Referring in his recent apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia to the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family, Pope Francis wrote that he was "in agreement with the many Synod Fathers who observed that ‘the baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried need to be more fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible. …’"
One such way is through the annulment process, which can make it possible for civilly divorced Catholics to remarry in the church.
Here are some facts about annulments from Father Louis Sirianni, judicial vicar in the Diocese of Rochester’s Tribunal, or church court:
* An annulment is a judgment by a church court that a marriage celebrated according to appropriate church law was not valid.
* Children do not become illegitimate when a marriage that was presumed to be valid when it took place is later judged to be invalid.
* In 2014 Bishop Salvatore R. Matano eliminated all diocesan fees for annulments. In certain cases, however, fees may still be assessed by courts outside of the diocese.
* While complex cases may take longer, typical cases take seven to 10 months to complete.
* An applicant’s former spouse must be contacted because the annulment process is a true judicial process that respects the rights of both parties.
* Both parties will be invited to provide witnesses who knew them prior to and/or during their courtship and/or marriage.
* Catholics married "outside the church" and now divorced may obtain a decree of freedom to enter a new valid marriage in the Catholic Church; obtaining such a decree requires a determination by the Tribunal about facts concerning the celebration of the prior marriage.
* The first step in the annulment process is to contact one’s local parish to speak to someone about the process and obtain an application.