(Vatican Radio) In his annual allocution to the Roman Rota, delivered on Friday, Pope Francis touched on two major themes: the role of faith in making a marriage, and the complementarity of truth and mercy – especially as the Church’s marriage law is concerned in practice.
The Roman Rota is the highest ordinary appellate court in the Catholic Church’s legal system, and deals primarily with cases of marital nullity.
One of the judges – Prelate-auditors is their official title – of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, Msgr. David Maria Jaeger, OFM, told Vatican Radio the speech struck many of the Canon Law experts who heard it as a corrective to more-or-less widespread misconceptions about the way that faith “works” to make a marriage valid, and about the way that the twin objects of justice and mercy are served through the Church’s judicial organs.
“In speaking afterwards with professors of Canon Law,” said Msgr. Jaeger, “I have heard this comment: that particularly striking was the Holy Father’s corrective to the idea – of some – that a person must be a particularly zealous, active, practicing Christian [in order] to be able to contract marriage in the Church; ‘this is not so,’ the Holy Father says.
Msgr. Jaeger went on to tell Vatican Radio that the Holy Father was concerned in the speech to make clear the Church’s constant teaching through the centuries with regard to what does and does not constitute a valid marriage. “For marriage to be null in a particular case, it is not enough not to have active, explicit, zealous faith, but it is required that [one] person has actively rejected the sacramentality of marriage or excluded something essential to marriage from the marriage consent.” Msgr. Jaeger said, “Otherwise, the natural consent [of the parties], as the Church has always taught – the Holy Father insists on this – is sufficient to make a marriage, which between two baptized parties is also a sacrament.”