PopeWatch: Catholic Divorce

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If the Pope, remiss in his duties and neglectful of his and his neighbor’s salvation, gets caught up in idle business, and if moreover, by his silence (which actually does more harm to himself and everyone else), he nonetheless leads innumerable hoards of people away from the good with him, he will be beaten for eternity with many blows alongside that very first slave of hell [the Devil]. However, no person can presume to convict him of any transgressions in this matter, because, although the Pope can judge everyone else, no one may judge him, unless he, for whose perpetual stability all the faithful pray as earnestly as they call to mind the fact that, after God, their own salvation depends on his soundness, is found to have strayed from the faith.

Gratian, (Decretum, Part 1, Distinction 40, Chapter 6)

Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa explains how revolutionary the Pope’s changes in regard to the annulment process are:

ROME, September 15, 2015 – As the days go by it becomes ever clearer how revolutionary is the scope of the two motu prorio published by Pope Francis on September 8 – the second for the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches – on the reform of procedures for marital nullity cases:

> Lettera apostolica “Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus”

> Lettera apostolica “Mitis et Misericors Iesus”

It is the pope himself, in the opening of the document, who presents the reason for the reform:

“The enormous number of faithful who, despite wanting to look after their conscience, too often are turned aside by the juridical structures of the Church.”

In the official presentation of the motu proprio the president of the commission that elaborated the reform, Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto, dean of the Roman Rota, turned the reason into an objective:

“To move from the restricted number of a few thousand findings of nullity to the enormous number of unfortunates who could have a declaration of nullity but are left out by the existing system.”

Francis has been absolutely convinced for some time that at least half of the marriages celebrated in church all over the world are invalid. He said so in the press conference on July 28, 2013 on the return flight from Rio de Janeiro. He said it again to Cardinal Walter Kasper, as Kasper in turn said in an interview with “Commonweal” of May 7, 2014.

And therefore these faithful unheeded in their anticipation of having the nullity of their marriages recognized are also part, in the vision of Francis as presented by Pinto, of those “poor” who are at the center of his pontificate. Millions and millions of “unfortunates” waiting for the assistance that is due them.

The procedural reform backed by Jorge Mario Bergoglio aims precisely at this: to allow these endless crowds easy, fast, and free access to the recognition of the nullity of their marriages. The synod of last October (see paragraph 48 of the final “Relatio”) expressed generic support for improvements in the procedures. But a good number of fathers said they were against one or another of the reforms proposed by various sides. Which however are precisely the ones now found in the motu proprio.

THE ORDINARY PROCEDURE

The reform delineates two main types of marital procedures. There is the ordinary one and the one – entirely new – called “shorter.”

In the ordinary procedure the main innovation is the abolition of the obligatory double decree of nullity. Only one is needed, as previously permitted in experimental form between 1971 and 1983 in the ecclesiastical tribunals of the United States, a concession that was revoked after the flood of nullity decrees issued by the tribunals and the bad reputation of “Catholic divorce” that was the result.

A single decree, without appeal, reduces the duration of an ordinary procedure to about one year.

Ecclesiastical tribunals, moreover, will have to be set up in every diocese of the world, no matter how small or remote, an objective from which the Catholic Church is very far today mainly because of the shortage of churchmen and laity who are experts in canon law.

But there is another more substantial innovation, presented in the new canon 1678 § 1, which will replace the corresponding canon 1536 § 2 of the existing code of canon law.

While in the canon being scrapped “the force of full proof cannot be attributed” to the statements of the parties, unless “other elements are present which thoroughly corroborate them,” in the new canon “the statements of the parties can have the force of full proof,” to be considered as such by the judge “if there are no other elements to refute them.”

One discovers in this an exaltation of the subjectivity of the party bringing the case that matches up neatly with the official presentations of the two motu proprio by Monsignor Pinto and the secretary of the commission he heads, Monsignor Alejandro W. Bunge, with regard to the “principle motivation” that in their judgment drives many Catholics – in the future a “mass” – to apply to their marriage tribunals:

“Nullity is requested for reasons of conscience, for example to live the sacraments of the Church or to perfect a new stable and happy bond, unlike the first one.”

It is therefore easy to foresee that the longstanding controversy over communion for the divorced and remarried will fizzle out amid the facts, replaced by unlimited and practically unfailing recourse to the certification of nullity of the first marriage.

THE “SHORTER” PROCEDURE

The biggest innovation of the reform backed by Francis is however the procedure called “shorter.”

Very short, actually. According to the new canons it can begin and end in the span of just 45 days, with the local bishop as the sole and ultimate judge.

Recourse to the abbreviated procedure is allowed “in cases in which the alleged nullity of the marriage is supported by particularly evident arguments.”

But there’s more. Recourse to this kind of procedure is not only allowed but encouraged, seeing the superabundant illustration of supporting circumstances furnished by article 14 § 1 of the “Procedural rules” attached to the motu proprio.

The article says:

“Among the circumstances that can allow the handling of the marital nullity case by means of the shorter procedure […] there are for example:
– that lack of faith which can generate the simulation of consent or the error that determines the will,
– the brevity of conjugal cohabitation,
– abortion procured to prevent procreation,
– stubborn persistence in an extramarital relationship at the time of the wedding or immediately afterward,
– the malicious concealment of sterility or of a grave contagious disease, or of children born from a previous relationship, or of incarceration;
– the grounds of the marriage being entirely extraneous to conjugal life or consistent with the unexpected pregnancy of the woman,
– physical violence inflicted to extort consent,
– lack of the use of reason corroborated by medical documents, etc.”

The list is stunning in its disjointed variety. It includes circumstances, like physical violence inflicted to extort consent, that are actual grounds for the nullity of a marriage. But it includes others, like the brevity of conjugal cohabitation, that cannot in any way support a decree of invalidity. And it includes yet another, the lack of faith, that although difficult to evaluate is ever more frequently evoked as the new universal master key for nullity. And yet these circumstances are all listed on an equal footing, together with a final “etc.” that induces one to add other examples at will.

But in addition to being heterogeneous, the list appears to be misleading. In and of itself it lists circumstances that would simply allow one to access the “shorter” procedure. But it is very easy to interpret it as a list of cases that allow one to obtain the recognition of nullity. Many couples have experienced one of the circumstances illustrated – for example, pregnancy before the wedding – and it is therefore natural that the conviction should arise in them that, upon request, their marriage can be dissolved, seeing also the pressure that the Church exercises in suggesting – precisely in the presence of those circumstances – recourse to the procedure of nullity, and moreover to the quick one.

 

 

 

 

Go here to read the rest.  What is a Catholic to do when the Vicar of Christ is spitting on the words of Christ?

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36 Comments

  1. Lack of Faith is indeed problematic. Is Jim Caviesel the actor susceptible to annullment/divorce by his Catholic wife at any time in the future because his choices within acting are sometimes sinful in “Person of Interest”….even putting aside the epikeia gone wild in the very premise of the show that has him weekly as a vigilante who does not always shoot opponents in the knee as one Jebby at Patheos asserted. In the first episode, Reese is shown in bed with his girlfriend Jessica who fibs by phone to her mom that she is traveling with a girlfriend…and much later Reese invites Zoe to a night in a ritsy hotel’s penthouse suite. Could such cooperation in bad role modeling be used as proof that he lacked the adult faith at point of vow that is real Catholicism? There is core infallible Catholicism and there is periphery Catholicism of the non infallible realm. The latter was unfortunately given too much power in Ignatius’ ” think with the Church” followed by Lumen Gentium 25 ‘s ” religious submission of mind and will” to the non infallible followed by St. JPII having theology profs and Catholic leaders oath religious submission of mind and will to the non infallible.
    That chicken of too much power in the non infallible realm has come home to roost in new death penalty change which will get murder victims killed in poor countries largely and in this area of perhaps most Catholics on earth wondering if they are really married because they were Caviesel-like at point of vow.

  2. “Francis has been absolutely convinced for some time that at least half of the marriages celebrated in church all over the world are invalid.”

    Again, in my reasonably traditional parish of 1350 families, only 3 marriages were performed in a year’s time. I assume we can ascertain from the above that more than 1.5 of them were invalid. Makes sense to me…….

    Maybe these “fishers of men” need to consider mending their nets? These holes are larger than the fish they hope to consume.

  3. Don,
    I know you must be three people and have so much to do but could you consider adding Maureen Mullarkey to your Blog Roll?

  4. The Dean of the Roman Rota says the reforms are from the Holy Spirit through Francis and that the divorced and remarried are the new “poor”.

    http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2015/09/important-admission-from-head-of.html#more

    Apparently infallibility has gained another venue while no one was looking….canon changing….Popes who think 50% of marriages are null …speeding up the nullity process from years to 45 days. As a figure in Buddhism once said… ” is there not a middle way?”

  5. ps
    That would mean that the Holy Spirit was speaking through the Popes who made the process long and through Francis who is speeding the process up.

  6. Considering the state of catechesis in the Church, I am sympathetic to the view that half of all marriages are invalid. But didn’t the Jews of Jesus’ time have pretty much the same problem? The Church and Sacraments didn’t quite exist at that time–and that time was not rosy socially/culturally any more than ours is–and yet there was Jesus, insisting on the permanency of marriage anyway.
    .
    I think of my own grandparents and parents and the many non-Catholics who have come before me or/and who are my contemporaries, who have nevertheless managed to hold on to 20, 30, 40 years of marriage, all without the benefit of a Catholic Church wedding, who likely used some form of contraception, who may have cohabitated, and done all manner of things detrimental to marriage–and yet managed to hold on to it until death did part them.

  7. Having seen what divorce has done to friends of mine when I was younger (and what it have done to my sons’ friends), I’ve dreaded that. I wanted to become Catholic–or marry a Catholic way back when–thinking my husband would never, could never, dump me. Pretty sure he will not, but I am not willing to say that the Catholic Church/religion has anything to do with that. And that’s rather sad, is it not?

  8. Christ required faithfulness to the original marriage vow of the Samaritan woman who went through five men and a catechesis that said Mt. Gerizim was God’s favored place not Jerusalem. What if Pope Francis was at the well with Christ and the Samaritan woman? Would he not correct Christ on the issue of faith level of a woman who could go through five men in the long run and grew up on a faulty Pentateuch? I have to stop reading about this papacy. There’s not enough Bacardi in the house. Newman saw in the fourth century a temporary suspension of the teaching Church:
    ” On the one hand, then I say, that there was a temporary suspense of the functuons of the Ecclesia Docens.”

    ” On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine”/ Sheed and Ward/ 1961

  9. “Francis has been absolutely convinced for some time that at least half of the marriages celebrated in church all over the world are invalid. He said so in the press conference on July 28, 2013 on the return flight from Rio de Janeiro. He said it again to Cardinal Walter Kasper, as Kasper in turn said in an interview with “Commonweal” of May 7, 2014.”

    OK. I accept that he thinks this is so. Note that he is NOT saying “so, we need to educate Catholics better on what marriage IS and vet those marriages better to determine if those intending to marry are disposed to be married as Catholics.”

    Therein lies a hint to my primary beef with the Pope: what is required is for the Church to accommodate herself to the practical realities of the world. He isn’t asking the world to turn back to God and that concerns me greatly.

  10. Mary,
    I doubt that any Christian actor can advance if they hold to no representation of non marital sex. You simply never see such at the biggest money level. Such actors as are strict soon drift to other occupations because the job offers don’t come. But non marital sex isn’t the only sin in Person of Interest. Reese kills the bad cop Stillman in self defense but with Fusco’s gun and then has Fusco bury the body in Oyster Bay using the gun ownership to blackmail Fusco, another bad cop, into doing it. Caviesel would probably tell you that he is not endorsing his character’s every sin but that in the aggregate, Reese is a plus morally in that New York context…like David in the Bible. But youth is the problem. They imitate in sex those actors they admire in the looks or fictional bravery department.

  11. A couple we know broke up, the husband abandoning the wife and children. He applied for and received a quick annulment based on the fact that they were married by an SSPX priest where the wife was converted. That strikes me as totally screwed up. The recourse should have been to normalize their marriage. That’s what a real man would do. Instead, the Church participated in the breakup of a natural marriage. Rather than pushing the annulment process, the Church should be pushing couples to reconcile and for men and women to fulfill their obligations. To do otherwise is to embrace the divorce culture created by our culture.

  12. I can’t believe it. I know it is true, but my mind & heart simply is unable to believe that the pope supports this!! Even the sorry excuse we have for legal, secular marriage in Arkansas requires 18 months for abandonment. My mind is absolutely numb.

  13. Re 50% invalid marriages: It would seem that the pope is talking about Western cultures, but it could be for areas where there are still arranged marriages, forced or shotgun marriages, bought marriages, or one or both of the bridal couple are very young. It wasn’t so long ago that these practices existed in the US and Europe.

  14. “ But it includes others, like the brevity of conjugal cohabitation, that cannot in any way support a decree of invalidity…”
    Of course not, but it is relevant evidence, an adminicle of proof, in judging intention. Nearly 150 years ago, Lord Hagan summarised the approach of the Scottish courts to the question of matrimonial consent: “In all inquiries of this sort, I apprehend the true rule is not to regard singly and apart the one transaction on which reliance is placed as constituting the marriage. It is necessary to exercise “a large discourse of reason looking both before and after,” and from all the antecedents and all the consequents to ascertain the true mind and purpose of the parties whose intention determines the character of their act.” ( Robertson v Stewart 1875 2 RHL 80 at p 108)

  15. Alphatron Shinyskullus wrote “He applied for and received a quick annulment based on the fact that they were married by an SSPX priest where the wife was converted. “

    A more cut-and-dried case of nullity would be difficult to imagine.
    In its “Tametsi” decree of 11 Noivember 1563, the Council of Trent decreed, “Those who shall attempt to contract marriage otherwise than in the presence of the parish priest, or of some other priest by permission of the said parish priest, or of the Ordinary, and in the presence of two or three witnesses; the holy Synod renders such wholly incapable of thus contracting [eos sancta Synodus ad sic contrahendum omnino inhabiles reddit] and declares such contracts invalid and null, as by the present decree It invalidates and annuls them…”

    The Council’s motive was “the grievous sins which arise from the said clandestine marriages, and especially the sins of those parties who live on in a state of damnation, when, having left their former wife, with whom they had contracted marriage secretly, they publicly marry another, and with her live in perpetual adultery; an evil which the Church, which judges not of what is hidden, cannot rectify, unless some more efficacious remedy be applied”

  16. “However, no person can presume to convict the pope of any transgressions in this matter, …unless he, for whose perpetual stability all the faithful pray as earnestly as they call to mind the fact that, after God, their own salvation depends on his soundness, is found to have strayed from the faith.”

    Considering Pope Francis unfortunate and undermining stance on marriage and annulments I rest my case. Let Almighty God deal with him as He will. In the meantime we must pray continually that the Holy Spirit enlightens our Holy but wayward Pope.

  17. “The Dean of the Roman Rota says the reforms are from the Holy Spirit through Francis and that the divorced and remarried are the new “poor”.

    Well since they’ve chosen to define moral issues (the new poor) as economic issues, doesn’t that make a man who has more one licit wife in his lifetime one of those evil–profiteers?

  18. DonL. Good point. These Rota folks sure know how distort meaning in order to distort morality. Soon we will be told that “evil doers” are the ones who try to keep the 10 Commandments. Or maybe that has already been expressed, at least indirectly, by Pope Francis. It’s amazing what these people can do with words. I wonder what words Our Lord will use when he speaks to them.

  19. “Soon we will be told that “evil doers” are the ones who try to keep the 10 Commandments”

    Michael, it seems to my frail memory that spittle from Rome has already been hurled at those who seek to passionately follow the “doctrines” (truth) of the Church–as if doctrine (truth) ought to more properly be separated from love (Charity).

  20. Let’s say we accept the position that half of Catholic marriages are invalid. Let’s say we go ahead with the Francis plan and declare nullified all of them. Starting TODAY, what is the Church doing to make sure that invalid marriages do not continue in our Churches? That, it seems to me, is paramount to whatever is done.

  21. You’d think the hierarchy would be horrified at the thought of a 50% invalidity rate. But they’re not.

    Instead, they’re tossing annulments around like GIs gave out cigarettes and Hershey bars to pretty European girls.

  22. As the priest who was confronted by my brother-in-law, wanting an annulment after 25 yrs of marriage said, “It’s really hard to annul 7 children don’t you think” and would not even entertain the request. He dragged around for 10 yrs trying to find a priest, any priest that would help him. They offered all the counseling they could, but none would after I am sure much insight into the matter give him the “help” he wanted. They saved their souls and probably his too. My sister-in-law never remarried and held to her faith. Him, not so much. But now? This just leads more people down the road to hell at the forbearance of the Catholic Hierarchy. And Jesus, when on the road to Calvary looked around and said, ” Really Father, I don’t want to do this anymore it’s too hard, give me a way out!” I don’t see that in the Bible anywhere. I have known many who were under the most horrible of circumstance who waited for years for a true annulment process to be executed. Now it will be for whatever! Too bad we can’t get a few more priests in the Confessional as in the old days. No let’s not make that at the ready. That weekly Sacrament saved many a marriage and many souls. Priorities anyone?(Oh boy, I just read through this and I have morphed into my mother)

  23. Alphatron Shinyskullus wrote “He applied for and received a quick annulment based on the fact that they were married by an SSPX priest where the wife was converted. “

    A more cut-and-dried case of nullity would be difficult to imagine.

    I can imagine one. Is it licit to attend an SSPX Mass? (It is, provided it is not done in a disobedient spirit). The SSPX have valid holy orders, as do the Orthodox.

  24. Art Deco wrote, “The SSPX have valid holy orders, as do the Orthodox.”
    So? Can. 1108 §1 provides “Only those marriages are valid which are contracted before the local ordinary, pastor, or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who assist, and before two witnesses according to the rules expressed in the following canons…”
    One of the mischiefs Tametsi was intended to redress was marriages conducted by non-parochial ministers, such as mendicant friars, private chaplains and the like; one of its principle objects was to secure the due publication of banns in the parish churches of both parties and to ensure an authentic and easily accessible record of the marriage.

  25. provides “Only those marriages are valid

    I am not aware of any contention in official documents that says that marriage vows solemnized by others are invalid in and of themselves. There are vows which are defective of form, but that does not apply universally to vows outside the Church. (And, again, SSPX priests have valid holy orders),

  26. Michael Paterson-Seymour wrote:
    “The Council’s motive was “the grievous sins which arise from the said clandestine marriages, and especially the sins of those parties who live on in a state of damnation, when, having left their former wife, with whom they had contracted marriage secretly, they publicly marry another, and with her live in perpetual adultery; an evil which the Church, which judges not of what is hidden, cannot rectify, unless some more efficacious remedy be applied””

    I fully understand that this is a slam dunk for an annulment. However, in this case, isn’t the same result for the couple my wife and I know? They PUBLICLY celebrated marriage, and then when it was convenient for the husband he threw her off and is now free to marry within the Church. I’m pretty sure he knew he couldn’t marry in front of an SSPX priest, but she certainly did not. She had no idea of such things. But this results in nearly the same evil the denial of marriage faculties to SSPX priests was designed to avoid. Namely, that one spouse can do injustice to another.

    I think canon law shouldn’t be changed to make annulments easier. Rather, in cases like this the offending party should be ordered to regularize the marriage on pain of excommunication. The man in the case we cited took advantage of canon law to ditch his wife and be free to marry again in the Church. In fact, he wanted nothing to do with his children until he found out it can mitigate child support costs. Where is justice served by this? It’s one of those things that cries out to God for a remedy. Canon law aside, he will have to answer for this lack of charity to a woman he made a vow to, which she accepted in good faith and ignorance about the SSPX priest not having faculties.

  27. Michael Paterson Seymour wrote: “Art Deco wrote, “The SSPX have valid holy orders, as do the Orthodox.”
    So?”

    So, the current canon law allows a man to leave his wife and children, get an annulment, and be free to marry again. And now there is a huge push to make this more common. It should become more restrictive. No annulment should be granted. Rather, they should be compelled to have their marriage blessed by the Church. In some cases, I’m sure a tribunal could simply send out a letter that it is now blessed by the Church if adequate vows were taken.

  28. “ But it includes others, like the brevity of conjugal cohabitation, that cannot in any way support a decree of invalidity…”

    There was a case I know of where the man married the woman because he knew it would allow him to have sex with her. Then he abandoned her shortly there after.

  29. Art Deco wrote, “I am not aware of any contention in official documents that says that marriage vows solemnized by others are invalid in and of themselves…”

    Tametsi makes two points:

    1) “Although it is not to be doubted, that clandestine marriages, made with the free consent of the contracting parties, are valid and true marriages, so long as the Church has not rendered them invalid; and consequently, that those persons are justly to be condemned, as the holy Synod doth condemn them with anathema, who deny that such marriages are true and valid…”

    2) It then goes on to render them invalid for the future: “Those who shall attempt to contract marriage otherwise than in the presence of the parish priest, or of some other priest by permission of the said parish priest, or of the Ordinary, and in the presence of two or three witnesses; the holy Synod renders such wholly incapable of thus contracting and declares such contracts invalid and null, as by the present decree It invalidates and annuls them..” In other words, it creates a diriment impediment – “renders such wholly incapable of contracting” (contrahendum omnino inhabiles reddit).

    If the parties are “wholly incapable of contracting,” their vows are necessarily void, like those of an infant or a lunatic, or parties within the prohibited degrees, or labouring under any other diriment impediment.

    Ne Temere (1907) restricted the impediment to those who are, or have been Catholics. The marriages of two non-Catholics are governed by the pre-Tridentine law. For them, no ceremony or other formalities are necessary (so Holy Orders are irrelevant); only a mutual manifestation of consent.

  30. Barbara Gordon wrote, “There was a case I know of where the man married the woman because he knew it would allow him to have sex with her. Then he abandoned her shortly there after.”

    There have been any number of cases in the UK, where one party wanted an entry visa and the other wanted money; they never cohabited.

  31. Alphatron Shinyskullus
    Tametsi was intended to remedy three defects in the existing law:
    1) If consent can be expressed in an ambiguous or evasive manner, so as to mislead, or in a way that makes evidence of it doubtful or difficult of attainment, the rights of the contracting parties are not duly protected.

    2) It is of the utmost importance that the matrimonial consent should be given in a manner and accompanied with evidence easily accessible; so that the rights and interests of others, may not be exposed to the hazard arising from any uncertainty regarding the effects of previous latent subsisting engagements, whether that hazard arises from the fraud of one of the contraction parties, or from causes of a less culpable nature, in consequence of uncertainty attending the legal effects of previous conduct.

    3) As regards the rights and interests of future generations, it is of the utmost importance that questions of legitimacy should be avoided, by rendering the proof of marriage so easily accessible, by means of public records, that the claims of future generations by inheritance in the course of lawful descent, may be traced in the most certain and effectual manner.

    In each of these cases, the public interest outweighs those of individuals.

    Your suggestion that “the offending party should be ordered to regularize the marriage on pain of excommunication” would, in effect, reintroduce the risk of latent subsisting engagements not discoverable from the registers.. A person is either married, or he is not; there is (and should be) no half-way house.

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