Pope Francis Has Made It Easier To Get An Annulment

This morning, Pope Francis issued two “moto proprio” documents – decrees from the Pope himself – that will make the annulment process easier for Catholics starting on December 8, the beginning of a Holy Year on the theme of mercy. The documents eliminate a second review by a cleric, give bishops the authority to fast-track an annulment in urgent situations such as those involving infidelity or abuse, and makes the process much, much less expensive, requiring only an administrative fee.

Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found that only 68 percent of African Catholics seeking an annulment receive one, as compared to 86 percent of American Catholics seeking an annulment. What accounts for the difference isn’t that the church wouldn’t grant those annulments – it’s just a prohibitively long and expensive process, and American Catholics are more likely to be able to afford to hire a canon lawyer.

This news comes after last week’s announcement that power will be extended to priests to forgive abortions during the Holy Year. Although I’m sure this all seems rather conservative to left-leaning people who aren’t Catholic, the Pope seems to be reforming the Church in order to accommodate Catholics who live on social and economic margins. Divorced Catholics who don’t or can’t get annulments normally wouldn’t be able to participate in important, faith-sustaining sacraments like communion, and Francis is making annulments easier to obtain for the people who need them the most. The Catholic Church tends to move very slowly in terms of social progress, but Pope Francis is apparently on a real tear to make the Church better for marginalized Catholics.


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