Pope Francis' Revisions to the Annulment Process
On the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady (Sept. 8, 2015), Pope Francis published a "Motu Proprio" (on his own impulse), that is to say, a document of his own initiative that makes a few revisions to the marriage annulment process. We are pleased to provide the pertinent provisions of this document.
Basic Tenets That Remain
- In Canon Law, valid consent exchanged between one man and one woman makes a marriage valid.
- Marriages are presumed valid unless proven invalid through the annulment process.
- Annulments are not "Divorces, Catholic style." A divorce is a declaration of civil law that the parties to a marriage have permanently separated because the marriage has irreparably broken down. The Catholic Church believes and teaches that, despite a divorce according to civil law, the bond of marriage cannot be dissolved except through death.
- A divorced Catholic is not free to marry unless his/her spouse dies, or an annulment is granted by the Church.
- An annulment is a declaration by the Church that the original consent to the marriage was defective to the point that no marriage actually or ever took place. Such a declaration requires investigation and proof.
- Just as a civil divorce has no effects before the Church, a Church annulment has no effects before civil law. For example, children of an annulled marriage do not become illegitimate.
The Revisions of Pope Francis (effective December 8, 2015)
- The process has been simplified with the local bishop being granted more authority.
- The local bishop has been asked to develop structures to expedite the process.
- The fee for services is not eliminated, but its elimination is recommended whenever possible.
- The final step that required a second review of an affirmative decision by another Tribunal has been eliminated. Parties may make an appeal, if they so choose.
Revisions Within the Diocese of Trenton
The Diocese will study the revisions and make the required changes. The Pope's aim is to make procedures less bureaucratic and more accessilbe but without compromise to the Church's teachings and beliefs.
A note about the "fee"
The only fee attached to granting an annulment concerns the cost of services (secretarial assistance, salaries, use of experts, office utilities and supplies, etc.). The Diocese currently subsidizes 2/3 of the Tribunal costs. The petitioner's fees constitute less than 1/3 of all costs incurred.