Pope Warns Church Courts About Marriage Rulings

Tribunals Not Above Temptations in Annulment Cases, He Says

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 30, 2005 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II warned against the temptation, which can also entice ecclesiastical judges, to consider failed marriages as automatically invalid.



The Pope gave this warning Saturday when he received in audience the judges and lawyers of the Roman Rota, the Church's central appellate court.

The greatest number of appeals are petitions for the declaration of nullity of the marriage. The Catholic Church, while holding that marriage is indissoluble and therefore excluding the possibility of divorce, recognizes that in certain situations the celebration of a marriage is invalid. Such cases include weddings that took place under threats.

In his address, the Holy Father spoke about the "moral dimension" of all those involved in the ecclesiastical juridical processes, which as in the case of civil ones, might be influenced by "individual or collective interests," inducing "the parties to take recourse to forms of falsehood or even corruption."

Such pressures might be aimed to obtaining "a favorable decision," namely, that the ecclesiastical courts declare the nullity of the marriage, the Pope said.

"From this risk, not even canonical processes are exempt, in which an effort is made to know the truth about the existence or nonexistence of a marriage," he noted.

"In the name of alleged pastoral needs, voices have been raised to propose that unions that have totally failed be declared invalid. To obtain this result it is suggested that recourse be taken to the expedient of maintaining the procedural appearances," the Holy Father said.

These proposals or pressures, he stressed, are against "the most elementary principles of the normative and magisterium of the Church."

John Paul II in particular addressed the bishops who name the ecclesiastical judges, and the judges themselves, to remind them that "the deontology of the judge has its inspirational criteria in the love of truth."

"Therefore, he must be convinced first of all that the truth exists," the Pope said. "One must resist fear of the truth, which at times might stem from fear of wounding persons. The truth, which is Christ himself, frees us from all forms of compromise with prejudiced lies."