Cardinal Burke: Change in Annulment Process Could Cause ‘Grave Damage’

WASHINGTON — Ecclesiastical tribunals are an essential part of the Church’s saving mission; thus, changes to their procedures, including the annulment process, should be considered with great care, Cardinal Raymond Burke has said.

Understanding the Church’s tribunal system, Cardinal Burke said March 20, “requires an understanding of the service of canon law in general to the saving mission of the Church and its role in the Petrine ministry.”

Cardinal Burke is prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest tribunal court, which ensures the correct administration of justice in the Church, and he was delivering a lecture at The Catholic University of America.

“It must be clear that the process in question is not a matter of procedure,” but that it is intimately “connected to doctrinal truth.”

What I wish Church leaders would understand that the process should not just be about truth, which does necessitate the procedure.

It should also be about charity. Pastors and Tribunal officials can be so focused on the process that they forget the personhood of the parties involved. It can be very painful to petition for nullity, and to be objectified by the process can be dehumanizing, adding more pain. There should be some effective pastoral care in the process.

Well Cardinal Burke wont be making any decisions by himself as changes in pastoral approach would come under consultation by with the final word by Francis.

I believe the Cardinal’s comments are a bit too forward for my tastes.


The problem with news is that it is hard to know the context of a statement. If this is because of the initiative of the Holy Father to examine pastoral approaches in dealing with the divorced and those re-married, then everything he said makes sense, though it looks like it is being spun to contradict this initiative. The Holy Father wants to reach out to those that need the Holy Sacraments. The annulment process is not doctrine. The indissolubility of marriage is. The Church always balances truth with charity, as it must. Truth without charity is St. Paul’s noisy gong. Charity without truth is an oxymoron.

I agree. Also, folks should not have to pay for this process. Sorry, but why should there be money involved in it at all.

In cases of abuse, cheating, and other violence I see no reason for annulments to drag out and to cost the parties involved money.

Would you work for nothing. ?

Yes it could Cardinal Burke, yes it could. :thumbsup:

YUP…I do it all the time…volunteering and mothering…the volunteer part takes up at least as many hours as a hefty part time job…it is physically and mentally exhausting but I would not give it up for anything in the world.
Oh…and in our diocese, the procurator advocates are all volunteer…so if they do not ask to be paid, why should anyone else part of the annulment process need to be?
It is called MINISTRY, my friend.

This is an unfair generalized accusation against the leadership of the Church. You can’t fairly accuse the entire leadership of the Catholic Church of being uncharitable. Perhaps that was not your intention, but that’s the impression I get from the post.

What an awful mess! Our sex-based culture has thumbed its nose at any true meaning of marriage and society mocks the good with same-sex unions, cohabitation, contraception and fornication. No doubt these things have had a huge impact on anyone wishing to enter into marriage, and the Church is blameworthy as well for its non-existent catecheses on the sacrament itself.

Of course there are those re-married who are truly penitent and they do deserve mercy if there is reason for a decree of nullity, but just as surely there are countless others who want and continue to do just as they please. One instance comes to mind of which I am personally aware of a divorced woman, living with her boyfriend, who cannot be bothered to do “all that paperwork” even though her grounds for seeking an annulment would never be denied as her spouse is gay. She is a “practicing” Catholic not willing to hear anything the Church might say. And the others, though ardently warned they may not receive Communion if in a second marriage, nonetheless. and blatantly get into the communion line every Sunday. Given the laxity and mis-guidance of any true teaching on morality (some of the clergy continue to deny Humanae Vitae) at this point only the Good and Gracious Lord can fix this problem. I’m with Cardinal Burke!!

You are assuming that they don’t understand this? In certain cases you can be charitable and couch the truth in niceties all you want but as soon as the truth is presented as truth (doctrine) there is going to be backlash and accusations of not being charitable simply because one does not like what they hear.

Card. Burke, yet again, says it perfectly :thumbsup:

Thank God for him.


Yes, in every diocese, there are those who function as procurator/advocate without charge. I do that, too. But, that’s not a full-time position. It’s part of a broader, paid position or, rarely, is entirely volunteer. Tribunals are supposed to provide for the possibility of gratuitous representation, anyway. Great. But, those of us who work in Tribunals in a full-time position have to be paid something. It’s a matter of justice. If I didn’t get paid, how could I and my family sustain ourselves? I didn’t spend 24 years in school just to volunteer my time and no one should expect me to do that.


Remind me to stop by your place of business and ask for your product for free… :wink:

Oh…and in our diocese, the procurator advocates are all volunteer…so if they do not ask to be paid, why should anyone else part of the annulment process need to be?
It is called MINISTRY, my friend.

But the ‘procurator advocates’ are not the only ones involved in the process! There are others, for whom this is their (part-time or full-time) job! It is a ministry, but for many, it is called a CAREER, my friend… :wink:

Think about it in the context of laws in civil society. Your statement might translate, in a criminal court, to the assertion, “I see no reason for domestic abuse, sexual crime, and other violent crime to drag out and to cost the parties involved money.” Would that seem like a fair way to handle criminal cases? That is, should we just get the accusation of a violent crime and immediately decide the case?

Certainly not – if we did so, then we’d be doing a distinct injustice to those involved! The same thing applies to the process for decrees of nullity. Justice requires that we consider each of these carefully and completely, so that the decision that is reached is not one that is hasty and ill-conceived…

The question was: “Would you work for nothing?” and the answer is “Yes, I do all the time”. And there is absolutely no way possible I would ever equate a pastoral need/function with a product and the church as a place of business. I stand by my response.

That is not the relevant question. The Catholic Church does charity work all the time. Make the Bread of Life available is a greater good than making bread available. There must never be a price tag attached to any Sacramental Grace lest we commit simony. It is far better to have a fee that can be waived in a case of need and that payment or lack of payment never hinder or slow the reception of Holy Communion.

I was talking to a lawyer once—not a canon lawyer—and he made the comment that, with respect to civil cases, a lawyer’s job is to clean up other people’s messes.

It’s sort of the same with tribunals. People make all kinds of messes when it comes to marriages or attempted marriages, and the tribunal is expected to clean it all up so everybody can move forward.

But really, the tribunal has only one job: to determine whether a valid marriage existed from the beginning. What happened after the marriage was contracted has no direct bearing on the validity of the marriage, although it may provide evidence of the couples’ state of mind at the time the vows were exchanged. The Church has no authority to invalidate a valid marriage. It does not issue annulments. It issues declarations of nullity declaring that the evidence is that there was no marriage from the beginning.

And both parties to a marriage may not agree as to whether it was valid or not. I recall one guy whose wife had filed for an annulment telling me that he intended to fight it all the way, because in his view, the marriage was valid from the beginning and there were no grounds for filing it null.

And there have been some cases in which a local tribunal grants a decree of nullity, which is then appealed by the other party to the Apostolic Signatura, which might uphold the validity of the marriage.

Yes, the tribunal always should work to discover the truth, in charity, but it must find the truth.

Wow, there’s a misleading headline.
The actual quote from the Cardinal is that “eliminating the requirement for a second judgment would lead to ‘grave damage.’”
He was talking about something specific.

The headline implies that any change would cause grave damage, which is not necessarily the case.



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