Some correctives to another bad news article on annulments

by Dr. Edward Peters

I’ve never actually shot fish in a barrel (the idea always seemed stupid to me) but let me say anyway that pointing out errors, sometimes serious errors, in the discussion of and reporting on annulments these days is like shooting fish in a barrel. Let’s look at some parts of a story written by Elise Harris and posted at Catholic News Agency. Harris in italics, me in red.
The opening report for the bishops’ synod on the family touched on the process of annulments, noting that reform is being asked by many who often misunderstand the indissolubility of marriage.
How do these two thoughts go together? Is misunderstanding the indissolubility of marriage leading people to ask for reform of the annulment process? Is that good? And how are those two issues even connected, especially considering that annulments are not about dissolution of marriage in the first place?
General relator Cardinal Peter Erdo said the synod’s Instrumentum laboris – or “working document” –  shows a “broad consensus in favor of simplifying marriage cases from the pastoral point of view and recounts increasing instances of a divorce mentality in the valid celebration of the Sacrament.”
Sacramentality of marriage is, for the umpteenth time, irrelevant to tribunal investigations of validity.
Essential elements for a valid marriage include, but are not limited to, if one of the spouses did not intend to make a lifelong commitment to the other person, or if one or both of the spouses did not intend to have children.
Harris has this exactly backwards. Not intending to make a lifelong commitment (whatever exactly that is) and harboring an intention against children are signs of an invalid marriage, not a valid one.
As divorce is not allowed in the Catholic Church due to the indissolubility of the Sacrament of Matrimony…
But divorce is allowed by the Catholic Church in certain situations. See CCC 2383. What is not allowed after mere civil divorce is attempting a new marriage.
Beginning in the couple’s diocesan court, the appeal for an annulment currently must be sent to the court of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota – the highest appellate tribunal in the Catholic Church, after it has been accepted by the diocese.
Routine appeals in diocesan marriage nullity cases go to the metropolitan (archdiocesan) tribunal per Canons 1438 and 1682, not to the Roman Rota. Only in some special cases, and in what is known as “third instance” (if one is invoked) would American cases would go to the Rota.
In the “Rota,” the appeal of the couple currently requires the approval of two judiciaries, who recognize the marital bond as being invalid.
This is a junky mishmash of concepts. Couples almost never appeal, but one party or the other might appeal; appeals from parties don’t require approval (whatever approval means), but decisions by tribunals might. There are not two “judiciaries” involved here (canon law does not even use the term), though there are two instances involved, and one them is not an appellate court, it is a trial court. In short, one has no idea what Harris is trying to say here.
One proposal in the renewal of this process calls for only one appeal in the “Rota” rather than two…
No one is proposing one appeal of all marriage cases around the world to the Rota, least of all the Rota itself! What is being proposed is the elimination of automatic appeal of affirmative trial court (first instance) decisions, a step that does not involve the Rota except in rare cases.
A commission to study a reform of the process of annulment was established by Pope Francis on Aug. 27. They are currently researching instances when only one appeal is required versus the usual two.
“Instances” is a technical term in procedural canon law that means level of adjudication, it does not mean something like examples or situations.
Dr. Edward Peters | October 9, 2014 at 1:11 am | Categories: Uncategorized | URL:

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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