A coming compromise on annulments?

Maybe, according to John Allen in The Boston Globe: 

Sometimes mocked as “Catholic divorce,” an annulment is a declaration by a church court that a marriage never existed in the first place because one of the conditions for validity wasn’t satisfied, such as free consent by both parties.

Facing that tension, a compromise may be coming into focus: No change on the sacraments ban, but an easier and broader process for granting annulments.

[Cardinal] O’Malley floated that idea during a recent Globe interview, saying that perhaps annulments could be sped up by eliminating the possibility of appeal to Rome, a provision that often means a case can drag on for years if one of the parties wants to contest the result.

A Feb. 15 conference of church lawyers in the Italian region of Liguria seemed to point in the same direction, arguing that the grounds upon which an annulment can be granted ought to be expanded.

In particular, these church lawyers proposed adding “mamma-ism” to the list, meaning a situation in which spouses are so completely under the thumb of one of their parents – usually, according to the jurists, the mom – that they don’t have free will.

Whatever one makes of “mamma-ism” as a legal or psychological concept, it illustrates how eager many Catholic officials are to make annulments more user-friendly.

Here’s why.

Many Catholic conservatives believe now is the wrong moment to be weakening the church’s defense of the sanctity of marriage, especially in light of growing momentum for gay marriage across the developed world. As they see it, letting divorced and remarried Catholics return to the sacraments en masse would amount to throwing in the towel.

Liberals and moderates wanting change can’t just ignore this pushback from those concerned about the doctrinal and political implications.

Faster, easier and cheaper annulments may be a way to give everybody at least some of what they want – upholding the indissolubility of marriage, but also providing millions of divorced and remarried Catholics an exit strategy from their form of limbo.

Read the rest. 

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