Catholic dioceses bend church law for marriage annulments

religion | Sep 12, 2015 | By Martin Barillas

The mainstream media are wrong in their reports about the streamlined process for cases of invalidity of marriage within the Catholic Church. ABC, U.S. News and World Report, USA today and others are saying the new, so-called streamlined process will be completed within 45 days. 
 
In an interview with host Raymond Arroyo on EWTN’s “The World Over,”  Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, pointed out that nowhere in the new rules does the number 45 appear.  
 
Bai Macfarlane of Mary’s Advocates, said in an interview with Spero, “When looking at a rough translation of the Italian instructions, Canon 1685 shows that, if the streamline process is applicable, the judicial vicar is supposed to schedule a session no later than 30 days in which everyone must participate. Canon 1686 shows that within fifteen days thereafter ‘as far as possible’ evidence, comments and defenses are to be collected. Canon 1687 §1 shows that the judge is to make a judgement, but no time limit is placed on the bishop’s role.”
 
According to Bishop Morlino, Catholic church tribunals in the United States are known for abuse. When Arroyo asked the bishop “Do you see intent, in the minds of some, wishing to be merciful, but in the doing may be unraveling the Church’s teaching on marriage?” Bishop Morlino answered, “That could happen. That is the sort of thing that has been happening for 50 years in the United States and the tribunals. In the name of mercy, in the name of a kind of accommodation to people who can become very pushy and and very insistent, the truth has been the casualty. If that kind of an abuse were to be prevalent as these new regulations go into effect, that would simply be a continuation of what has been the case for 50 years.” 
 
Arroyo asked “Doesn’t loosening up the process open it up for more abuse, not less.” Bishop Morlino responded, “It could. It depends on the people. Original sin is alive and well.”
 
Macfarlane pointed out in the Spero interview that “If a diocese is not interested in following procedures and timelines that are in the canon law now, new laws won’t change that. For example, the existing law says that a Defendant/Respondent in a nullity case, at the very beginning, is supposed to see the facts and proofs alleged by the Plaintiff/Petitioner to support the charge against the validity of the marriage. I know of tribunals where this is not done. It would be like trying to defend yourself against charges of auto theft, when the courts won’t tell you the day, place, and car that you allegedly stole. How can you defend against that?”
 
According to Macfarlane, who leads a group that advocates traditional marriage, in the more complex process, canon law presently requires that the decision should be made within one year (Canon 1453) in first instance and in six months on appeal. For those who complain that that process take multiple years, the problem has not been the law, it has been the practitioners not following the law, said Macfarlane.

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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