A first and second look at "Mitis Iudex" | Dr. Edward Peters | CWR
"I think these five canons and the official explanation that accompanies them raise several serious questions for ecclesiastical marriage law."
Editor's note: The following posts from Dr. Edward Peters were originally published on the In the Light of the Law site, and are posted here with the kind permission of Dr. Peters. The first post was first published yesterday, shortly after the release of the motu proprio Mitis Iudex; the second was published late yesterday.
A first look at Mitis Iudex
The Latin text of Pope Francis’ Mitis Iudex is here. The document comes in four discernible parts: introductory remarks, an eight-point summary, new canonical norms (for Canons 1671-1691), and a “Procedure for cases declaring the nullity of marriage”. Looking, for now, ONLY at the eight Roman numeral headings summarizing the pope’s introductory remarks, my observations are:
I. Una sententia pro nullitate exsecutiva. This portends a significant change in the law, eliminating the current requirement that all affirmative cases (i.e., nullity was declared) be reviewed by a “second instance” tribunal, essentially, a careful re-examination of the first decision. Canon 1682. Optional appeal remains in place. Canon 1628. I have always said that mandatory review is not required for justice under natural law and that it serves, in my opinion, little practical value in canon law. Some respected voices in canon law would disagree with me on that. The delays associated with mandatory review were, in my opinion, exaggerated by tribunal critics, but this step will certainly shorten the overall process.
II. Iudex unicus sub Episcopi responsabilitate. This represents little or no change in the law. Bishops have always appointed tribunal judges. Canons 1420-1421. With routinely-granted episcopal conference permission, bishops could already assign marriage cases to sole, clerical (including deacons) judges. Canon 1425 § 4. It appears that such permission need no longer be sought.
III. Ipse Episcopus iudex. This represents little or no change in the law. Bishops have always been the first judges in their dioceses. Canon 1419 § 1. Exhortational language that bishops play a greater role in hearing actual cases is to be followed in light of, among other things, the demands already made on bishops’ time and their personal training and/or aptitude for technical juridical work.