State Courts can’t Decide Obligations, Plea Msgr. Swetland
- Posted by Mary's Advocates
- On May 4, 2018
The Church, NOT THE STATE, has the sole authority to decide parties obligations toward each to other after an annulment decision “both moral and civil”
By Bai Macfarlane.
Today, I wrote to Msgr. Swetland.
Would you consider modifying how you describe the annulment process? Below is a 3 minute audio mp3 from your April 20 show, starting at 38 min, 44 sec.
You may recall that with the non-profit organization Mary’s Advocates, I work to reduce unilateral no-fault divorce. The separation plans arranged in the civil forum are arguably contrary to divine law in virtually all cases. The civil forum gives no recognition to rights and obligations:
- the obligation to reconcile,
- the obligation to maintain the common conjugal life,
- the obligation to prevent giving children scandal,
- the obligation to contribute one’s share toward the good of the spouses, and
- the distinction between the party who is counting on the marriage promises to be upheld, compared to the party who is reneging on his or her marital obligations.
In answering a caller’s question, you stated that the Church annulment process only judges validity of a marriage, and the process does not eradicate the civil consequences of the union. Next time you have the chance, will you teach about the canonical requirement for the judges in an annulment decision to instruct the parties of their obligations “both moral and civil” toward each other and the children? The Church, NOT THE STATE, has the sole authority to decide parties obligations toward each to other after an annulment decision.
Mary’s Advocates publicizes the constitutionally protected right to religious liberties and the constitutionally limited power of states to impair obligations of parties in a contract. When parties contract to marry in a Catholic ceremony, they are agreeing to uphold the canon law on marriage.
The Church authorities (NOT THE STATE) have competence to determine the obligations of parties toward each other and their children. This is specified in canon 1691 § of Mitis Iudex for nullity cases. “In the sentence the parties are to be reminded of the moral and even civil obligations binding them toward one another and toward their children to furnish support and education.” This requirement was also in the previously promulgated 1983 Code of Canon Law. See canon 1689 for marriage nullity cases, “In the sentence the parties are to be reminded of the moral and even civil obligations which may bind them both toward one another and toward their children to furnish support and education.”
In Catholic separation of spouses cases–that are supposed to be adjudicated prior to anyone filing in the civil forum—it is the church authority, NOT THE STATE, that has competence to determine the obligations of the parties. When the judicial venue manages a case of separation of spouses, the requirement for the tribunal judges’ decision shows the responsibility of the judges in canon 1611, 2o: “The sentence must: . . . 2o determine what obligations have arisen for the parties from the trial and how they must be fulfilled.” In an administrative decree from the bishop in a case of separation of spouses, he obviously has competence to make the same determination that his tribunal judges have competence to decide.
Conversation from “Go Ask Your Father” starting at 38:44. Full show here.
1:56 – Caller: The annulment process then dissolve the marriage? Right? So both parties are then – as if the marriage did not happen.
2:06 – Msgr. Swetland: Well at least in terms of — the determination of the Church is that a sacramental bond was not present. It does not eradicate the civil consequences of the union. It only deals with the – the – It’s the adjudication of the status of the validity of the marriage from the eyes of the Church sacramentally.
2:28 – Caller: Right and so the marriage is an institution of itself, so if it is dissolved it is dissolved for all parties.
2:40 – Msgr. Swetland: Yes, remember it is an objective (as best we can / mortal certitude) the tribunal judges whether, what looks to be, externally, like a valid sacramental marriage (or at least a valid natural bond for certain types of bonds) was in fact not a valid marriage in the eyes of the Church.