First, the moderation queue is ON.
Before you reach to my rant (below), there is a must read piece at the blog of Prof. Ed Peters, canoniste extraordinaire, about the two groups who are tugging on the annulment process issue. Peters doesn’t have a combox over there (perhaps wisely), so there can be some discussion here. Since his piece is longish, I post only a bit. Read the whole thing THERE. Sample:
The annulment argument: a quick quide to the two sides
There are basically two groups agitating for annulment reform, one saying that there are too many annulments, the other saying that there are too few. Let me suggest that the first group is mistaken if it thinks the annulment problem lies in the annulment process (ie, Book VII of the 1983 Code and Dignitas connubii) and that the second group seeks not so much reform of the annulment process as its effective abolishment.
The first group (those holding that there are too many annulments), can scarcely suggest any procedural reforms (short of requiring tribunals to stamp DENIED on every annulment petition) for nothing about current canon and special law makes declaring marriage nullity easy. Under current ecclesiastical law, nullity must be proven, on specific grounds, based on sworn declarations and testimony, over the arguments of an independent officer, and confirmed on appeal. There are, that I can see, no gaps in the process through which marriage cases may slip quietly but wrongly into nullity. Not even the oft-reviled Canon 1095 (the “psychological” canon upon which most annulments around the world are based) can be written off as a mere legislative novelty for it articulates (as best positive law can) jurisprudence developed by the Roman Rota itself over the last 60 or 70 years.
No, the objections of the first group to the number of annulments being declared is, I suggest, not to the annulment process but to the people running that process. Tribunal officers are, it is alleged, too naive, too heterodox, or just too lazy to reach sound decisions on nullity petitions; they treat annulments as tickets to a second chance at happiness owed to people who care enough to fill out the forms. How exactly members of this first group can reach their conclusion without extended experience in tribunal work and without adverting to the cascade of evidence that five decades of social collapse in the West and a concomitant collapse of catechetical and canonical work in the Church is wreaking exactly the disastrous effects on real people trying to enter real marriages that the Church has always warned about, escapes me. Nevertheless that is essentially their claim: the process needs no major reform, processors do.
He goes one to talk about the second group, those who think there are too few annulments.
Also, allow me to add that it is a pleasure to read Peters’ clear and sparkling prose. Fr. Z Kudos.
Here is one more bit, which I found interesting in light of another story I read on the interwebs today. Thus, Peters:
Okay, here’s the rant you came for.
No, what the second group really wants, I think, is to eliminate the annulment process precisely as a juridic process. Their proposal comes in different guises: let the couple make the determination about whether they are married (you know, because divorced couples are so good at agreeing on things), or let their pastor decide for them or their (presumably Catholic) marriage counselor, and so on. Inescapably, though, such a proposal requires this: dropping the canonical presumption that when people wed they marry validly, so we don’t need a canonical process to determine whether that presumption withstands objective scrutiny; alternatively if more brazenly, dropping the idea that Jesus meant everything he said about marriage, divorce, fornication, and adultery (and, I might add, about sharing in his Body and Blood), so that the annulment issue disappears overnight.
We are seeing in our own day something of the same dynamics that led to the massive revolt of dissent raised against the Church’s teachings after Paul VI issued Humanae vitae.
The synods (this year’s and next year’s) will NOT suggest sweeping changes of doctrine. The Pope will not and cannot change Christ‘s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.
However, there is being created, by dissenters and their helpers in the MSM, an expectation of changes. Don’t be fooled. The long term objective isn’t just Communion for the civilly remarried. It is about unhitching sex acts from marriage. Therefore, the underlying debate is about sex outside of marriage and about homosexual acts.
Because the real goal is also about homosexual acts, liberals and dissenters will be very much on side with those who want Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried.
So, the expectation for great changes will be whipped up over the next couple years. There is now even a commission being set up to study the juridical process for annulments, just as there was a commission set up before Humanae vitae to study contraception. Then, when the Holy Father doesn’t make the sweeping and radical changes the dissenters have come to slaver over, they will revolt, as they did against Paul VI. It might be good to review our recent history.
Just as disappointed priests and bishops quietly told couples to do whatever they wanted in the matter of contraception, so too disappointed priests and bishops will quietly tell the civilly remarried to do whatever they want in the matter of Communion.
And they will stop submitting cases to tribunals.
Since the whole concept of scandal has been pretty much destroyed in the rank and file of Holy Church, because culture has become the realm of brutes and the groin, who will be shocked, scandalized?
SCHOLIUM: What is “scandal”? CCC 2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense. 2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”85 Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep’s clothing. 2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion.
Scandal? Yah, right. Because people go to Communion (read: getting their parking ticket validated)? After decades of shallow catechesis and Communion in the hand, mobs of people will be concerned about sacrilege or the harm people are doing to their own souls and the faith of others? Who will even care when people known to be civilly remarried after divorce without annulment, or anything else, troop up in the Communion line to commit their acts of public sacrilege? Who will give a damn?
I read today at Sandro Magister’s place that Card. Scola, one of the Cardinals who will defend the Church’s teaching on indissolubility of marriage, is talking about solutions to streamline the process of determining validity of marriage bonds. Have a look and read more extensively there:
They are four proposals made in full continuity with the traditional doctrine and practice on marriage, but not devoid of innovative elements. Which concern:
– spiritual communion, or “of desire”;
– recourse to the sacrament of reconciliation even without absolution;
– sexual continence while remaining in the civil union;
– the verification of the validity or invalidity of a marriage not only by the diocesan tribunals or the Rota, but also with a more streamlined nonjudicial canonical procedure under the supervision of the local bishop. [nonjudicial, non-juridical]
This last new procedure is proposed by Cardinal Scola in detailed form. It can be expected to find an attentive audience at the synod.
You can see how this would play out in the real world, right? The bishop is going to look at these cases? Noooooo. His Excellency will delegate to priests in parishes, who will in turn delegate to a team of lay people, probably themselves divorced and remarried (because they’ve “been there”). Sound about right?
Look, friends. All of these juridical or non-juridical solutions and arguments will inevitably play themselves out. The problem is what impression are people developing in the meantime?
The impression left, in the battle on the level of rhetoric, is that marriage isn’t really for life, that is, until death breaks the bond. Sure the Church teaches in its dusty books that no one reads that marriage is “indissoluble” (after Common Core ravages our schools even more how many people will even be able to spell that, much less know what that means).
It may be that couples in their marriage prep in parishes will even be instructed by diligent priests who truly want to do a good job according to the mind of the Church. I’ll stipulate. But is that enough? As Father talks eloquently and reverently about the permanent nature of the bond until death, young Sawyer and Dakota (male and female, we hope, though their names don’t help us much), look at each other. They both think, “Well… at least until it stops being fun.”
And who would blame them?
Friends, this debate isn’t only about juridical solutions and processes. It is about other, over-arching issues and the long-term perceptions and expectations that are being created.