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Dean of Roman Rota suggests stricter rule for annulments

May 01, 2012

Speaking at a conference in Rome, the dean of the Roman Rota suggested the need for a more rigorous interpretation of a provision in canon law that is cited in many annulment cases.

Bishop Antoni Stankiewicz said that the current reading of Canon 1095 would suggest that “it’s almost impossible to get married, in view of the current cultural situation.” Canon 1095 stipulates that a valid marriage may be impossible because of “causes of a psychological nature.” Some Church tribunals—particularly in the US—have interpreted that canon liberally to mean that a marriage can be annulled if the parties show any signs of psychological problems.

Noting that very few people are entirely free of psychological problems, Bishop Stankiewicz suggested that the canon should be understood to refer to psychological problems serious enough to prevent someone from giving proper consent in a marital vow. “We must reaffirm the innate human capacity to marry,” he said.


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  • Posted by: - May. 02, 2012 11:54 AM ET USA

    I think you are confusing the reality of Sacramental validity, with the Canonical Declaration of Nullity. At the moment the Sacrament is performed the Sacrament is either valid of invalid. Nothing later changes that. The "annulment" is an opinion at some later point on the moral certainty the Sacrament was valid. If you state that depression or anxiety at the time of marriage creates an invalid marriage, then that means in ALL cases such a marriage is invalid, even if no declaration is made.

  • Posted by: - May. 01, 2012 10:02 PM ET USA

    I do not agree with wvcatholic - many illnesses categorised as psychological are capable of remediation. Addictions to a range of chemicals, including alcohol, can be treated so that they are in (permanent) remission. Much work has been done on homosexual attractions to render those afflicted capable of enjoying heterosexual love. Generalized anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, are all treatable with sensitive management. Catholic institutions work hard with success in these area.

  • Posted by: Mike in Toronto - May. 01, 2012 9:21 PM ET USA

    Reader wvcatholic forgets that the bond enjoys "the favor of the law" and is presumed valid unless and until declared otherwise by a tribunal. The question of canonical validity arises *only* if the bond is contested, so declarations of nullity offer no "impact" whatever on other marriage bonds.

  • Posted by: Don Vicente - May. 01, 2012 2:16 PM ET USA

    "Pope John Paul II, both in 1987 and 1988, and Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, issued similar calls for a stricter interpretation of church law in their annual addresses to the Roman Curia, and so far most observers believe those injunctions have not significantly changed the practice of church courts." from John Allen's quoted article. This conference at the Opus Dei University in Rome will have the same non-effect on the local level.

  • Posted by: - May. 01, 2012 1:05 PM ET USA

    Very few Catholics understand an "annulment" has no effect on the validity of a marriage, simply stating that a moral certainty exists that no sacramentally valid marriage was present. If "pyshological causes" prevented a valid marriage in a particular case, it prevents them in ALL cases. The result is we are saying that NO ONE with depression, anxiety or any other psychological disorder can ever enter into a valid marriage. That impact of an annulment is rarely stated.