Wider still and wider
Wider grounds for nullity in marriage and recently formed courts of final appeal have become part of Church Marriage Tribunal processes in. Britain since the last Vatican Council.
Canon lawyers emphasise that there has been no change in Church law, but that greater consideration is being given to the fact that marriage is a personal relationship.
Mgr. John Humphreys, presiding judge of Birmingham Diocese Matrimonial Tribunal, said: "Lack of due discretion is coming to the fore more and more as grOunds for annulment.
"There are no new grounds — only in the sense of terminology. Grounds were already there before the Vatican Council, but they were never developed.
"A marriage relationship nowadays is not the same as it was a hundred years ago. Now there are all kinds of pressures. There is a change in the people themselves, worried by the new circumstances."
Mgr. Humphreys said people used to have a long courtship and were not so inclined to run into marriage after a few months. as often happened today. This could he a case of "lack of due discretion."
Mgr. Humphreys, whose tribunal hears appeals from the Diocese of Westminster's tribunal, said he knew of no major changes over the annulment of marriages. But certain exceptional final appeals could now be heard in Britain instead of going on to the Roman Rota.
A "Third Instance Tribunal" heard appeals which had already been rejected by one diocese and its court of appeal. Three cases had already been heard by the court here, but Mgr. Humphreys stressed that these were "specially urgent." The Rota could take at least two years to consider a case, while the new "third instance" court did its work in three months.
He agreed that more cases were coming before matrimonial courts, but thought this was because people were coming to have more knowledge about the traditional grounds for annulment, such as impotence.
Asked if annulments were being more readily granted, he said: "Some courts are harder than before, others more lenient."
Fr. Sean Fagan, a Marist, 'recently argued for acceptance of the term "psychological consummation," lack of it being a grounds for annulment.
Admitting this made for problems, he said: "It seems to be more in keeping with the personalist approach of the Vatican Council, which teaches that love is the essence of marriage and that marriage itself is not static, once-foreternity, but a dynamic process of continual growth."
Fr. Fagan said psychological consummation would cover immaturity, homosexuality and "the personality disorders which make a basic marriage fidelity impossible."
Fr. Adrian Hailer, Principal Advocate of the Westminster Tribunal, said: "Cases are considered now that would not have been considered before." But he knew of no case in Britain based on "psychological consummation' and said this ground had not been approved by the Roman Rota, which guided the Marriage Tribunals.
Fr. Francis Handley, for 13 years training officer with the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council, said "lack of due discretion" was increasingly recognised as a ground for annulment by the Church.
With increasing emphasis on marriage as a personal relationship, the laws were taking note of the findings of psychological and psychiatric research. He saw the law "trying to get at the reality of the situation and build rules which get at it."