More on Annulment Reform

See this report at the Catholic News Agency.

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.

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2 Responses to More on Annulment Reform

  1. Alessandro Arsuffi says:

    Dear Ron, I’m interested in your opinion on the “circumstances that consent the tractation of the cause of nully of marriage by means of the brief process” (Title V in the Motu Proprio). What do you think about that? Is that a departure or was it already like that? I mean especially in reference to the “brevitas convictus coniugalis” and the “permanentia pervicax in relatione extraconiugali tempore nuptiarum vel immediate subsequenti” clauses. I found them very wise, to be honest, as a very short duration of the marital union or the presence of adultery within a few days or months from the wedding is a clear symptom of a wrong attitude towards marriage from the very beginning…

    • Ron Conte says:

      You are referring to examples of circumstances which would justify the brief version of the process, where the Bishop intervenes personally to make a judgment. If the couple only briefly lived together as man and wife, that fact may indicate that the couple did not consent to a lifelong commitment of marital union. But that fact does not, in and of itself, establish nullity. Suppose one spouse dies suddenly not long after the marriage has begun; the brevity of the marriage does not make it necessarily always invalid.

      If one or both of the spouses was involved in enduring obstinate extra-marital relations at the time of the wedding or immediately afterward, this might indicate a lack of consent to an exclusive union in a marriage of one man to one woman. But I suppose that a lapse of fidelity, just before or sometime after the wedding does not, in itself, prove nullity. It is a circumstance that must be judged along with the other evidence in the case.

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