Austen Ivereigh Muddled about Marriage

Blogged by James on 25th October 2013

The point of Catholic Voices, if I remember correctly, was to explain Church teaching in a clear way in "the public square". Is there anything clear about this highly misleading article?

Communion for the remarried: Vatican opens door to reform via annulments

An important statement by the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation, the CDF, has reaffirmed existing church teaching on not admitting to the Eucharist Catholics who have remarried without first annulling their marriage.

But in the article in the Vatican’s official newspaper, Osservatore Romano,  Archbishop Gerhard Müller also opens the door to widening the grant of annulments in acknowledging that many couples nowadays enter marriage without a proper understanding of it as a permanent, binding union.


Let's charitable assume that Austen Ivereigh isn't doing this on purpose. That he is trying to be clear and only failing by accident. Now pretend you're a busy newspaper editor who has no idea what an annulment is.

Let's read that headline again... "Communion for the remarried: Vatican opens door blah blah blah". Nice one.

Then we have the ludicrous suggestion that the prefect of the CDF "opens the door" to anything. The fact is that Archbishop Müller's article changes nothing. No doors have been opened. Acknowledging that many couples nowadays enter marriage without a proper understanding of it as a permanent, binding union makes no difference.

Canon Law already states clearly that if "either or both of the parties should by a positive act of will exclude marriage itself or any essential element of marriage or any essential property, such party contracts invalidly" (1101) and "A marriage subject to a condition about the future cannot be contracted validly" (1102)

Earlier this year Pope Benedict told the Tribunal of the Roman Rota that the requirement for a valid marriage "as a necessary minimal condition, is the intention to do what the Church does". He quoted Pope John Paul II who said (almost ten years ago) "an attitude on the part of those getting married that does not take into account the supernatural dimension of marriage  can render it null and void..."

Archbishop Müller is saying nothing new. He is shoulder to shoulder with Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Francis. It is highly misleading to suggest that any "door to reform" is going to be opened "via annulments".

What does need to change is the attitude one finds in some parts of the Church that annulments are a way of cheating. That they ought to be as difficult to attain as possible because otherwise marriage will be undermined. That's nonsense. That's like saying cars would be less safe if it was easier to fail an MOT.

An annulment acknowledges the reality that there was no marriage. Popes John Paul II, Benedict and Francis (as well as Archbishop Müller) are talking only about the need for annulment tribunals to be aware that in modern times, not every Catholic couple actually has the foggiest idea about what the Church teaches regarding marriage and to properly apply existing canon law on that basis.

It's not a sneaky way to "reform" "Communion for the remarried" "via annulments".