Pope: Justice cannot be sacrificed to charity in annulments
In a Friday address discussing the annulment process, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized that the desire to comply with the parties' wishes can never override the necessities of justice, and that only a false charity would allow people to live "in conflict with the objective truth of their own personal condition," reports James Tillman, LifeSiteNews.com.
The Pope was addressing the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota, the highest appellate tribunal of the Catholic Church, which handles petitions seeking annulments.
Benedict began by noting that one should "take note of the widespread and deeply rooted tendency, which is not always obvious, of contrasting justice with charity, as if one excludes the other."
Such a tendency, he continued, leads people to believe that pastoral charity justifies "any step towards a declaration of nullity of marriage for those who are in a irregular marriage situation."
The Pope pointed out that the Rota's work is first of all the work of justice: a virtue "which is the constant and firm will to give God and neighbor their due." Because "every work of genuine charity must include reference to justice," he said, it follows that "charity without justice is not charity, only a counterfeit."
Benedict said It is therefore necessary to "avoid pseudo-pastoral demands that put matters on a merely horizontal level, in which what counts is the satisfaction of subjective desires to arrive at the annulment at any cost, in order to overcome, among other things, the obstacles to the reception of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist."
"The great good of readmission to Holy Communion, after sacramental reconciliation, demands instead the consideration of the authentic good of the persons, which is inseparable from the truth of their canonical situation," said the pontiff.
The Pope quoted his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, which states: "Without truth, love slips into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled arbitrarily. It is the fatal risk of love in a culture without truth. It falls prey to the emotions and contingent opinions of the subject, an abused and distorted word, to the point of signifying its contrary."
The Pope also emphasized the importance of the virtue of fortitude.
"[Fortitude] becomes more important when injustice is the easiest path to follow," he said, "because it implies acquiescence to the desires and expectations of the parties [in an annulment case], or to the conditioning of the social environment."
The Pope concluded by urging that marriages be considered valid in cases of doubt until they are proved to the contrary. Otherwise, he said, one runs the risk of transforming every conjugal difficulty into a symptom of the "absence of a union whose essential nucleus of justice - the indissoluble bond - is in fact denied."
Bishop Antoni Stankiewicz, dean of the Rota, said on the same occasion that annulments should not be approached with a relativistic attitude. If one sees annulments as "an easy way for the solution of failed marriages," he stated, then one empties "the meaning of the declaration of annulment, as well as the very meaning of the indissoluble character" of marriage.
Click here to read the Pope's full address in the original Italian.