Rise in Annulment Requests Stirs Concern

Experts Urge Better Preparation for Engaged Couples

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ROME, SEPT. 19, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The increase in cases of annulments must concern Catholics, even as it calls for better preparation for the sacrament of marriage, say canon law experts meeting in Rome.

«The number of all the cases of marriage annulments in the world indicates that it is not an insignificant or merely academic phenomenon, but a reality that must not be underestimated,» warned Father Frans Daneels, Promoter of Justice of the Apostolic Signature, the Church’s supreme court.

Father Daneels was one of the participants in the refresher course for law agents which ended Saturday at the University of the Holy Cross.

According to data presented during the course, «in the year 2000, for example, 56,236 ordinary processes were taking place worldwide, 46,092 of which received an affirmative sentence.»

The reasons that lead to requests for annulment are grouped in two main categories: simulation and incapacity, the experts said.

Simulation occurs when the demands of the Catholic faith in the matter of unions is not fully shared, the experts said.

The other cause, incapacity, is usually due to «psychic anomalies of one of the contracting parties who, therefore, lacks the faculty to be able to consciously carry out his own options,» a statement said.

According to a statement of the School of Canon Law of the University of the Holy Cross, the «challenge of the Church lies today in planning a correct preparation of the candidates to the sacrament.»

With preceding examinations, it will become evident «if there is or is not the will of the candidates to be joined in marriage for life,» clarified Eduardo Baura, dean of the school.

The role of the ecclesiastical tribunals consists in «knowing the truth at the moment in which they are received for the sacrament» and not «in the moment in which a cause [of annulment] is presented,» Baura pointed out.

The law seminar brought together 200 judges, lawyers, defenders of the bond, and judicial vicars of 33 nations.

Attendees included by Monsignor Antoni Stankiewicz, dean of the Roman Rota, the Church’s central appellate court, and Monsignor Josef Huber, prelate auditor of the Rota.

The organizers prepared the course following John Paul II’s indications in a Jan. 17, 1998, address to the Rota.

On that occasion, the Pope said he was instituting a commission composed of various Holy See organizations to prepare a draft document on the development of the processes that affect marriage cases.

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