PEREGRINATIONS - Canadian Catholic Perspectives and Reflections by members of the PERSONAL ORDINARIATE OF THE CHAIR OF ST. PETER
Monday, 12 October 2015
Changing the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage is simply not up for discussion at the Synod on the Family
I am practically certain that every priest has been asked, in some form, the question as to whether the Synod on the Family is considering "updating" the Church's doctrine of Sacramental Marriage.
While much is being considered for the pastoral application of the doctrine of marriage, Pope Francis has made it clear that a revision of the doctrine of sacramental marriage is not only not on the agenda, it is not possible.
The recent motu proprio Mitis Iudex, sets out a revised process for the declaration of marriage nullity. Affirming that sacramental marriage is "until death do us part" the document sets out the requirement for carefully reviewing procedures dealing with civil and other marriages that do not meet the criteria for the bond of sacramental marriage.
Reaction to Mitis Iudex has been mixed with some welcoming it as a way of streamlining the process and removing legalism in favour of a more pastoral way of helping couples.
Some parties go too far if they are suggesting that the revised process for handling annulment cases curtails the judicial process. Some have indicated that the tribunals will become a formality.
Pope Francis has made it clear that the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage is simply not up for discussion. The question of whether a marriage is valid is essential to preserving the doctrine of sacramental marriage.
In light of this, the process for determining nullity must be treated with respect. If we imply that the annulment process is simply a formality then Christian anthropology is undermined along with the sacramental nature of the Church.
Canon lawyers need to avoid this kind of misunderstanding. They must do the serious work of implementing the reforms while maintaining an open and efficient legal process with pastoral concern.
Mitis Iudex gives the outline of how the reformed process will work. It is up to the faithful working with canon lawyers to provide a pastoral yet rigorous judicial process for the good of the whole Church. Making the system more efficient does not mean watering down the faith.