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.