Francis Streamlining Annulment, not Downplaying Marriage

09 Sep Francis Streamlining Annulment, not Downplaying Marriage

New York Daily News: The announcement that Pope Francis will streamline the annulment process is another substantial move that signals to the world that he wants to provide real help for Catholics to better live out the faith, while at the same time inviting Catholics — and the rest of the world — to a deeper understanding of marriage and the sacraments.

Contrary to some reports, Francis isn’t making it easier for Catholics to remarry nor is he downplaying the importance of marriage as a life-long spousal commitment. Instead, he’s reminding us that strong family life is at the very heart of what it means to be Catholic and is essential for society as a whole.

An annulment is a legal declaration by the Church that a marriage was invalid and lacked the requirements for it to be considered sacramental. Traditionally, these requirements include a lifelong commitment of both partners, openness to children, and full consent of both spouses.

Under Francis, annulments will now be free (meaning individuals will not have to pay the Church legal fees to have their cases considered), the decision will be made by one court (as opposed to the previous requirement that two courts approve it), and the appeals process will be handled on a local level rather than in Rome.

Such a move does not alter Church teaching in any way, yet it provides an occasion for greater clarity. For a Pontiff who has spent much of the last year preaching on the need for stronger families in his Wednesday audiences, who is coming to the United States in two weeks time to address the World Meeting of Families, and who is convening an October meeting of bishops from the around the world to discuss pastoral challenges to the family, this move should come as no surprise.

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Christopher White