PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Canon Law experts recently met at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome to discuss annulment — what it is and isn’t — and to talk about Pope Francis’s decision to streamline the process.
In 2015, the Holy Father issued two apostolic letters to change the annulment process, making it free of charge in many cases and reducing the number of times a tribunal must hold a trial. Before 2015, two trials were necessary. Following Pope Francis’ ruling, only one trial is needed.
In addition, the Pontiff declared that the annulment process, which before 2015 could take a year or longer, had to be streamlined so that it would last 90 days. Only the most complicated cases would take a year.
At the recent session, the Canon law experts also explained the difference between divorce and annulment. A divorce means that the marriage was at one time valid and that now it has been dissolved. But annulment is a declaration that the marriage has been rendered null and void as if it never took place at all.
“A divorce means that a reality does exist and an act is performed by which it apparently ceases to exist, a marriage that existed ceases to exist,” Ines Llorens, a teacher and scholar, told Rome Reports. “On the other hand, annulment is not that. An annulment is that such a marriage was never formed.”
While changes to the process are being discussed for the global Church, Catholics discerning a possible annulment are advised to speak to their parish priest.