WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
Pope Francis Streamlines the Annulment Process

March 2016By Philip C.L. Gray

Philip C.L. Gray, J.C.L., is President of the Saint Joseph Foundation (stjosephcanonlaw.com; 740-937-2054), a nonprofit organization that assists the faithful in protecting their rights under canon law. This article originally appeared in somewhat different form in the foundation’s newsletter Christifidelis (vol. 33, no. 6; Nov. 4, 2015) and is reprinted with permission.

On September 8, 2015, Pope Francis significantly changed the way the Church handles cases of marriage nullity, commonly known as annulments. His motu proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus effected these changes in the Western (Latin) Church; Mitis et Misericors Iesus did the same for the Eastern Catholic Churches. It is important to note that the revisions only affect ecclesiastical laws having to do with procedures for hearing annulment cases. Acting as the chief legislator of the universal Church, the Pope used his power to alter ecclesiastical discipline. To be clear: He did not proscribe doctrine. He did not redefine marriage. He did not define a matter of faith or morals.

These changes in law take place during a time of rampant moral relativism that has imbedded itself firmly within modern thought and practice — including the thoughts and practices of clerics, religious, and laymen who catechize and influence millions of people. Oftentimes, this moral relativism is expressed in the Church by way of a negligence that encourages a coexistence with evil rather than affirmative action to denounce it. For example, what have bishops and priests done to decrease the number of divorces and encourage fidelity in marriage? Where was the outrage from American bishops over the Supreme Court’s recognition of same-sex marriage? What is the most affluent bishops’ conference in the world doing to address an evil that caused the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and was cited as a cause for the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the Jews (cf. Isa. 3:9; Jer. 23:14; et al.)?


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