Catholics Seek Healing and Understanding through Declaration of Nullity
On Dec. 8 new procedures will go into effect regarding an annulment, now known as a Declaration of Nullity. These changes are based on Pope Francis’ letter, “Motu Proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus,” Latin for, “Our Lord Jesus, The Gentle Judge,” released Sept. 8. The timing of the changes coincide with the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, proclaimed by Pope Francis.
Catholic doctrine on marriage and indissolubility has not and will not change. Pope Francis’ reforms are procedural changes and not changes in Church teaching nor changes in substantive canon law or jurisprudence for marriage cases.
The revisions will make the process of requesting a Declaration of Nullity faster by eliminating a mandatory review by a Second Instance Court (Archdiocese of Miami). This will allow the First Instance Court (Diocese of Orlando’s Tribunal Office) to become the final decision in the Declaration of Nullity process; reducing the time from three to five months from the original method. A briefer form of trying nullity cases has also been designed to be applied in situations where nullity of the marriage is quite apparent and both parties agree to present the case.
“The new law basically empowers the Tribunal of a diocese to have Declaration of Nullity cases concluded without a mandatory review,” said Father Fernando Gil, Judicial Vicar of the Diocese of Orlando. “However if a petitioner wishes to appeal, the individual may do so with the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Miami or with The Supreme Tribunal of the Roman Rota.”
Father Gil said, with Pope Francis announcing the Year of Mercy, he is asking pastors to be more merciful and welcoming.
“To be more pastoral does not mean we have to ignore the law of the Church, but the same way the Blessed Mother is merciful and tender with her children, Mother Church must do exactly the same to follow in the steps of the Blessed Mother,” said Father Gil.
Another change is the financial burden many families face when seeking a Declaration of Nullity. Pope Francis requested that Bishops make the annulment process free as a way of demonstrating the gratuitous love of Christ by which we have all been saved.
“To remove all obstacles to this healing ministry, I announced on July 1st that our Diocese would no longer charge any fee for processing a petition for nullity of a marriage,” said Bishop Noonan. “I rejoice in these changes in the spirit of mercy, compassion and inclusion with which Pope Francis has made them. I encourage any person in our Diocese who may have experienced the pain of a divorce to speak with a priest about your situation.”
Bishop Noonan said these updates will expedite the search for the truth about what happened in the course of a marriage.
The single most important principle guiding the Holy Father’s action and the work of reform undertaken is that of the salvation of souls, which is the Supreme Law of the Church. This will also reunite people who feel disconnected from the Church.
“The drive to reform has been fueled by the enormous number of faithful who, while wishing to be at peace with their conscience, are too often separated from the legal structures of the Churches due to physical or moral distance; charity and mercy therefore require that the same Church, as a mother, to be closer to her children who consider themselves separated,” said Pope Francis.
Although The Tribunal Office of the Diocese of Orlando and the Archdiocese of Chicago equally has the largest number of Declaration of Nullity requests besides the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Father Gil is confident they are prepared for the changes.
“It is our duty and our obligation to serve the people of God and because of that we are fully prepared to implement all the changes beginning Dec. 8,” said Father Gil. “It is wonderful because by obtaining a declaration of nullity, the people are reconciling with the Church, they can go back to the Sacraments and receive Holy Communion.”
For more information please contact your parish priest or the Diocese of Orlando’s Tribunal Office at 407-246-4851.