Indiana diocese drops annulment fees

A northern Indiana diocese has eliminated its $400 fee for Catholics who wish to have a previous marriage declared null.

The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend announced Thursday it was dropping the fee immediately to dispel misconceptions and help create a more welcoming process for those that may have felt they could not afford an annulment.

Until now, the diocese asked those who petitioned for annulments to offer $400 to defray administrative costs

I’m sure the priest pitching the “Tribunal Support Sunday” collection will really fire up the congregation and fill up the collection plate. On second thought, they better find a different way to fund it.


Should be interesting, I’m not sure the mad rush will start yet. Streamlining sounds like a good idea.

Well good for them. I know of a person who was asked to pay $500 in Denver, Colorado. This individual told the tribunal to “forget it.”

No one should be being charged for this.

So no one should have to pay their divorce attorney or court costs? That is why this is saying. It is nice the Indiana diocese is funding this a different way, but someone is going to have to pay for it. I guess they will just be syphoning more money away from the parishes. :shrug:


Right now approx. 7% of divorced Catholics in America even TRY to get an annulment. If that number jumps up to 50% or 80%; who is going to pay for all the investigations?

If Fort Wayne-South Bend wants to eliminate the fee, that’s cool. But I think there needs to be a “recommended” donation. Make sure people know it’s free, but that it costs the Church a lot of money to do and anything they can help with will go a long way.

Or, perhaps another solution could be that you can receive a free annulment if you can prove you meet one of the following:

  1. if you donate more money to your parish/diocese then the average person in your diocese
  2. you pay tuition for Catholic School/College
  3. donate 10% or more of your salary to your parish and/or Catholic apostolates.

So you can get a financial break if you have the money to spend in other areas? What about a sliding scale system based on financial need?

Giving the wealthy a quick path to rectifying a sinful situation while telling the poor that they can either remain alone or forfeit communion sounds a lot like selling indulgences.

Maybe like a goodwill donation. Would that be fair?

Exactly, I guess we just all have different ideas of what is reasonable for major life-impacting events like annulments… I understand that not everyone has money–really I do, my family was poor when I was young–but I don’t think the moneyless situation should make a difference to everyone else. An exception does not disprove a rule, rather it proves it, that’s why it’s called an exception.

I think a sliding scale system would be nice, but eh, that second paragraph is a bit far-fetched and seems to me an emotionalism, as I call them… What diocese actually does re:bold, I mean seriously? Call a tribunal right now and I am almost completely certain they will tell you to not worry about money if you explain a cash-strapped situation.

Everybody has these horror stories but is all hush hush when it comes to specifics. If there were even an anonymous list of unfavorable dioceses on a blog somewhere I’d be more inclined to listen.

The Extraordinary Synod is bearing fruit. This is what mercy looks like, people.

A sliding scale is fine too. Basically give a financial break to people who already give (or even give time). But make those who give nothing pay the admin fee so the diocese doesn’t go broke doing the investigations.

But even then, if someone can’t pay… Don’t charge them. If they could volunteer to do something in place of money, I would be happy too.

I’m just afraid of diocese going bankrupt or having to lean more on parishes to pay for all the possible annulment investigations.

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.

While I would agree that Phil’s suggestions are not workable for those without funds, I would not assume that most people do not want to pay/donate because they are poor. A sliding scale might work, but even at that many people wouldn’t pay regardless if it was $50 or 500. Why? Because they see it as paperwork and nothing of value.

Let me give an example. My wife and I were asked to provide an NFP class for the Hispanic community in our parish. We were told that several couples could not afford the full class fee so the parish would pay the difference. We told them that we would do it pro gratis and would seek goodwill donations to defray our costs for materials. We made a suggested donation of $20 (about 2/3 our costs). We had 9 couples and received a total of $30 in donations. When we were packing up at least 3 couples pulled away in brand new luxury cars (Lexus, BMW, Mercedes). The one couple that I know that actually put money in the basket drove away in a beatup 20 year old truck. She spoke no English and he was a landscaper and based on the address on their check were not wealthy.

The moral is that just because someone donates does not mean they are wealthy. Conversely those who don’t are not always poor.

This is true and one of life’s mysteries.

I would note that most people who went through the civil divorce process, probably spent an arm and a leg on lawyers, and the till is probably empty by the time it comes round to the annulment process. And it may remain empty for a very long time with alimony, debt, etc.

I suppose this is one way to basically tell those who claim they can’t afford to apply for a declaration of nullity to either put up or shut up. But all things considered, I’m not sure I would say this is the highest financial priority of the Church. I would rather have my donations go toward children’s religious education or funding the corporal works of mercy.

There’s not enough money to fund everything, so what ranks the highest? In my own archdiocese, some of the activities that lost funding and/or were eliminated completely included outreach ministries to ethnic groups (Latinos, African-Americans, Asian-Americans), people with disabilities, campus ministry to college students, and some prison ministries.

How do you make these decisions?

I don’t think it was emotional at all. It wasn’t in response to having to pay annulment fees, it was in response to the idea that the people who have money should be given a break, while the people who genuinely can’t afford to hand over hundreds of dollars for an annulment are told that they must-simply because they couldn’t afford to hand over money in other situations either.

I’m a HUGE believer in sliding scale fees. When they work, they do so beautifully. However, in order for them to work, it is essential that proof of income be required. Pay stubs, tax documents, whatever. Just something to demonstrate a need. I’m even a big believer in formulas-considering not only income but food, housing, and transportation expenses.

I called it an emotionalism because I don’t really think any diocese, at least in the United States, would dogmatically insist on forking over cash to hear an annulment case in their tribunal. It’s not that I disagree with the principle of what you say, it’s that I disagree that it happens in fact here in the specific circumstances you say (in the context of Catholic declarations of nullity).

I am pretty sure it is too late for me to get a refund.:wink:

Just to be clear, at least since the 1990’s when I obtained my declaration of nullity, the fee was always waived if you could not afford it, and your financial status had no effect on how your case was handled. Most annullment cases are complicated and cost the diocese a lot more than the suggested fee. Also the fee being abolished has not risen since at least the 1990’s. I was in a somewhat priveleged position, in that I could personally complain to Bishop D’Arcy about the length of the process, and he was most generous with his time. In response to other complaints in addition to mine, he increased the resources devoted to the Marriage Tribunal.

Bishop Rhoades is a canon lawyer and understands the process better than many other bishops. There is great mercy in moving at a faster pace as long as truth is not compromised by doing so. Many people do not seek a declaration of nullity until they are already in an irregular relationship which puts them in spiritual jeopardy.

How is it just that someone else should have to pay for the costs of the abused annulment process?

That’s your opinion. Do you have evidence that it is abused?

Someone else pays for your altar bread, for your priest’s vestments, for your hymnal and worship aids, for the organ you enjoy and the air conditioning/heating which keeps you comfortable when worshipping. In the Book of Acts, the Church was of one heart and mind and kept all their belongings in common. To each according to their need. Why can’t it be the same today?

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