Bishop says 'leave no stone unturned' to help divorced Catholics

The Church needs to assist Catholics seeking annulments to get "reunited with the Church", says Bishop Eugene Hurley, chairman of the Australian Bishops' Committee for the Family and for Life.

The Catholic Weekly reports that Bishop Hurley, of Port Pirie Diocese in South Australia, said the Church needs to "walk alongside" people who have a fractured relationship and offer them "compassion and understanding".

The comments follow Pope Benedict XVI's recent raising of concerns about the plight of divorced Catholics, who are not permitted to receive Communion after remarriage.

The Holy Father appealed to a Vatican tribunal to issue "rapid" rulings on annulment requests.

He told the Roman Rota that its decisions should come quickly for the sake of the faithful, but he reminded Church jurists that their paramount task in making a ruling was determining the "truth" about whether the marriage was valid.

An annulment means that the marriage was invalid, essentially concluding that the marriage never existed, leaving the faithful free to remarry and receive Communion.

Circumstances for granting annulments include refusal by a husband or a wife to have children, impotence, or the psychological incapability of one of the spouses to contract a valid marriage.

The Church reaches out in support of those whose marriage has broken down, while upholding the permanence of a true Christian marriage.

These two aspects of the Church's position are evident in the sensitive work of the Tribunal of the Catholic Church NSW and ACT.

Around 300 formal cases were processed by the tribunal in the Sydney archdiocese last year.

According to Fr Christopher Sheehy, tribunal director for the Sydney archdiocese, cases take around six to eight months to complete.

"Annulments are a complex pastoral problem and a difficult area in the Church's life," he said.

The Pope said it was important that the Church help couples try to work out their problems and "find the path of reconciliation."

Annulments: leave no stone unturned to help, says bishop

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Bishops' Committee for the Family and for Life
Roman Rota | Text of address

Call for speedy annulments shows Pope is "in touch" (CathNews 31/1/06)
Pope acknowledges plight of divorcees (CathNews 30/1/06)
Former top canonist says divorce is not sinful (CathNews 16/1/06)

3 Feb 2006