To the Tribunal of the Roman Rota: do not ensnare salvation in the constraints of legalism
Vatican City, 23 January 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis today received in audience the dean, prelate auditors, officials and collaborators of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, in order to inaugurate the legal year. In his address, the Holy Father focused on the human and cultural context in which matrimonial intent is formed. He emphasised that the crisis of values in society is not a recent phenomenon, and recalled that forty years ago Pope Paul VI had already denounced the ailments of modern man, “at times wounded by a systematic relativism, that bends to the easiest choices of circumstance, of demagogy, of fashion, of passion, of hedonism, of selfishness, so that externally he attempts to dispute the mastery of the law, and internally, almost without realising, substitutes the empire of moral conscience with the whim of psychological consciousness”.
The Pope highlighted the role of the judge, who is require to perform his judicial analysis where there is doubt regarding the validity of marriage, to ascertain whether there was an original shortcoming in consent, either directly in terms of a defect in the validity of intention or a grave deficit in the understanding of marriage itself to the extent of determining will. The crisis in marriage, indeed, not infrequently has at its root the crisis in knowledge enlightened by faith, or rather by adhesion to God and His plan of love realised in Jesus Christ”.
“Pastoral experience teaches us that today there is a great number of faithful in irregular situations, whose histories have been strongly influenced by the widespread worldly mentality”, he continued. “There exists, indeed, a sort of spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church, and which leads to the pursuit not of the glory of God, but rather of personal well-being. One of the consequences of this attitude is a faith hemmed in by subjectivism, interested solely in a given experience or a series of arguments and areas of knowledge believed to console or enlighten, but in which the subject in reality remains imprisoned by the immanence of his or her own reason or emotions. … Therefore, the judge, in evaluating the validity of the consent given, must take into account the context of values and faith”.
Pope Francis urged greater commitment and passion in the ministry of the judge, whose role is “to protect the unity of the jurisprudence of the Church”, and “pastoral work for the good of many couples, and many children, who are often the victims of these situations. Here too there is a need for pastoral conversion on the part of ecclesiastical structures to be able to offer the opus iustitiae to all those who turn to the Church to shed light on their matrimonial situation. This is your difficult mission: … do not ensnare salvation in the constrictions of legalism. The function of law is guided towards the salus animarum on the condition that, avoiding sophisms distant from the living flesh of people in difficulty, it may help to establish the truth of the moment of consent”.
The Pope stressed the importance of the presence at every ecclesiastical Tribunal of persons competent to offer sound advice on the possibility of initiating a suit for the annulment of marriage. “In the hope that in every Tribunal these figures may be present to encourage real access to the justice of the Church for all the faithful, I would like to underline that a significant number of cases dealt with before the Roman Rota are enabled by legal aid granted to those whose economic situation would not otherwise allow them to engage the services of lawyer”.