Addressing officials and attorneys of the Roman Rota at the inauguration of the Vatican’s judicial year, Pope John Paul II said the bond of marriage must be defended as valid unless the contrary is clearly demonstrated.
The Roman Rota is the judicial department that revises legal matters in the Catholic Church, namely, marriage annulments.
In his speech this year, the Holy Father addressed the topic of ‘favor iuris’ enjoyed by marriage and the subsequent presumption of validity in the case of doubts, declared by Canon 1060 of the Code of Canon Law and Canon 779 of the Code of the Canons of the Eastern Churches.
John Paul II said that the “‘favor iuris’ of marriage implies the presumption of validity until the contrary is demonstrated.” Such a presumption, he added, “cannot be interpreted as a mere protection of appearances or of the status quo, since there is the possibility of refuting the act within reasonable limits.”
“What can we say then of the theory that the failure itself of married life presumes the invalidity of the marriage?” he asked. “The declaration of true nullity should lead rather to ascertaining with greater seriousness, at the moment of marriage, the necessary requisites for marrying, especially those concerning the consent and the authentic dispositions of the couple.”
“Pastors and those who collaborate with them in this realm have the serious duty not to give in to a merely bureaucratic vision of premarital investigation,” he added.
The Pope emphasized that “often the real problem is not so much the presumption in words as much as the overall vision of marriage itself and, therefore, the process of ascertaining the validity of its celebration. Such a process is essentially inconceivable outside of the horizon of ascertaining the truth.”
“The tendency to increase the number of annulments through manipulation, forgetting the perspective of objective truth, implies a structural distortion of the entire process,” the Pontiff also said. “The fundamental dimension of the justice of marriage which bases its existence on a intrinsically juridical reality, is substituted by empirical theories which are sociological, psychological in nature, etc, as well as by different ways of juridical positivism.”
“We cannot forget –the Pope continued- that an authentic juridical consideration of marriage requires a metaphysical vision of the human person and of the relationship between husbands and wives. Without this ontological foundation, the institution of marriage becomes a mere external superstructure, fruit of the law and social conditioning which limits a person in his free realization.”
The Holy Father concluded by underscoring that “it is necessary to rediscover the truth, the goodness and beauty of the institution of marriage which, as a work of God Himself through human nature and the free consent of couples, continues to be a indissoluble personal reality, like the bond of justice and peace, united from the beginning to the design of salvation and elevated in the fullness of the times to the dignity of the Christian sacrament.”
“This is the reality that the Church and the world must promote! This is the true ‘favor matrimonii’!” he finally said.