Pope to canon lawyers: Annulment process must be both secure and prompt

In a speech delivered on Saturday to participants in a conference on how to handle causes of nullity, Pope Francis encouraged a marriage process that is both sure of its judgements and prompt.
The three-day conference is sponsored by the Pontifical Gregorian University, and marks the 10th anniversary of Dignitas connubii, an instruction of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts to tribunals on handling causes of the nullity of marriage.
Pope Francis praised the document in his Jan. 24 address as “a modest but useful handbook that really takes the ministers of the tribunals by the hand toward the implementation of a process that is both secure and prompt.”
“A secure process because it indicates and explains with clarity the goal of the process itself, namely moral certainty: this requires that any prudent, positive doubt of error be totally excluded, even if the mere possibility of the contrary is not excluded. A prompt process because — as common experience teaches — he who knows the path to follow travels more quickly.”
The pope greeted all those who came to the congress from across the world, calling their presence “a great consolation” because “it seems to me a generous response to the stresses that every authentic minister of the tribunals of the Church feels for the good of souls.”
“The knowledge and, I would say, the use” of Dignitas connubii, Pope Francis stated, “can, even in the future, help ministers of tribunals to shorten case proceedings, often perceived by spouses as long and wearisome.”
“Up until now, not all of the resources that this instruction makes available for a prompt process, devoid of every formalism for its own sake, have been explored; nor can we exclude further legislative acts in the future aimed at the same end.”
He made reference to the defender of the bond, a position appointed in each diocese in marriage cases who, according to canon law, “is bound by office to propose and explain everything which reasonably can be brought forth against nullity or dissolution.”
Pope Francis said the role of the defender of the bond is a “proper and original” one in the marriage process, adding that “his presence and the faithful fulfillment of his task do not condition the judge, but allow and encourage the impartiality of his judgment, having set before him the arguments in favor of and contrary to the declaration of nullity of marriage.”

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