On 27 August 2014, Pope Francis decided to institute a special Commission to study the reform of the canonical marriage annulment process.
The work of the Special Commission will begin as soon as possible and will 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.
If you or someone you know is suffering from a dragged-out annulment process, or from being told that it will take so long they became discouraged, or from the fear that starting an the annulment will be more harmful than helpful, share this good news with them.
On September 8, 2015, Pope Francis issued “Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus” on the reform of canonical processes for the declaration of nullity of marriage, in the Code of Canon Law (CIC). It was written with “the supreme law of the salvation of souls as a guide.”
“It is therefore the concern for the salvation of souls that, today as yesterday, remains the supreme objective of the institutions and laws, and drives the Bishop of Rome to offer to the Bishops this reform document, insofar as they share with him the task of the Church to protect unity in faith and in discipline regarding marriage, the cornerstone and origin of the Christian family. The drive to reform has been fueled by the enormous number of faithful who, while wishing to be at peace with their conscience, are too often separated from the legal structures of the Churches due to physical or moral distance; charity and mercy therefore require that the same Church, as a mother, to be closer to her children who consider themselves separated”.
There were four key procedural changes brought in by Mitis Iudex:
- The introduction of an abbreviated process for some cases.
- The new shorter form process, under the personal judgement of the diocesan bishop, is absolutely to be considered a special procedure only for unusual circumstances – the ordinary and full process is to remain the means by which the vast majority of cases are to be handled.
- It is to be applied in cases in which the alleged nullity of the marriage is supported by particularly clear arguments.
- The short form process is that it can only be employed when both parties to a marriage actively participate in the trial and consent to the shorter form being used.
- The Episcopal Conferences, to the extent possible, must ensure just and dignified retribution to tribunal staff, ensuring that the processes are free.
- The annulment process is to cost nothing since the Church, in a matter so closely linked to the salvation of souls, demonstrates the gratuitous love of Christ by which we have all been saved.
- The abolition of the requirement for a mandatory appeal and a double confirming sentence for all affirmative decisions.
- If a tribunal is doing its job, then, assuming no appeal has been lodged, its sentences should be considered credible; if a particular diocese isn’t delivering sound judgements, the problem is not solved by having the neighbouring tribunal permanently looking over their shoulder.
- Changes to the kind of grounds under which cases could be considered and the standards of proof used in their consideration.
- These included some new or expanded grounds which could signal welcome developments in jurisprudence including: fraudulent concealment of sterility; a hidden diagnosis of a serious disease; undisclosed abortions, ongoing affairs, or criminal records.
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© 2014, 2016 by Terry Modica
Good News Ministries