Divorce is a touchy subject among Catholics in Massachusetts and the rest of the world. In fact, disagreements on the subject of divorce caused many other denominations to spring up and separate from the church, perhaps most notably, the Anglicans. This is because the Catholic church generally treats marriage as a permanent arrangement unless the spouses receive an annulment.
USA Today explains that in the Catholic church, for an annulment to take place, a church tribunal must declare that a marriage once considered valid actually failed to meet at least one essential criteria. Without this, separated or divorced spouses cannot remarry. The church may consider a Catholic who remarries an adulterer as the new marriage is not valid and the old one is technically not resolved by its standards.
CNN reported in 2015 that Pope Francis reformed the process for seeking annulments. To remain compliant with their religious beliefs, Catholics must dissolve their marriage within the church, not just legally. Pope Francis streamlined the process, making it both easier and cheaper.
Here are some of the changes he made:
- In cases of an extramarital affair or spousal abuse, bishops may have the power to speed up the process.
- A cleric no longer needs to conduct a second review before the tribunal nullifies a marriage.
- The process should not cost more than a nominal fee for administrative costs.
- The process should take only 45 days to complete.
This is good news for Catholics who divorce under the law, but remain married in the eyes of the church. Still, Pope Francis stresses that the new changes are not intended to help make it easier for people to end their marriages. Rather, he believes poorer people should not face so many obstacles in scenarios where the marriage is invalid.