“It is a matter of tenaciously pursuing and completing a necessary ecclesiological and pastoral path, aimed at not leaving to the sole intervention of civil authorities the faithful who suffer due to judgments not accepted but endured.”
In the speech, the pope acknowledged that the reform, “especially the brief process, has encountered, and still encounters, a lot of resistance.”
He said: “I must confess that after its promulgation I received many letters, I don’t know how many, but a lot. Almost all of them were lawyers who were losing their clients. And there is the problem of money. In Spain they say: ‘Por la plata baila el mono’: the monkey dances for money. The saying is clear.”
“And sadly, this too: in some dioceses I have encountered resistance from some judicial vicars who, perhaps, lost some power with this reform, because he realized that the judge was not he, but the bishop.”
The pope signaled his concern over the implementation of the reforms in Italy as early as 2016, when he established a bilateral working group on the reform, composed of experts from the Vatican and the Italian bishops’ conference.
Italy has a strong tradition of regional tribunals, established after Pius XI’s 1938 motu proprio Qua cura. Mitis Iudex repealed or derogated elements of Qua cura, prompting Italian bishops to ask for clarification.
The Roman Rota issued a vademecum to Italian dioceses, requiring that diocesan tribunals be established “as soon as possible.”
Coupled with the request for smaller tribunals, the pope asked in Mitis Iudex that processes be free of charge. But Italian bishops worried that replacing the country’s 15 regional tribunals with more than 220 diocesan tribunals would be economically unviable.
The new motu proprio underlined that, although canon law allows a diocesan bishop to have access to other courts, “this faculty must be understood as an exception and, therefore, every bishop who does not yet have his own ecclesiastical tribunal must seek to found one or at least strive to make this possible.”
It added that “the reforming impetus of the canonical matrimonial process — characterized by the proximity, speed and gratuitousness of the procedures — necessarily passes through a conversion of structures and persons.”