The rules surrounding the annulment of marriages within the Catholic Church are to be significantly reformed by Pope Francis, making it easier for divorcing couples to maintain their faith while ending their marriages
Following announcements made by the Vatican yesterday (Tuesday 8 September 2015), couples will no longer have to experience lengthy and expensive processes when wanting their marriage declared invalid. Prior to the changes, a marriage annulment would have to be permitted by a local diocese, whose decision was then presented before a tribunal for final approval. Now, however, after the Pope's request to church lawyers last year to review the annulment process and make it easier for those involved, only one church authority will be necessary to approve an invalidation of a marriage.
Post-reformation, annulments within the Catholic Church should be a faster and less stressful process for couples requesting them. Automatic appeals that took place after the first decision had been made have been removed entirely, and in the first instance a local bishop will be able to judge a couple's annulment request for himself or otherwise delegate a church legal authority to make the decision. The Pope has said that 'the reform is aimed at speeding up and simplifying the process so that the faithful can find justice'.
Divorcees under the Catholic regime are forbidden to remarry within the church and cannot receive Holy Communion. They are generally considered to be living in sin - a shameful and abhorrent notion to orthodox Catholics, and a particular moral dilemma faced by those wanting to end their marriages while continuing to practise their faith. Previously, annulments were only permitted if it could be proved that the marriage lacked free will, psychological maturity, or the initial willing intention to have children.
The Catholic Church's stance on divorce is likely to remain the same despite the new changes to the re-marriage process; it is still forbidden within Catholicism. Although annulments of marriage are not encouraged by the church, should a couple seek to end their marriage in this manner they will be met by an easier, cheaper and more reassuring way to do so.