Pope Francis on Tuesday revolutionized the procedure for Roman Catholics to get marriage annulments, making them faster and simpler and calling on bishops to provide greater help to divorced couples.
The most substantial changes to Catholic marriage annulment procedures in centuries again showed Francis’ desire for the Church to be more merciful to Catholics in difficulty. The 1.2 billion member Church does not recognize divorce.
In a document known as a Motu Proprio, Latin for “by his own initiative”, Francis reaffirmed traditional teaching on the “indissolubility of marriage”, but streamlined procedures that many considered cumbersome, lengthy, outdated and expensive.
He eliminated a previously mandatory review of an annulment decision by a second diocesan tribunal and gave bishops sweeping powers to judge quickly the most clear-cut cases themselves.
The title of the document was “Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus,” Latin for “The Lord Jesus, the Gentle Judge.”
An annulment, formally known as a “decree of nullity”, is a ruling that a marriage was not valid in the first place according to Church law because certain prerequisites such as free will, psychological maturity and openness to having children were lacking.