LINCOLN, Neb. (CNS) – As the Catholic Church began the Holy Year of Mercy, the Diocese of Lincoln announced it will offer its marriage tribunal process “to all who need it, without requiring payments or assessing fees.”
Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln discussed the decision in his Dec. 11 column in the Southern Nebraska Register, the diocesan newspaper.
“The Year of Mercy requires that each of us help the world to live according to the will of God,” he said. “May our tribunal assist in that process, and may our witness to the gift of marriage, given freely by the Lord, call families to holiness, sacrifice and charity.”
Bishop Conley noted that eliminating tribunal fees also was in keeping with current diocesan policy to waive fees in other circumstances.
“The Diocese of Lincoln has long believed that every child should be welcomed at Catholic schools, regardless of his ability to pay,” he explained. “We have long offered counseling to families, couples and individuals, even when they are unable to afford it. We provide food, clothing, job training and housing to those who cannot pay.”
The bishop noted that annually annulment fees “cover roughly 15 percent of our tribunal’s budget. We hope that those who utilize the process might offer freely some contribution for the church’s work. But we will no longer assess fees of any kind for the legal processes of the diocesan tribunal.”
“We offer the tribunal as a court of justice, and a prophet of mercy, without any consideration of cost. I pray that those who are searching for the truth might avail themselves of the church’s judgment,” he added.
Marriage, he said, “is God’s first gift to humanity. ‘In the beginning’ God created one man and one woman, and he joined them together, instructing them to be fruitful and multiply. God created us for families, in his own image, through the gift of marriage.”
Marriage is “a life-long partnership of spouses, which exists to form families in the procreation and education of children, and to assist the spouses in the pursuit of holiness,” he continued.