In a followup to his excellent analysis of the new merciful FrancisAnnulment edicts released this week, canonist Dr. Peters has a telling revisit to the story of the Pope’s niece, Maria.
Pope Francis’ niece, María Inés Narvaja, thinks she understands her uncle’s interest in fast-track annulments. Yes, the lawyer in me cautions that Maria’s attributions of statements to her uncle, then-Abp. Bergoglio, are hearsay, but, we’re not in a courtroom, we’re in the blogosphere. Besides what Maria says about the future Francis is illuminating.
Maria recalls that she (or her intended?) applied for an annulment but was told by Argentine Church officials that her case would take four years. She reacted with a young-woman-in-love’s “pffft!” and announced that she would marry civilly. Per María, her uncle endorsed the idea. Maybe, maybe not, that’s not the question here. The question is whether Maria’s (or her intended’s) annulment case would really have taken four years (despite 1983 CIC 1453, setting 18 months as the norm). Personally, I believe her.
I once worked on a marriage case that (fascinating canon-law-of-jurisdiction details omitted) could have been heard in either America or Argentina. Both tribunals turned to Rome for guidance, with the Argentine tribunal asking that the case be heard in the USA! They said their cases take an average of, yes, four years to process. That delay was not necessarily the Argentine Church’s fault; they probably did not have the resources to hear marriage cases more quickly. But it lends support to Maria’s claim about long delays in Argentine tribunals and that in turn would help explain Francis’ impatience to fix an obvious pastoral problem.
Of course, what might well be a serious problem in one Church need not be a problem in another, and a cure for a problem—setting aside whether the cure itself is really a good one—imposed where a cure is not needed can actually cause even more problems. Still, it’s an interesting insight into Francis’ attitudes.
‘Attitude’ is the appropriate word here. Uncle Bergoglio’s attitude is bigger than the Church and its guidance, bigger than her teaching. It’s the attitude of a Protestant ‘reformer.’
I think it’s probably true that Maria’s uncle, our Francis, told her to just skip the annulment and get remarried. Based upon all kinds of similar unconfirmed stories Pope Francis seems to have spent his entire career waiving Church teaching and rules. He hates rules almost as much as he hates those Pharisees. Rules are the opposite of mercy, see. You have to have the right balance they say, as if these were in opposition. So trim some of those rules! Be nice! (Be liberal.)
But of course, hating rules doesn’t make you merciful. It just makes you criminal and if those rules violate God’s laws, it makes you sinful.
It’s not mercy to enable heinous acts like marriage betrayal. On the contrary it’s ruthless to those involved. It’s an injustice to all the other family members and wound to society. People underestimate the damage done because it rides beneath the surface, like abortion. Even murder relieves pain and yields benefits…for the living. For some people, murder is mercy.
How does a man like Francis maintain such a twisted view on life? It’s a mystery.
This story demonstrates something else which is very timely. It reveals that Francis believes annulments are really just the same as divorces. He couldn’t care less about the procedure because he couldn’t care less about the grounds. It certainly is cruel and bureaucratic to make people wait a long time for some useless procedure. The only problem is, it’s not useless. It has to do with whether people were actually married. It concerns their souls, their abandoned spouses, and everyone else.
These new declarations are just ‘no fault’ annulments. Any excuse will do, especially if they both want it and neither side actually cares.