Catholic Culture Overview
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Do not let legalism block access to salvation, Pope tells tribunal judges

January 23, 2015

In a January 23 address to officials of the Roman Rota, Pope Francis reminded the judges and advocates that the highest priority of canon law is the salvation of souls.

As is customary, the Pope addressed the officials of the Roman Rota as they opened their judicial term for 2015. The Roman Rota is the top appellate court in the Church’s system of tribunals. Most of its work involve marriage cases.

In handling those cases, the Pope exhorted the judges “not to keep the salvation of persons locked within the constrictions of legalism.”

The Pope also said, as he concluded his address, that he would like to see Church tribunals drop all fees for the handling of marriage cases. He explained:

This is a point I would like to stress: sacraments are free of charge. The sacraments give us grace – and due process in marriage cases touches the sacrament of holy matrimony. How I would like all marriage processes to be free of charge.

Pope Francis observed that pastors today find “a great number of faithful in irregular situations, whose histories have been strongly influenced by the widespread worldly mentality.” He noted that years ago, Blessed Paul VI had spoken of the many people “wounded by a systematic relativism.” Tribunal judges must take these problems into account, he said, as they assess the validity of a marital bond.


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  • Posted by: koinonia - Jan. 25, 2015 10:18 AM ET USA

    The salvation of souls is the supreme law and thus the Law of the Church is directed to the salvation of souls. Consequently a seminary professor of Canon Law once commenced his course with the reassuring message to the seminarians that Canon Law is nothing to fear but rather serves as "your friend." With pain there is much pressure to cure the exigencies of our times. (Nevertheless there remains a Mother to us all which has endured and offers us her wisdom. Cardinal Burke has said as much).