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Vatican Changes its Stance on Annulments
Vatican Changes its Stance on Annulments

Emma Green recently posted an article on The Atlantic website discussing recent moves being made by the Vatican. More specifically, the Vatican officially changed Canon Law on annulling a marriage and making it simpler for Catholics to split from their spouses with the blessing of the Church.

Divorce and annulments have been an important topic of discussion since Pope Francis met with the bishops of the Church last year. The discussion regarding divorce is expected to continue in a follow-up meeting and many predict that the Church will shift its position on family issues. The announcement regarding annulments had indicated that big changes will occur.

However, before you rush out to annul your marriage, it is important to understand what the Catholic Church has actually decided. The recent change speaks to the issue of “nullifying” a marriage. This means answering the question of whether or not the marriage was ever valid in the eyes of the Church. The goal behind the reform is to simplify the complex and time-consuming judicial process used by the Church for hundreds of years to deal with a failed marriage.

Prior to this change, if a Catholic individual claims that his or her marriage is a nullity, the Church is required to conduct an investigation. The claims must be approved by two separate courts. The recent change removes the requirement of the second trial as long as nobody disputes the nullity claim. In other words, you can take your claim before one judge or a tribunal made up of one cleric and two lay people. This will allow the Church to deal more effectively and efficiently with annulment claims.

It is important to note that this recent move by the Church does not alter its broader views and teachings on marriage. “Church doctrine is that fidelity to the teaching of Jesus requires us to look at marriages as not just permanent, but [indissoluble],” Father John Beal said. Further, only certain types of marriages qualify for annulment, including:

  • Marriages that were not conducted before a priest and at least two witnesses
  • Marriages that suffer from some sort of “impediment,” such as the spouses were too closely related or one spouse was too young to marry
  • Marriages that suffer from “defective consent.” This is the category of claims that will be most affected by Tuesday’s decision, said Beal: cases of one spouse being mentally ill or not open to having children or committing infidelity, for example.

We will continue to monitor the Catholic Church’s stance on annulments and divorce. However, if you are currently facing divorce or you have other family law needs, our legal team is here to help. Contact the Men’s Divorce Law Firm to schedule a consultation with a caring professional, and aggressive advocate for men’s rights in divorce, child timesharing (custody), and paternity matters.