A piece of good news

A very smart priest friend sent me a note this morning with two pieces of good news regarding Pope Francis.  I’ll simply share what he sent…. no, wait… I’ll share the first piece of good news.  I may post the second in another post.

1. For Pope Francis, understanding  
 the nature of marriage is a criterion in investigating a marriage’s validity


Cardinal Kasper’s thesis was to let people decide for themselves if their previous marriage was null and void.

This article makes three points:

In his speech, Pope Francis 

1. maintained that an understanding of the nature of marriage is a criterion by which to judge the validity of a marriage

Obviously if you don’t understand what the duties and obligations of marriage are, you can’t give consent.

2. asked for an increase of the number of canon lawyers available at local tribunals; 
Speaks for itself. 
But also why bother with Canon Lawyers and Tribunals if you accept Kasper’s “Wild West” / ” grant yourself an unofficial annulment”  solution?
3. and that the availability of services free of charge be increased.

It seems bizarre to me that the parishes are charged for the running costs of the Diocesan Offices – and then people applying for annulments are charged.
Access to the sacraments should be free of charge.

A pity Pope Francis doesn’t remind Cardinal Kasper and the other German Bishops this.

BTW… Pope Francis’ remarks about the cost of “annulments” were a departure from his prepared text.   He said: “How I would like all marriage processes to be free-of-charge.”   That’s a desire, it isn’t an edict.  Let us not forget that someone has to pay the bills in order to keep a tribunal open.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Lin says:

    I fail to see how this is good news other than it appears that he still believes the Church must still determine if an annulment is appropriate. If one reads between the lines, it appears that annulments will be made easier and less expensive. I have never been this cynical but the news coming out of DC and Rome is disturbing. Pray and fast for our Church!

  2. Boniface says:

    What good news indeed.

    Incidentally, the late great Ralph McInerny’s fictional character Fr. Roger Dowling was, as a young priest/canon lawyer and presumptive future bishop, a member of his diocesan marriage tribunal until it caused him to take to drink and his career path was altered forever – he became a small-town parish pastor, and was grateful to God for it. Incidentally, pray for Prof. McInerny’s soul, as the 5th anniversary of his passing occurs on the 29th. Fittingly, he died the day after the (newer) feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, about whom he wrote so brilliantly and lovingly.

  3. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Maybe somebody should set up a charitable guild or foundation to help pay tribunal costs?

  4. Imrahil says:

    The problem of the annulments process and the problem Cardinal Kasper, however questionable his means, tries to solve are firmly distinct.

    The one is about putative marriages that do not in reality exist, and therefore can be annulled.

    The other is, in principle, about marriages that do in fact exist, but in the colloquial expression “failed”, and hence with whichever efficacy and chargefreeness of the tribunal system can never be annulled.

    That some of the “failed” putative marriages are annullable, that getting rid of the prejudice** “I don’t want it annulled because I still believe it to have been worth something” might do a bit to reduce the number of remaining cases, is accidental.

    [** Children of merely putative marriages are considered legitimate in canon law, right? – It is, I conclude, a prejudice that an annulment requires the previous putative spouses to treat their relationship as utterly non-existent. What it does say is that it was not marriage in the full sense of the term.]

  5. chantgirl says:

    Regarding point one, perhaps before a couple is allowed to marry in the Catholic Church, they should have to sit down and read/sign a legal document which outlines the rights and duties pertaining to marriage.
    “I understand and agree that marriage involves one man and one woman promising to be true to each other until death. I understand and agree that even if a separation becomes necessary, that I am still married to my spouse.

    I understand and agree that marriage is to be entered freely and without coercion.

    I understand and agree that each and every marital embrace must be open to the possibility of children. In other words I understand and agree that I am not allowed to use contraception.

    I understand and agree that the marital debt cannot be refused without a good reason. I understand that even if my spouse unreasonably withholds the marital debt, I am not allowed to seek sexual fulfillment elsewhere. I understand that even if my spouse becomes incapable of sex, that my marriage is still valid.

    I understand and agree that marriage requires faithfulness, and that affairs and pornography use constitute unfaithfulness.”

    etc. etc. I’m not sure if the big obstacle to consent is understanding as much as agreement. Perhaps priests are too often agreeing to marry people who really don’t believe what the Church teaches? Anyway, perhaps there would be fewer annulments if couples had to sign on the dotted line. I know that my mortgage papers took much longer to read/understand/sign than anything I had to sign to get married.

  6. Gerard Plourde says:

    I agree that this is good news. The Church has always recognized that a defective intention invalidates the sacrament. It is only through examination by qualified canon lawyers that this can be determined. Further, as His Holiness points out, the cost of the diocesan Curia is ordinarily borne by assessing the parishes. It therefore is only fair that the costs to the faithful utilizing the tribunal be limited to things like postage and duplication. The staff is already supported by the aforementioned contributions made by the constituent parishes.

  7. Mojoron says:

    It was interesting that cost of the tribunal was mentioned. When my wife and I started our annulments for getting back into the church, the costs for Colorado was purported to be nearly $2000. We didn’t have that kind of money, so stopped the process. We moved to a new job in Arkansas and in a few years, since we were making more money, started the process over again and did it for less than $300 and $100 of that was taking our sponsors out to dinner after we got the annulment. So cost is definitely an issue for both the process and for future spiritual development.

  8. yzerman123 says:

    The Pope is right on his first point. But this begs the question as to why a pastor would marry a couple who don’t have a clue. This isn’t very “pastoral.” It’s downright cruel to setup a couple for painful failure. 

  9. yzerman123 says:

    Father, I have a question about current pastoral practices on marriage.

    Before the wedding, we are so certain 
    that the couple knows exactly what they’re doing and are able to give perfect consent. So we marry them. But after the wedding, as soon as something goes wrong, we are so certain that the couple didn’t have a clue what they were doing and were incapable of giving proper consent. So we annul them. 

    Why this schizophrenia? 

  10. Mary T says:

    My annulment (in the 80s) was 100% FREE.

  11. Thorfinn says:


    This “understanding of the nature of marriage” bit is key. When a marriage results in divorce that is not itself evidence that the marriage was not valid; but it sure makes you wonder about the original intentions of the husband & wife. I know people who I would have testified at the time they were married were fully informed and intended a valid marriage; years later they amicably divorce(!) and go in search of new life partners(!!) Looking back, I cannot now swear to what they really intended; and in fact there is one strong indicator against validity. Am I schizophrenic; or are they; is the Church?

    The divorce culture is insidious — apparently even contagious, and can be caught via Facebook. In a diseased culture, the challenge for couples, before and during marriage, and for tribunals, is difficult to understate.

  12. wmeyer says:

    As some here have noted, there is a good deal of variation in the way annulments are handled in different dioceses. I cannot see that as other than an inequity. Canon law does not vary across these jurisdictions, so why should the process? Although the fees charged can be a factor, I would assert that the processing time is of much greater import. It is hard to credit the notion of a case taking several years, but I am informed by reliable sources that in my own diocese, some cases took as long as a decade before the Tribunal was “fixed.” Now, despite the claimed “average” of a year, I know only one case which was dispatched in less than 12 months, and over a dozen which took 2-3 years each.

    I also know, from the Tribunal’s own statements, that of the cases submitted, something in the order of 40% do not end in annulment. I would think that in such cases, the long processing could only be more objectionable.

    Now, as to fees, I have been told here both that the fee does not cover the actual costs, and that the long processing is due to the staff being all volunteers. Come again? Is that the new math, or Common Core?

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