Reglene for annullering av ekteskap forandres

Mens vi fortsatt venter på detaljene om hvordan ekteskapstribunalenes arbeid med gyldighen av ekteskap vil komme til å se ut, skriver John Allen om konsekvensene at pavens Motu proprio:

In Catholic parlance, an “annulment” means a ruling by a Church court that a union between a man and a woman, even if it featured a Church wedding, is not a valid marriage because it fails one of the traditional tests, such as a lack of genuine consent or a psychological incapacity to undertake the obligations.

Annulments are hugely important at the retail level of the faith, because for Catholics whose relationships break down and who want to get married in the Church to someone else, they first have to obtain one.

It’s no accident that Francis is making this move on the cusp of a special “Holy Year of Mercy” that he has decreed will begin Dec. 8, the same day these changes take effect. …

The decision will recalibrate the discussion at October’s second edition of the Synod of Bishops on the family, likely reducing the emphasis on the question of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics and creating space for other issues to emerge.

Last October, the matter of whether the traditional ban on Communion for Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the Church ought to be softened was the hot-button issue par excellence, with cardinals and other senior leaders exchanging barbed commentary and activist groups on both sides egging them on.

All along, reform in the annulment process seemed the most obvious compromise measure, a way of giving both camps at least part of what they wanted. Those opposed to revising the Communion ban could take comfort that the Church was not softening its stand on divorce, while progressives would be pleased that the Church was at least trying to show greater compassion and outreach. ….

The reform may lead over time to a cultural shift within the canon law community — the lawyers, judges, academics, and others engaged in the theory and practice of Church law.

In recent decades, a general tendency among many canon lawyers has been to try to make the annulment system as user-friendly as possible, on the grounds that it could be unwieldy, time-consuming, and costly.

As this new reform is rolled out, it may be that concern over cumbersomeness will be replaced with concern about the possibility of abuse, ….

On the eve of his first-ever trip to the United States, one could argue that Pope Francis has delivered a major thumbs-up to American Catholicism.

Over the years, bishops, canon lawyers, and other Church personnel around the world sometimes have complained that America makes it too easy to obtain an annulment, with some going so far as to call the United States an “annulment factory.”

US prelates and canonists often reply that America is one of the few countries that takes the annulment process seriously, investing significant resources in training lawyers and judges and making the process available to whoever wants it. ….

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