I have seen plenty of social media discussion recently on the new annulment reforms Pope Francis has brought in. Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (The Lord Jesus, the Gentle Judge) has brought with very mixed reactions from priests and laity alike.
Predictably, some are saying it is too slack while others say it is not changed the process at all. But there does seem to be the inevitable grey area’s of the document which let’s face it, is something we have come to expect from Pope Francis. For instance one part of the document talks about lack of faith at the time the marriage took place and how this could be a possible contributor to declaring the marriage void. But how is one to determine this?
It’s a very difficult question, and there is really no black and white answer here. I certainly do not envy the Priests and Bishops who are going to have to be making the decisions in these matters.
Of course some people will argue that Pope Francis is just asking for trouble by seemingly blurring the edges or allowing grey areas. What also doesn’t help is the fact that the media do not understand the document or even have the slightest idea of what sacramental marriage actually means. It doubly doesn’t help when they purposefully twist the Pope’s words to make it sound like he has said something he never said at all.
For instance I heard of a priest recently who received a phone call from a lady who wanted to marry the father of her child because she was under the impression that “the Pope said divorce is ok now, right?”.
(Stop. Just take a minute to notice your reaction to that last sentence. Did you laugh? Sigh and roll your eyes? Did you think how stupid that woman must be? Be honest with yourself.)
The woman was told that this was not the case and to consult her local parish priest. Of course this was the right thing to do, but I can’t help feeling this was a blinding opportunity for evangelisation and catechesis that might have brought this woman and her whole family back into the faith.
It was not this woman’s fault that she had not been given the correct information. In fact her statement only highlights the chronic lack of catechesis and pathetic marriage prep that the last two generations have had to suffer. If anything her lack of knowledge shames the church itself.
I have to say I am not totally up to date on the annulment reforms, but I feel it is something that practising Catholics should all gain some basic knowledge of. It cannot be stressed enough how sensitively one must handle a question of this nature. Because for many people, the harsh truth is that they will not be able to marry the Mother/Father of their children or the person they are in love with. Please do not underestimate how painful this sort of news is.
It can only be truly explained in the context of a relationship with Christ – because that is the only way it can be understood, and lived.
Let’s not moan and whine about the new reforms, but instead always try to be at the service of our brothers and sisters, and help them to rectify any marriage issues they may have. And if their situation cannot be rectified, let us respectfully help them to accept and carry the cross that they have been given.