A canon lawyer, employed by a Roman Catholic diocese in the United States, taught an audience which included priests, that because no directives from the bishop have been issued about Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, that the priests should follow the examples set by the dioceses in Argentina and Malta. In those territories, priests are free to give permission to adulterous partners to receive Holy Communion, even though the couple continues to have sex, and one (or both) of the parties is already married to someone else. This permission occurs after accompaniment and discernment by the priest.
Mary’s Advocates is sharing the audio recording, though the person that made the recording said the diocese must be kept anonymous. All identifying information has been removed from the recording publicized here, though the full recording has been shared with personnel in the diocese for which the canonist works.
The mission of Mary’s Advocates is to reduce unilateral no-fault divorce and support those who are unjustly abandoned. The silence from the Catholic diocese tribunals about the injustice of no-fault divorce gives scandal. Granting so many annulments, with no involvement at the time of separation, has made matters worse.
For example, the canonist taught that a woman not telling her fiancée that she had an abortion when she was 15-years-old was a ground for annulment. This makes no sense considering the explanation of annulments published by Ignatius Press’s book When is the Marriage Null. Furthermore, listeners would conclude that anyone who had an abortion would be required to tell their fiancée about it, or their marriage would be invalid. This is absurd.
Research publicized here shows that the dioceses which grant the most annulments cover half the population of the Unites States. They judged marriages are invalid, on average, in 98.7 percent of the cases decided (2011 data). The canonist in the audio is from one of those dioceses.
When telling priests to follow the directives from Buenos Aires, Argentina, the canonist explained that Pope Francis complimented those directives, and both the Pope’s letter and the directives can be found on the website of CanonicalAid.org. This website is maintained by independent canonist Marc Balestrieri, and his comments, if provided, will be shared in coming days in this blog page.
During the presentation, the canonist never mentioned the possibility that a marriage of divorced parties might NOT be invalid. In other words, she never mentioned the possibility that both are still truly married to each other (while only civilly divorced). Throughout her presentation, she used the secular language of “former spouse” compared to the catholic language of “separated spouses.” She never mentioned that divorce itself, can be a serious sin and she omitted Pope Francis’ statement in Amoris Laetitia about divorce: “Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is very troubling.”
The canonist said that both parties in a divorce are always free to receive Holy Communion and she implied that we should not teach children that a parent’s divorce action might be wrong (see minute 17:50 of the recording linked below).
Mary’s Advocates asks for canon law on separation of spouses to be implemented at the time of separation and divorce, to ensure more just and fair outcomes for the spouse that is counting on the marriage promises to be fulfilled who never did anything grave justifying separation of spouses.
Furthermore, if a legitimate basis for invalidity of a marriage exists, those grounds should be explored at the time of separation because they are relevant to determining a separation plan that is in accord with divine law. In no-fault divorce, the civil forum arranges plans that are contrary to divine law.
Spero News columnist Bai Macfarlane is the founder of Mary's Advocates. The audio recording of the meeting can be found on the website.