Pope's Address to Roman Rota on Marriage Annulment
"Unjust Sentences Are Never a True Pastoral Solution"
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2005 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address John Paul II delivered Jan. 29 to the prelate judges, defenders of the bond, and lawyers of the Roman Rota, for the opening of the judicial year.
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ADDRESS OF JOHN PAUL II
TO MEMBERS OF THE TRIBUNAL OF THE ROMAN ROTA
Saturday, 29 January 2005
1. This annual appointment with you, dear Prelate Auditors of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota, highlights the essential connection between your precious work and the judicial aspect of the Petrine ministry. The words of the Dean of your College have expressed your common commitment to full fidelity in your ecclesial service.
It is in this perspective that I would like to place certain considerations concerning the moral dimension of the activity of all who work at the ecclesiastical tribunals, especially the duty to conform to the truth about marriage as the Church teaches it.
2. The ethical question has always been asked very pointedly in any kind of judicial proceedings. In fact, individual or collective interests can induce the parties to resort to various kinds of duplicity and even bribery in order to attain a favorable sentence.
Nor are canonical proceedings, in which an attempt is made to discover the truth about whether or not a marriage exists, immune from this risk. The unquestionable importance of this for the moral conscience of the parties involved reduces the likelihood of acquiescence to interests alien to the quest for the truth. Nevertheless, cases can exist in which a similar acquiescence is expressed that jeopardizes the regularity of the proceedings. The firm reaction of canon law to such behavior is well known (cf. CIC, cann. 1389, 1391, 1457, 1488, 1489).
3. However, in the current circumstances there is also the threat of another risk. In the name of what they claim to be pastoral requirements, some voices have been raised proposing to declare marriages that have totally failed null and void. These persons propose that in order to obtain this result, recourse should be made to the expedient of retaining the substantial features of the proceedings, simulating the existence of an authentic judicial verdict. Such persons have been tempted to provide reasons for nullity and to prove them in comparison with the most elementary principles of the body of norms and of the Church's Magisterium.
The objective juridical and moral gravity of such conduct, which in no way constitutes a pastorally valid solution to the problems posed by matrimonial crises, is obvious. Thanks be to God, there is no lack of faithful people who refuse to let their consciences be deceived. Moreover, many of them, despite being personally involved in a conjugal crisis, are not prepared to solve it except by keeping to the path of truth.
4. In my annual Addresses to the Roman Rota, I have referred several times to the essential relationship that the process has with the search for objective truth. It is primarily the Bishops, by divine law judges in their own communities, who must be responsible for this. It is on their behalf that the tribunals administer justice. Bishops are therefore called to be personally involved in ensuring the suitability of the members of the tribunals, diocesan or interdiocesan, of which they are the Moderators, and in verifying that the sentences passed conform to right doctrine.
Sacred Pastors cannot presume that the activity of their tribunals is merely a "technical" matter from which they can remain detached, entrusting it entirely to their judicial vicars (cf. CIC, cann. 391, 1419, 1423 1).
5. The criterion that inspires the deontology of the judge is his love for the truth. First and foremost, therefore, he must be convinced that the truth exists. The truth must therefore be sought with a genuine desire to know it, despite all the inconveniences that may derive from such knowledge. It is necessary to resist the fear of the truth that can, at times, stem from the dread of annoying people. The truth, which is Christ himself (cf. John 8:32,36), sets us free from every form of compromise with interested falsehoods.
The judge who truly acts as a judge, in other words, with justice, neither lets himself be conditioned by feelings of false compassion for people, nor by false models of thought, however widespread these may be in his milieu. He knows that unjust sentences are never a true pastoral solution, and that God's judgment of his own actions is what counts for eternity.
6. The judge must then abide by canonical laws, correctly interpreted. Hence, he must never lose sight of the intrinsic connection of juridical norms with Church doctrine. Indeed, people sometimes presume to separate Church law from ...
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