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Cardinal insists on scrutiny of failed marriages before annulment

Cardinal Julian Herranz of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts has defended the Church's right to subject failed marriages to a judicial examination before granting an annulment.

He was speaking at a press conference yesterday to launch Dignitas Connubii, a new Vatican instruction on annulment that was ten years in preparation.

The National Catholic Reporter says will largely maintin existing procedures. The paper says it fails to incorporate reforms that many US bishops and canon lawyers hoped for which would have made an annulment faster and easier to obtain.

Its Rome correspondent John Allen says: "Those reforms were contained in a second draft of the document, which seemed on the brink of publication in 2003. After debates within the Vatican, however, the draft was sent back for revision, and in the end several significant provisions sought by Americans were eliminated or watered down.

But the instruction does give more power to judges to limit procedural appeals that have the effect of unnecessarily slowing down the process.

The purpose of the document is to provide a step-by-step guide for judges to use in processing requests for annulment, applying the principles of the new Code of Canon Law adopted in 1983, in light of the experience of the intervening 23 years. It plays a similar role to a 1936 document, Provida Mater, which did the same thing for the 1917 code.

"It's like a recipe book," one Roman canonist said. "If a judge follows all the steps outlined in the document, he can't make a mistake."

Unlike civil divorce, which simply acknowledges the failure of a marriage, annulment is a declaration that a sacramental marriage never existed, usually because one of the parties lacked the capacity to consent or due to impotence.

In his defence of maintaining a protracted procedure, Cardinal Herranz told yesterday's press conference: "Not to take an interest in this problem would be equivalent to obscuring in practice the sacramentality of matrimony."

"That would be even less understandable in the present circumstances of confusion about the natural identity of marriage and the family in certain civil legislation, which not only welcomes and facilitates divorce, but in some cases puts in doubt heterosexuality as an essential aspect of matrimony."

New annulment norms lack hoped for reforms (National Catholic Reporter 8/2/05)

Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts

Vatican cold feet on marriage annulment reform (CathNews 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)

9 Feb 2005