Pope Francis attends a special audience with members of the Parish Evangelisation Cell System in Paul VI hall at the Vatican September 5, 2015.
Pope Francis on Tuesday revolutionized the procedure for Roman Catholics to get marriage annulments, making them faster and simpler and calling on bishops to provide greater help to divorced couples. The most substantial changes to Catholic marriage annulment procedures in centuries again showed Francis’ desire for the Church to be more merciful to Catholics in difficulty. The 1.2 billion member Church does not recognize divorce.In a document known as a Motu Proprio, Latin for “by his own initiative”, Francis reaffirmed traditional teaching on the “indissolubility of marriage”, but streamlined procedures that many considered cumbersome, lengthy, outdated and expensive.He eliminated a previously mandatory review of an annulment decision by a second diocesan tribunal and gave bishops sweeping powers to judge quickly the most clear-cut cases themselves.The title of the document was “Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus,” Latin for “The Lord Jesus, the Gentle Judge.”An annulment, formally known as a “decree of nullity”, is a ruling that a marriage was not valid in the first place according to Church law because certain prerequisites such as free will, psychological maturity and openness to having children were lacking.Francis, who set up a commission of experts last year to advise him, said he decided the procedures needed to be speeded up so that Catholics who sought annulments should not be “long oppressed by darkness of doubt” over whether they could have their marriages declared null and void.
In a preface to the new law, the pope said he was “not flavoring the nullity of marriages but the speed of the process.” Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, the pope’s chief adviser on the issue, said bishops should aim to conclude simple cases in 45 days. Procedures have lasted for years in the past.ANNULMENTS SHOULD BE FREEMost annulments are granted at a local level and only the most complicated cases reach a special court at the Vatican, known as the Rota. Francis said the procedures, which can cost thousands of dollars in legal fees, should be free.
Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto, dean of the Vatican court that rules on annulments, told a news conference the new rules were the most substantive changes to annulment laws since the papacy of Benedict XIV, who reigned from 1740 to 1758.”The pope is seeking to respond …Read More