Bishop Rhoades does seem inspired by the Synod as an opportunity to help eliminate a few misconceptions.
The much talked about Synod of Bishops on the family has just concluded in Rome. Many issues were brought forward including a discussion of pastoral ministry to those who are divorced and then subsequently married outside of the Church. Part of this discussion included thoughts about the marriage nullity process (in common parlance “Annulments”).
On the one hand, the Church has the duty to teach and to uphold the teaching of Jesus on marriage.
In the case of a sacramental marriage bond (which is created between two baptized people), it is indissoluble except by the death of one of the spouses. When two people enter into marriage, the Church presumes that a valid marriage has occurred.
On the other hand, after marital life has broken down, Catholics can approach a Church Tribunal to examine their marriage asking the question: even though a true and valid marriage seemed to have occurred, is there a reason to suspect that in actuality a valid marriage did not occur?
Regarding this process of determining marriage nullity, there have been many misconceptions. One misconception, for example, is that children of an annulled marriage become illegitimate. This simply is not true. The Church states clearly in canon law that children, which come from a union which might later be declared null, are in no way illegitimate.
Another frequent misconception is that engagement in the marriage nullity process costs a great deal of money. Related to this is the common misconception that if you pay enough money, the annulment will “go through.” These also are falsehoods. Up to this point in our diocese, those who petition for nullity of marriage were asked to offer $400 to defray some of the administrative costs of processing the case.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades has decided that the Tribunal of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will no longer charge any administrative fees effective immediately for the processing of annulment cases. It is the hope of Bishop Rhoades that this change will encourage those who have been hesitant, because of financial reasons, to approach the Tribunal, although they believe that their marriage may have been null.