Canonical process for marriage cases to be changed

The Bolletino is … packed today with news that I don’t consider all that good.

There will be a presser tomorrow at the Sala Stampa.

Two Motu Proprio Letters will be rolled out on the reform of the canonical process for declarations of nullity of marriage in the Code of the Latin Church and of the Eastern Churches.

Avviso di Conferenza Stampa, 07.09.2015

Si avvisano i giornalisti accreditati che domani, martedì 8 settembre 2015, alle ore 12.00, nell’Aula “Giovanni Paolo II” della Sala Stampa della Santa Sede, avrà luogo la Conferenza stampa di presentazione delle due Lettere motu proprio datae di Papa Francesco Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus e Mitis et misericors Iesus, sulla riforma del processo canonico per le cause di dichiarazione di nullità del matrimonio, rispettivamente nel Codice di Diritto Canonico e nel Codice dei Canoni delle Chiese Orientali.

Parteciperanno e interverranno nell’ordine:

– S.E. Mons. Pio Vito Pinto, Decano della Rota Romana e Presidente della Commissione speciale per la Riforma del processo matrimoniale canonico; [Why is the Cardinal (next down) not the President of this Commission?]
– Card. Francesco Coccopalmerio, Presidente del Pontificio Consiglio per i Testi Legislativi e Membro della Commissione speciale;
– S.E. Mons. Dimitrios Salachas, Esarca Apostolico di Atene per i cattolici greci di rito bizantino e Membro della Commissione speciale;
– S.E. Mons. Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, S.I., Segretario della Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede e Membro della Commissione speciale;
– Mons. Alejandro W. Bunge, Prelato Uditore della Rota Romana e Segretario della Commissione speciale;
– Rev. P. Nikolaus Schöch, O.F.M., Promotore di Giustizia Sostituto del Supremo Tribunale della Segnatura Apostolica e Segretario della Commissione speciale.

I testi dei documenti in forma cartacea (in latino e nella traduzione in lingua italiana) saranno a disposizione dei giornalisti accreditati a partire dalle ore 10.30 di domani martedì 8 settembre con Embargo fino alle ore 12.30. [Paper copies of the Latin with Italian translation will be given to the journalists ahead of time.]

La conferenza stampa potrà essere seguita in diretta streaming audio-video tramite: [live streaming…]

il VaticanPlayer via web digitando

il Canale TheVatican su YouTube digitando

le App RadioVaticana per Android – iPhone – Windowsphone. Le app si possono scaricare direttamente dal sito della Radio Vaticana:

What could be in these?

It could streamline the process by eliminating second instance (which won’t save a lot of time provided the first court does its job well).  It could alter the role of the Defender of the Bond. It could reduce the number of judges (which would be disastrous).  Perhaps there will be something about competence.

We shall see!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. The Cobbler says:

    Before the synod rather than after? Does that make sense somehow? Because I’m not getting it.

  2. Geoffrey says:

    Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy fall.

  3. ClavesCoelorum says:

    Cobbler, yes, it does. My theory is the Pope doesn’t care about the Synod’s words on this. He even formed the commission before the last Synod.

    I wonder about the titles. The way the term “mercy” is thrown about today (cf. Kasper, et al.), “mitis and “misericors” sound alarm bells for me. Reading “Mitis Iudex” instantly brought to mind the Dies Irae’s “Iuste iudex ultionis, donum fac remissionis, ante diem rationis”.

  4. acardnal says:

    I think one of the changes we are likely to see is a no-cost annulment procedure.

  5. FXR2 says:

    I suspect tomorrow we will be able to surmise while Cardinal Burke was reassigned. Was he not working to make the process more stringent.


  6. Gerard Plourde says:

    Regarding the question why the Cardinal is not the President of the Commission I’d like to propose a possible explanation. Within the structure set up by Our Lord we have the Pope who is Peter’s successor as Vicar of Christ and head of the Unversal Church and then we have the Apostles’ successors, the Bishops. There is no dogmatic or doctrinal basis for an exalted role for either an Archbishop or a Cardinal over any other Bishop. (Metropolitan and Suffrigan Dioceses exist for Canon Law administrative purposes.) A Cardinal is usually an Archbishop (although there are those who are awarded the Red Hat without being made Bishops as an honorary matter for long service to the Church, e.g. Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., who was elevated by St. John Paul II). The Cardinal’s sole differentiating task from any other Bishop is to act as an Elector during the Conclave. A Cardinal, like an Archbishop, has no authority over a brother Bishop unless he is acting on behalf of the Pope through some authority specifically delegated to him by the Pope. Thus, a long-serving Bishop or Archbishop could actually be a more logical choice to head a Commission than a newly-minted Cardinal.

  7. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    According to Rocco Palmo, the commission worked for about a year; in other words, they started about the time Cardinal Burke was removed from the Apostolic Signatura. And why preempt the Synod, as this was specifically a topic to be addressed: “37. How can the procedure to determine cases of nullity be made more accessible, streamlined and possibly without expense?” (Lineamenta)?

    Last year at the end of his final address to the Extraordinary Synod, Pope Francis dropped the talk about “synodality” and cited the canons that acknowledge the absolute and universal authority of the Bishop of Rome. Apparently he intends to use it. Expect more.

  8. CradleRevert says:

    Very peculiar timing. One would think that this sort of change would have come later and would have taken into account the discussions of Synod Part Deux.

  9. Volanges says:

    Maybe I’m being naive but isn’t it just possible that the Holy Father wants to make sure that couples around the world have the same process available to them? According to what I’ve read, in some parts of the world it could take a decade or more to receive a decision. Compare that to the 8 months I’ve seen in my, admittedly small, diocese and you can see that it’s not a fair and just process across the board.

  10. vandalia says:

    Why is the Cardinal (next down) not the President of this Commission?

    Perhaps because the Vatican has actually learned something.

    For example, in the Air Force, the chairman of the Global Strike panel is the division chief of the corresponding division on the Air Staff. This is despite the fact that higher ranking officers are also members of the panel. Competent organizations appoint subject matter experts as the leaders of decision making committees. These are the people who deal with the matter under consideration on a day-to-day basis.

    When it comes to issues that are directly related to the Magisterium, Bishops should clearly take the lead. However, when it comes to optimizing administrative details, the effort should be led by the person who is the subject matter expert. Since the Rota is in reality almost entirely focused on Declarations of Nullity, then it makes perfect sense for the head of the Rota to lead the committee designed to reform that process.

  11. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    Every diocese already operates under the same Code of Canon Law and its procedures. But implementation can vary widely. If a bishop does not train and appoint enough priests to serve in the marriage tribunal, then there will be delays. I fear that the proper remedy for delays, increasing staff, will be ignored and we will get instead a stripped down process. I am anxious to hear what Dr. Peters has to say, but he is no doubt prudently waiting until we actually have the motibus propriis, if that is correct.

  12. johnnycuredents says:

    The process is not fair or even reasonable at present. I know of two cases in my own diocese. In the first, the affair was resolved in just about 12 months from start to finish. But in the second, three years have passed and there is still no word, positive or negative, from Rome. The couple involved in the unresolved case attend Mass regularly but always refrain from receiving the Eucharist. I think they deserve an answer at least.

  13. pj_houston says:

    Why is the couple refraining from the Eucharist? Being divorced is not a mortal sin, unless they decided to remarry without an annulment. In that case, it’s their fault not the Church.

  14. The Masked Chicken says:

    You know, once upon a time, marriage used to mean something. Have we, truly, raised a generation of moral idiots, that care more about where the escape hatch is than finding the right material and building a sturdy ship? How insulting is this to the countless generations who have held marriage to be worthy of being called a sacrament? I am really grateful that this generation has not been called to die for a cause greater than themselves. Christ died on a Cross, not an easy chair. If two people can’t be mature enough to get to really know each other before they get married, if they split at the slightest sneeze of adversity, then I, for one am sorry that they could not behave with honor and dignity – that they could not be strong men. The number of annulments should be microscopic, if Christ really reigns in the home.

    The battlecry of modern marriage – “Give me liberty or an easy way out!”

    In case you haven’t figured it out, I don’t want annulments to be easy – the equivalent of an ecclesiastical Lemon Law or Buyer’s Remorse. “Oh, we couldn’t get along…Oh, my husband doesn’t want children…etc.” Some people are psychopaths and their true tendancies really can’t be know until they are married and these people should, absolutely, be kicked out of the pretense of a marriage, but unless we, as a race, have devolved into a species of psychopaths, them I conclude most bad marriages happen before the marriage, not after. If the Church would spend as much time lamenting over their poor marriage preparation techniques as they do the aftermath of the inconsiderate choices people make, then we would have far fewer annulments.

    Really, if marriage is a vocation, then treat the thing like a vocation – it takes at least five years to become a professed Religious – and quit crying to me because you didn’t.

    You want to keep horses, build a good stable instead of repainting after the horses have fled.

    Sorry, if I am blunter than usual, but the day grows long and nightfall is approaching. If the tapirs of virtue are being extinguished, then we will truly be in darkness.

    The idea of the Three Days of Darkness, where no one can see and many die – we needn’t wait for them – they have already come.

    The Chicken

  15. jhayes says:

    Gerard Plourde, I can think of two possible reaons for the structure of the Committee.

    1. It’s the Rota, not Interpretation of Texts that deals with individual annulment cases.
    2. Francis felt that +Pio Vito Pinto had the best understanding and enthuiasm for what Francis wanted to accomplish in revising the annulment process.

    I think it is clear that Francis sees himself as the final decision maker in policy matters. It’s understandable that he will choose to work with people he feels can provide input that will help him to arrive at his final decisions and put them in final form.

    I think he is honest in encouraging parrhesia at the Synod, but it is clear from his remarks after the first session that while he wants to hear all points of view, the end product of the Synod will be an “Apostolic Exhortation” which he will write himself with the assistance of whatever people he feels will be helpful. For an example of the form, see Familaris.Consortio of St John-Paul II.

  16. Imrahil says:

    Dear Chicken,

    1. I wonder about that dying for a greater cause thing. We did not get the chance. Plus, we were raised in an atmosphere in which “heroism” comes right after “insubordination” in even military vocabulary and in which my drill-sergeant instructed us that, quote, he didn’t like heroes because they always get killed. You can only do hard things if you are convinced they are the right thing to do.

    2. The countless generations before us could stick to a firm atmosphere where marriage was not supposed to fail, and where separation, maybe, could be tolerated but always would come at the cost of having noone to cohabit with – or be shunned by society for adultery.

    There’s a reason state and society deal out penalties. It’s because the temptation is too great to do the pleasurable and easy but immoral thing if you can do so unpunished; and this also means that the bulk of people will do it.

    3. The annulment process is not about granting a favor, but about, well, determining whether the marriage is null. What you want (I’ll be frank to be brief) looks more like a rule forbidding some of the annulled to remarry; that can be discussed, of course; but if a marriage is null, it’s null.

    Marriage used to mean something – and, of course, it still means something with the people who marry. The question is whether they actually mean marriage, in the precise way the Church uses the term.

    4. Marriage is not a vocation in the same way the religious vocation is. Fr. Abraham a Sancta Clara knew that quite well: as he said in his popular tone, “not without reason one calls the state of marriage (Ehe) a state of woe (Wehe); […] if one were t’ concede them married people a try-it-out year like one concedes them monks, then hardly a few’d arrive at the perpetual vow”, and that was in the 17th century.

    And then, St. Paul of course wisely reminds us that marriage is, among other things, a remedy against sexual lust by providing a legimate way of satisfying it. “He sinneth not; let them marry.” That wouldn’t work if they had to wait five years.

    Otherwise, see Chesterton, In Defence of Rash Vows.

  17. yatzer says:

    There are also people who perhaps made a foolish marriage before becoming Catholic or even Christian. In that case there might have been no idea of what marriage is supposed to mean. I’m not objecting to anything, just wondering in print since the whole concept of marriage seems to be in question.

  18. Gabriel Syme says:

    In my opinon, the Church is tinkering at the “wrong end” of marriage. It should concentrate on getting things right before marriages take place, not concentrating on tidying up the mess when they fail. If they get it right at the start, most marriages will succeed.

    The reason so many marriages go wrong / fail, is because the Church fails to educate people about marriage.

    I got married quite late, even by todays standards – aged 34. I remember sitting in the marriage prep course run by the Diocese. I was shocked at the good quality of the teaching and information we were given – reason being, the Church had never said anything about this before, so it had always seemed like it was a relatively vacuous organisation with nothing to say on the matter.

    And then, some two full decades (at least) after secular society and culture had been given free reign to form my ideas of marriage, the Church decides to belatedly reveal its treasures. At first I was pleased, thinking “Oh good, the Church isnt a puerile emptuy vessel after all” – but then I became angry, thinking “I should have been taught this years ago – I was entitled to be taught this years ago”.

    Most of the people on the course were younger than me – in their 20s. Clearly their views had been long-since set by secular culture too, judging by the amount of obviously bored people staring at the floor / twiddling their thumbs throughout the day. For them, the day was just ticking a box, it wasnt a chance to learn anything. And who could blame them for thinking so?

    And so, as usual, it was too-little, too-late from the Church. And now, having failed to teach generations of people, it now ties itself in knots trying to find loop-holes in its own doctrines. Pathetic. This really wont do at all.

    NB – If I may be so bold, I learned on Sunday that the elderly mother of Bishop Bernard Fellay SSPX died last week, on the Feast of St Pius X. Please everyone say a prayer for Bishop Fellay and his mother.

  19. kbf says:

    @The Masked Chicken

    Your rant reads as if it is spoken by someone with absolutely no dierct knowledge of which you speak.

    I, on the other hand, have been through the anullment process. I DO know what I’m talking about in this regard. Let me give you the absolute assurance that not a single word of the assumptions you make were true in my case. I doubt they are in 99% of every other case the Tribunals hear. The process was rigerous and robust. It involved (in my case) testimony gathered by curias on 2 sides of the Atlantic, medical evidence, psychologists reports, examination of the facts and the use of Canon Law to arrive a decision based in fact and justice to all parties.

    Angry “I’m more austere, self-righteous, scrupulous, hard hearted, and better than you “liberal” neo-catholics” rants like yours do nothing but provide all of the evidence the Bobby Mickens of this world need to point the finger at anyone with a bent towards traditional Catholicism and accuse them of being ignorant, narrow minded, and nasty vindictive little people. Well done. And for the record, I am perfeectly entitled to take offence at what you have written because it indirectly accuses me of screaming the battle cry of “give me liberty or an easy way out” and having “buyers remorse” and making “inconsiderate choices”. I’ll accept your apology if you aren’t too pumped up with your own pride and prejudice to offer it.

    ETA: Sorry father Z, but I am quite rightly angry with what The Masked Chicken has written, and in charity, need to point out the error of the opst.

  20. Justalurkingfool says:

    Against my better judgment I am making this comment.
    I, too, have been through the annulment process. In fact,
    I have been through it twice.

    I have seen the corruption that does occur in this process.
    It is very, very real.
    It has destroyed my faith.
    I no longer attend mass, nor do I avail myself to the
    The Catholic Church is willing to do almost anything to
    investigate potential nullity. But it will do NOTHING to
    work to heal the marriages which are completely
    destroyed in its zeal to find nullity.

    I am living this. I know EXACTLY what I am speaking about.


  21. Sonshine135 says:

    Perhaps this is Francis’ version of using his pen and his phone prior to the upcoming Synod.

  22. robtbrown says:

    jhayes said,

    I think he is honest in encouraging parrhesia at the Synod, but it is clear from his remarks after the first session that while he wants to hear all points of view, the end product of the Synod will be an “Apostolic Exhortation” which he will write himself with the assistance of whatever people he feels will be helpful. For an example of the form, see Familaris.Consortio of St John-Paul II.

    Fr Z said the wag is that there will be no Apostolic Exhortation following the Synod. If that’s so, then we can easily say he is not a political naif–and is unwilling to let himself be backed into a corner.

  23. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear J. Hayes,

    I agree with your observations concerning Pope Francis’ probable reasoning and course of action regarding this.

    Dear Imrahil,

    Your drill-sergeant was wise. While one can be called to make the ultimate sacrifice if necessary for the good of others, the optimal result is to achieve the objective with as few casualties as possible. Reckless “Heroism” that seeks out death unnecessarily is akin to suicide and is not to be lauded. As Gen. Patton observed, “An Army is a team; lives, sleeps, eats, fights as a team. This individual heroic stuff is a lot of crap.”

    Dear Masked Chicken,

    I have reservations concerning the “Three Days of Darkness” warning. If it is intended to advise us of the presence and occasional ascendence of evil in the world (even an apparent temporary triumph in the Last Days) it is laudible. If, however, it presupposes that God would abandon those who call on Him in faith in the face of overwhelming adversity, then it is pernicious because it contradicts the assurances of God as revealed in the clear words of Scripture. This is especially true if it also presupposes the heresy of the so-called “Rapture” theology.

  24. robtbrown says:

    Imrahil says:

    1. I wonder about that dying for a greater cause thing. We did not get the chance. Plus, we were raised in an atmosphere in which “heroism” comes right after “insubordination” in even military vocabulary and in which my drill-sergeant instructed us that, quote, he didn’t like heroes because they always get killed. You can only do hard things if you are convinced they are the right thing to do.

    It is common among career military personnel to think that a lot of war deaths are caused by stupidity .

    NB: My high school has produced 25 Army Generals, including one Chief of Staff (he was a year old–we both played football), countless Colonels and West Point grads (in my graduating class 7 had appointments, including yours truly, who decided not to go), and one Blackbird pilot. And living in that same town are two men with the Medal of Honor–both daily Communicants.

  25. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear KBF,

    I apologize to you if I gave offense. As a matter of fact, I have been directly involved in annulment proceedings and I know many people who have gone through the process. I was not commenting on you particular situation. However, I teach college-age students, so I have extensive, firsthand knowledge of the emotional maturity of many people entering marriage, today. I have had extensive discussions with some of my students who were getting married, so I know the mindset. Obviously, it does not apply to all, but the way to cut down on divorces is with stronger marriage prep.

    The Chicke

  26. Pingback: Rules for the Synod to be Changed by Pope Francis - Big Pulpit

  27. Seamus says:

    I know of two cases in my own diocese. In the first, the affair was resolved in just about 12 months from start to finish. But in the second, three years have passed and there is still no word, positive or negative, from Rome.

    If the couple in the second case is waiting to hear “from Rome,” that by itself might explain the difference. Typically, nullity cases aren’t heard in Rome unless one party chooses to appeal to the Roman Rota, either in an appeal from the tribunal of second instance, or bypassing the tribunal of second instance. A case before the Rota is always going to take a lot longer than one before tribunals here in the United States.

  28. Elizabeth D says:

    Yikes, much depends on the wisdom and fidelity of each bishop in choosing a priest to be a first instance judge.

  29. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear KBF,

    Upon better reflection, I would like to apologize to you, personally, and the readers of WDTPRS for my uncharitable remarks, above. They were written in a moment of extreme frustration about the breakdown of the scaffolding underlying marriage and the family, especially in the last few months. I have written in the comments many times about these issues in a much calmer and more analytical fashion. I have studied these issues for many years and the degree of hard, objective science being done on these issues is pretty poor, in my opinion. I have consulted experts in some of the appropriate areas. I am trying to do due diligence. It is difficult to talk about these issues without becoming overly emotional, but, on average, I have tried to do that. Yesterday, I threw a knuckle ball, however. I apologize.

    The Chicken

  30. jhayes says:

    robtbrown, instead of taking a year to compose an Apostolic Exhortation covering the whole range of issues discussed at the Synod, he might issue a series of Moto Proprios dealing with individual issues. He has already said in Mitis iudex Dominus Jesus that today’s reform of the annulment process is the result of discussions at the first session of the Synod

    In questo senso sono anche andati i voti della maggioranza dei miei Fratelli nell’Episcopato, riuniti nel recente Sinodo straordinario, che ha sollecitato processi più rapidi ed accessibili.[4] In totale sintonia con tali desideri, ho deciso di dare con questo Motu proprio disposizioni con le quali si favorisca non la nullità dei matrimoni, ma la celerità dei processi

  31. kbf says:

    Thank you, and God bless.

  32. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Chicken,

    I’m saddened to hear of the crisis you are enduring and offer my prayers that Our Lord may bring you through it safely. I know from reading other comments you’ve posted that those you made earllier in this thread are uncharacteristic of you and must have come at a time of great pain.

    I also would like to apologize to you for my words concerning the “Three Days of Darkness”. What you are going through is truly a dark night of the soul. I will keep you and your family in my prayers. Continue to fight the good fight.

  33. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Just a Lurking Fool,

    I was thinking about you when this topic came up. Although the pain of your situation has caused you to distance youself from the sacraments (and, of course, I urge you to go back, at least to periodic confessions, because it is the best way to deal with resentment – at least to keep it in check so that God’s graces can flow), you have not distanced yourself from God as much as you think, because even if you will not pray, I will pray and have been praying for you and your situation. It is my honor to do so. Human free will being what it is, even God will not force people to do the right thing, so even saints have to, sometimes, see their prayers answered in a way they don’t expect. That meaning that although there is very often an obviously right answer to our prayers, such as in your case, which I know you desire with all of you heart, sometimes, we can do no more than pray and leave things on God’s hands.

    Yesterday was the 20th aniversary of the death of the person who really taught me what it means to love someone without thought of self. They died from cancer at an age mature enough to really understand marriage, but before we had the chance to consider anything, since by the time we slowly worked towards that, they was already terminally ill. It hurts to this day. We, and by we I mean many, many people, prayed for their healing, but they died. I was there all the way through their illness and I was there when they died. They asked me to speak the eulogy at their funeral Mass (I know, not supposed to do that, but at the time, we didn’t know).

    One of their sisters gave the best advice I could receive to comfort me. She said, “Look, we have all prayed. Many people have prayed. We have done the best we can. If God wants them to recover, they will. It is in God’s hands.”

    Please, go back to the sacraments. God hasn’t given up on you and your situation. There is a lot of pain in this life and prayers aren’t always answered the way that seems the best way to us, believe me, I know, but even though I lost my dearly loved one, I know that God was there and that anything suffered in love is healed, again, as St. Teresa of Avila says. If the only thing you can do is pray for your wife until the day you die, then, if you don’t give into despair, you have a good chance of Heaven and she will have benefited from your prayers all that time, for, consider what she might have been without them.

    So, you and your situation remain in my prayers. I am a poor representative for God, but, if I can be moved by your situation, them be assured that He is so much more. Even God will not go against free will, however, and learning to keep faith in the face of fallen human nature is, sometimes, the only love that some people will know. If we do not hold those we love in our prayers, even when they hurt is, think of how truly frightening that would be for them and for us.

    The Chicken

  34. The Masked Chicken says:

    Although the change in Canon Law for annulments has been promulgated and although I apologized for the tone of my earlier remark, I don’t want my central point to be lost – the need for many annulments could be eliminated with the proper Catholic moral formation of young people.

    The Chicken

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