Currents News Staff
In 2015, Pope Francis modified the Church’s annulment process. He published two motu proprio in which he called for this process to be free of charge and last between 90 days and, at most, a year in the most complex cases.
In a meeting at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, specialists in Canon Law further explore this issue by explaining that an annulment is not Catholic divorce.
“Divorce means that a reality does exist and an act is performed by which it apparently ceases to exist. A marriage that existed ceases to exist. On the other hand, annulment is not that. An annulment is that such a marriage was never formed,” said Inés Llorens, Canon Law, University of Santa Croce.
Before 2015, for a marriage to be declared null and void, it needed to be judged twice. Now, with the latest changes, one trial is enough. Pope Francis also encouraged bishops to speed up the process for simpler cases and to strive to be closer to their parishioners. He also argued that the process should always be free of charge.
“On the one hand, the Pope wants to guarantee access. For example, that those faithful who have financial difficulties can still have access to it without major difficulties. But this also means that dioceses will have to find the funds to help them somehow. Sometimes the process could be lengthy. This definitely happened in the dioceses and it has made some faithful unwilling to go through the canonical processes because they don’t want to deal with something so lengthy,” said Llorens.
The Pope’s determination to speed up the process is not so that there will be more annulments. According to his motu proprio, Pope Francis wants “the hearts of the faithful who await clarification of their own status to not be long oppressed by the darkness of doubt.” His priority is not to reach that point, especially in the case of young people.
“On the one hand, the Pope wants to guarantee the faithful some resources offered by the Church, such as the possibility of requesting the annulment of one’s marriage. The Pope’s main interest is to get there faster,” said Llorens. Adding, “To be able to form young people earlier so that at the time of marriage they will want and see the beauty of forming a family and giving themselves completely to the other, which is what makes us happy.”
Earlier this year, Pope Francis met with the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. It is the Holy See’s main court of appeal and is also responsible for determining whether a marriage can be annulled. Faced with such a delicate process, the Pope asked the tribunal to promote forgiveness and reconciliation between couples.
“The declaration of annulment must not be presented as if it were the only goal to achieve in the face of a marital crisis or as if it were a right regardless of what happened,” said the Pope.
This is Pope Francis’ biggest goal for couples—that they can resolve their problems together with dialogue without the need for an annulment.