On Sept. 8, the Vatican released two papal documents marking changes in the Latin-rite Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches regarding annulments. Pope Francis, while not promoting the nullity of marriages, is hoping to simplify the process so that Catholic couples are not “oppressed by the shadow of doubt” for prolonged periods. The changes will go into effect Dec. 8, the opening day of the Year of Mercy. Details of the changes can be found in the print and e-editions of The Catholic Messenger.
“For a long time Pope Francis has been asking the church to do better in dealing with annulments. Now we have a law that we can put into practice. I’m looking forward to implementing that law. That’s the takeaway from this announcement, that the law has changed,” said Father Paul Appel, judicial vicar for the Diocese of Davenport.
Fr. Appel said as a result of the pope’s announcement there are two processes for handling annulments: an ordinary process and a briefer process. The briefer process will apply to situations in which it is clear that nullity existed from the beginning of the marriage. Fr. Appel estimates that the briefer process would apply to more than half of the cases the diocese’s marriage tribunal handles. However, even cases that seem clear cut can become more complicated. “Whenever you are looking for the truth, one person cannot provide all of the evidence. All perspectives need to be sought out and examined.”