THE POPE AGAINST EASY ACCESS TO MARRIAGE ANNULMENTS
On 29th January, in his annual address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, Pope Benedict XVI cautioned the members of the Church's highest marriage tribunal to consider marriages valid until proven the contrary. Granting easy access to marriage annulments was an offence against both justice and charity.
He warned against "the tendency -- widespread and well rooted though not always obvious -- to contrast justice with charity, almost as if the one excluded the other" The marriage laws of the Church are oriented toward the spiritual welfare of the individuals, and applying those laws properly is itself a work of charity. Ultimately, he continued, "The Church's juridical activity has as its goal the salvation of souls."
Pope Benedict acknowledged that a marriage tribunal comes under pressure to announce the nullity of a marriage, due to "the desires and expectations of the parties involved, or to the conditioning of the social environment." Nevertheless, he argued strenuously against lowering the standards of canon law in order to "achieve a declaration of nullity at any cost." He decried the use of pseudo-psychological theories that see any marital problems as evidence of nullity, observing that this approach has the deleterious effect of "transforming all conjugal difficulties into a symptom of a failed union whose essential nucleus of justice-- the indissoluble bond -- is thus effectively denied."
Recognizing that some Catholics who have divorced and remarried want to obtain annulments in order to resume their active membership in the Church, and regain access to the sacraments, the Pope expressed sympathy for their goals but cautioned against offering a "false advantage". If the first marriage was valid, he reasoned, then the remarried couple is living an objectively immoral situation. Under those circumstances, he said, "It would be a fictitious good, and a serious lack of justice and love, to smooth the way to the reception of the sacraments, with the danger of making them live in objective contrast to the truth of their own personal condition."