Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he delivers his Christmas Day message from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica on December 25, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican.
Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images Across Michigan, hundreds of divorced Catholics apply each year for an annulment, the internal church review that can allow them to remarry in a Catholic ceremony and receive Communion at mass. Advocates hope major reforms announced Tuesday by Pope Francis will encourage more divorced Catholics to go through a quicker annulment process, lessening the likelihood they’ll drift away from their faith.
The reforms should make it easier and faster for Catholics to receive an annulment, and also illustrate how Francis continues a remarkable outreach to disenfranchised Catholics, many of them who have felt trapped by the church’s teachings against divorce.“I agree with him 100 percent,” said Sister Noreen O’Connell, an Adrian Dominican nun who has specialized in steering Detroit-area Catholics through the annulment process in the Archdiocese of Detroit for 40 years.“Thanks be to God,” said O’Connell, who is known as an “advocate” and counsels divorced Catholics who meet with her at St. “The annulment issue has kept too many people away from the church for too long.”The pope also said church officials shouldn’t charge fees for annulments.
It comes just weeks before Francis makes his first trip to the U.
S., where he’s scheduled to close the Catholic World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, a gathering designed to address social and spiritual issues that impact Catholic families.“The impulse for reform is fed by the enormous numbers of the faithful who ...
are too often alienated from the juridical structures of the church,” the pope said Tuesday.
Francis instituted a so-called fast-track procedure, which allows local bishops to grant an annulment in as few as 45 days, under certain circumstances if the couple applies without opposition from one of the spouses.
Edward Peters, a canon lawyer and Detroit Sacred Heart Major Seminary professor in canon law, wrote Tuesday in his blog that the fast-track process “represents a very, very significant change in the law.”The pope also ended the practice of having an automatic second review of an annulment case by another diocese.
O’Connell said decided annulment cases from Detroit now are sent to the Lansing, Kalamazoo or Saginaw dioceses for a second look.“If it passed the first court (in the Detroit archdiocese), I’ve never had one in 40 years that didn’t pass the second court,” said O’Connell, but it added delay and frustration to the process.
The pope’s elimination of the second review will shorten the process by several months, experts said.
Church teaching requires divorced Catholics who want to remarry in a Catholic ceremony to go a through deeply probing, time-consuming annulment procedure.
Divorced Catholics who remarry without receiving an annulment are barred from presenting themselves for Communion.