Thursday, May 03, 2012

Obligatory “Vatican ‘Crackdown’ on Annulments” Piece

Recently, a commentator at the traditionalist blog Rorate Caeli did a piece on the Holy See's recent announcement of improving oversight with the annulment process. Father Peter Stravinskas once told me that, given the state of marriage preparation in America today, it is a wonder there are not more annulments, as opposed to less.

This writer gave into human frailty, and made a comment on that blog, essentially a point raised several years ago in this venue. So far, we have been permitted one response to a challenger. Points have been raised that 1) no one petitions for a declaration of nullity unless a marriage fails (which betrays a keen grasp of the obvious), and 2) one could argue, given the present state of positive rulings, that a host of successful marriages could be, in fact, invalid in the eyes of heaven (which we have no way of knowing, do we now?).

Marriage may be an external forum, a matter for public acknowledgement, but what goes on behind the doors of the bedchamber, or before a marriage tribunal, is most assuredly not for public consumption. Canon law is based, not on English common law, but old Roman law, which provides a greater role for discretion in proceedings. Meanwhile, discussions such as these, while raising important questions, are often an invitation for certain people to presume knowledge of other people's business. Maybe some things are meant only for the eyes of God, who is an equal partner in true Christian marriage, as opposed to a gaggle of busybodies on the internet.

It is generally unwise, if not uncharitable, to presume to instruct an individual whose spouse has left them, but whose union has been upheld as valid. They know the consequences as well as anyone, and need the counsel of a good priest, not finger-pointing from the peanut gallery. One comment read earlier today, admonished such individuals to "remain celibate and pray for the return of their spouse." Depending on the situation, celibacy may be the preferential option.

In all likelihood, the Holy See's recent pronouncement will have the most effect on appeals to the Apostolic Signatura in Rome (the highest court of appeals in the Church), and possibly on the Courts of Second Instance (designated venues in neighboring dioceses, which review the proceedings of cases to ensure their integrity). Uncontested petitions are not as likely to be affected.

Meanwhile, back at the combox in question, there is reason to believe that some of this writer's comments are being blocked, perhaps in an attempt to make us appear foolish, or at least outgunned. And yet, we are undaunted. We know where we stand. Not only do we humbly stand with Peter, in the form of his legitimate Successor, but we are not afraid to stand alone. When you have to stifle one side of a conversation as a means of coming out ahead, either you don't have very good arguments, or you are afraid to stand by them. Either way, it amounts to intellectual dishonesty, if not cowardice, all the merits aside. That a weblog author or administrator has that prerogative within his own forum does not change that.

They may wish to be mindful of what John Milton wrote in his Areopagitica in 1644:

[T]hough all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play on the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?

You don't have to play poker to know a "stacked deck" when you see one, don't you think?

Or don't you?


Fr Martin Fox said...

This is one of the most difficult topics to discuss in written form. Almost better not to try.

A lot of folks with very self-assured opinions on this subject don't realize they don't know enough about the subject. Which makes the discussion very tiresome.

David L Alexander said...

Tell me about it.

Blog Goliard said...

The annulment situation appeared ever so clear to me, once upon a time.

Then I found myself petitioning the tribunal...