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Tribunal welcomes new annulment guidelines

Despite reports that Church officials are disappointed with the recent Vatican annulment rules update, Sydney Archdiocesan Marriage Tribunal director Fr Christopher Sheehy has predicted that the new rulebook will "make it easier to process cases".

The Catholic Weekly reports that the new book Dignitas Connubii - The Dignity of Marriage - provides step-by-step guidelines for accepting, investigating, appealing and judging marriage cases.

It is designed to be a practical guide for tribunal staff members, pulling together norms from the 1983 Code of Canon Law, rulings issued over the past 20 years and judgments issued by the Rota and the Signature, the Church's highest court.

The norms have not yet been circulated to tribunals. It is expected that they will be translated from Latin then sent to conferences of bishops around the world, who will in turn pass it on to the relevant tribunals.

"From the reports I've heard, it seems to be a very balanced document which from our point of view will make it easier to process cases," says Fr Chris. "It means the way we work will continue.

"It's just fine tuning and bringing together laws that exist to facilitate the procedure. After the code came into effect in 1983, various questions were being asked about factors to do with the process. This is really just re-affirming policy."

The first revision in the rulebook on marriage in almost 70 years, Dignitas Connubii has the potential to speed up the application process by updating technical guidelines which can slow down the procedure for individuals seeking to re-marry within the Church.

"Potentially it could be speedier," says Fr Chris. "I've heard nothing about the instruction to indicate that it would be slower."

The rate of annulment applications has been dropping for several years: in 1999 the Sydney tribunal carried 125 cases through to completion; last year there were 86.

National Catholic Reporter Rome correspondent John Allen wrote last week that experts in the US said that the instruction gives more power to judges to limit procedural appeals that have the effect of unnecessarily slowing down the process. But it "falls well short of what many American bishops and canonists had wanted".

Tribunal welcomes new annulment guidelines (Catholic Weekly 20/2/05)
New annulment norms lack hoped for reforms (National Catholic Reporter 8/2/05)

Archdiocese of Sydney - Marriage

Cardinal insists on scrutiny of failed marriages before annulment (CathNews 9/2/05)
Vatican cold feet on marriage annulment reform (CathNews 8/2/05)

Pope's Address to Roman Rota on Marriage Annulment (Zenit 14/2/05)
Lovers' leap of faith New guidelines seek to strengthen marriage (Catholic News World 13/2/05)
John L. Allen: The annulment instruction (National Catholic Reporter 11/2/05)
Vatican Tries to Curb U.S. 'Divorce Mentality' (Pew Forum/Chicago Forum 9/2/05)
New Vatican norms for marriage annulments (Catholic World News 9/2/05)
Vatican tightens code for annulments (The Guardian 9/2/05)
Vatican Clarifies Annulment Guideline (The Herald-Sun Durham North Carolina/Associated Press 8/2/05)
Why All the Annulments? (Zenit 8/2/05)
Vatican: Marriage annulment requests soar (Associated Press/Seattle Post-Intelligencier 8/2/05)
Vatican updates code on marriage annulment (Reuters 8/2/05)
New Vatican document calls for reform and a genuine search for truth in annulment cases (Catholic News Agency 8/2/05)
New Vatican norms for marriage annulments (Catholic World News 8/2/05)
Presentation of instruction about norms in marriage cases (Vatican Information Service 8/2/05)

18 Feb 2005