Pope Francis Tells Judges "May the Holy Spirit, whom you invoke before any decision to be made on the truth of marriage...judges must pray a lot!"



Sala Clementina
Friday, January 29, 2021

Dear brothers and sisters!

I should speak on my feet but you know sciatica is a bit of a nuisance guest. I apologize and I will talk to you seated.

I am pleased to meet you on the occasion of the inauguration of the judicial year. I greet you all cordially: the Dean, Mons. Pio Vito Pinto, whom I thank for his words, the Prelate Auditors, the Officials and Collaborators of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota .

I would like to connect to last year's speech , in particular to the theme that touches a large part of the Rota's decisions in recent times: on the one hand, a lack of faith, which does not illuminate the conjugal union as it should - he had already denounced this for three times publicly my predecessor Benedict XVI -; on the other, the fundamental aspects of this union which, in addition to the union between man and woman, include the birth and gift of children and their growth.

We know that the jurisprudence of the Roman Rota, in harmony with the papal magisterium, illustrated the hierarchy of the goods of marriage by clarifying that the figure of the bonum familiae goes far beyond the reference to the heads of nullity; despite the fact that in the past a certain opening had opened to a hypothetical head of nullity connected to the bonum familiae . This possibility was appropriately closed, thus strengthening the theological figure of the family, as an effect of marriage as prefigured by the Creator. For my part, I have not failed to recommend that the bonum familiae is not seen in a negative way, as if it can be considered as one of the leaders of nullity. Indeed, it is always and in any case the blessed fruit of the conjugal pact; it cannot be extinguishedin full with the declaration of nullity, because it is not possible to consider being a family as a suspended asset, as it is the fruit of the divine plan, at least for the generated offspring. Spouses with God-given children are that new reality we call family.

Faced with a marriage that is legally declared null and void, the party who is not willing to accept this provision is in any case a unum idem with the children Therefore, it is necessary to take into account the relevant question: what will become of the children and the party who does not accept the declaration of invalidity? So far everything seemed obvious, but sadly it isn't. Therefore, it is necessary that the affirmations of principle be followed by adequate purposes of fact, always remembering that "the family is the basis of society and continues to be the most adequate structure to ensure people the integral good necessary for their permanent development" ( Speech to the European Federation of Catholic Family Associations, 1 June 2017). Consequently, we are called to identify the way that leads to choices that are congruent with the established principles. We are all aware of how difficult it is to move from principles to facts. When we talk about the integral good of people it is necessary to ask ourselves how this can come about in the many situations in which children find themselves.

The new sacramental union, which follows the declaration of nullity, will certainly be a source of peace for the spouse who has requested it. However, how to explain to the children that - for example - their mother, abandoned by their father and often unwilling to establish another marriage bond, receives the Sunday Eucharist with them, while the father, living together or awaiting the declaration of nullity of marriage, cannot participate in the Eucharistic table? On the occasion of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2014 and the Ordinary Assembly in 2015, the Synod Fathers, reflecting on the theme of the family, asked these questions, also becoming aware that it is difficult, sometimes impossible, to offer answers. However, Amoris laetitia . In this document clear indications are given so that no one, especially the children and the suffering, is left alone or treated as a means of blackmail between divided parents (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia , 241). As you know, the “Year of the Amoris Laetitia Family” will begin next March 19thYou too, with your work, make a precious contribution to this ecclesial journey with families for the family.

Dear Judges, in your judgments you do not fail to bear witness to this apostolic anxiety of the Church, considering that the integral good of people requires not remaining inert in the face of the disastrous effects that a decision on matrimonial nullity can entail. Your Apostolic Tribunal, as well as the other Courts of the Church, is asked that "the procedures for the recognition of cases of nullity be made more accessible and agile, possibly completely free of charge" ( ibid ., 244). The Church is a mother and you, who have an ecclesial ministry in such a vital sector as judicial activity, are called to open yourselves to the horizons of this difficult but not impossible pastoral care, which concerns concern for children as innocent victims. of many situations of rupture, divorce or new civil unions ( cf.ibid . , 245). It is a question of exercising your mission as judges as a service charged with pastoral sense, which can never be lacking in the delicate decision on the nullity or otherwise of the conjugal union. The declaration of nullity of marriage is often thought of as a cold act of mere "legal decision". But it is not and cannot be like this. The sentences of the ecclesiastical judge cannot ignore the memory, made up of lights and shadows, which have marked a life, not only of the two spouses but also of the children. Spouses and children constitute a community of persons, which is always and certainly identified with the good of the family, even when it has crumbled.

We must not tire of giving all attention and care to the family and to Christian marriage: here you invest a great part of your concern for the good of the particular Churches. May the Holy Spirit, whom you invoke before any decision to be made on the truth of marriage, enlighten you and help you not to forget the effects of such acts: first of all the good of the children, their peace or, on the contrary, the loss of joy in front of them. to separation. May prayer - judges must pray a lot! - and the common commitment to highlight this human reality, often suffering: a family that is divided and another that, consequently, is constituted, compromising that unity which made the children happy in the previous union.

I take this opportunity to urge every Bishop - made up of Christ the Father, Shepherd and Judge in his own Church - to open up ever more to the challenge linked to this issue. It is a question of continuing with tenacity and completing a necessary ecclesiological and pastoral journey, aimed at not leaving the faithful suffering from unaccepted and suffered judgments to the intervention of the civil authorities alone. The fantasy of charity will foster evangelical sensitivity in the face of family tragedies whose protagonists cannot be forgotten. It is very urgent that the Bishop's collaborators, in particular the judicial vicar, the operators of the family pastoral care and above all the parish priests, strive to exercise that diakonia of protection, care and accompaniment of the abandoned spouse and possibly of the children,

Dear sisters and brothers, these are the considerations that I wanted to bring to your attention, in the certainty of finding in you people ready to share them and make them their own. I express my appreciation to each in particular, in the confidence that the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, an authoritative manifestation of the juridical wisdom of the Church, will continue to consistently carry out its not easy munus at the service of the divine plan for marriage and the family. Invoking the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon you and your work, I will cordially impart the Apostolic Blessing. And I ask you too, please, to pray for me.

And I would not like to end today without a more familiar comment between us, because our dear Dean will have, in a few months, the youth of 80 years, and will have to leave us. I would like to thank him for the work he has done, which is not always understood. Above all, I would like to thank Archbishop Pinto for the tenacity he had to carry out the reform of marriage processes: a single sentence, then the short trial, which was like a novelty, but it was natural because the bishop is the judge.

I remember that, shortly after the promulgation of the short process, a bishop called me and told me: “I have this problem: a girl wants to get married in church; she already got married a few years ago in the Church, but she was forced to marry because she was pregnant ... I did everything, I asked a priest to act as judicial vicar, another to act as defender of the bond ... And the witnesses, the parents say that yes, it was forced, that that marriage was null. Tell me, Your Holiness, what should I do? ”, The bishop asked me. And I asked, "Tell me, do you have a pen handy?" - “Yes” - “Signature. You are the judge, without fuss ”.

But this reform, especially the short process, has had and still has a lot of resistance. I confess to you: after this promulgation I received letters, many, I don't know how many but many. Almost all of them lawyers losing clients. And there is the problem of money. In Spain it is said: “ Por la plata baila el mono ”: for the money the monkey dances. It is a saying that is clear. And this too with pain: I saw in some dioceses the resistance of some judicial vicar who, with this reform, lost, I don't know, a certain power, because he realized that the judge was not himself, but the bishop.

I thank Archbishop Pinto for the courage he had and also for the strategy of pursuing this way of thinking, of judging, up to the unanimous vote, which gave me the opportunity to sign [the Document ].

The double sentence. You have appointed Pope Lambertini , a great of the liturgy, of canon law, of common sense, even of a sense of humor, but unfortunately he had to make the double sentence for economic problems in some diocese. But let's get back to the truth: the judge is the bishop. He must be helped by the judicial vicar, he must be helped by the promoter of justice, he must be helped, but he is the judge, he cannot wash his hands of it. Return to what the gospel truth is.

And then I also thank Archbishop Pinto for his enthusiasm in teaching catechesis on this theme. He travels the world teaching this: he is an enthusiastic man, but enthusiastic in all tones, because he too has a temper of those! It is a negative way - so to speak - of enthusiasm. But he will have time to correct himself…, we all have them! I would like to thank him! I interpret the applause as applause to the temper. [laughs]

Thank you very much, Archbishop Pinto! Thank you! [applause]

Source: Vatican.va - Unofficial Translation