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In this 2011 picture, Pope Benedict XVI,meets with members the Roman Rota, the Vatican tribunal that decides marriage annulments, at the Vatican. Saturday, he told the Rota that granting annulments too easily undercuts marriages. / AP, Osservatore Romano

Pope Benedict XVI says granting annulments too easily is undercutting the value of lifelong marriage.

In a speech Saturday, he asked the Vatican's highest appeals court to consider reviewing church rules on marriage annulments.

He told to the members of the tribunal of the Roman Rota, that "lack of faith" on the part of the spouses can affect the validity of a marriage, according to Religion News Service.

While the Catholic Church forbids remarried divorcees from taking Communion, church tribunals can declare a marriage void if it can be demonstrated that some key elements -- such as a commitment to have children -- were missing in the first place.

Catholics who obtain an annulment for their first marriage can then remarry without facing church sanctions.

In his speech to Rota judges, Benedict stressed he wasn't suggesting an automatic link "between the lack of faith and the invalidity of marriage," but seemed to equate a "lack of faith" with other justifications for an annulment.

According to Catholic News Service, Benedict cautioned that tribunals need to defend the sacrament of marriage as a lifelong commitment by requiring deep and serious causes for a religious divorce.

He quoted Pope John Paul II in telling the Rota members they were the bulwark against "the scandal of seeing the value of Christian marriage destroyed in practice by the exaggerated and almost automatic multiplication of declarations of nullity."

According to canon law, the validity of a marriage requires that both the man and woman freely and publicly consent to the union and that they have the psychological capacity to assume the obligations of marriage.

But "Immaturity or psychic weakness," the most frequently cited reasons for seeking an annulment, are not good enough reasons, Pope Benedict said, according to the Catholic News Service report.

Our Sunday Visitor, the nation's largest Catholic weekly, reported in May that the USA , home to 6% of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, accounts for "about two-thirds of annulments granted each year by Church tribunals globally."

That number rose sharply between 1968 when there were 338 annulments, to a peak of more than 60,000 in the early '90's according to Our Sunday Visitor.

A 2007 study by Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., found only 15 percent of currently divorced Catholics said they sought an annulment, 7% had their annulment granted and 8% did not.

Miguel Angel Ortiz, a professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, told Religion News Service that Benedict wasn't so much addressing the specific issue of remarried divorcees but addressing the relation between the spouses' personal faith and the validity of marriage, including its commitment to fidelity.

For Ortiz, the pope's reflection could "speed up the process of declaring a marriage invalid" without changing the substance of the process itself.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Pope: Easy annulments undercut value of marriage

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