Mercy Evident in Marriage Tribunal Changes

I have been working in the role of Tribunal Director since 2007 and naturally I am familiar with all that my role entails and demands.

However, for some, the thought of approaching the Tribunal to enquire about a possible ruling of nullity of their marriage is intimidating, even overwhelming. Those feelings may be enough to stop some approaching us at all. 

In Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic letter Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (Gentle Judge, The Lord Jesus) we read of his desire to streamline the marriage nullity process in order to make it as accessible, and as quick, as possible. His changes are supported by his fellow bishops who in the recent extraordinary synod, “implored more flexible and accessible judicial processes”.

Recalling his recent declaration of a Year of Mercy, once again we see revealed the compassionate and loving heart of Pope Francis. He writes of his concern for the “salvation of souls” and tells us that his desire to reform has been fuelled by the “enormous number of faithful who, while wishing to act with their consciences, are too often separated from the legal structures of the and mercy therefore require that same Church, as a mother, to make herself closer to her children who consider themselves separated”.

You may be wondering what those changes might be. Nothing that Pope Francis has said changes the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage; rather, the changes relate to process.

  • The automatic appeal to the Second Court will now be restricted, so not all cases will need to be presented to the Second Court. For those cases which meet the guidelines, this could shorten the process by 3-6 months. 
  • In straightforward cases, the process will be abbreviated.  There are guidelines about which cases will be eligible for this shorter process and each case will be assessed as to whether the application fits the guidelines. It is possible that this process may be quite rare.
  • The Tribunal nearest where a person lives will process the application. Previously there were restrictions on which Tribunal would have this responsibility, depending, for example, on where the marriage took place and where both parties now reside. 
  • Pope Francis has also asked Bishops to do what they can to ensure “that processes remain free of charge” while ensuring that Tribunal employees are justly remunerated. This is to be discussed at the Conference of Australian Catholic Bishops later this year.

So if you have been wondering whether or not to approach the Tribunal, now might be the right time.  These changes are real and do offer the opportunity for a quicker and more streamlined process. For any person considering this path, that is a great gift. 

For further information please P Jane or Rose on 4979 1370.

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Jane Dunn

Jane is the Tribunal Director for the Maitland-Newcastle diocese Marriage Tribunal. 

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