In the papal document “Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus” (“The Lord Jesus, the Gentle Judge”) released by the Vatican Sept. 8, Pope Francis said the annulment process must be quicker, cheaper and more of a pastoral ministry.
Pope Francis said he was not “promoting the nullity of marriages, but the quickness of the processes, as well as a correct simplicity” of the procedures so that Catholic couples are not “oppressed by the shadow of doubt” for prolonged periods of time, Catholic News Service (CNS) reported Sept. 8.
The pope also said the changes were motivated by “the concern for the salvation of souls,” and “the charity and mercy” toward those who feel alienated from the church, the CNS story said.
In his statement, Archbishop Kurtz said the new processes “seek to address (the church’s) pastoral outreach by removing unnecessary impediments to annulments.”
Archbishop Kurtz noted in his statement that the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Metropolitan Tribunal streamlined the local annulment process several years ago by making the “process simpler and more user-friendly.”
A July 12, 2012, story in The Record detailed the Tribunal’s effort to update the language of the necessary paperwork to include a more pastoral approach, particularly a questionnaire for former couples that “delved into the most intimate details of their relationship, including some details that may not have been relevant to their case,” the article said.
“The forms we were using had not been revised in years. They were very cold; they were not pastoral,” Deacon Stephan Phelps, an assessor for the Tribunal, said in the story.
Archbishop Kurtz noted that the new guidelines seek to include more delegation to the local bishop. One of the changes allows the bishop himself to issue a declaration of nullity after an abbreviated process, according to CNS.
“I look forward to working with our Tribunal office on ways in which we can reach out to those who seek the church’s mercy in these cases,” Archbishop Kurtz said in the statement.
The archbishop also noted that while the Archdiocese of Louisville has not required fees for annulments for some time, the Tribunal did request a donation from those who were able to give. Now, Archbishop Kurtz said, all language regarding donations will be removed from annulment paperwork.
The changes go into effect Dec. 8, the opening of the jubilee Year of Mercy.