Cardinal Versaldi: It Is Necessary to Defend the Full and Objective Meaning of Marriage

Counteract “Pseudo-Pastoral Trends”

Giuseppe Cardinal Versaldi

Giuseppe Cardinal Versaldi

By Giovanni Tridente – ROME, January 10, 2013( – Today more than ever it is necessary to defend “the full and objective meaning of marriage.”  Doing so helps counteract “pseudo-pastoral trends” that contribute neither to “the good of the person, nor of society,” but instead undermine the values found in the “natural family.” It is an especially necessary task for the Church if she wants to halt the daily “disaster” being provoked by the current “relativistic and subjective culture.” In the first place this disaster consists of a decline in birthrate and an increase in divorce. It extends however to include the “anthropological pessimism” that denies “the natural reality of marriage,” because it believes that “normal Christians” are incapable of assuming the obligations of a definitive commitment.

These are the words of Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, President of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See. He is also currently a Judge for the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, having first served many years as one of the Tribunal’s Referendarii and Votanti. One of his most important responsibilities is overseeing the proper administration of justice in all of the Church’s courts. This morning he spoke to the School of Canon Law of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, on the occasion of the academic celebration of their School’s Patron, St. Raymond Penyafort.

The Cardinal was inspired by the seven speeches given by the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the Auditors of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota between 2005 and 2012. He outlined a sort of “plot logic” found in the Pope’s teaching on the issue of the Capacity to Marry. Not only is the Pope’s “complete and solid doctrinal vision” manifested, said the Cardinal, but so is his concern for “correcting numerous trends” that are either superficial or partial within juridical norms. Often these are dropped from the “context of the other sacred sciences” and bent to justify “pseudo-pastoral exploitation.”

The Church’s pastoral action “cannot disregard the truth.” Rather, “justice, charity and truth” should join together in a “virtuous circle,” keeping in mind that even legal activity “has the salvation of souls as its goal.” In other words, “justice safeguards the truth, and truth pursued with charity drives the commitment for justice.”

In order to prevent nullity declarations it is surely necessary to invest more energy in preparing couples for marriage. Even at that stage there are “certain legal aspects” (examination of the spouses, publications, and other premarital investigations) that help to confirm the “truth about intentions, and the proper understanding of what a bride and groom are asking for with the celebration of their marriage,” despite the fact they are often reduced to mere formal tools.

The Pope—explained Cardinal Versaldi—referring “to a full and proper anthropological vision that underlies the legal truth about marriage,” affirms “that the capacity to assume the marital bond’s essential commitments” should be measured “in relation to the effective will of each party. This will is what makes the ‘capacity to assume’ possible and operative already at the moment of the nuptial pact.” For this reason, “consent produces marriage;” the validity of its existence “does not depend on the subsequent behavior of the couple during their married life.”

Versaldi later added that “we need to resist the temptation to transform the simple failings a couple experiences in their married life into defects in consent.”

It is assumed that “the right to marry is both natural and divine,” as well as “essentially inherent to human nature since the time of creation.” It is only possible to deny such a right for a “serious cause,” and therefore as “an anomaly, an exception,” as John Paul II emphasized in Dignitas Connubii.

The Pope also warned about the danger Ecclesiastical Tribunals face in forming “’local jurisprudence’ standards that become more and more distant from the common interpretation of positive law and even from the Church’s own teaching about marriage.” Consequently, he reiterates the need to make “the law’s application uniform and certain,” avoiding “the arbitrariness of subjective criteria.”

On her part the Church, “Mother and Teacher,” takes care of couples in crisis who are denied a declaration of nullity. She places “natural and supernatural means” at their disposition, suggesting for example, “a return to the practices of an authentic and profound conjugal spirituality” as well as “recourse to psychological help” where necessary. This may be done through family counselors who “have a strong Christian inspiration,” concluded Cardinal Versaldi.

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6 comments to Cardinal Versaldi: It Is Necessary to Defend the Full and Objective Meaning of Marriage

  • Andy

    Gail apparently the women or man that is abused by his or her spouse just didn’t pray hard enough for help from you ever. I guess as they are battered they should just pray more. Come on you really believe that a battered person should stay in an abusive marriage?

    Edited for charity

  • TG

    Brother Christopher, I enjoy reading your comments.

  • lisag

    If will produces consent then the couple must be more awakened to each other and the true nature of the sacrament of marriage. Love is blind and marriage ceremonies are exciting and all consuming. Jesus is usually last in the concerns of the couple. Discernment to the vocation of marriage requires one to take off the rose colored glasses and see one’s future spouse in reality. If actions after the marriage are not valid reasons for annulment then marriage preparation is all the more important.

  • Gail Talarico

    Sadly, since the late 1960s the Catholic Church in the United States has failed on a grand scale to follow Our Lord’s own command condemning divorce. Cardinal Versaldi has hit the nail on the head with his observation that the widespread abuse right now is that behavior after the marriage vows have been taken has been twisted to pretend there was no consent to the marriage vows in the first place. Wrong! This is false compassion.

    This pretense negates the doctrine of sin; it doesn’t allow for contrition for sins committed by the sinner, confession by the sinner, and repentance of the sins. Should wronged spouses not try to lead the sinning spouse back into a state of grace by their fervent prayers, which was always traditional Catholic teaching, and just file for divorce instead? That appears to be the not-so-silent nudging when you see the proliferation of the “Come and Get Your Annulment” ads regularly placed in Church bulletins hawking workshops for the divorced who want an annulment. Everybody’s doing it – so why not you, is the scandalous message presented to Catholics.

  • Br. Christopher Sale

    Padre Pio once wrote these words to Pope Paul IV.
    I offer you my prayers
    and daily sufferings as a small but sincere contribution on the part of the
    least of your sons in order that God may give you comfort with his Grace to
    follow the straight and painful way in the defense of eternal truth, which never
    changes with the passing of the years.

    I was reading this I was thinking how pliable this same letter would be to Pope Benedict.

    The line: in the defense of eternal truth, which never changes with the passing of years

    is such a profound statement. Many Catholics today believe that the teachings of the church

    should be adapted to suit the times. What Catholics are truly failing to understand is that

    God expects us to incorporate His true teachings into our daily lives. God does not have to

    adapt, we do. As a lay Brother one of the greatest of sufferings I’ve endured has been following

    the teachings of the church in my ministry. No one knows how much I would love to ease someones

    conscience by misconstruing what Jesus Himself as taught us. But imagine the disservice and damage

    I would be doing to the salvation of a soul? My compassion would love to tell the sinner what he or

    she wants to hear.

    Granted my ministry would be much easier if I were to justify sins only to ease a conscience or erase

    any guilt? Oh how easy that would make my life as a religious.

    Today far too many religious are caving into this practice only to be seen as tolerant and popular with

    their congregations.

    Jesus was a friend of the sinner as we must be as well. However with unconditional love Jesus made the
    sinner aware of sins. As Catholics we are to follow in the footsteps of Our Blessed Lord. There’s an
    old saying the truth hurts. However its far less painful then a damaged soul.
    As Catholics we are to love and stand by the damaged souls and guide them back into the fold of our faith.
    Please pray for those in our church who are continually ridiculed and attacked for speaking the truth.

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