Pope Francis reminds Roman Rota that sacraments are free—and annulments should be, too

Pope Francis reminds Roman Rota that sacraments are free—and annulments should be, too January 23, 2015

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From Vatican Radio

Pope Francis received the judges and advocates of the Roman Rota on Friday, to inaugurate the tribunal’s 2015 judicial term. The Roman Rota is the highest ordinary appellate court in the Church’s judicial system. The bulk of the work of the Rota involves deciding cases of marital nullity – marriage annulments, in colloquial parlance.

In remarks to the Rota on Friday, Pope Francis reminded the judges and advocates of the tribunal that the highest law is the salus animarum – the salvation of souls – and that the necessary legal structures of the Church are in the service of the faithful and of the Church’s broader mission of helping the whole world to hear and live the universal call to holiness. “I would like, therefore,” said Pope Francis, “to exhort you to a greater and passionate diligence in your ministry, offered in the service of the protection of the unity of the jurisprudence of the Church.”

Citing the great number of faithful in irregular marriage situations, Pope Francis called on the officers of the Rota to have great care and sensitivity to the importance of a formed conscience – or lack thereof – in regard to the nature and purpose of marriage, and the ways in which conscience can affect the very validity of marital unions. “This,” he said, “is the great difficulty of your mission, along with judges in every diocese: not to keep the salvation of persons enclosed within the straits of legalism.”

The Holy Father concluded with a reminder that access to the legal structures and competent, professional legal representation are both the right of every member of the faithful, and the duty of the Church to provide without respect for any member’s ability to pay for them. Departing from his prepared text, Pope Francis said, “This is a point I would like to stress: sacraments are free-of-charge. The sacraments give us grace – and due process in marriage cases (It. un processo matrimoniale) touches the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. How I would like all marriage processes to be free-of-charge.”

CNA, meantime, underscored this detail from the talk:

In investigating the validity of a marriage, ecclesial judges should consider whether the decision to marry was made in the context of values and faith, Pope Francis said on Friday…

…Pope Francis asserted that “pastoral experience teaches us there is today a large number of faithful in irregular situations, whose histories have been strongly influenced by the widespread worldly mentality” citing his words in Evangelii Gaudium about “spiritual worldliness” as a temptation faced by pastoral workers.

“It is evident that, when people adopt this attitude, faith is deprived of its normative and orienting value, and leaves open a space for compromises with selfishness and with the pressures of the current mentality, which has become dominant through the mass media.”

“Therefore, the judge, in evaluating the validity of the consent given, must take into account the context of values and faith – or their deficiency or absence – in which the marriage intent was formed.”

Again citing canon 1099, he said “the lack of knowledge of the contents of faith may lead to what the Code describes as an error determining the will.”


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