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Kurt Martens, associate professor, canon law, published an essay in First Things on the new norms for marriage nullity. See below.

New Norms for Marriage Nullity

From: First Things
Date: Dec. 4, 2015
Author: Kurt Martens

I recently attended a conference in Rome, “La riforma operata dal m.p. ‘Mitis Iudex,’”sponsored by the Consociatio Internationalis Studio Iuris Canonici Promovendo—the international association of canon lawyers of which I am a board member—which dealt with the fiercely relevant topic of the new procedural norms for marriage nullity. When I heard that new legislation was about to take effect and that this conference happened to be organized on that very topic with some of the architects of the reform present, I knew I had to go.

In his introduction, Cardinal Coccopalmerio, himself a member of the reform commission, said that Pope Francis wanted to abbreviate and expedite the matrimonial nullity procedure with the motu proprio Mitis iudex. The three key elements of this reform were to be: (1) the abolition of the double conformity; (2) the composition of the collegiate tribunal with one cleric and two laity; and (3) the processus brevior with the bishop as judge. He failed to mention, however, that the reform took merely a few months and lacked the usual consultation of specialists worldwide. While the reform is merely procedural, the conference politely avoided the question of whether merely procedural reforms did not influence doctrine substantially, and how these reforms may have collateral effects.

In listening to professors Llobell and Moneta address the details of the reforming document, and in hearing the following Q&A session, a number of things became very clear to me, in particular about the use (or not) of the processus brevior. It was established, for example, that if the diocesan bishop were uncertain about the particular case, or the procedure in general, he should not use the processus brevior. Also raised was the concern that, while the defender of the bond can appeal a decision of the bishop in the processus brevior, there are legitimate concerns about how many defenders will have, in conscience, the courage to appeal such a decision of his own bishop.

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