The National Catholic Register (NCR) says, "'Loose canon' on annulments may get tighter." I ask, when will the Vatican address the ignored canons regarding separation and divorce. In John Allens Jr's May 1, 2012 NCR story, he covered a conference at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross held April 26-27 about conon 1095. This law provides the Catholic Church courts a reason for declaring that a couple was never really married based on either party having a grave lack of judgment about the essentials of marriage itself.

The Pontifical University of Holy Cross' website announced the conference event in Italian. ( A simple English translation discloses the premise of the conference: "The experience of almost thirty years of application of canon 1095 shows that it is often applied in a manner not in accordance with the guidelines set by the Law of the Roman Rota and the Pontifical Magisterium."

Bishop Antoni Stankiwicz, the Dean of the Roman Rota, which handles appeals cases about annulments, spoke at the conference. The NCR story says, Stankiwicz, "told the conference that interpretation of canon 1095 must avoid an 'anthropological pessimism' that would hold that 'it’s almost impossible to get married, in view of the current cultural situation. We must reaffirm the innate human capacity to marry'"

The NCR story quoted another speaker, Fr. Juan Ignacio Bañares, who teaches canon law at the University of Navarra, in Spain. "The sort of 'grave defect' that truly undercuts a capacity to consent, Bañares argued, 'must regard the person as a whole,' and therefore should produce effects 'in other areas of life.' In that sense, Bañares questioned the notion of a defect specific to marriage." […] "The Dean of the Roman Rota, Stankiewicz seemed to echo that same point, asking: 'How can you be incapable of marriage, yet perfectly capable of doing everything else?'”

In the United States, I propose that married Catholics are not instructed to follow our own Church’s teaching in regard to separation and divorce. There has never been an announcement that the Holy See or the Apostolic Signatura issued a prorogation of any bishop's faculties dispensing him from the procedural obligations of canon 1692. Canon 1692 requires bishops involvement before any Catholic can file for divorce.

Speakers at the Pontifical University of Holy Cross discussed how tribunals misapply canons about annulment cases. But that application occurs years after separation and divorce. I hope the Pontifical University hosts a similar study about the leadership misapplying the canons about separation and divorce.

At least the scandal of no-fault divorce and malicious abandonment could be prevented amongst Catholics, if the Church responded to children and reliable spouses who don’t want divorce. Some number of families could be saved if their bishop simply asked people to follow canon law and the Church’s teaching.  Bishops could point dissatisfied spouses to experts with experience helping couples, rather than being a silent bystander every time someone files for divorce.

Spero columnist Bai Macfarlane edits MarysAdvocates.




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