11 Sep 2015
Response to the new procedural law for declaration of nullity
The Tribunal of the Catholic Church (SA & NT)
The Archbishop and those working in the area of marriage nullity in the Archdiocese of Adelaide welcome the announcements made by the Holy Father and will certainly be co-operative in the implementation of the changes.
We have always regarded the process as a pastoral one whereby the people who approach the Tribunal are treated with dignity and are listened to respectfully. The care of the People of God is our primary objective and the changes that the Holy Father has decreed are designed to make the process of nullity more simple and to avoid unnecessary delays.
For those people who approach the Tribunal here in Adelaide, it will mean some simplification of the process, particularly with regard to our competence to process cases. In most cases the final decision will also be made locally without recourse to another Tribunal. This will have the effect of avoiding delay which adds to the pain and suffering of those involved in separation, divorce and re-marriage outside the Church.
It is important to remember that the Pope has not changed the Church’s understanding of marriage as an indissoluble union between a man and woman. It is impossible to undertake a new matrimonial union during the life of the spouse, because as Jesus taught, marriage is indissoluble and there are many examples of this teaching in the Gospel.
The Church does not simply decree the annulment of a marriage, but the process leads first to establish whether a marriage may be declared null.
If a marriage fails and it is found to have lacked genuine consent or an incapacity to undertake the obligations inherent in marriage, or there has been an unwillingness of at least one of the spouses to be open to the possibility of having children, the Tribunal is able to make a ruling that the union is not valid.
Most Tribunals have asked for a partial contribution toward the cost of processing nullity. Pope Francis has asked that provided there is adequate provision for the operating of the Tribunal, the service would be free of charges. It has always been the policy of the Regional Tribunal of Adelaide to ensure that any fee would not be a burden on the applicant and to emphasise that the non-payment of the fee does not in any way reflect on the way the case is processed. There will be discussions within the Church at various levels with regard to contributions toward the costs in the Tribunal.
For those who have suffered the pain of separation, divorce and alienation, a declaration of nullity can be an instrument of grace, healing, closure and peace of mind and heart. The announcement and implementation of the new norms on the process of nullity is welcomed to aid the important ministry of the bishop and will take effect from 8 December 2015.