Annulment Process Must Serve the Truth, Says Pope

Meets With Members of Roman Rota in Audience

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 30, 2006 ( The canonical processes for the declaration of marital annulment do not seek to complicate life, or to sharpen tensions, but only to serve the truth, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope addressed the argument Saturday, at the start of the judicial year, when receiving the judges, officials and collaborators of the Roman Rota, the Church’s central appellate court.

“The canonical process of annulment of a marriage is essentially an instrument to verify the truth of the conjugal bond,” the Holy Father said at the audience.

“Its objective is not, therefore, to vainly complicate the lives of the faithful or much less so to sharpen the disputes, but only to offer a service to truth,” he clarified.

The Catholic Church holds that marriage is indissoluble, for life. After a rigorous process, however, it may on occasion establish that there are marriages that never were valid, for reasons specified in the Code of Canon Law. Such reasons could include coercion or mental incapacity.

Synod topic

The question of marital annulment arouses much interest, since “for many faithful, the possibility to receive Eucharistic Communion” depends on ecclesiastical decisions, said the Pope.

“Precisely this aspect, so decisive from the point of view of Christian life, explains why the argument of marital annulment arose repeatedly during the recent Synod on the Eucharist” last October, said Benedict XVI.

On studying the conclusions of that assembly of the bishops of the world, the impression is that there are contradictions, the Pope continued.

“On one hand, it would seem that the Synodal Fathers invited the ecclesiastical tribunals to do everything possible so that the faithful, who are not canonically married, may regulate their marital situation as soon as possible and again approach the Eucharistic banquet,” he said.

On the other hand, the canonical legislation, and in particular the instruction “Dignitas Connubii,” published last January by the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, seems to place “limits to this pastoral drive, as if the main concern were to comply with the established juridical formalities, with the risk of forgetting the pastoral end of the process,” the Holy Father said.

According to the Pontiff, this apparent contradiction is not real, as there is a “fundamental meeting point between law and pastoral care: the love of truth.”

The “pastoral value” of these processes “cannot be separated from the love of truth,” he indicated.

Not abstract

“The service that may be offered to the faithful and non-Christian spouses who are going through difficulties would be misleading if one encouraged in them, even if only implicitly, the tendency to forget the indissolubility of the union itself,” Benedict XVI said. “In this way, the possible intervention of the ecclesiastical institution in the causes of annulment would run the risk of becoming a simple proof of a failure.”

However, the Pope indicated that “the truth sought in the processes of marital annulment is not an abstract truth, separated from the good of the individuals. It is a truth that is integrated in the human and Christian itinerary of each of the faithful.”

Therefore, it “is extremely important” that the declaration of the ecclesiastical tribunals “take place in a reasonable time,” he noted.

At the same, the Bishop of Rome confirmed the “grave obligation” that the “institutional activity of the Church in the tribunals is increasingly close to the faithful.”

Finally, the Holy Father pointed out that it is a pastoral duty “to try to prevent marital annulments” when a couple asks for the sacrament of marriage and to do everything possible so that “the spouses will resolve their possible problems and find the path of reconciliation.”

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