Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Express Lane for Decree of Nullity?

I am not certain how I think about this.
In a reformed marriage annulment process Pope Francis has made some significant changes, giving more of a role to the local bishop, dropping automatic appeals, and declaring the process free of charge....
In a brief introduction, Pope Francis stressed that his adjustments “do not favor the nullifying of marriages but the promptness of the processes.”
He said that he decided to make the changes in line with his the desire of his brother bishops, who during last year’s extraordinary synod on the family called for the process to be “faster and more accessible.”
Announced Tuesday, the new process is aimed at streamlining the system for granting annulments out   of concern “for the salvation of souls” while affirming the longstanding Catholic teaching on marriage indissolubility.
I certainly applaud the universal elimination of fees for processing, thought I would hope others in the first world who also support this will... up their donations to the Church?
Just because the petitioner is not asked to pay anything does not eliminate the costs, which will now be borne by the diocese, presumably.
But the fact it, in this country it has long been possible to initiate the process without paying a cent, there are many diocese which absorbed the fees long ago, and many, many others which will waive them, for any request, (however bogus, I might add.)
Add to this a great flexibility in which diocese one chooses to pursue the annulment, and it is clear that it has been a long time since any American was denied the opportunity to remarry in the Church for monetary reasons.
Whatever any individual claims.
I  know remarried Catholics who deny themselves the sacraments -- but not vacation houses, travel, expensive dining out, private schools, jewelry and expensive hobbies.

But removal of the appearance of -- what? simony is charging for sacraments, could the term also be used to charging for the debunking of a putative sacrament? -- anything untoward and mercenary is a good.

Has the process been onerous in the past?
Perhaps. But I also know people who complain of having been asked to jump through hoops, and have never so much as jumped though the hoop of filling out the forms, (in one case, of even approaching the diocese or the parish about GETTING the forms.)

I know one couple who insist that an ex is "dangerous crazy," and therefore they cannot seek an annulment - they ignore the fact that their diocese is very upfront about discretion in the case of a former partner who presents a danger. (The non-Catholic ex attends family functions and attended the civil wedding, so it's hard to imagine what further danger would obtain from their arranging for a validation, but there you have it.)

But anecdotes are not data.

I have been asking myself for the past year why i find this so troubling.
A friend suggested that having gone through the process, perhaps we don't want other people to have it easier?
But after much reflection, I can state without hesitation that the very opposite is true.

The value of it was so great that I mourn for others who will be deprived of it.

The elimination of the automatic appeal will, I think, make situations like the well-publicized opposition of spouses of celebrities who want to remarry in the Church  worse, giving the appearance of not expedited decrees, but casual issuing of decrees of nullity.

And finally, and most disturbingly, there is this -
Among the more significant changes the Pope made were dropping the automatic appeal needed after a decision on nullity has been reached, as well as allowing local bishops to make their own judgements on “evident” cases of marriage nullity....
in the case that it is appealed , the Pope decided appeals can be done in nearest metropolitan diocese, rather than needing to go to Rome....
The bishop can be the only judge, or he can establish 3-member tribunal....
“It has not escaped me how an abbreviated judgment might put the principle of indissolubility of marriage at risk,” he said.
“Indeed, because of this I wanted that in this process the judge would be composed of the bishop, so that the strength of his pastoral office is, with Peter, the best guarantee of Catholic unity in faith and discipline.”
I can think of nothing, NOTHING, less likely to assure some "unity in faith and discipline," than such subsidiarity, given the immense polarization on this issue as evidenced by the last synod, and the expressed determination of some of the German bishops, for instance, effectively to rubber stamp any request by a potentially dues paying member of the Faithful.
(The timing of this whole thing is odd, obviously it was a done deal at the time Cardinal Burke was relieved of his command, and the discussions and interventions at the previous and upcoming synods? moot.)

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