Warning against 'false mercy' in simplifying annulments

Warning against oversimplification

The Cardinal who heads the Vatican's highest court has warned against simplifying the process for seeking annulments, saying efforts to show compassion to failed marriages can lead to 'false mercy,' reports NCR Online.

Any reforms of the annulment process, said Cardinal Raymond Burke, must first be studied by a commission of experts and should not remove a sometimes time-consuming requirement for two judgments on the matter.

Burke, who heads the Vatican's Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, spoke Thursday during a lecture at The Catholic University of America.

His comments on the annulment process come after sustained speculation in recent months that Pope Francis and a number of other cardinals are considering changes to the Church's pastoral practice toward divorced and remarried people in preparation for a global meeting of bishops, called a synod, to be held at the Vatican on the topic of the family in October.

The Church currently prohibits divorced and remarried people from receiving the Eucharist. Several cardinals have recently questioned whether the teaching might change, even in a limited way. Others have called specifically for the simplification of the process for couples seeking an annulment, an official finding by a Church tribunal that the union was never sacramentally valid.

Burke said 'it must be clear' that the annulment process 'is not a mere matter of procedure but that the process is essentially connected with the doctrinal truth' of the Church. Continuing, the Cardinal quoted the pertinent line in the Church's Code of Canon Law, which reads: 'Marriage ... can be dissolved by no human power and by no cause, except death.'

'Sometimes, one hears the slogan that the [annulment] process has become encrusted with burdensome juridicisms,' Burke said. 'In the Apostolic Signatura's experience, however, it is clear that if the servants of justice know the process and follow it attentively ... the task of the tribunal, which is certainly burdensome in itself, becomes quite workable.'

FULL STORY Burke warns against simplifying annulments, 'false mercy' (NCR Online)

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