New papal documents on annulments to be released September 8

Two papal letters reforming the process of declaring marriages null will be released on September 8, according to the Holy See Press Office.

The first motu proprio, Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus [The Meek Judge, the Lord Jesus] will introduce changes to procedures discussed in the Code of Canon Law. The second motu proprio, Mitis et misericors Iesus [The Meek and Merciful Jesus], will introduce changes to procedures discussed in Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.

This is big news. Any ideas of what changes are being introduced?

I will be interested to know what the changes are as well.

One of Pope Francis’ most successful reforms at the Vatican seems to be an efficient clamping down on publicity leaks. :wink: To get the first real buzz on this only a day ahead of the release is unheard of.

Obviously, these documents have been in the works for some time - and one of the main things Pope Francis wanted to address when dealing with marriage. As stated in many threads before, there is a huge difference in how annulment proceedings happen from diocese to diocese and especially from country to country. In the US, annulment proceedings generally last a year or two (sometimes three), depending on the diocese and the complexities of the individual case. In many other dioceses in the world (such as in Latin America), annulment proceedings often take decades.

As Archbishop Bergoglio (and before as a priest), Pope Francis would sometimes ask divorced and remarried people why they hadn’t sought annulments. Their answers were generally, “It’s okay, Padre. My spouse will probably die before I get an annulment anyway.”

Also, the requirements and questionairres are different from diocese to diocese, and there is often misunderstanding of jurisdiction with annulment cases. Canon law allows an annulment proceeding to start in either the current diocese of the petitioner or in the diocese in which the marriage took place. But, knowing from experience, when my wife sought her annulment, even though it was a relatively easy case, it took her about 6 or 7 months for her case to be accepted by a diocese, because neither the diocese she lived in (Las Cruces, NM) nor the diocese she was married in (Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico)wanted to accept her case - each diocese stated that it belonged to the other diocese. So she ended up with two packets - one from Juarez, and the other from Las Cruces (eventually, the diocese of Las Cruces would take her case). Still, though, the paperwork from Juarez asked many more questions (including questions about childhood, dating history, etc.) than the paperwork from Las Cruces and required twice as many witnesses (Juarez required six witnesses; Las Cruces only three).

So, I think the biggest purposes of these papal documents is to streamline the annulment process so that the process is about the same regardless of where in the world the annulment process is started, and so that a fair result is given that is thorough but also within a reasonable period of time (the length of time used in the US might be overly optimistic for the rest of the world, but a period of 3-5 years at maximum seems reasonable).

VATICAN CITY — (AP) Pope Francis will release new streamlined procedures for annulling marriages after he — and thousands of Catholics before him — complained that the Church’s current system is cumbersome, costly, and often unfair.

Francis will release the new rules Tuesday after a Vatican-appointed commission of canon lawyers spent the past year studying ways to simplify the process while safeguarding the principle of the indissolubility of marriage, the Vatican said.

Catholic doctrine holds that a Church marriage is forever. An annulment is a judgment by a Church tribunal that the marriage had some inherent defect from the start. Reasons vary, including that the couple never intended their marriage to last, or that one of the spouses didn’t want children.

Catholics have long complained that it can take years to get an annulment, if they can get one at all. Costs can reach into the hundreds or thousands of dollars for legal and tribunal fees.

Without the annulment, divorced Catholics who remarry outside the Church are considered to be adulterers living in sin and are forbidden from receiving Communion — a dilemma at the core of a current debate roiling the Church.

Francis has already called for annulments to be free, saying all Catholics have the right to justice from the Church. He has also said the Church should take into account that ignorance of the faith can be a reason to declare a marriage invalid.

Also looking forward to the results…


Not 100% sure but look what Pope Francis has previously said regarding annulments:

This is a really important point. At the first Synod (2014) the annulment process was discussed. One of the Bishops interviewed stated that they hoped that there could be a universal adoption of a process* similar to that in the US*. When compared to many other parts of the Catholic world, the process in the US is already quite streamlined and less burdensome.


Nearly every Vatican-watcher expects that the Pope will make it easier for Catholics to receive a ruling of annulment. The titles of the forthcoming documents, referring to the meekness and mercy of the Lord Jesus, tend to confirm those expectations. Indeed, since Pope Francis speaks constantly about mercy, it is difficult to imagine that his reforms would not pick up the same theme.

However, the Pope could make it easier to obtain an annulment in one of two ways. He could streamline the canonical process, making it simpler to work a case through the marriage tribunals. Or he could ease the requirements, giving those tribunals broader latitude to decree marriages null. (Theoretically, of course, he could do both.) In all likelihood the documents released tomorrow will take the former route, and focus on the process. City, Sep 7, 2015 / 01:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy See press office has announced that two motu proprio will be released on Tuesday, both of which concern the reform of the process for the declaration of the nullity of marriage.

The two motu proprio, *Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus* (The Lord Jesus, a meek judge) and *Mitis et misericors Iesus* (Jesus, meek and merciful), will be presented at a noon press conference at the Vatican Sept. 8.

The two documents regard the reform of the process for marriage annulment in both the Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.

Those speaking at the conference are Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, dean of the Roman Rota; Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts; Bishop Dimitrios Salachas, Greek Catholic Apostolic Exarch of Greece; Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Msgr. Alejandro Bunge, prelate auditor of the Roman Rota; and Fr. Nikolaus Schoch, substitute promoter of justice at the Apostolic Signatura.

Each of the presenters are members of the commission established by Pope Francis just one year ago - Aug. 27, 2014 - to study reform of the annulment process.

The commission was to "focus on the preparation of a proposal for the reform of the marriage annulment process, seeking to simplify and streamline the procedure, while safeguarding the principle of the indissoluble nature of marriage," the Holy See press office stated when it was announced.

Full article…

Of course, in some dioceses it’s basically “Catholic Divorce” and they’ll rubber stamp any request that comes up.

Saying the US is great because we process more documents is like saying that Texas has a better death penalty program because they more quickly process people.

Understood. The thing is, though, it works both ways. Sure, doing things quickly could lead to less scrutiny. But - and this is important - the US has also been quite proactive in letting people know that the annulment process is possible, with pastors and advocates being very knowledgable about whether they believe the petitioner has a case (seriously, if they don’t believe the petitioner has a case, they’ll tell the petitioner up front and, more likely than not, no annulment paperwork will ever be submitted).

And, quick responses (either way) allow the couple to know. As stated before, I don’t expect the rest of the world to be as fast as the US when granting annulments - but waiting 20+ years for a decision (as is the case in many South American countries) is ridiculous, as well. Perhaps 3-5 years could be a reasonable goal.


I just don’t see how any “streamlining” could ever take a 20 year process (that is supposed to take no more than 1.5 years as it is) could ever have that much impact. Obviously, those places don’t seem to really care (or are unable to observe) procedural law.


Fortunately, I haven’t lived in one of those dioceses.

There are dioceses that are very proactive with the use of parish advocates. Any case that makes it to the tribunal has already been investigated preliminarily and documents gathered. This not only makes the tribunal more efficient but also means that very few cases reach the tribunal that are likely to result in a judgement of validity rather than nullity.

Why do this right before the synod?

not sure. good question!

I think it’s a good move and takes it off the table for the Synod. If the Synod fathers get bogged down in matters that are mostly procedural rules they won’t be making an effective use of the limited time they have together.

The theme of the Synod is “The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.” The less focus on legal issues, the more focus on evangelization.

I would much rather have them talking annulment reform, which is legitimate, than Communion for divorced amd civilly remarried couples, which is much less so.

I think this means that the Holy Father has taken Communion for divorced and remarried off the table. The conservative bishops now have a reason to back these reforms (even if they don’t like them) rather then debate Communion for divorced and remarried, and the liberals can declare victory if the reforms are enough to their liking. The real problem is that in the world today, so many of the faithful haven’t been properly evangelized let alone catechized well enough to make even the most basic moral decision. This is the real work that needs to be done.

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