- Posted by Mary’s Advocates
- On January 29, 2019
by Bai Macfarlane
Can every dissatisfied spouse now get an annulment because she doesn’t experience, to her satisfaction, spiritual riches and communication from her spouse?
Zenit published the Vatican-provided text of Pope Francis’ address to the Roman Rota. When the Pope gives his annual address to the Roman Rota, it is understood to be the legislator’s instruction about canon law. The Roman Rota is a Tribunal of appeal available to any aggrieved party in a judicial canon law case.
Pope Francis discussed the duty of the Church to assist couples, and the obligation of bishops and priests.There is a need for a triple preparation for marriage: remote, near and permanent. It is advisable for this latter to include in a serious and structural way the various phases of married life, through an accurate formation, intended to nurture in spouses the awareness of the values and commitments proper to their vocation.
In my work upholding marriage, it would be most welcome if Bishops and priests would exercise the pastoral care of teaching the faithful and point out that no-fault divorce is often cruel marital abandonment which is a fracturing of the marriage contract to live in the same household. A dissatisfied spouse, alternatively, should commit oneself to cooperating with experts who have a good track-record of strengthening marriage. Fracturing the contract to live together – by divorce – is condemned by the Catechism.CCC 2384 Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death.
Of concern in the Pope’s address to the Roman Rota is his description of an essential element of marriage, unity.(Pope’s 2019 Address) So as to be validly contracted, marriage requires of each of the betrothed a full unity and harmony with the other, so that, through the mutual exchange of their respective human, moral and spiritual riches – almost by way of communicating vessels – the two spouses become a single entity. (italic in original)
If this is the language now used by judges of the Roman Rota to decide that a marriage is invalid, we are at a shocking turning point. According to the literal meaning of the text, if one spouse feels she is not experiencing harmony and spiritual riches from the other, to her satisfaction, then she can argue her marriage is invalid because she doesn’t have the requirement for validity in the 2019 Papal Address to the Roman Rota.
Saint Pope John Paul II corrected those who spread error by claiming that valid marriage requires the parties to be successful communicating vessels who are a harmonious single entity.(JPII 1987 Address) For the canonist the principle must remain clear that only incapacity and not difficulty in giving consent and in realizing a true community of life and love invalidates a marriage. Moreover, the breakdown of a marriage union is never in itself proof of such incapacity on the part of the contracting parties. They may have neglected or used badly the means, both natural and supernatural, at their disposal; or they may have failed to accept the inevitable limitations and burdens of married life, either because of blocks of an unconscious nature or because of slight pathological disturbances which leave substantially intact human freedom, or finally because of failures of a moral order.
I’ve read many, many writings about grounds for annulment and most critical is a proper understanding of the vocabulary. The most popular ground for invalidity used by U.S. tribunals is that the marriage consent is invalid because a party did not consent (with proper mental capacity c 1095.2) to the essential duties and properties of marriage, or one was not capable of fulfilling the essential duties/properties (c. 1095.3). If a party does not, in reality, consent to an essential property of marriage, or a party is incapable of upholding an essential property of marriage, then the party does not validly consent to marriage (c. 1095 & 1101). So, it is very important that we correctly understand the essential properties:Canon 1056. The essential properties of marriage are unity and indissolubility, which in Christian marriage obtain a special firmness by reason of the sacrament.
If the Pope’s 2019 Address to the Roman Rota is attempting to require as an essential element of marriage the “harmony with the other, so that, through the exchange of their respective riches they become a single entity,” he is contradicting Cardinal Raymond Burke, former Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Roman Rota and Defender of the Bond at the Signatura; the late Cardinal Edward Egan, former Roman Rota judge, professor at Pontifical Gregorian University, and one of six editors of the 1893 Code of Canon law; and Saint Pope John Paul II.
The 2019 Address to the Roman Rota is mixing up poetic language about marriage with canonical vocabulary. For example, two spouses cannot become one entity; it is impossible. Though, we’d expect priests to use this poetic language in homilies or marriage preparation, it wreaks havoc when used to define requirements for validity.
In 2015, Ignatius Press published a book “When Is Marriage Null? Guide to the Grounds of Matrimonial Nullity for Pastors, Counselors, and Lay Faithful” by Paolo Bianchi, with a forward by Cardinal Raymond Burke. The word unity, as an essential property of marriage (per. canon 1056) does not refer to harmony, spiritual riches, and becoming a single entity. It is really simple: If one excludes unity, one intends to engage in sexual intercourse with other persons besides one’s spouse(See page 125, When is the Marriage Null. by Bianchi).
Cardinal Egan warned about the problem of hinging validity on the spouses’ harmony. See his paper in the Scholarly Journal of the Roman Rota, “The Nullity of Marriage for Reason of Incapacity to Fulfill the Essential Obligations of Marriage”(Egan on Essential Obligations) Over the past several years, a new genre of Canon Law essay has come into being. The format has been repeated so often as virtually to constitute an art form, something on the order of the sonnet or the sonata. The author opens by announcing with evident pleasure that a wondrous, new discovery has recently been made regarding the nature of marriage. The discovery is this: Whereas theologians and canonists had for centuries held that Titius and Titia consent to conjugal acts on their wedding day, in our more enlightened times we have come to know that to which they actually consent is rather marriage itself.
The opening theme or premise having been exposed and developed, the author then moves on to drawing a series of conclusions from his and our discovery. And the conclusions, in a variety of formulations, come more or less to these : (1) The «merely physical» , «carnal» , even «animal» view of marriage which so long stalked the unhappy path of Catholic theological and canonical thinking has at last been abandoned; (2) In its place we are now to admit a more «spiritual» , «human» , and «personal» understanding of marriage in which the central issue is the relationship between the partners, their mutual fulfillment, «completion» , integration, and enrichment; (3) Hence, we are finally in a position to acknowledge that a marriage in which such a relationship has not been achieved or at least could not have been achieved in appropriate measure is invalid and susceptible of being declared such by tribunals of the Roman Catholic Church.
Faced with commenting on this kind of thing, one hardly knows where to begin. For not only is the premise false, there does not even seem to be any reason why the conclusions might flow from it were it other than false. (page 10)
If a poet pens, something of this sort, we may be charmed, just as if a pastor preaches something of this sort, we may be inspired. For the acts to which married people bestow upon each other a right are so intimate, human, and personal, that we can almost think of marriage as though it entailed a gift of the married couple themselves, one to the other. «Almost » , that is, poetically or rhetorically as opposed to philosophically, juridically, precisely. … Still, what is permitted the poet and the pastor is rightly denied – among others – the jurist, except, of course, when the jurist be a canonist who occasionally has the good sense to set aside his toga and ascend either Parnassus or the pulpit. (page 22)
See further writings on the canonical vocabulary on Mary’s Advocates HERE.