Pope Benedict has warned against "a distorted interpretation" of canonical norms that may have led to a massive rise in the number of annulment cases being considered by church courts.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Pope Benedict ordered the clampdown after new figures showed that the Church's appeals court allowed 69 annulments in 2005 for reasons which included husbands being too attached to their mothers.
The court, known as the Sacra Rota (pic above), considers petitions from couples claiming their marriages were never truly valid.Among the reasons cited as grounds for annulment were an "inability to assume conjugal obligations", usually due to a childhood trauma, alcoholism, use of cannabis, infidelity and a serious lack of "moderation in judgement" by a partner, meaning jealousy or a propensity to lie.
But the Pope appeared to take a hard line on Saturday when he told the court's 20 judges to "respond with courage and faith" to "a distorted interpretation of the canonical norms in force".According to the Catholic News Agency, Pope Benedict in his annual address to the court also lamented that in many ecclesial circles there is a feeling that out of a desire for pastoral sensitivity, there should be created a "sort of canonical regularisation, independent from the validity or nullity of marriage, that is to say, independent from the reality surrounding their personal conditions".
He emphasised that "in the face of the subjectivist and libertarian relativisation of the sexual experience, the tradition of the Church clearly affirms the naturally juridical nature of matrimony".In the address, the Pope also criticised the Italian Government's plans for a law defining rights for unmarried couples.
Marriage, he said, was in danger of becoming no more than a legal agreement, "manipulated at will", and "denied of its heterosexual character". The Italian Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, said on Saturday that a bill on civil unions was close, the Sydney Morning Herald says.
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