Rome issues a call to order concerning declaration of nullity in the matter of marriage

Source: FSSPX News

On 29 January, Benedict XVI received the dean and judges of the Rota, for the opening of the legal year. In his address the pope insisted on the threefold orientation of the ecclesiastical tribunal’s work: justice, charity and truth. “It is necessary to take note of the widespread and deeply-rooted, though not always evident, tendency to place justice and charity in opposition to one another, as if the two were mutually exclusive”. He explained that in this regard, some maintain that pastoral charity is a sufficient justification to declare the nullity of a marriage, and that truth itself tends to be viewed as something one can adapt to make fit the requirements of a given case.

Speaking to his guests, the Holy Father continued : “Your ministry is essentially a work of justice: a virtue whose human and Christian value it is more important than ever to rediscover, even within the Church.” For this reason Canon Law “must always be considered in its essential relationship with justice, recognizing that, the goal of juridical activity is the salvation of souls”. The Sovereign Pontiff stressed that its practice “must be characterized by the high practice of human and Christian virtues, particularly prudence and justice, but also fortitude”, which becomes more important when the parties in question or the prevailing social expectations can most easily be accommodated by an unjust solution. The lawyers in particular “must not only pay full attention to the truth of the evidence,” but also carefully avoid taking on cases that, in conscience, have no merit.

The Pope further declared that “One must avoid pseudo-pastoral claims that would situate questions on a purely horizontal plane, in which what matters is to satisfy subjective expectations in order to arrive at a declaration of nullity at any cost, so that the parties may be able to overcome obstacles to receiving the sacrament of Penance and the receiving communion”. Benedict XVI continued by pointing out that neglect of principles results in a “false good,” and that one thereby “facilitates a return to the sacraments that is incompatible with the truth of one's personal situation.” Indeed, justice and truth both imply love of truth and the seeking of truth. “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality, and love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way.” In a culture without truth, this is the fatal danger facing love.

Benedict XVI reminded his audience that the indissolubility of Catholic marriage ensures its unity and stability by virtue of the sacrament itself, and thus, when in doubt,  the marriage must be considered valid until proven otherwise. One runs the serious risk otherwise of “transforming every conjugal difficulty into a symptom of a failed union whose essential nucleus of justice – the indissoluble bound – is thus effectively denied.

(DICI No. 209, Feb. 6, 2010.—Source: VIS)