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On pope’s annulment reforms: “I find the implications of some of these norms stunning”

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Ed Peters takes a longer and closer look at details of the new annulment process—and he has some serious reservations. After going over them, he concludes: 

At the pope’s request, a tiny group of experts, most from just one country, developed these new canons and explanations in a very short time. I find, however, the implications of some of these norms for marriage law in general, and for diocesan bishops in particular, stunning, and I join Dr. Kurt Martens of CUA in wondering how bishops must feel at having such significant burdens thrust on them just in time for Christmas with, as far as one can see, virtually no prior consultation. I expressly cautioned against this approach last year and sound that claxon again. Assuming, in any event, that I have read the new norms correctly, and assuming that there are no easy resolutions to my concerns, what might one suggest?

First, and most importantly, the vacatio legis (a delay period before new laws go into effect per Canon 8) indicated for Mitis should be extended from this December until well into next year at the very least. If, as some assert, Francis’ annulment reforms are the most significant in the last three hundred years, a considerably longer period than threemonths is needed to prepare for them. If necessary, a request for an extension could be proposed by the upcoming Synod of Bishops.

Second, a much wider consultation about annulment reform should be conducted, a consultation that would involve, at a minimum, manyidentified diocesan bishops (identified precisely so observers could forward remarks to them) and canonists from several countries, especially from countries with extensive tribunal operational experience.

I repeat, some aspects of Mitis are sound. The elimination of mandatory appeal, for example, can be put into effect with minimal delay. But other aspects of Mitis, especially the fast-track annulment option, need, I suggest, considerably more study. I only hope sufficient time is accorded the wider Church to make such studies feasible.

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