In the slow-moving Vatican bureaucracy, it’s big news, as reported in the Washington Post, when the annulment procedures are made easier. Or, as Katherine Alteneder put it: “The Pope joins the simplification movement.”
The changes will eliminate a requirement that all annulment decisions get a second judgment and will allow local bishops to expedite the annulment process for some cases. The annulment process will be free of charge, though many dioceses had already eliminated the administrative fees for marriage annulments, according to a Vatican spokesman. The revisions also expand the role of local bishops in judging nullification proceedings. . . .
Another change announced Tuesday will allow bishops the ability to further expedite the annulment process for some particularly straightforward cases — a process that [a theologian at Catholic University] Pecknold said would allow the bishop to essentially “write a note.” . . .
Another change announced Tuesday will allow bishops the ability to further expedite the annulment process for some particularly straightforward cases — a process that Pecknold said would allow the bishop to essentially “write a note.”
So, this is a classic example of making no formal change in governing law, but effecting a massive real-world change by changing procedure. Its just like making banks attorneys certify that the records exist as part of a collection process commencement.
And it is also a recognition that for most folks the procedure is the real barrier — starting with the fees. Moreover, sometimes the solution is to move at least uncontested cases, and maybe others, out of the courts.
So the lesson is clear. Look to why people are not using a process, to why they are getting bogged down or defaulting out, and change the process to reflect the reality of who has the information, who can move easily, and what they need to do what is needed.
So, who will be first to offer document assembly for annulment petitions? (List of requirements for marriage and by implication of possible reasons for annulment from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops here.) It is broader than one might expect. For example in terms of broad implications of possible reasons, from the Diocese of Gary Indiana here is a pdf annulment petition packet with a two page list of possible reasons.