Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pope warns lawyers and tribunals against "adapting truth" when it comes to annulments (series)

Under Roman Catholic canon law, a marriage can be declared null and void for a variety of reasons, including impotence, a previous marriage, or a lack of psychological maturity at the time of the union.

In short, if there is no physical reason to declare the marriage null and void—they can come up with a mental one.

Of course, the pope tells the tribunal, in no uncertain terms, that they cannot do this, they cannot make a mockery of the truth in order to get an annulment for the man or woman who wants it. Nevertheless, he's obviously fighting an up hill battle. Local tribunals grant annulments in 97 percent of the cases in the United States.

In a recent meeting with the Roman Rota, the pope indicated he had more than a passing feeling this high number of annulments had a lot to do with false pastoral claims. In other words, pastors, that is priests, willing to lie or stretch the truth in the name of "charity."

“It is necessary to take account of the tendency - widespread and well-rooted though not always obvious - to contrast justice with charity, almost as if the one excluded the other,” said the Pope.

"Some people maintain that pastoral charity justifies any measures taken towards the declaration of nullity of the marriage bond. ... Truth itself ... would thus tend to be seen in a functional perspective, adapting itself to the different requirements that arise in each case.”

In other words “adapting truth” to get what the “plaintiff” wants is not supposed to be an option, according to the pope, and it cannot be if tribunal members are to exercise the justice that is their essential work—no matter how easy it is to give someone what they want instead of what is right.

As the pope puts it, this latter virtue (justice) “becomes more important when injustice seems the easiest path to follow, in as much as it involves giving in to the desires and expectations of the parties involved, or to the conditioning of the social environment.”

More in the next blog…