Bishop Anthony B. Taylor issued the following statement about recent changes to the marriage annulment process on Sept. 10, 2015.
Two days ago Pope Francis modified the procedures to be followed in handling the cases of people seeking a declaration of invalidity of a previous marriage, commonly known as an annulment.
This motu proprio, Mitis Judex Dominus Iesus, reinforces the truth that a valid marriage is permanent and indissoluble, while at the same time noting that when a marriage fails, there may have been something lacking from the very beginning that was necessary for validity.
If this can be proven, the previous marriage can be declared as null and the parties can be declared free to marry.
The procedures followed to make this determination have changed over time and now Pope Francis has made significant changes designed to remove obstacles that have sometimes made this process more difficult than necessary. The changes that will have the most direct impact are as follows:
- We will now be able to hear cases locally for anyone who lives in the Diocese of Little Rock. Previously we could not handle cases when the marriage occurred in a foreign country or when one of the parties lives in a foreign country. This change will help many immigrant Arkansans.
- We will now have an expedited process for those cases where neither party objects and the evidence is clear and overwhelming. The procedures followed by the petitioner and the rules for collecting of evidence will not change — the invalidity of the marriage still has to be proven —but the way the case is handled by the tribunal and the bishop is streamlined. There are specific criteria for determining which cases can be handled in this expedited fashion. It should be noted, that our tribunal in Little Rock is already one of the most efficient in the country, so Arkansans will see less change than Catholics elsewhere.
- The only cases that will go to the court of second instance for review are those in which one of the parties appeals the decision. Previously all cases were subject to a mandatory review. This change will shorten the process by a month or so.
- We will no longer charge fees for cases submitted to our tribunal. Previously we had a nominal fee of $150, which was waived for anyone who requested it. There were reports in the news of places where exorbitant fees were charged, which effectively prevented the poor from exercising their rights of access to the tribunal. Though that was never the case here, this change will help to prevent the misperception that justice in the Church can be bought.
Please note that these changes go into effect on Dec. 8, 2015, with the beginning of the great Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Sincerely in Christ,
+Anthony B. Taylor
Bishop of Little Rock