The new annulment process does away with the previous requirement to have the case judged twice in two different dioceses. Now only one judgment in your own diocese is necessary. The new process permits appeal to the Metropolitan (usually the Archbishop of the nearest archdiocese), but retains the ability to appeal to the Holy See in Rome.
The new process permits the Bishop to intervene to decide a case, on his own authority, when the reasons for granting the annulment are particularly clear. Otherwise, the process has been simplified and also made cost free.
I have no objection to the above changes. I think that this new process is reasonable, faithful to doctrine, and prudent.
Some conservatives are complaining that this new process will be more open to abuse, such that some valid marriages might be given an annulment in error. But I don’t think the process itself makes that error any more likely. That complaint has long been leveled against the previous process. But regardless of the rules, there is always the necessity for good judgment in accord with Catholic teaching on the Sacraments.
Canonist Ed Peters has some useful comments on his blog. He favors the new rule that requires only one review of a case to decide on an annulment. “I have always said that mandatory review is not required for justice under natural law and that it serves, in my opinion, little practical value in canon law.”
Fr. Z is taking a rather negative view of these changes.
I don’t see the problem. The decision as to whether or not a marriage is valid was always a matter of prudential judgement. The new rules still require a process to obtain the information needed to make that judgment, under the direction of the Bishop, with an appeals processes for those who might disagree with the decision.
— Ronald L. Conte Jr.