Are you a divorced non-Christian in love with a Catholic and are hoping to marry in a church? Are you dreading the long arduous process you have to go through to do so? Well it may not be so tortuous if the Pope has his way. In the current process the non-Christian must apply to the Pope through a tribunal and then wait for over a year for permission to be granted. But Pope Francis is likely to ease restrictions on the marriage of divorced non-Catholics to Catholics.
“In all likelihood the Holy Father [Pope] might be generous and decide that the Archbishop can give his consent for the remarriage of a divorced non-Christian with a Catholic. We will know in October when over 1,200 bishops from across the world meet in the Vatican,” said Reverend Dr John Abraham, the judicial vicar.
Though the church does not believe in divorce as a concept, it practices a detailed and exhaustive procedure before allowing a divorced non-Christian to marry a Catholic in church. The tribunal, consisting of three judges, studies the case and decides whether to send a final dossier to the Vatican to seek the permission of the Pope.
According to Reverend Abraham thus far only seven cases have been sent to Rome from Karnataka, since the tribunal began in 1971.
“But if the divorced non-Christian party gets baptized before the marriage then they can seek the permission through the Archbishop and not the Pope,” clarifies Reverend Abraham.
“But it is ridiculous if the Pope has to sit and give permission for every Catholic who wants to marry a non-Christian,” said 23-year-old Rhea D’Souza who is planning her marriage to a divorced non-Christian. (!!)
“So my partner has to apply to the Church requesting the Pope to annul his marriage. This whole process itself will take several months or even years as there are over 150 cases being filed every year,” she adds.
First the tribunal checks if the non-Christian in question has obtained a divorce from a civil court. After this the tribunal will summon the former spouse and other family members to check if the divorce was by mutual consent, and carried out in a fair and just manner. “It is important for us to find out if the ex-spouse was keen on staying in the marriage. We take statements of the ex-spouse, parents and other family members. In case we find out that the Catholic fell in love with the non-Christian while he’she was married, and that was the reason for the dissolution of the marriage then we will not give permission for the marriage to go ahead. The church cannot accept its own child to sin and be the reason for a broken marriage,” Reverend Abraham adds.
The tribunal then finds out whether there are valid reasons to annul the marriage, even if it is a non-Christian one. “Some of the grounds to annul the previous wedlock of a non-Christian include mental stability of the ex-spouse, whether the party [who is keen on marrying a Catholic] was forced or cheated into the first marriage, whether the marriage was consummated,” explains Vicar General of Bengaluru Archdiocese S Jayanathan.
The church also finds out whether the ex-spouse or the children from the first wedlock have been well cared for and their requirements have been taken care of.
“Once these issues have been set right by the divorcee and we feel that the two parties [from the previous wedding] are not willing to reconcile then we petition the Pope and the process of getting a reply from the Vatican takes about six months and then another four months to complete the paperwork before the two can marry in or outside the church,” says Reverend Abraham. In case this procedure is defied by the two parties and ends up in a civil court marriage, then the Church will not consider wedlock valid.
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Vicar general S Jayanathan and Judicial vicar Reverend John Abraham stated that the church does not insist on a non-Christian converting to Christianity in order to marry a Catholic, even if the ceremony were to be held in a church. The Church allows the marriage of a non-Christian to a Catholic on two conditions: One, that all children born out of this marriage will be baptized in a Catholic church. Two, the non-Christian party will accept the marriage as unbreakable and that he/she will not re-marry. “Though we don’t forbid non-Christians from converting, there is no obligation on the party to convert if they want to marry in the church,” Abraham told BM.
Watch the video for the Truth! Fr. Pfeiffer delivers another excellent sermon on the Beauty of Purity and the Rot of Impurity.