‘Justice and mercy cannot be separated:’ Three synod proposals emerge

As three proposals emerged from the synod of bishops to reform the process of marriage annulment, a participant in the synod has stressed that a narrative putting justice on one side, and mercy on the other, “is not a good way to speak about the issue.”
“This line of justice, and line of mercy is not a good way to speak about this issue. Those who speak strongly on not granting access to Communion for the divorced and remarried see this as an exercise of mercy, because mercy is bringing people to truth,” Archbishop Paul-André Durocher of Gatineau said Oct. 9
The Canadian archbishop took part in a media briefing with journalists together with Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and one of the members of the speical commission Pope Francis established Aug. 27 with the purpose of “drafting a proposal of reform of the process on marriage, trying to speed up the procedure, by streamlining it and at the same time safeguarding the principle of the indissolubility of marriage.”
The synod of bishops has come to discuss “difficult pastoral situations,” including pastoral care for divorced and remarried, and some possible solutions.
According to the Holy See press office, around 50 people made interventions on the matter between the Oct. 8 afternoon session and Oct. 9 morning session.
Cardinal Coccopalmerio stressed that “doctrine must absolutely be safeguarded, but we also should start from individual cases and from their concrete situations.”
According to Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, “in general, we can roughly tell that two lines are emerging at the synod.”
One line “strongly affirms that Gospel requires that if there is a prior valid marriage, (and one has contracted a second, civil marriage) then access to the sacraments is not possible, if we want to remain coherent with the doctrine and faithful to the Word of God.”
The other line, “though not denying the indissolubility of marriage, wants to discern particular situations, approaching them with mercy,” the priest claimed.
Father Lombardi also stressed that “we must not be taken by the temptation to put these two poles in contrast; the synod is walking its path, and I found that all the interventions were highly appreciated.”
The synod fathers also widely discussed procedures for reforming the process of marriage annulment.
Cardinal Coccopalmerio noted that “the discussion at the synod raised three indications” to reform the process of annulment.
The first is to eliminate the requirement for mandatory appeal. “Mandatory appeal” is the requirement that to have a supposed marriage recognized as in fact null, when one tribunal finds it to be null, the case must be sent to an appeals tribunal to affirm the decision, before it is official.
The second suggestion is that a declaration of nullity could be made by a single judge, rather than a panel of three judges acting collegially.
The third is that of “administrative procedures” rather than judicial ones. In this situation, if a supposed spouse testified that they had never held the marriage bond to be indissoluble, and there is no legal evidence in the case but the word of the spouses, and the marriage is “certainly null,” then the bishop could declare the marriage null “it is certified that those people are honest, and their witness credible.”

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