We publish here an interesting reflection from one of the most recent members of the Denzinger-Bergoglio network (Spanish edition), a renowned Roman canonist, Who Will keep us notified about how things are in canonical circles at the decasteries in the Eternal City.
A new document has been distributed in the Roman Rota regarding the recent reform of matrimonial processes. It is entitled “Sussidio applicativo del Motu proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus”- a subsidy for the application of the Motu Proprio recently released.
This manual attempts to explain — with two introductions, 30 items and 4 appendixes — how to put the reform of the 21 canons of the Canon Law into practice, as employed by the motu proprio “Mitis Iudex” – when the document already contained 21 explicatory articles regarding the manner of applying the alterations. Now we have more on the same subject. In Rome it is said that these 65 pages only means more paperwork…which still will not contribute to resolve the worldwide matrimonial crises.
This “Subsidy” has not only circulated in the Rota. It was distributed to the G-9 cardinals on February 9 (News.Va February 9, 2016). In Rome, it is now found in Catholic bookstores, published by the Vatican Publishing House (Librería Editrice Vaticana); thugh at this point it is only available in Italian; Sussidio Applicativo del Motu Proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus, 2016.
In this study, we will be referring to it as Sussidio citing the numeration that it uses.
A spiritual “tsunami”
For those of us who work in the pastoral sector of the ecclesiastical tribunals, the motu proprio, Mitis Iudex published by Francis last August 15, reforming the proceedings of the process of matrimonial annulment, has signified a greater tsunami than the one that devastated 14 countries in Indochina in 2004.
Twelve years after this natural disaster, which claimed more than 230,000 human lives — how many saved their souls God only knows — we are assisting a spiritual tsunami that is causing difficulty for those who try to apply the Law of God with respect to matrimony. Not only for us, but also for so many other confused and disoriented people, so many broken families floundering in this paganized world, who have distanced themselves from the practice of the Commandments. How often do they seek a word of truth, of certainty and true mercy for the repentant sinner, within the wise laws that Christ himself bequeathed to humanity and his Church! For, no matter how confused or ignorant one may be, one feels the truth of the Divine Master in the depths of the soul: ‘The truth will set you free’ (Jn 8:32) People are yearning for the truth! Something that is not easy to obtain regarding matrimony…
Even Saint Augustine, the great Doctor of the Church in the IV and V centuries, declared the topic of matrimony to be “obscure and full of meanders” (De coniugiis adulterinis, l. I, c. 25), due to the amount of psychological, moral and social ramifications it contains. Consequently, throughout the centuries the Church has sought to interpret the true meaning of the words of our divine Savior. What did Jesus say about matrimony?
The mercifully clear teachings of Jesus Christ
To those who tried to justify their second, third, or fourth union…the Master responded reminding them that ‘what God has joined together, no human being must separate’ (Mk 10:9; cf Mt 5:31; 19:7; Lk 16:18), while explaining that ‘whoever divorces his wife causes her to commit adultery’ (Mt 5:32) and ‘whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery’ (Mt 19:9).
There is no such thing as second of third “unions” for a man or woman. Jesus, Word of God made Man, qualified these second and third unions as “adultery”.
To the contrite sinner, Jesus always offered pardon: ‘Go and from now on do not sin any more’ he said to a woman caught in the infamous sin of “adultery” (Jn 8:11). And when another woman, who was not only an adulterous but also a prostitute, approached him with sincere repentance, the Divine Redeemer declared: ‘Your sins are forgiven…your faith has saved you’ (Lk 7: 48-50)
This equilibrium, between the practice of the Commandments and mercy toward the sinner who desires to amend his life, is one of the marvels of the Catholic Church, in contrast with the deviations of heresiarchs who – just as the Pharisees of Israel – have defended the legitimacy of second, third and fourth unions throughout the centuries…
Applied to each concrete case, this equilibrium requires study, discernment, accompaniment and a verification of the reasons behind a “failed marriage”. A “failed marriage”, as it is called today, does not mean a “null marriage”. The causes of “failure” tend to be, as Saint Augustine said “obscure and full of meanders.”
Below, we shall recall the notable, fundamental and intrinsic difference between a “failed marriage” and a “null marriage.”
The confusing teachings of Bergogolio
Recently, we observed the confusing declaration regarding the annulment of the First Lady of Mexico’s marriage with her “first” husband, from which three children were born. This was defended by some, but disputed by others. There is little clarity in the “matrimony” contracted between the couple who received Francis on his recent trip to Mexico (The Guardian. Crux. LatinPost. Latin Correspondant.)
Are there many cases like this? We all know of them and there is every indication that they will multiply with the new legislation. For, ever since the implantation of Bergoglio’s new norms, in order to declare that a marriage celebrated between two Catholics, within a church was annulled — that is to say that the marriage never existed — it is no longer necessary to carefully examine the “meanders” and “obscurities” that may have been the cause of nullity. If the union is considered “failed”, one may easily obtain a declaration of “nullity” within 45 days without much investigation: the declaration of both spouses would be enough… For, in the new canon 1678 § 2, as it has become after the bergoglian modification, and to which the Sussidio refers (in number 2.1.a) as “the novelty of the motu proprio in the evaluation of the proofs”, stating that “the declaration of both parties [husband and wife who would like to declare their marriage null] can hold the place of a full proof”, with italics in the original. “Full proof” – that means that there is no need to present other arguments, in order to certify the authenticity of the simple declaration of those “interested” – it is enough that the judge have no knowledge of anything in contrary, which is obviously very easy.
The state of confusion created by the new process of matrimonial nullity
Who is going to judge? Those who do not require much knowledge on the topic…
Up until the putting into practice of the new laws, the previous legislation required that the process be undertaken by priests who had studied the “meanders” and “obscurities” of the matrimonial right, preferably with a doctorate in Canon Law.
However, the study of Canon Law is no longer in style. In Europe we still find clerics that have a degree or doctorate in almost all of the ecclesiastical tribunals; in other continents…. other continents, there are fewer. In most countries of South America, most of the current ecclesiastic judges do not even have a degree in Canon Law. They are priests, certainly good and prudent ones, but without the capacity of entering into the “meanders” and “obscurities” of the situation of a man and woman who swore fidelity before the altar….and then entered upon “new union”.
According to the new legislation the occurrence of a “failure” within the first union is an indication of nullity…though the technical expression is a bit more farfetched: the failure of cohabitation would be “symptomatic element of the invalidity of matrimonial consent” (see: Sussidio, 3.1.b).
A suggestive example: Henry VIII, his wives and concubines
For example: the separation of Henry VIII from his legitimate wife, Catherine of Aragon.
Married in 1509, the couple had various children, but since no male child survived, King Henry — as avid for heirs as for conjugal infidelity — decided on a hurried and accommodating “declaration of nullity” from the Archbishop of London, Thomas Cranmer. For, according to this venal prelate, there existed that which in today’s terminology would be a “symptomatic element of the invalidity of matrimonial consent.”
Consequently, Henry entered a “second union” with Anne Boleyn. One that cost St. Thomas More his head, together with that of St. John Fisher.
This “second union” did not impede the proliferation of the king’s conjugal infidelities, resulting in the birth of various illegitimate children, though finally Henry became tired of his “second union” and ordered Anne’s execution…
Henry then entered a “third union” with Jane Seymour…obviously there was another “symptomatic element of the invalidity of matrimonial consent.”
Insatiable, Henry had another three “unions”, one prudently moved away from the palace, another was decapitated. The last one, Catherine Parr, outlived the king (who was her third “husband”) and had still another “union” after that.
That is how our “separated Anglican brethren” came into existence, whose “example” of accepting second, third and consecutive unions is now being followed…
Bergoglio tranquilizing the consciences of those who Jesus called “adulterers”
And what about Francis?
The famous telephone call Bergoglio made on April 21, 2014 hit the news around the globe: he told a woman who had lived in a “second union” for 19 years, for which her parish priest — following the teachings of Jesus, who had taught that a man who repudiates his wife and marries another is an “adulterer” (cf. Mt 19:9) — had told her that she could not approach to receive communion. This woman was lacking a pure heart, necessary to unite herself to Jesus Christ. In this phone call, which was never denied as were other mysterious ‘calls’ of Francis, he told her to go to communion…without repentance…without abandoning the “second union”…one Christ had qualified as “adulterous” (Catholic News Agency).
Now there is worldwide news of a telephone call that Francis made to a permanent deacon, (legitimately) married, who is organizing the pastoral undertaking of the “The lost ring” for, as he himself explains “It would be important if the Church recognized the goodness and truth of the new unions” (Global Pulse). These second “unions” which Christ labeled as “adulterous”, and that so pleased Henry VIII… See this here and here.
Bergoglio wished to invite these couples “in second union” to the Vatican for a special greeting, presented by this deacon, who despite the little he may have studied regarding Catholic moral before his ordination, knows that Christ qualified second unions as “adulterous”; and therefore they may not be recognized either for their “goodness” or “truth”. Welcome, bridges, lack of care…this is the “culture of meeting” that Francis promotes.
And speaking of welcome, during his recent trip to Mexico, at the “Meeting with Families”, in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Bergoglio greeted four “families…” Well, in reality only two were Catholic families. For example, one was a woman with various children all born out of wedlock — therefore, not a family; the others consisted of two “common-law partners”, as they are called today, or “concubines” as moral teaches: a man and a woman who are unmarried (she is already married), but who have been living together for the past 16 years…they showed themselves proudly before Bergoglio and the television cameras of the entire world, proclaiming that their “second union” was “a marriage and family with God in the center.” What was Bergoglio’s reaction? He embraced them!
On his return flight from Mexico to Rome, Bergoglio was asked about the four “families” he had embraced. He preferred not to recall those who had completed 50 years of fidelity, but rather mentioned the concubine couple (16 years of infidelity to a former marriage!), explaining that what matters was the path that they were taking to be “integrated in the pastoral ministry of the Church.” He emphasized that all (married and concubines) should look after their children who “are the first victims”. It seems that God is no longer offended by sins against chastity, that he is no longer the “victim for our sins”; as the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus prays. The only victims now are the children…Bergoglio did not wish to say whether or not this “second union” that is “integrated in the pastoral ministry” is a family or not…
Confusion, confusion, confusion…
The Bergoglian telephone calls along with Francis’ public and manifest acts tend to create the impression that matrimony in no longer indissoluble as the Church had taught. Even though in some documents he remembers fragments of Catholic doctrine regarding matrimony.
For this reason, it is often that certain people appear at the tribunals stating: “now, since things have changed…”, “since the Pope permits this now…”, “as it is no longer necessary…” And in the confessionals too: “but now I don’t have to leave my second union…”, “but I believe that the first union was null…”, “but…but…but…”
What does the future hold in store regarding matrimony?
Do the twenty centuries of meticulous studies regarding the “meanders” and “obscurities” of matrimony serve any purpose? It seems that they no longer serve for anything. And just as the archbishop Thomas Cranmer, any prelate, with or without studies, be he or not accommodating, may declare any “first union” null, as long as one acquires the “moral certainty” of the “failure” of the legitimate matrimony (this is how the texts we are considering express this – see: Sussidio II.1.b; y 3.3.).
It is useful that we recall what the Church has always tught on “moral certainty”, “failed marriage” and “null marriage”.
The truly Christian concept of matrimony
These twenty centuries have taught us, that contrary to Cranmer, there have been many virtuous bishops and saints that have known how to distinguish, “moral certainty” from “opinion” (“I believe that…”); and have differentiated the two totally different notions which, in the majority of Latin languages, are referred to with the word “matrimony”:
1.The “act” through which a man and woman promise mutual fidelity, in wealth and poverty, until death, to have children and educate them. It is an act: It either occurred or not, at that moment, with these concrete people, in these circumstances.
2.The “reality” originated by this “act”: a familial nucleus, which is fruitful to a greater or lesser extent, giving the children a human formation and above all a Christian formation; while also contributing to the mutual complementation of the spouses, as God himself “thought of” giving Eve, our common mother, to Adam: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him’ (Gen 2:18).
When there is a valid matrimonial “act” (he and she both desired it, and they mutually consented to unite their lives without turning back, accepting their children with concern for their Christian education), the matrimonial “reality” germinates. The “act” generates the “reality”, which may not be undone by any human power, once it begins to exist, as the canon 1141 of the current Code of Canon Law recalls:’ “A marriage that is ratum et consummatum can be dissolved by no human power and by no cause, except death.” In the old matrimonial ceremony, when giving the blessing to the new spouses, the priests added: “I declare you husband and wife until death separates you!”
If afterward, the matrimonial coexistence “fails”, due to incomprehension, infidelities, lack of virtue, and a thousand “meanderings” and “obscure” motives, the posterior does not change the anterior: the “failure of coexistence” may not annul the “constitutive act”, which may only be terminated by the death of one of the parties.
However, with the Bergoglian praxis, and its new norms, a generalized confusion is spread among the baptized, among the clergy, and even among those who work in the ecclesiastical tribunals, that a “failed marriage” is an indication of a “null marriage.”
For example, it is more or less as if I had bought a delicious fresh strawberry meringue cake (the “constitutive act” of the pie is mine and I am responsible for it) and I bring it home during a hot summer day, leaving it out of the fridge for 48 hours…Of course, it was spoiled. Then, I return to the bakery demanding that they give me back my money! Did you protect the pie so that it wouldn’t be spoiled? Or did you leave it out in the inclement summer heat? My carelessness does not annul the “constitutive act” of the purchase of the pie.
The “moral certainty” of the nullity of a “matrimonial act”
And what about the “moral certainty” that the bishop should have of the nullity of the “matrimonial act”? Is it something so simple as to note: they do not continue living together, that each one already has another “companion”, and that children have been born, children that they must look after…????
Confusion, confusion, confusion…
The “moral certainty” that the “constitutive marriage act” existed (and therefore is not null) is acquired – as Pius XII magisterially taught, in the “Allocution to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota”, 1/10/1942 (AAS 34  338-343) – by considering diverse elements. It is necessary to distinguish this “moral certainty”, which necessary in order to emit a judgment in an ecclesiastical tribunal from the “absolute certainty” (occurring very rarely, in treating of human acts and the most hidden intentions of the psychology) and of the “simple certainty” that could be called “it seems to me…”.
One could say that we have “absolute certainty” regarding a fact when we exclude any possibility that the contrary may be true: we have “absolute certainty” that Johnny has broken the window, because the neighbor saw him with a slingshot pointed toward the window, and afterward heard the noise of broken glass. We have “absolute certainty” that a “matrimonial act” was null when we know demonstrably that he (or she) has a physical defect that they hid on purpose, so that the other would not be dissuaded to accept the marriage, for example that one of them has a glass eye.
In common language one says that they have “certainty” of something (“I believe that”, “it seems to me that”) when, on one hand, a rational doubt is not excluded from this certainty, and if on the other hand, it is admitted that the contrary could be true. This is found in everyday life. We have “certainty” that the bus is going to pass by at a particular time, because there is no strike going on, nor any other problem; but it could happen that it has a flat tire or the motor breaks…or something else that we admit might be possible, with a certain apprehension (real possibility), because the machines are old, and the road is badly paved, and this happens three or four times a year…We have (simple) “certainty” that a “matrimonial act” has been null when we see that ever since the first day of their marriage the couple argued, and that they both flirted with others during the lunch after the wedding…But this does not permit us to say that we have a “moral certainty” that the “matrimonial act” had been null. Returning to the example of Johnny and the window glass: if Johnny didn’t have a slingshot, and if no one had seen him, we could not have a “moral certainty” that it was he who had broken the window — even if the window was really broken, and perhaps Johnny could have been to blame, due to the fact that he had already broken other windows.
To emit a judgement, with respect to the nullity of a matrimonial act, it is necessary to have “moral certainty”. Pius XII recalled it in the Allucution cited above, and Bergoglio repeats it in the cited documents (Sussidio 3.3). The “moral certainty” about an act excludes, on one hand, any rational doubt regarding its veracity; on the other hand, it admits a theoretic possibility (not a probability, nor a real possibility) of being mistaken in this judgment. To have a “moral certainty” of the nullity of a “matrimonial act” we must exclude any rational doubt regarding the authenticity of the same; even though, theoretically speaking, it is always possible that there be an error of judgment, especially in a matter so full of “meanders and obscurities”, especially if some elements unknown to us might be lacking.
This is the complicated aspect of each matrimonial cause; entering into the “meanders” and psychological and moral “obscurities” of an act that was undertaken publically by a man and woman of legal age, before numerous witnesses, who now declare that they had not wanted that which they stated. Did they support each other mutually in the small difficulties of daily life? Were they reciprocally faithful, never seeking any adventure, or even suspicion of adventure with another? Did they frequent the sacraments? Did they pray?
The truth of Christian matrimony taught by Saint John Paul II
“There is need of only one thing”, the Divine Master taught (Lk 10:42): to have Christ in the center of our attentions while following his enduring teachings. This was the interior life St. John Paul II recommended in the Apostolic Letter Mulieres Dignitatem: follow “Christ’s way of acting, the Gospel of his words and deeds” (no. 15). And he gives as example the Samaritan, who recognized the situation of sin she was in, repentant: ‘I do not have a husband…’ (Jn 4:17), to which Jesus mercifully responded: ‘You are right in saying, I do not have a husband…the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true’ (Jn 4:17-18).
The truth sets us free, teaches Jesus (Jn 8:32). The truth about matrimony frees men and women from sin, from a life of suffering and infidelity on earth and from eternal death…hell. Who benefits from confusion?
What would Jesus respond to the Deacon Tassinari, when he affirmed — contrary to what the Samaritan woman said— that he wishes that the “goodness and truth of the second union be recognized”? Would he say “you are right” as he did at the well, to the Samaritan? (Jn 4:18) Or would he repeat as he did to the Pharisees that one who “marries another commits adultery” (Mt 19:9).
Adultery is one of the explicit prohibitions mentioned by God at Sinai to Moses: ‘You shall not commit adultery. (Ex 20:14; Dt 5:18), emphasizing in the verses immediately following: ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife’ (Ex 20:17; Dt 5:21). And explained in its details by the Most Good and Merciful Jesus: ‘everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart’ (Mt 5:28).
And Magisterially underlined by St. John Paul II in his catechesis of 23/4/ 1980: ‘Man commits adultery if he unites in this way with a woman who is not his wife. The woman likewise commits adultery if she unites in this way with a man who is not her husband’ (General Audience 23/4/ 1980).
May God deign to free the world from confusion with respect to adultery, concubinage, “second unions”, “third…”… So that Christ truly reigns in all hearts.
Rome, for the Denzinger-Bergoglio.
With gratitude to this new member of the Denzinger-Bergoglio, we express our eagerness for new updates from the Eternal City. Meanwhile, let us recall some teachings that the Church has transmitted throughout the centuries about this topic, pearls from the Denzinger-Bergoglio…
Regarding the indissolubility of the marriage bond:
Regarding the situation of those who live in a second union:
“It is necessary to have a fraternal and attentive welcome of the baptized who have established a new relationship of cohabitation after the failure of the marital sacrament; in fact, these persons are by no means excommunicated — they are not excommunicated! They are still a part of the Church. No closed doors! No closed doors!“
Regarding how the Church has treated those in “second union”:
About the reality of the Christian family:
“The family is an anthropological fact, and consequently a social, cultural fact, etc. We cannot qualify it with ideological concepts. Today there can be no talk of the conservative family or the progressive family: family is family!”
Regarding the historic and theological motives of the Anglican schism (yet to be published in English).