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Pope John Paul II on the essential properties of marriage, unity and indissolubility

1/31/2006 - 6:00 AM PST

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ADDRESS OF JOHN PAUL II
TO THE PRELATE AUDITORS, OFFICIALS AND ADVOCATES OF THE TRIBUNAL OF THE ROMAN ROTA

Monday, 28 January 2002

1. I cordially thank Monsignor Funghini, the Dean, who, while expressing your sentiments of respect and concern, explained your daily labour with comments and statistics that stress the serious and complex matters on which you must render a decision. The solemn inauguration of the new judicial year gives me the welcome chance for a cordial meeting with all those who carry out the mission of justice in the Tribunal of the Roman Rota - Prelate Auditors, Promoters of Justice, Defenders of the Bond, Officials and Advocates - to show them my appreciation, my esteem and encouragement. The administration of justice in the Christian community is a precious service, because it constitutes the indispensable premise for authentic charity.

Your judicial activity, as the Dean has stressed, is directed above all to causes of matrimonial annulment. On this subject, together with other ecclesiastical tribunals and with a special role among them, that I emphasized in Pastor Bonus (cf. art. 126), you constitute a particular institutional expression of the solicitude of the Church in judging, according to truth and justice, the delicate matter of whether or not a marriage exists. This mission of the tribunals in the Church, an indispensable contribution, belongs to the whole area of the pastoral service to marriage and family life. The pastoral aspect itself calls for the constant effort to develop more fully the truth about marriage and the family, even as a necessary condition for administering justice in this field.

2. The essential properties of marriage - unity and indissolubility (cf. CIC, can. 1056; CCEO, can. 776 3) - offer an opportunity for a fruitful reflection on marriage. Today, taking up what I treated last year in my discourse on indissolubility (cf. AAS, 92 [2000], pp. 350-355), I want to examine indissolublity as a good for spouses, for children, for the Church and for the whole of humanity.

A positive presentation of the indissoluble union is important, in order to rediscover its goodness and beauty. First of all, one must overcome the view of indissolubility as a restriction of the freedom of the contracting parties, and so as a burden that at times can become unbearable. Indissolubility, in this conception, is seen as a law that is extrinsic to marriage, as an "imposition" of a norm against the "legitimate" expectations of the further fulfilment of the person. Add to this the widespread notion that indissoluble marriage is only for believers, who cannot try to "impose" it on the rest of civil society.

3. To give a valid and complete response to this problem one must begin with the word of God. I am thinking concretely of the passage of the Gospel of Matthew that recounts Jesus' conversation about divorce with some Pharisees and then with his disciples (cf. Mt 19,3-12). Jesus goes radically beyond the debates of his day concerning the factors that could justify divorce asserting: "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so" (Mt 19,8).

According to the teaching of Jesus, it is God who has joined man and woman together in the marital bond. Certainly this union takes place with the free consent of both parties, but this human consent concerns a plan that is divine. In other words, it is the natural dimension of the union and, more concretely, the nature of man created by God himself that provides the indispensable key for interpreting the essential properties of marriage. The further reinforcement that the properties obtain in Christian marriage by virtue of the sacrament (cf. can. 1056) is based on a foundation of natural law that, if removed, would make incomprehensible the very work of salvation and elevation of the conjugal reality that Christ effected once and for all.

4. Countless men and women of all times and places have complied with this divine and natural plan, even before the Saviour's coming and a great many others have done so after his coming, even without knowing him. Their freedom expands to the gift of God, both at the moment of their marriage and throughout their entire conjugal life. Yet the possibility always exists of rebelling against that loving plan: then returns the "hardness of heart" that had led Moses to permit divorce but which Christ definitively overcame. To such situations as these, one has to respond with the humble courage of faith, a faith that supports and corroborates reason itself, to enable it to carry on a dialogue with all who are in search of the true good of the human person and of society. To treat indissolubility not as a natural juridical norm but as a mere ideal empties of meaning the unequivocal declaration of Jesus Christ, who absolutely refused divorce ...

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