Pope Francis reforms Church law nullifying marriage
Pope Francis today issued two Apostolic Letters by which he streamlined reforms to the legal structures of the Church dealing with questions of nullifying the Sacrament of marriage in order that the parties may be admitted to new canonically valid marriages.
One of the letters is known as ‘The Lord Jesus, Clement Judge’ and reforms the Code of Canon Law (CIC) governing the Latin Church, while the other is known as ‘Clement and merciful Jesus’ and reforms the Code of Canon Law for Oriental Churches (CCEO).
The reforms are the result of an expert group appointed to study the current state of law and practice in the Church as far as marriage law is concerned.
The Holy Father explains that the reforms are guided by seven specific criteria which are:
· there should be only one judicial decision in favour of nullifying the marriage and not two decisions as previously
· there should only be a single judge, always a cleric, who is responsible to the Bishop
· the Bishop, being the constituted pastor and head in his Church, is the final judge
· there should be increased brevity in the legal process with only one hearing to be held within 30 days of the application
· the right of appeal to the Metropolitan See should be re-introduced
· the role of the Bishops’ Conferences should be driven by the desire to reach the distant faithful
· the ultimate right of appeal to the ordinary Tribunal of the Apostolic See should continue.
The preface to the letters makes clear that the single most important principle guiding the Holy Father’s action, and the work of reforms undertaken, is that of the salvation of souls which is the supreme law of the Church.