“It is the dissolution of a natural, valid marriage, entrusted to the supreme pontiff in his role as the supreme pastor of the Catholic Church.”
The dissolution of a marriage “in favorem fidei” can be approved on a case-by-case basis and only by the pope. In this way, it differs from what is called the “Pauline privilege,” when the Church recognizes the automatic dissolution of a natural marriage between two non-baptized persons.
The unique favor of the granting of dissolution for this reason also differs from the annulment of a marriage, which declares that a valid marriage did not occur in the first place.
In his 16-minute address, Ladaria gave some examples of how pastoral accompaniment is naturally contained in the juridical process involved in the application for a dissolution of the marriage bond.
One example the cardinal gave is the requirement, found in Article 4 of Potestas ecclesiae, that at the moment the favor is conceded it must be true that “no possibility exists to restore the partnership of conjugal life.”
Ladaria underlined that this is because the Catholic Church can never favor the dissolution of a marriage, but must always work first to preserve the union if possible.
Another requirement in Potestas ecclesiae is the presence of a new matrimonial project, either in the present or the future, he said, “and the presence of this implies, usually, the dissolution because the preceding matrimony has already failed irrevocably.”
Each person involved, from the couple to new spouses, to children, is in need of pastoral accompaniment, he said.
We must remember, he added, that a person seeking the dissolution of a marriage bond often needs pastoral care not only at the familial and relational level, but also at other spiritual levels, because he or she is often going through the process of catechumenate or conversion into the Catholic Church, for example, or is deepening his or her relationship with Christ and the Church.
“Thus,” Ladaria underlined, “the juridical pastoral aspect of the dissolution of marriage is only one of the elements of a much broader pastoral effort, which grants a renewal of all parts of their lives.”
In Pope Francis’ documents on marriage “even the accompaniment of the faithful in situations of crisis, indeed, in the failure of their union, is part of a uniform family pastoral concept,” he said.
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“Accompaniment is needed from pastors and possibly other experts at the local level,” he advised. “which presupposes that both pastors and experts are offered adequate preparation.”
He also noted that separation and divorce are often filled with suffering.
“In the end, in the norms regarding ‘in favorem fidei,’ the Church also turns its gaze to those who are not directly involved in the procedure, but only observe,” he said. “So one of the reasons for the granting of the dissolution of marriage ‘in favorem fidei’ is a unique grace, that is, it should be granted only once, as commanded in the sixth article of the norms.”
He underlined that the Church should make an effort to avoid the expression of an attitude of divorce when one witnesses that the dissolution of a perfectly valid marriage is allowed.
The same pastoral concern is expressed in Article 9 of the norms, he said, when it states that a diocesan bishop should consult with the CDF if there is a fear of causing grave scandal should the dissolution be granted.
“Obviously all of the articles of the norms of which we have spoken are formulated as juridic texts. They are provisions which indicate aspects to observe, which suggest questions to ask during the questioning of the parties and of the witnesses,” he explained.