Pope Francis has radically reformed the process by which Catholics may annul their marriages, in yet another sign of his desire to make the church more welcoming and responsive to people on the margins.
The three main changes are:
- Eliminating a second review by a cleric before a marriage can be nullified.
- Giving bishops the ability to fast-track and grant the annulments themselves in certain circumstances, for example when spousal abuse or an extramarital affair has occurred.
- The process should be free, except for a nominal fee for administrative costs, and should be completed within 45 days.
The Pope’s reforms came Tuesday in the form of two “motu proprio” documents, Latin for “by (the Pope’s) own initiative.” They become part of Catholic canon law on December 8, the beginning of Francis’ declared “Year of Mercy.”
While Francis reaffirmed the “indissolubility of the marriage bond,” he also said in Tuesday’s documents that “charity and mercy demand that the Church, as mother, be close to her children who consider themselves separated.”
In the end, the church’s many laws and institutions must be aimed at one chief purpose, the Pope said — “the salvation of souls.”
One prominent Catholic priest called Tuesday’s announcement “an act of mercy from a pastoral Pope who listens carefully to the concerns of the people.”
As reported by CNN