06 October 2014, The Tablet

Cardinal Erdo suggests simplifying annulment process

The relator of the Vatican’s Synod on the Family, which began in earnest today, hinted that the process of granting annulments to couples whose marriages had failed could be streamlined.

Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest said it would be “misleading” for bishops at the synod to concentrate only on the question of whether the Church should revise its prohibition of divorced and remarried Catholics receiving the sacraments.

In his hour-long address this morning to bishops participating in the synod he said the situation of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics was a predicament “Pope Francis has said exemplifies a general need for mercy in the Church today”.

Erdo focused on the possibility of streamlining and simplifying the annulment process – the task of a special commission Pope Francis established in late August – and noted proposals to allow bishops to declare marriages null as an administrative action, without holding a trial before a church tribunal.

"Under the influence of the existing culture, many reserve the right not to observe conjugal fidelity, to divorce and remarry if the marriage might not be successful, or not to open themselves to life," the cardinal said, citing attitudes that could render many marriages invalid.

While he reiterated Catholic teaching that "a second marriage recognised by the Church is impossible while the first spouse is alive," the cardinal said it would be important to study the "practice of some of the Orthodox Churches, which allows for the possibility of a second or third marriage."

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