Call for speedy annulments shows Pope is "in touch"
The executive officer of the Bishops' Commission for Australian Catholic Women, Therese Vassarotti, has said that Pope Benedict XVI's weekend call for a less bureaucratic annulment process shows his compassion and that he is "in tune with the realities of the human situation".
In an address to the Roman Rota, the Holy Father acknowledged concern for the plight of divorcees who are not permitted to receive communion, if they remarry.
Ms Vassarotti told the ABC's World Today program that the statement "is giving a sense that the Pope is far more compassionate, far more in tune with the realities of the human situation and responding to those… the issues that are out there in the community."
She suggested that perceptions of a harsh and judgmental attitude towards divorced and remarried Catholics is a major cause of alienation from the Church.
"Women have so long, in the Australian church, have felt quite alienated, and this is one of the litmus tests of their alienation, is how divorced and separated women feel unconnected to the church, or disenfranchised from the church," she said. "So this is a huge response to them to hopefully have them back in full communion."
The Holy Father's statements follow a similar move made by last years meeting of Bishops at the Vatican, which also called for annulments to be issued more quickly. However, the bishops did reaffirm the official policy of denying communion to divorced Catholics who remarry without these annulments.
Sydney auxiliary Bishop Julian Porteus explained that while the Pope's comments do reflect concern with the plight of people wishing to marry a second time, the official position regarding divorce has not changed.
"The Church really can't, because it upholds the teaching of Christ, which says what God has joined man must not divide," he said. "Where there is a proper sacramental marriage before the eyes of God, if you like, the Church would consider that a binding union."
"It's never recognised divorce, even though we may recognise the validity of a civil process of divorce, but in the Church's eyes the marriage is still binding, however the Church does recognise that sometimes things are lacking to make it a substantial marriage union at the beginning, and that's the basis upon which an annulment would be sought."
Pope Benedict XVI calls for changes to annulment procedure (ABC Radio The World Today 30/1/06)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Commission for Australian Catholic Women
Roman Rota | Text of address
Pope acknowledges plight of divorcees (CathNews 30/1/06)
Former top canonist says divorce is not sinful (CathNews 16/1/06)
31 Jan 2006