Pope Francis has ordered a review of the Church’s procedures for annulments. The move is aimed at making the process easier for Catholics to end their marriages.
A statement by the Vatican said that Pope Francis had appointed an 11-member team of canonized lawyers and theologians to propose a reform for the process. The Pope said he is: “Seeking to simplify and streamline the process, while safeguarding the principle of the indissolubility of marriage.”
An annulment, formally known as a ‘decree of nullity,’ that makes a marriage invalid – but only after certain pre-requisites are met. Those pre-requisites can range from free will to change of sexual preference and even lack or openness to having children.
In the past 10 years the Catholic Church has had numerous complaints that the annulment procedure is too complicated and outdated. Today the Church has in excess of 1.2 billion members worldwide.
As noted, the Church does not recognise divorce, hence the Philippines does not have divorce on its statute books. Ironically, Italy has had divorce on their books for decades and the procedure is an easy process to navigate through.
Catholics who divorce and remarry outside of the Church are considered still married to their spouse and living in a state of sin. That sin also bars them from receiving sacraments and even keeps them from receiving communion.
Pope Francis said that the Church should be merciful to its people, especially those that have failed in their first marriage. Francis has noted he is open to change and his path in the Church is to gain access to more modern thinking.
Francis demonstrated his openness last week when he married 20 couples, many of whom had lived together and even had children. He blessed the couples one by one at St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.