CBCP on Pope easing annulments: ‘Fresh air’
MANILA, Philippines – “There is a lot of fresh air entering the windows of the Church. More doors are being opened in welcome.”
With these words, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Tuesday evening, September 8, hailed Pope Francis’ decision to simplify annulment processes for Catholics.
Francis on Tuesday released a letter, issued “motu proprio” or “on his own initiative,” to make it easier for church authorities to declare a marriage null and void.
The letter is titled, “Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (The Lord Jesus, Clement Judge), on the reform of the canonical procedure for the annulment of marriage in the Code of Canon Law.”
In a key provision of this letter, the Pope said declaring the “nullity of marriage” now requires the judgment of only one tribunal.
Previously, the judgment of a first tribunal had to be confirmed by a second one.
The Pope said: “The drive to reform has been fueled by the enormous number of faithful who, while wishing to be at peace with their conscience, are too often separated from the legal structures of the churches due to physical or moral distance; charity and mercy therefore require that the same Church, as a mother, to be closer to her children who consider themselves separated.”
Known as the Pope of Mercy, Francis added that the new rules “favor not the nullity of marriage but rather the speed of processes, along with the appropriate simplicity, so that the heart of the faithful who await clarification of their status is not long oppressed by the darkness of doubt due to the lengthy wait for a conclusion.”
The CBCP welcomed the Pope's move on Tuesday through a statement signed by Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas as CBCP president.
“It is so clear to all of us by now that indeed the principal and all-embracing vision of the papacy of Pope Francis is mercy and compassion. It is mercy and compassion that explains his action and work,” Villegas said.
He was referring to the theme of the Pope's trip to the Philippines in January: “mercy and compassion.” (WATCH: #ShowThePope: The Philippines that Francis saw)
CBCP: ’Pope reaches out tenderly’
The CBCP president stressed that with the Pope’s letter, “the teaching about the indissolubility and unity of marriage remains.” He said: “The doctrine about the sacredness of marriage and family life is unchanged. The declaration of nullity of marriages is not divorce.”
“This new Apostolic Letter reaches out to those Catholics who suffer quietly from the bond and obligations of what they thought was a marriage, when the truth is there was no marriage to speak of from the very start, because the requirements for the valid reception of matrimony were not present,” he said.
Veteran Vatican analyst John Allen Jr said that grounds for declaring the nullity of marriage include “a lack of genuine consent or a psychological incapacity to undertake the obligations.”
Villegas said, “The Pope reaches out tenderly to those who suffer from invalid marriages.”
The archbishop added: “The services of the Church must be more accessible to the people; the process to receive those blessings of new peace for those who have suffered long, must be simplified. Indeed, this is another proof of the old adage in Church pastoral ministry – the salvation of souls is the supreme law.”
Villegas ended with a quote from the Bible: “‘Come to me all who are weary and find life burdensome and I will give you rest,’ says the Lord.”
A week earlier, the Pope made another move hailed by Catholics around the world.
In a letter on September 1, Francis temporarily made it easier to confess abortion by allowing all priests to absolve this sin. The CBCP welcomed this move and, at the same time, clarified that abortion “remains a grave and serious wrong.”
This comes as the Catholic Church prepares for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, as declared by Francis, which runs from December 8, 2015, to November 20, 2016.
Francis said he declared this Jubilee Year to allow Catholics “to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives.” – Rappler.com