In a post sure to please reader and commenter “marriedforlife”, this post contains an interview transcript from an Australian radio program concerning the recent comments from the Holy Father to the Roman Rota, and an AP story on those comments underneath.

The AP article is the main story, but I just love this Australian radio interview because of some hand-wringing of the “expert” guest, who seems a little afraid of “reactionary” Archbishop Burke.
The interview:

AM – Vatican sharpens message on marriage annulments

AM – Friday, 30 January , 2009 08:24:00
Reporter: Nick Lucchinelli

PETER CAVE: The Vatican has sent a strong message about what it sees as the concerning trend of Catholics citing psychology as a reason to annul a marriage.

Pope Benedict XVI is concerned about what he calls the “almost automatic declarations of annulment under the pretext of no matter what psychological immaturity or weakness.”

An annulled marriage means the church considers that it never existed and for Catholics who remarry it’s critically important – they can be denied Communion without one.

Nick Lucchinelli has been discussing the issue with the Catholic social commentator and former priest, Paul Collins.

PAUL COLLINS: About 30 to 40 years ago they started, with the increasing incidence of divorce, the Church started to develop these psychological grounds; that is a person was too immature to make a lifelong commitment and so if a marriage breaks up, a Catholic can apply for an annulment on the grounds of what is called lack of due discretion.

Essentially this means that the person was simply unable because of immaturity to make a lifelong commitment. The way the process works, it can take 18 months or more, is that friends and family are consulted as to the level of maturity of the person at the time of the marriage.

NICK LUCCHINELLI: And based on these latest comments by Pope Benedict XVI, it would seem he thinks that this is a bit of a fig leaf to allow Catholics to avoid the responsibilities that they have when they enter into a marriage.

PAUL COLLINS: Well that’s been his opinion for quite a long time. When he was a Cardinal working in the Vatican he certainly gave expression to that point of view and in the latter part of the papacy of Pope John Paul II, there are a number of public statements which really were basically pressurising the American bishops to back off this grounds for the granting of a marriage annulment.

NICK LUCCHINELLI: The basis upon which people enter into a marriage under the Catholic Church is pretty black and white isn’t it? That it is a valid contract entered into between two willing parties and ratified by divine sanction; that’s the official church law, is it not?

PAUL COLLINS: Yes, that’s quite correct. That is exactly what the Church says but there are, people can say that they are doing that but the question is whether at the time they are sufficiently mature to be able to make that level of serious commitment. And what this provision does is try to provide them with some type of pastoral grounds if their marriage breaks down irretrievably so that they can continue to practice as Catholics and to have their, if they were to enter into another marriage, to have that celebrated in the Church.

NICK LUCCHINELLI: And is there a broader political play going on here within the Church?

PAUL COLLINS: Well there could be. I mean I was a little surprised as to why this would suddenly be announced at the present moment and the only connection that I can make is that just recently Pope Benedict XVI has appointed an extremely, a hyper-conservative I would say, a reactionary American Archbishop, Archbishop Raymond Burke.

The former Archbishop of St Louis has been appointed to what is essentially the Vatican’s Appeals Court. It is called the Signatura. Burke is a Canon lawyer, an extremely conservative one, and I suspect that there may be some influence coming from Burke and from others like him within the Vatican if you like pressuring Pope Benedict to do something about this.

And probably the signal is largely to the American bishops rather than to anyone else. And of course Benedict agrees with them so I don’t think he would need a great deal of persuading.


Pope decries pessimism about marriage

By NICOLE WINFIELD – 22 hours ago

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI decried what he called a spreading pessimism about marriage, saying Thursday it is not the impossible undertaking many make it out to be.
Benedict was addressing the Roman Rota, the Vatican tribunal that decides marriage annulments, the process by which the church effectively declares that a marriage never took place.
Circumstances for granting annulments include refusal by a husband or a wife to have children or the “psychological incapability” of one of the spouses to contract a valid marriage.
The pope says that granting too many annulments on the grounds of “psychological incapacity” risks giving people the pessimistic impression that marriage is almost impossible.

He said the judges and lawyers of the Rota should follow guidelines that say there must be a “specific mental anomaly” that seriously impairs the use of reason either when vows are exchanged or during the marriage.
The Vatican’s concern largely is directed at the United States, where the annulment approach has been more common among Catholics and where annulments are considered to often be granted too easily.
According to Vatican statistics, the Holy See estimated that about 70 percent of all annulment requests worldwide came from the United States in 2002. In that year, of the 56,000 requests worldwide, 46,000 were granted…