PopeWatch: Form and Substance



Well, this is an interesting story by Edward Pentin at The National Catholic Register:


Reports have emerged that a seven-page dossier, obtained by the German newspaper Die Zeit, is circulating around the curia in which senior Vatican officials have voiced discontent with the recent change in Church law on annulments, and an absence of consultation over the matter.

On Tuesday, the Pope made sweeping reforms to make the process of obtaining a declaration of nullity simpler, quicker and cheaper.

According to Die Zeit, the officials juridically “picked apart” the Pope’s motu proprio (papal decree) on annulment reform, accuse the Holy Father of giving up an important dogma, and assert that he has introduced de facto “Catholic divorce”.

Further concerns mentioned in the document are that, despite the gravity of the issue, no dicasteries, including apparently the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as well as bishops conferences, were consulted about the decision — a claim the Register has had confirmed by numerous sources. The dossier says usual legislative channels have been “undermined” as “none of the planned steps of a legislative procedure have been followed.”

Critics say this goes against the Pope’s calls for synodality and collegiality, and resembles an ecclesialized “Führerprinzip”, ruling from the top down, by decree and without any consultation or any checks.  

Instead, the papal commission that drafted the motu proprio had been ordered to keep silent throughout the drafting process, probably to avoid the reforms being thwarted by the CDF and others in the curia. But the report also alleges that even the commission did not see the final draft, and that an Italian cardinal along with two others “fiercely” tried to prevent the motu proprio being published before the synod but without success.

The Register has learned via other sources that this decision and others are effectively isolating the CDF and that the Pope is steadily making their work superfluous.


Go here to read the rest.  For a Pope who constantly talks about transparency, consultation and decentralization, he prefers to operate in secret, consulting almost no one with all authority coming directly from him.  There is historical precedent for this.  Frederick the Great of Prussia began his reign by publishing a book of his attacking Machiavelli’s The Prince, and then spent the rest of his reign observing the principles of The Prince as if they were Gospel.  The statements of Pope Francis regarding how the Church should operate bear absolutely no relationship to how he runs the Church.


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  1. As Maureen Mullarkey described this ‘Peronista’ lately it is no surprise. Friedrich Hayek pointed out how Socialism leads to Totalitarianism. He also noted that the worst sorts of people then rise to the top. We can see it happening in our country and our church. When we deny God’s gift of individual freedom and responsibility to each one of us and cede our moral authority to a State or a flawed hierarchy in the Church, chaos and slavery will ensue. Look how many people adore the pro-gay, anti-life, anti Christian president and look at how many tend to slavishly deify this misguided pope.

  2. You know, we must all consider that there is absolutely no reason for the destructive things the pope is doing. It has not a thing to do with cherishing and nurturing our faith.

  3. . I salute Pentin and the National Catholic Register for even printing this. It took career stones. Last week Longenecker on the annullments led with ” This is great news “. I didn’t read the rest. Jimmy Akin brought up no problems….just as he saw no problems with Benedict’s saying the herem were not from God in Verbum Domini 42.
    Shea wrote something the other day about Francis still being Catholic. I can’t read past his headlines. I salute Pentin and NCR for throwing Catholic money/ career caution to the wind. Lambeth? We’ve had a Lambeth on the death penalty, on wifely obedience ( no where in the catechism after St.JPII obfuscated the topic in TOB ) and now on fast track annullments if both parties consent to the breakup. I salute Pentin and NCR as the silence breaking goes mainstream.

  4. I recall Benedict XVI, back when he was a Cardinal and head of the CDF, remarking
    about papal power and collegiality with the bishops that it was a bit like steering an
    immense ship with just a tiny rudder– any progress, any lasting change, had to happen
    slowly. It takes time (and a clearly and compellingly articulated vision) to get bishops
    and the faithful on board.
    . It makes sense when one recalls what happened with both the reception of
    Humanae Vitae and the on-the-ground implementation of Vatican II. In those
    cases, the legislation came from on high, but the articulation of the vision behind them
    was lacking, and others stepped into the vacuum to substitute their own. In the end,
    both works had results very different from their author’s intention– all because
    the groundwork had not been prepared, and too few bishops were on board.
    This Pope seems to have no problem legislating on the fly, just as he has no
    problem speaking off-the-cuff. Unfortunately, legislating on the fly while paying lip
    service to the concept of collegiality simply telegraphs contempt for the bishops and
    their views– which is hardly going to attract their support. This Pope’s decision to
    govern unilaterally might work if the goal is to simply tear down the existing order,
    without a plan for building something lasting to take its place. Besides chaos, I
    don’t see Francis leaving much else to his successor. Maybe that’s the lio
    he speaks about so often…

  5. Our Holy Father… The quickest shooter from the hip, from East to West!

    The prayers for him continue, and will not cease. It’s hard to imagine anyone who is in greater need of prayer than the head of the Holy Catholic Church. More so for Francis than in 81′ when St.Pope JP II took a bullet.

  6. “[T]he officials juridically ‘picked apart’ the Pope’s motu proprio (papal decree) on annulment reform, accuse the Holy Father of giving up an important dogma, and assert that he has introduced de facto ‘Catholic divorce.’”
    That is plainly nonsense. As long as Canon 1643 remains in force (“Cases concerning the status of persons, including cases concerning the separation of spouses, never become res iudicata”), decrees in consistorial cases are never final and can prejudice only those who choose to submit to them. Why have three judges, rather than one, or two decrees, rather than one, when any decree is only provisional?

  7. At some point, the seams of the Church will split. Those who still love Christ, His Gospel, and His Church will say, “Enough of this destruction. We have already tolerated too much, and now we must repent of our indifference,” Patience is not always a virtue, such as in this case. Impatience, or righteous anger, is called for.

    In the all-important areas of marriage, family, and sexuality, Pope Francis has revealed himself. He is a strident leftist of the most dangerous sort, and his predictable worldly popularity makes him all-the-more dangerous to the Church.. He is a threat to truth, and no references to Mt. 16:18 can put us at ease. Why? because he operates outside of the charism of infallibility. Hence, he is free to confound and confuse the faithful about the faith, rather than confirm the brethren in the faith.

    God, get us through this disastrous pontificate, and then let us get back to glorifying You and saving souls. Please!

  8. God bless Pentin, but few will ever believe him because, “Oh, Francis, ‘e’s so ‘umble!” The media, apparently the Holy See, will only think there were ever good Catholics after the last pew has been emptied. It’s always easier to talk about “Good Catholics” after they’re dead and gone.

  9. We have a caudillo as the Roman Pontiff. Those cardinals who elected Jorge Bergoglio need to have their heads examined.

  10. A thug, is a thug, is a thug. This man has no shame, truly. None.

    He mocks the faithfulness of those of us who are faithful to our abandoned marriages.

  11. Tim: ” he operates outside of the charism of infallibility”
    The Pope speaks infallibly from the Chair of Peter in unison with the Magisterium, all the Bishops. Pope Francis has subsummed his Bishops and speaks for them without their informed consent.

  12. Hmm, I wonder if I can get a Declaration of Nullity for my confirmation. (I converted in 1996, but was baptized Methodist). Honestly, I feel a little deceived. I thought I was joining the Church of the Self-absorbed Promethean Neopelagians. I don’t feel like I’m in Communion with any of the hierarchy.

  13. Mary De Voe –

    Pope Francis has not infallibly taught on faith and morals. His spoken and written words are to be given religious respect, but he has not taught in a definitive manner, such that his teaching must be adhered to by all. Isn’t that the point of this story? His own cardinals and bishops are accusing him of grave error in his decisions.

  14. Mary De Voe wrote, “The Pope speaks infallibly from the Chair of Peter in unison with the Magisterium, all the Bishops…”

    That is Gallicanism; Vatican I says the opposite: “when in discharge of the office of Pastor and Teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the Universal Church, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed for defining doctrine regarding faith or morals: and that therefore such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church…”
    “Of themselves and not from the consent of the Church” – that is the nub of it.

    Likewise in matters of jurisdiction: “If anyone, then, shall say that the Roman Pontiff has the office merely of inspection or direction, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the Universal Church, not only in things which belong to faith and morals, but also in those which relate to the discipline and government of the Church spread throughout the world; or assert that he possesses merely the principal part, and not all the fullness of this supreme power; or that this power which he enjoys is not ordinary and immediate, both over each and all the Churches and over each and all the Pastors and the faithful; let him be anathema.”

    Hence in his legislation and government, we can apply to him the words of Ulpian in the Digest, “Quod principi placuit, legis habet vigorem (Dig. 1.4.1 pr.” – The prince’s pleasure has the force of law.

  15. I made a comment in response to Ross Douthat’s column in the New York Times on Sunday regarding the new annulment process.

    My comment began with the words: “Pope Francis did precisely the wrong thing by making obtaining an annulment easier.” etc. etc.

    Interestingly, someone in the Vatican responded to my comments as follows:
    Well said.

    I found this encouraging as I do today’s posting on ‘Pope Watch’ where Pope Francis is getting Vatican “blow-back” from his attempts to make Catholicism another Protestant sect.

  16. Michael Dowd wrote, “Pope Francis did precisely the wrong thing by making obtaining an annulment easier.”

    I find this puzzling. A putative marriage is either valid or it is not; why should it not be made easier to discover the answer to this question?

  17. MPS. My point is that: 1). The Church makes getting an annulment nearly automatic now. But it takes some work. 2). With the new annulment system they will both easy and automatic. Conclusions: More annulments. Christ was wrong about marriage.

    Here are some rough numbers on Catholic annulments: 1000 in 1968 vs. 50000 in 2010.

    Ask yourself MPS: Is this a good thing for the family?

  18. Michael Dowd wrote, “Here are some rough numbers on Catholic annulments: 1000 in 1968 vs. 50000 in 2010.”
    Which tells us precisely nothing about whether those actions were rightly or wrongly decided. We should have to know, in each case, whether the ecclesiastical judge was mistaken as to the facts or erred as to the law.
    “Ask yourself MPS: Is this a good thing for the family?” Is maintaining sham marriages good for the family? Either these couples were married, or they were not.

  19. MPS. Technically and legalistically you are right. On a common sense basis not so much. My impression is that you think Pope Francis is right about speeding up annulments. My thinking is that annulments are now nearly automatic and PF should do everything he can to lower the number and protect marriage. What PF has done is to show that marriage is no longer sacred and not particularly important. He shows no regard for the children involved or the other marriage partner. Henry VIII would love him. But for orthodox Catholics PF is an unmitigated disaster. Let us pray for him.

  20. ‘Is maintaining sham marriages good for the family? Either these couples were married, or they were not.’
    ‘… no regard for the children involved or the other marriage partner.’
    Here is the essence of wonderment for a lifetime as personal experience and observation has proven for a child of sham, but never a party .
    Whether or not opinion merits them, fine art has frames. Families as such provide ground for members to strive for higher good, than daily happiness or satisfaction of temporal desire, sort of exercise in building character or understanding, no matter what vagrancies (short of battery). Are the vows still better or worse, sickness or health? The teaching of building houses on sand versus rock could apply. The younger generations moving through life without some permanence seem to be more self-centered than what might please God.

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