BY A STAFF REPORTER
THE Pope has established a set of new regulations which should help to reduce delays in marriage cases coming before ecclesiastical courts. Details were given in an Apostolic Letter published last week.
The most common cases brought before these courts were applications for decrees of nullity or invalidity of mar riage, and the Pope said that the increase of such cases was a sign of a danger which might threaten the solidity of the family.
It was "a special sign of the decrease of the sense of the sacred nature of the law upon which the Christian family is based; it is a sign of the restlessness and disturbance of present-day life, and of the uncertain social and economic conditions in which it is lived."
Pope Paul added, however, that the Church desired to ensure that the spiritual wellbeing of many Catholics should not be damaged by the excessive lengthiness of matrimonial processes.
The intention of the Apostolic Letter, therefore, was to issue certain norms of con duct while still waiting for the full reform of the marriage process which the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law was preparing. These norms regulated the con stitution of ecclesiastical tribunals and the judicial process, and were designed to expidite verdicts.
Among the improvements arising from the new regulations, which would come into force as from October 1, 1971, and which were to be observed until the new Code of Canon Law is promulgated, were: 1) Cases could now be heard not only in the Court which had jurisdiction in the area where the marriage took place, or where the defendant habitually lived, but also in the Court having jurisdiction in the place where most of the evidence was collected.
2) Diocesan tribunals normally composed of three clerical judges, could now, when it proved difficult to bring together three clerics, consist of two clerical and one lay judge, if the episcopal conference so decided, In some cases even one cleric could sit in judgment, though he should be assisted, if possible. by an assessor and auditor.
3) These assessors and auditors could be laymen, and both men and women could accept the office of notary (the clerk who records the evidence). Lay officials in volved should, however, have knowledge of Canon Law.
4) Certain provision were made to shorten the procedure when an appeal went to the Roman Rota in Rome.
The Defender of the Bond, the official whose duty it was to defend the validity of the marriage brought into question, was obliged to appeal to the higher tribunal within the time laid down by law, against a first sentence declaring the nullity of a marriage. The President or the sole judge had authority to compel him to do this.
QUICKER, CHEAPER According to Vatican sources, the length of time needed to obtain a decree of nullity under the new regulations would vary from court to court, depending on the backlog of work at each, and the staff at its disposal. It should take, however, less than a year, making it both quicker and cheaper than obtaining a divorce in Italy. At the moment it can take years to obtain a decree of nullity and is expensive.
The Italian Government introduced divorce into Italy only six months ago, and the man who introduced the Bill and saw it through Parliament, Deputy Antonio Baslini, thinks that the Pope has, with the new reforms. tried to make it easier to obtain an annulment in a Church court than a civil divorce.
Baslini has called for a revision of the 1929 Concordat which regulates Italian relations with the Holy See.
The Vatican denied that the Pope has eased annulment in order to counter the Italian Divorce Law. He wanted to make Church tribunals a viable alternative to Civil divorce courts, as far as Catholics were concerned, but was mostly concerned with saving their souls.