In September, Pope Francis signed two formal Motu proprio documents changing the church’s procedures for annulments. Annulment requests will not be subject to the formerly required second judgment. The tribunal now only requires one judge, instead of at least two priests and one canon lawyer, and local bishops will now have the power to personally judge straightforward cases, according to the Washington Post. Annulments will also be free, aside from an administrative fee.
Canon lawyer Benedict Nguyen wrote in the Catholic Herald (UK) that the relaxed rules could lead to bishops being overwhelmed with cases demanding decisions without proper investigation, what he termed “easy annulments, creating in effect ‘Catholic divorces.’”
Zenit provided a translation of the pope’s plan for reform in which the pontiff said, “In any case, the extent to which an abbreviated process of judgment might put the principle of the indissolubility of marriage at risk, did not escape me.”
These changes to canon law, which stem from a commission instituted by Pope Francis in September 2014, go into effect in December of this year, according to the Tablet (UK).