Marriage needs work, says Pontiff
BY BRUCE JOHNSTON IN ROME
Too MANY annulments are being granted, the Pope said this week.
In an address to Vatican officials, the Pope said that all too often marriages were being annulled because of ordinary marital strife.
He told the Sacred Rota the only court that may dissolve a marriage in the Church's eyes that too many annulments are being granted, and for too unconvincing reasons.
It was necessary, he added, for couples to accept that staying together necessarily implied making sacrifices, and at times unhappiness and strife of the sort often associated with the everyday marital grind.
It would be "misleading" to promise a too idealistic picture of marriage, which interpreted this grind as an incapacity to carry out one's marital duties.
Apparently concerned at a growing trend of individualism in society, and the way marriage was being viewed as a contract, he told judges to avoid taking their cue from current secular mores, and making decisions that were too accommodating.
"The Canon Law is only the expression of an underlying anthropological and theological reality", he said, adding that a subjective outlook of the world ignored Man's metaphysical nature.
The main worry of the Pope, who has banned divorced people who remarry from taking Holy Communion, is that the Rota's judges are coming under the influence of current social trends, and subsequent changes to secular laws.
In 1985, the last year for which the reasons for sentences have been published, the Rota annulled almost half of the marriages it examined.
The Church has recently been at the centre of some famous claims for annulment. People who have applied and received annulments include the writer Evelyn Waugh and Princess Michael of Kent. Annulments are reported to be running at about 60,000 a year in the US.
The Pope's comments come in a week before the Churches in this country celebrate National Marriage Week. Over 900 churches are expected to take part in the week-long affirmation of marriage.
Anglicans can have their marriages annulled in the Catholic Church, if they wish to marry Catholics.
Meanwhile, the Pope has said that, while Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried cannot participate in the Eucharist, they must be welcomed as members of the Church and encouraged to participate in parish life.
Addressing members of the Pontifical Council for the Family, including prelates and married couples, Pope John Paul said: "A new union after divorce which contrasts with the precise requirement derived from the faith, but this does not preclude their commitment to prayer nor their effective witness of charity".
Conditions for annulment of a marriage include nonconsummation, immaturity and refusal to have children.