So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Thursday, September 10, 2015

FYI - Pope's "new rules" regarding decrees of nullity are not what low information Catholics think.

Beyond the hype and hyperbole—the facts:
Marriage is forever: Pope's reform requires proof union was invalid  by Cindy Wooden, CNS/Catholic Register
Catholic marriage tribunals do not dissolve marriages, but assess whether or not a valid sacramental marriage was present from the beginning. Catholics whose first unions are declared "null" -- meaning there never was a marriage -- are free to marry in the church and receive the sacraments, including reconciliation and Communion.

With the new rules released Sept. 8, Pope Francis made the process quicker, but did not make it easier for couples to prove a union was not a marriage. He removed the requirement that all decrees of nullity must be confirmed by a second panel of judges; he urged dioceses around the world to make the process free or as close to free as possible (truth be told, most dioceses in North America wave any fees if fees constitute a burden); and he established a "brief process" by which diocesan bishops can recognize the nullity of a union when both parties agree and have overwhelming proof their union did not meet at least one of the Catholic Church's requirements for a sacramental marriage. (Potential abuse alert! And if a bishop is close friends with a couple seeking a decree of nullity... ? Perhaps there should be language requiring bishops in such circumstances to recuse themselves and surrender the issue to their tribunal(s).)

According to the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: "A valid Catholic marriage results from five elements: (1) the spouses are free to marry; (2) they freely exchange their consent; (3) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; (4) they intend the good of each other; and (5) their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized church minister."

1 comment:

  1. I read the article yesterday and wasn't persuaded. Truth be told, I'm no longer inclined to trust the Register on much apart from Ed Pentin: along with so many other mainstream Catholic outlets in these times, they have largely become Chip Diller, assuring low-information Catholics of the essential OKness of whatever comes out of Rome.

    I think there are two less low-information approaches: the first is that of Ed Peters. Peters agrees with your above excerpt that the elimination of the "second instance" is not a particularly troublesome development, but he is far less sanguine about the new canons providing for expedited processing of annulment petitions. Excerpts (my emphasis in bold):

    If the older canonical tradition wrongly assumed that a respondent necessarily opposed an annulment, this new norm wrongly, I think, makes relevant a respondent’s “consent” to an annulment petition. While a respondent’s participation in the tribunal process is always sought and is usually helpful in adjudicating marriage cases, his or her consent to a nullity petition is never necessary for the Church to exercise jurisdiction over a case and, more to the point, it is not indicative of the merits of the petition. Making mutual agreement to a petition an element of hearing that petition quickly risks confusing two things that the Church has long sought to distinguish, namely, the parties’ laudable cooperation with the tribunal’s search for truth and their collusion with each other toward a specific outcome. Treating nullity petitions in which the parties agree radically differently from those wherein they disagree, sends a dubious message.


    The most confusing point about this list [of factors that justify fast-tracking] is that some of these factors, though presented as reasons for hearing a petition quickly, are actually grounds for nullity (e.g., simulation, force or fear); other factors, however, are most emphatically
    not grounds for annulment (e.g., brevity of married life); and others might, or might not, be suggestive of grounds for nullity (e.g., an extra-marital affair near the time of the wedding might show a grave lack of discretion of judgement or an inability to assume matrimonial rights and duties). Because traditional grounds of nullity have been mixed in among things that could be evidence for other grounds of nullity, and further mixed with things that are not grounds for nullity and often are not even evidence of grounds for nullity, confusion will—and already has, judging from questions I have already received from the faithful—erupt as to whether these factors are not just reasons to hear a case speedily, but are themselves proof of matrimonial nullity. Try to explain to non-canonists why one thing the pope listed (say, simulation) is grounds for an annulment but another thing he listed (say, pregnancy) is not grounds for an annulment.

    Peters also touches on my second approach, which is that we all know what will happen shortly after these changes take effect:

    Of course, in no time, this list of reasons to hear nullity cases quickly will lengthen greatly.

    And this is the nub of the issue: the pope has (seemingly ex tempore) enumerated a few previously unheard-of examples of grounds for fast-track annulments, but there's no reason to think this list is exhaustive. Once the annulment petitions start to land on diocesan desks, you can bet that all sorts of new grounds will be discovered. Add to this the fact that administrative costs and compensations will now have to come out of general funds, and diocesan staff will be under great pressure to process petitions as quickly as possible.


"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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