Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, dean of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, explained the Holy Father’s Rescriptum ex audientia on the new law for marriage annulment procedures in an article published Friday in “L’Osservatore Romano,” and made available via the Vatican Information Service:
“In the introductory report at the opening of the Ordinary Synod, Cardinal Erdo outlined one of the chief aims of the synodal meeting. Indeed, the general rapporteur stated that by virtue of the sacrament of marriage, the Christian family becomes an asset for the Church, but its inclusion in the context of the Church is also beneficial to the family, which is helped spiritually and community even in difficulties, and it helps to protect the marriage union and discern the respective obligations or eventual shortcomings.
The reality and the mission of the Church as defined by her divine founder, Jesus, therefore become clear to the Synod Fathers. The Church in via is not the Church of the perfect, but the community of the faithful who acknowledge themselves daily as sinners and therefore in need of conversion, which is the strength of Pope Francis’ ecclesiology.
The Synod thus showed that the large number of faithful who are wounded or in an uneasy relationship in terms of their adherence – in the practice of the faith – with the truth of the Gospel, are not a burden, but an opportunity, that may drive many of these ‘wounded’ to become, once reconciled and healed, true missionaries of the beauty of the sacrament of marriage and the Christian family. Again, with reference to Cardinal Erdo’s report, the organic integration of the marriage and the family of Christians in the reality of the Church also requires that the ecclesial community pay merciful and realistic attention to the faithful who live together or live in civil marriage only since they do not feel prepared to celebrate the sacrament, given the difficulties that such a choice may result in today. If the community can prove itself to be welcoming to these people, in various situations of life, and clearly present the truth about marriage, it will help these faithful to come to a decision in favour of sacramental marriage.
The Rescriptum signed by Pope Francis on the reform process, introduced by the two Apostolic Letters issued Motu Proprio on 15 August 2015, clearly shows that legal reform is perfectly consistent with the ecclesiological vision characteristic of his papacy as gradually outlined in his teaching from the beginning, and which he himself has clearly confirmed in the acts of these recent weeks.
In the homily of Mass for the opening of the Jubilee year on 8 December, the Pontiff described the fulfilment of Vatican Council II: ‘A genuine encounter between the Church and the men and women of our time. An encounter marked by the power of the Spirit, who impelled the Church to emerge from the shoals which for years had kept her self-enclosed so as to set out once again, with enthusiasm, on her missionary journey. It was the resumption of a journey of encountering people where they live: in their cities and homes, in their workplaces. Wherever there are people, the Church is called to reach out to them and to bring the joy of the Gospel’.
Earlier still, in his important discourse commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis offered a summary of conciliar ecclesiology, showing how the hierarchical role of the Roman Pontiff is dedicated to service, presenting him as the supreme witness of the fides totius Ecclesiae, guarantor of the obedience to and compliance of the Church with the will of God, Christ’s Gospel and the Tradition of the Church.
The papal Rescript published today rests on these ecclesiological bases. It is divided into two parts, for the interpretation and integration of the two Motu Proprio.
In the first, because every epoch-making law, such as the law to reform the procedures for marriage annulment, meets understandable resistance, the Pope wished to emphasise, as St. John Paul II did with the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law of 1983, that the law has been promulgated and must be complied with (see the apostolic constitution ‘Sacrae disciplinae leges’). The rescript of Pope Francis today, like the promulgation of the Code of St. John Paul II, obeys the lex suprema, the salus animarum, of which the successor of Peter is the first teacher and servant.
The second part of the Rescript specifically relates to the Roman Rota as the apostolic Tribunal, which has always been distinguished by wisdom in its legal decisions, of which it is an expression of the generic doubt (whereas in the lower courts there remains the obligation of the specific doubt, such as for example the exclusion of offspring); expressing, from the perspective of ecclesial diakonia, the concern for justice in its dual sacredness: on the one hand, the defence of the truth itself of the marriage bond, and on the other the right of the baptised to receive from the Church the prompt and free declaration of this truth of the bond itself”.