratic and generic answers. In his delicate task, he is called to try to harmonize the prescriptions of the Code of Canon Law with the concrete situations of the Church and of society.
The faithful and complete fulfillment of the task of the Defender of the bond does not constitute a pretension damaging of the prerogatives of the ecclesiastical judge, to whom corresponds solely the definition of the cause. When the Defender of the bond exercises the duty to appeal, also to the Roman Rota, against a decision which he holds damaging to the truth of the bond, his task does not abuse that of the judge. In fact, the judges can find, in the careful work of him who defends the matrimonial bond, a help to their own activity.
The Second Ecumenical Vatican Council defined the Church as communion. Seen in this perspective are the service of the Defender of the bond and the consideration that is reserved to him, in a respectful and attentive dialogue.
A final, very important annotation as regards the workers committed in the ministry of ecclesial justice. They act in the name of the Church; they are part of the Church. Therefore, it is necessary to always keep alive the connection between the action of the Church that evangelizes and the action of the Church that administers justice. The service to justice is a commitment of apostolic life: it requires to be exercised by keeping ones gaze fixed on the icon of the Good Shepherd, who bends down to the lost and wounded sheep.
At the conclusion of this meeting, I encourage you all to persevere in the search for a limpid and correct exercise of justice in the Church, in response to the legitimate desires that the faithful address to Pastors, especially when, confidently, they ask to have their own status authoritatively clarified. May Mary Most Holy, who we invoke with the title Speculum iustitiae, help you and the whole Church to walk on the path of justice, which is the first form of charity. Thank you and good work!
[Translation by ZENIT]
What a spectacle. Everything turned upside down. I've always thought this praise was something that made the Church into something wildly irrational and cruel. If Francis disallowed these previous annulments, I'd be very impressed.
I would be happy if they were reformed so that cases like that would no longer happen.
Having said that, in my mind, where the real reform needs to come is in the scrutiny applied prior to the sacrament of matrimony itself.
But, yes, some major reform needs to happen.
It would be nice if annulments were available to all of the faithful and no just those who are able to pay thousands(ex. Teddy “the swimmer”) for a “buyout”. This won’t happen anytime soon.
I've known folks who obtained annulments. Ordinarly, middle class people. The process didn't cost a lot of money. Pretty much under a thousand dollars in every case about which I know.
Each diocese incurs costs in the administration of its marriage tribunal. The fees charged for the annulment process typically don't cover the diocese's costs to perform the process. In other words, most dioceses lose money on the administration of their tribunal.
I imagine that the process could be expensive in some cases, where there are facts in dispute, where one or the other party is hostile, and where people “lawyer-up” the process. I don't know what safeguards, if any, dioceses provide to prevent that sort of thing, and if there are few, then I imagine it probably happens from time to time.
But I've known a fair number of folks who have obtained declarations of nullity for previous ostensible marriages, and in no case with which I'm familiar was the cost high.
As well, for folks with low income, most local dioceses will reduce or even waive costs.
A quick google returns a document from the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Maryland, which handles annulment cases in the archdiocese, stating that the cost of the annulment process in that archdiocese is $550, which includes a non-refundable filing fee. It also states:
"In the case of financial hardship, the Petitioner may receive a waiver for a portion of the costs (excluding the filing fee). The Petitioner will be asked to write a letter to the Tribunal explaining the financial hardship and send their most recent Federal W2 or Form 1040."
That's not what an annulment does.
An annulment says that there was not a valid marriage in the Church!
In other words, the Catholic Church is looking for the Sacrament of Matrimony performed by a priest under the right circumstances.
It doesn’t mean that children are illegitimate.
So in the legal sense they aren’t bastards but in the Catholic Church they are?
No, they aren’t illegitimate at all. Keep the children out of it.
The civil marriage between the couple was valid, according to the law of the state in which they married. The children are not bastards. The annulment means that, due to facts/mindset of the bride or groom at the time, there was not a Sacramental Marriage.
I have a friend who has worked for the marriage tribunal in Los Angeles for years. She has never mentioned a Defender of the Bond appealing a case to the Rota. Ever. The respondent spouse (who objects to the annulment petition) might appeal, and that can happen. But I think the Defender of the Bond doesn’t do it.
The Church doesn’t know the word “bastard”. All children are children of God, no matter what their parents did or to what religion they belong.
In your example, it appears this first marriage wasn’t Catholic anyway?, so it’s practically automatically annuled.
It may be frustrating that the Church appears to take divorce lightly. But actually it doesn’t. Annulments are difficult.
Re-marriage (without a previous annulment) in the Catholic Church seems to be the only thing that you can’t expect to be forgiven for enough to receive Communion ever again, even if you confess your wrongdoing of getting re-married. If your annulment plea fails, they apparently expect you to divorce whomever you remarried. My guess is that’s what the Church will re-examine..
How could your church possibly leave the kids out of it when Mommy and Daddy weren’t really married in the first place? What does this say to a child?
Pray tell how this is actually EXPLAINED to the children of a marriage that the church pretends never existed?
“If your annulment plea fails, they apparently expect you to divorce whomever you remarried.”
Not quite. If one's case for a declaration of nullity fails, and one wishes to repair communion with the Church, the Church does not necessarily require either separation of the household or civil divorce of two persons who are still validly married to other persons. Especially if two persons thusly situated have children with each other, their moral obligations may preclude civil divorce and separation of the household. The Church does expect these individuals, minimally, to adopt complete continence within the context of their current civil marriage.
By the teachings of the Church, from the words of Jesus, Himself, the Church defines “marital” relations between two persons where one is still validly married to another person as adultery. Adultery violates one of the Big Ten. It comes right after murder.
Adultery can certainly be forgiven. So can murder. With repentance. But if a professional, paid murderer goes to confession and confesses all his murders, but still solicits new business, in what way is he repenting? He seems not to even acknowledge that murder is even a sin. Should the priest absolve him and re-admit him to the Blessed Sacrament?
Similarly, if two people have married civilly where one or both were still validly married to another person, and they confess their sins of adultery, but don't even acknowledge the need to turn away from sexual relations with each other, how are they even acknowledging the sinfulness of their actions, no less repenting of them?
In granting a declaration of nullity, the Church is saying there was no sacramentally-valid marriage, not that there was no natural or civil marriage. Children born of a civil marriage are not illegitimate, even if the marriage is not sacramentally-valid.
Otherwise, the Church's teaching could only be construed as saying that all children born to non-Christian couples are illegitimate, as non-Christian couples who marry are obviously not married according to the sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ.
My wife’s annulment cost $250.00. It was a rather lengthy procedure and certainly was not rubber-stamped. In the end the only reason she was granted the annulment is because she proved that her husband, who was Catholic, refused to go to Mass from the minute they were married. She had to get all kinds of statements from people who could attest to the fact that not only was he a liar and never intended to live the life of a Catholic, but he was also a miserable SOB, which was well-stated in the majority of the letters of support she got from friends and family members. The process took two years.
“f ) Could a simplification of canonical practice in recognizing a declaration of nullity of the marriage bond provide a positive contribution to solving the problems of the persons involved? If yes, what form would it take?”
The above is a question from the Pope’s survey, posted on the Vatican website.
“In other words, the Catholic Church is looking for the Sacrament of Matrimony performed by a priest under the right circumstances.”
That’s not true. The Catholic Church recognizes marriages in most Protestant churches.
I can't comment because I don't know the facts on this particular case, but it would be a serious misunderstandng to suppose that an annulment means that a wife was a whore and the children were bastards.
Neither "whore" nor "bastards" nor any synonym nor any words to that effect are any part of Canon Law. If a man begets a baby, under any circumstances, Canon Law terms that his "natural child," if a woman bears a baby, no matter what the circumstances, Canon Law similarly terms that her "natural child."
Not only that, but the reasons for a finding of nullity are not published, out of respect for people's privacy (although one of the parties may choose to disclose them.) For all anyone knows, there could have been a finding of grave defect on the part of the hisband which resulted in his vows being invalid (e.g. because of deception, mental incapacity or fraud on his part).
Or there could have some other issue entirely, such as consanguinity, or inadvertent bigamy --- somebody presumed their previous, long-time-missing spouse was dead, but he/she turned up living under a different name on Tijuana --- or one party or the other being not baptized. (I'm not saying that's the case, but those are examples of reasons which would not impute any fault on the part of the wife.)
A while ago, some FReepers were all upset about a Catholic biggie getting an annulment, with the gossip centering on the supposition that he had paid off a Tribunal to get him off from his vows.
Later, the guys' ex-wife published a tells-all memoir in which she claimed that he had totally deceived her from Day One about his commitment to an exclusive, monogamous and lifeling marriage.
So his vows were found to be null because of having been fraudulently made.
FReepers started chiming in "Yeah, he's a ^$%$$ liar,"etc. etc, basically vindicating the Tribunal, which said his vows were rubbish.
Not so. I had a married couple as RCIA students (adults wanting to enter the Catholic Church) who both had previous marriages. They've been married (civilly) for 10 years. When they sought to enter the Church, they had to resolve their situation by seeking annulment from their previous attempted marriages. It took awhile, but they did it. The entered the Church last Easter. And they just had their marriage to each other--- their present, and only real marriage ---"covalidated" in a short, simple 10-min. ceremony with our pastor at a weekday morning Mass. It was sweet.
On the other hand, if the previous marriages were judged valid, they can't canonically be married to each other. It is bigamy to be married to a second person while your first spouse is still living.
Fears-in-advance because a pope "might" do something wrong --- preemptive fear in anticipation of evidence --- may possibly involve rash judgment. I think such judgments should be prayed over with discretion, not aired in public to all and sundry.
You just made a public judgement above. How about practicing what you preach?
Since when is expressing a fear a judgement?
What is an “attempted marriage”? I always thought that was something like the groom getting run off the altar by an angry dad with a shotgun.
Not ten years later, when the couple has had 5 kids.
I made a judgment about judgments (actions). Anybody's judgments. I didn't make a judgment about you, ebb tide.
One not only may, but ofttimes must, make sound moral judgments about actions. This is quite different from a personal accusation against a particular individual, especially when the facts are unknown..
Please re-read to note the phrase, "may possibly involve."
If I were to say, "I fear Jones may be about to start sodomizing his nephew," in public and without evidence, I am judging by insinuation. This is wrong in proportion to the wrongness of the act being discussed. If the act would be a trivial fault, the insinuation is a trivial fault. If the act would be a venial sin, the insinuation is a venial sin. If the act would be a mortal sin, the insinuation is a mortal sin --- assuming the usual conditions (adequate knowledge and intention.)
I am just reminding you. I assume we all know this.
“Attempted marriage” is the canonical term for a previous marriage which turns out to be invalid.
That's an interesting phrase. All of my fears are of the future; not the past.
In this case, no substantiating grounds, or reasonable inferences from evidence, were offered.
“....it appears this first marriage wasnt Catholic anyway?, so its practically automatically annuled.”
No, it’s not, if the first marriage was in a church, any church. “In the eyes of the (Roman Catholic) Church,” a Baptist/Episcopal/Jewish/whatever marriage is valid, and no civil divorce is recognized.
I ran into that when I planned to marry someone who’d been married in the Episcopal Church and who’d gone thru a civil divorce. “In the eyes of the (Roman Catholic) Church,” he was still married. The Catholic priest could not officiate at our wedding.
You’re correct, sorry for not being clear. An Annulment is required, but is relatively easy.
Frankly, it comes off as quibbling. I regard the woman who split up a marriage as a home wrecker. An immoral woman. Cold-blooded and selfish. And she seems to have hitched the church to her particular wagon--be the accessory to a divorce, yet the innocent party as she appears before the altar with her newly-annuled, newly-Catholic "husband."
He took one set of vows before God, and he had children of his body. Now, because a Catholic woman wants things to be neat and pretty for her "sacrament," the true wife gets completely dissed by the church. Her children, too. That's what any onlooker would conclude.
Frankly, it's a heckuva way to deal with divorce and the church.
I wouldn't for a moment exclude the possibility that the declaration of nulliy may have been in error. Canonical judges make errors sometimes. Sometimes people lie to Truibunals. All of this sort of thing is excruciatingly commonplace in the breakup of a marriage, whether the whole agony of it is dragged through civil or ecclesiastical courts, or both.
However it is no reflection on the Church if people are dissing this man's original wife, and his children. The Chrch did not do that. The Church published no record of moral judgment against this woman, and said no disparaging word about the children.
This whole "she was called a whore, and her children bastards" thing is attributable to stupid or hateful onlookers. It has nothing --- nothing --- to do with the deliberations of the Tribunal.
The Church respeted her and her husband enough to treat their nuptial relationship seriously and try to evaluate the soundness of their vows on the basis of their own testimony ()hers as well as his.) She woud have had a canonical advocate: these things are not railroaded through on the insistence of one party only.
And a Declaration of Nullity does not mean their whole life together was a nullity. It just means that their vows involved some defect with the result that their marriage was not canonically whole from the start.
It is relly unjust to blame the Church for the damage done by slanderous gossip, by rash judgment, by ignorant and vicious tongues.
Some people dig their way to hell with their mouths.
Thank-you for taking the time to link me to a generic Google search!
If only Pope Clement VII had such access to it, he would have never excommunicated Henry VIII; nor would there be an Anglican church.
If this "Catholic biggie" was Ted Kennedy, for example, he was able to get his first marriage annulled because HE was the one who entered into it with no intention of being faithful to his wife. HE was the one who petitioned for the annulment so he could marry his Catholic girlfriend and it was granted to him over the objections of his first wife and with four children being the product of that "null" marriage which was performed in a Catholic Church BY a Catholic priest. What example is being given here where a serial adulterer can get his church to do just about anything he wants even when it is HIM that is the wrongdoer??? Whatever reputation the Roman Catholic Church has gotten over these annulments - and it's been ongoing for centuries, it fully deserves.
Jesus confronted divorce without metaphor and wishful thinking in the gospels, and the bottom line was, God allowed divorce in the OT because humans were so fallen, and had such "hard hearts." Jesus said remarriage after divorce is adultery. To deal with divorce is one thing, to engage in such fatuous conceits is quite another.
Gossip? The divorce happened, did it not? Children are born of a man and a woman joined together, did it not? The present adulterous man is now traveling the world, trying to "buy" babies to give his wife, who is infertile--the illusion that she is
as good as the True Wife. And in the clear common sense of Jesus Christ, the Church is disobedient to his Word. Not that we don't have to face the harshness of divorce in every congregation, but to add these layers of hocus pocus, is, I contend, cruel. I'm hoping Francis will deal with the histrionics and come back to plain sense. The temptation to escape reality is truly the temptation to escape conscience.
This True Family continues, I contend, to have a righteous issue against a church that puts them away for the convenience of an immoral woman. The Church should be ashamed of this.
Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.278 He becomes guilty:
- of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
I don't see where ebbtide judged the moral fault of anyone, including Francis. Could you provide the actual quote, Mrs. Don-o? It seems to me that he refers to Francis making more mistakes and since he's already made quite a few of them that doesn't seem to be a rash statement so much as a statement based on Francis' past actions.
Wrt the subject at hand, I can see what ebbtide is saying and yet I am still not sure what all of this means because it doesn't seem clear to me (although things not being clear is a hallmark of Vatican II and post-Vatican II verbiage). I'm certainly not going to sit here and tell him he shouldn't be feeling the way he does. He has every right to express his concerns. He has good reason to be concerned.
I'm speechless. "Textless".
In all sincerity --- where did I insinuate you were going to hell?
This thread is becoming too weird. Just a few posts back Mamzelle said I implied she was going to hell (what the???) --- and here's the common factor: I'm cautioning about moral hazards, near occasions of sin, and these cautions are being taken as personal accusations.
I know that some Catholics are distressed and concerned about Pope Francis, so that every initiative of his inspires prefatory worry. The worry itself is not a fault, but the constant, public "Hermeneutic of Suspicion" applied to the Roman Pontiff's intentions, words,and deeds is unfair and unedifying.
"Hermeneutic of Suspicion" should be left to the sadoevangelicals --- or the LCWR.
There are plenty of actual, documented faults that can be dissected (e.g. the cringe-worthy La Repubbblica pseudo-interview). Dissect that with pliers and a sawzall, if you need to. But please leave off the preemptive public keening over imagined future papal offenses.
As Our Lord said, "Sufficient to the day are the evils hereof."
(Now I have a time-sensitive need to practice my Latin Propers. I'm outta here!)
You accused him of rash judgment and the correct definition of that includes judging someone’s moral fault. If he did not do that, then you can not accuse him of rash judgment.
This is exactly why people question Francis. His own words and actions make people suspect his future words and actions.
I apologize for over reacting.
The pope this time around is an odd bird and he has made me uneasy from the outset, including the unusual way he came into office. So many are coming into leadership out if nowhere, and I generally suspect some behind the scenes billionaire oligarch pulling the strings.
I'd like to turn down the heat-pumps in this thread, not fire them up. There's always been considerable mutual amity between you and me, Mamzelle. I nurture the hope that nothing has injured that good will.
We need to include the excluded and preach peace. Vatican II, inspired by Pope Paul VI and John, decided to look to the future with a modern spirit and to be open to modern culture. The Council Fathers knew that being open to modern culture meant religious ecumenism and dialogue with non-believers. But afterwards very little was done in that direction. I have the humility and ambition to want to do something."
"To open oneself to modernity is a duty."
If he looks like a modernist, walks like a modernist and talks like a modernist...
Not at all. I may need to stay out of religion threads.