Charity, truth and justice must guide Vatican court, states Pope Benedict


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Vatican City, Jan 29, 2010 / 11:21 am (CNA).- The Holy Father addressed members of the Roman Rota, the second highest Vatican court, this morning for the inauguration of the judicial year. In his message, he emphasized the importance of charity, truth and justice in guiding their work, especially as it pertains to upholding the Sacrament of Marriage.

In society today, said the Holy Father, we tend to "contrast justice with charity, almost as if the one excluded the other."

Alluding to a specific example, the Pope explained that "some people maintain that pastoral charity justifies any measures taken towards the declaration of nullity of the marriage bond."

In this case, he maintained, truth "would thus tend to be seen in a functional perspective, adapting itself to the different requirements that arise in each case."

Pope Benedict XVI told the members of the court that they must uphold the virtue of justice and also be strong, especially "when injustice seems the easiest path to follow, in as much as it involves giving in to the desires and expectations of the parties involved, or to the conditioning of the social environment."

Neither can they neglect charity, he added, because maintaining a "charitable perspective... will help us not to forget that those before us are always people marked by problems and suffering."

And, in the cases of annulment, "whenever there seems to be hope of a successful outcome," said the Pope, they must make every effort to reunite the spouses.

Another important issue regarding justice in annulments, added the Holy Father, involves the avoidance of "pseudo-pastoral demands which place the issue on a merely horizontal plain."

These cases, he said, are typified by the attitude that the importance lies in "satisfying subjective requests in order to achieve a declaration of nullity at any cost, with the aim of overcoming, among other things, the obstacles to receiving the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist."

This, explained Pope Benedict, "would, however, be a false advantage to ease the way towards receiving the Sacraments, at the risk of causing people to live in objective contrast with the truth of their own individual state."

"Both justice and charity require love for truth... (and) without truth, charity slides into sentimentalism. Love becomes an empty shell to be filled arbitrarily. This is the fatal risk of love in a culture without truth."

"The problem arises when the essence itself of marriage becomes more or less obscured," stated the Holy Father, adding that the "examination of the conjugal bond in existential, personalist and relational terms must never be undertaken at the expense of indissolubility, an essential property which in Christian marriage has, with unity, a special firmness by virtue of the Sacrament."

"Marriage enjoys the favor of the law," concluded Benedict XVI, "Therefore, whenever there is doubt, a marriage must be held to be valid until the contrary is proven, otherwise we run the serious risk of remaining without an objective point of reference for pronouncements of nullity, transforming all conjugal difficulties into a symptom of a failed union whose essential nucleus of justice - the indissoluble bond - is thus effectively denied."