Pope’s revised annulment procedures might make synod back room shenanigans unnecessary

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The changes move the church away from a set of 18th-century safeguards meant to make sure that the annulment process wasn’t subject to abuse, Martens said. Those changes, set up by Pope Benedict XIV, included a provision that would require a mandatory appeal of the lower court’s decision.

“What guarantee do you have for a fair trial if you take away those guarantees that were put in the past?” Martens said. “Sometimes you want to go so quickly, you miss elements and make mistakes. Procedure law takes time to unfold.”

Martens said the way Francis changed the annulment process was unusual, because he did not go through the Synod on the Family, as expected, in October. [It takes some things off the table for the Synod, which explains something of the timing of this.]

“If I were a bishop, I would be upset,” Martens said. “It’s a bit strange and even a sign of contradiction that a pope who is big on consultation and collegiality seems to forget that on something like this. It’s highly unusual for legislation like this to get through that way.”

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Pope Francis’ New Federation of Catholic (Reformed) Churches?

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What’s gravely wrong with this picture?

…the motu proprio “Apostolos Suos” strongly limits that “authentic doctrinal authority” which Pope Francis says he wants to grant to the episcopal conferences. It prescribes that if doctrinal declarations really need to be issued, this must be done with unanimous approval and in communion with the pope and the whole Church, or at least “by a substantial majority” after review and authorization by the Holy See.

One danger warned against in the motu proprio “Apostolos Suos” is that the episcopal conferences might release doctrinal declarations in contrast with each other and with the universal magisterium of the Church.

Another risk that it intends to prevent is the creation of separation and antagonism between individual national Churches and Rome, as happened in the past in France with “Gallicanism” and as takes place among the Orthodox with some of the autocephalous national Churches.

That motu proprio bears the signature of John Paul II, but it owes its framework to the one who was his highly trusted prefect of doctrine, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

And Ratzinger – as was known – had long been very critical of the superpowers that some episcopal conferences had attributed to themselves, especially in certain countries, including his native Germany.

In his bombshell interview of 1985, published with the title “The Ratzinger Report,” he had resolutely opposed the idea that the Catholic Church should become “a kind of federation of national Churches.”

Instead of a “decisive new emphasis on the role of the bishops” as desired by Vatican Council II, the national episcopal conferences – he accused – have “smothered” the bishops with their weighty bureaucratic structures.

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