By Anthony Barich
Pope Benedict XVI’s comment on annulments shows the Catholic Church is “doing what the Lord wants” in upholding humans’ capacity for lifelong love, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney has told Australian media.
The Pope told members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota on January 29 that granting marriage annulments too easily and without any real cause plays into a modern form of pessimism that basically says human brings are not able to make lifelong commitments to loving another person. The Australian prelate refuted a question on ABC Radio on January 30 that suggested the Church is condemning itself to irrelevance with its stance on annulments given that more than half of all marriages in Australia now fail.
“I don’t think we are irrelevant in any sense at all when we are trying to do what the Lord wants, and the big challenge in Australia is not to make divorce easier and easier so there is a bigger percentage of marriages breaking up,” Cardinal Pell said.
He said that the Church needs to find a way to have more people enter into lifelong marriages that will last, though this is a “big call” because “society is running in a different direction, but that is what we are called to do”. He said that in Australia, “all our Canon lawyers work very conscientiously to try to diminish human suffering”.
“It is a difficult business but we are bound to do what we can to help in the sad situations of frequent marriage breakup,” he said. “A couple of years ago the Pope asked the Canon law sections of the Church annulment courts to decide more quickly, and I am totally in support of that; and also it must be available cheaply and it certainly is here in Australia.”
He also defended the Pope’s statement that members of church tribunals see a failed marriage and grant the annulment on the basis of an ill-defined case of “immaturity or psychic weakness”.
Cardinal Pell said that if a person is “genuinely and radically immature, that is grounds for annulment. But because a person is a typical 20 or 21-year-old it’s difficult to see how that would be grounds for a declaration that there wasn’t a genuine marriage”.