From Mary's Advocates
by Bai Macfarlane
Can every dissatisfied spouse now get an annulment because she doesn’t experience, to her satisfaction, spiritual riches and communication from her spouse?
Zenit published the Vatican-provided text of Pope Francis’ address to the Roman Rota. When the Pope gives his annual address to the Roman Rota, it is understood to be the legislator’s instruction about canon law. The Roman Rota is a Tribunal of appeal available to any aggrieved party in a judicial canon law case.
Pope Francis discussed the duty of the Church to assist couples, and the obligation of bishops and priests.
In my work upholding marriage, it would be most welcome if Bishops and priests would exercise the pastoral care of teaching the faithful and point out that no-fault divorce is often cruel marital abandonment which is a fracturing of the marriage contract to live in the same household. A dissatisfied spouse, alternatively, should commit oneself to cooperating with experts who have a good track-record of strengthening marriage. Fracturing the contract to live together – by divorce – is condemned by the Catechism.
Of concern in the Pope’s address to the Roman Rota is his description of an essential element of marriage, unity.
If this is the language now used by judges of the Roman Rota to decide that a marriage is invalid, we are at a shocking turning point. According to the literal meaning of the text, if one spouse feels she is not experiencing harmony and spiritual riches from the other, to her satisfaction, then she can argue her marriage is invalid because she doesn’t have the requirement for validity in the 2019 Papal Address to the Roman Rota.
Saint Pope John Paul II corrected those who erroneously spread the error that valid marriage requires the parties to be successful communicating vessels who are a harmonious single entity.
I’ve read many, many writings about grounds for annulment and most critical is a proper understanding of the vocabulary. The most popular ground for invalidity used by U.S. tribunals is that the marriage consent is invalid because a party did not consent (with proper mental capacity c 1095.2) to the essential duties and properties of marriage, or one was not capable of fulfilling the essential duties/properties (c. 1095.3). If a party does not, in reality, consent to an essential property of marriage, or a party is incapable of upholding an essential property of marriage, then the party does not validly consent to marriage (c. 1095 & 1101). So, it is very important that we correctly understand the essential properties:
If the Pope’s 2019 Address to the Roman Rota is attempting to require as an essential element of marriage the “harmony with the other, so that, through the exchange of their respective riches they become a single entity,” he is contradicting Cardinal Raymond Burke, former Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Roman Rota and Defender of the Bond at the Signatura; the late Cardinal Edward Egan, former Roman Rota judge, professor at Pontifical Gregorian University, and one of six editors of the 1983 Code of Canon law; and Saint Pope John Paul II.
The 2019 Address to the Roman Rota is mixing up poetic language about marriage with canonical vocabulary. For example, two spouses cannot become one entity; it is impossible. Though, we’d expect priests to use this poetic language in homilies or marriage preparation, it wreaks havoc when used to define requirements for validity.
In 2015, Ignatius Press published a book “When Is Marriage Null? Guide to the Grounds of Matrimonial Nullity for Pastors, Counselors, and Lay Faithful” by Paolo Bianchi, with a forward by Cardinal Raymond Burke. The word unity, as an essential property of marriage (per. canon 1056) does not refer to harmony, spiritual riches, and becoming a single entity. It is really simple: If one excludes unity, one intends to engage in sexual intercourse with other persons besides one’s spouse(See page 125, When is the Marriage Null. by Bianchi).
Cardinal Egan warned about the problem of hinging validity on the spouses’ harmony. See his paper in the Scholarly Journal of the Roman Rota, “The Nullity of Marriage for Reason of Incapacity to Fulfill the Essential Obligations of Marriage”