Dated “2015-09-08”, Mass Media came out with the perceived big news bearing the title: “Pope: Marriage Annulment Process is Free”. Three certain basic observations or clarifications thereto relevant are well in order:
1st. There is no such thing as “Annulment” of marriage in the Church. The said terminology whereby a valid marriage is officially invalidated for a given civil provision, has reference to the Civil Court. Before the Church Tribunal there is but “Nullity” of marriage in the case of a marriage that is invalid from its date and time of celebration and is thus declared null and void from the beginning on account of a given canonical legislation.
2nd. There are two categories of a given “Process” before the Church Tribunal, viz., one is called “Administrative” – which is rather easy and brief – when a marriage is claimed to be null and void from the very start on account of the presence of any “Diriment Impediment”, and the other is called “Judicial” – which is quite intricate and long – when a marriage is accused of nullity from the very beginning by reason of a “Defective Matrimonial Consent” by virtue of a given cause.
3rd. In the matter of procedural cost of Marriage Cases, there is no problem once the Petitioner is truly unable to pay due to poverty. The procedural fees are mostly spent for the salaries of the lay personnel of the Tribunal and other standard Office expenses. Once it becomes a norm that the Marriage Nullity Process is free, this will be no problem as some other means would be surely found how to pay for all customary Office expenses.
The “Diriment Impediments” subject to but an “Administrative Process”: 1. Marriage before 18 years old on the part of either or both parties. 2. Defect of Canonical Form. 3. Permanent and antecedent impotence of the man and/or vaginismus of the woman. 4. Previous valid marriage. 5. Non-Baptism of man and/or woman 4. Marriage of a cleric. 6. Religious vow of chastity. 7. Abduction of woman. 8. Murder of the spouse of one party in view of marriage with someone else. 9. Consanguinity in the direct line. 10. Consanguinity in the collateral line up to the 4th degree. 1. Affinity in the direct line. 12. Public impropriety of marriage due to previous cohabitation of someone with somebody else. 13. Legal adoption.
The “Defective Matrimonial Consent” subject to Judicial Process: 1. Non-sufficient use of reason. 2. Lack of due discretion in judgment. 3. Psychological impairment . 4. Error about the nature and purposes of marriage. 5. Deception for marriage purposes. 6. Error about the unity and/or indissolubility of marriage. 7. Simulation of consent to marriage. 8. Conditional matrimonial consent. Marriage by reason of grave fear.
It is worthwhile noting that no change at all on the matter of the now binding Marriage Nullity Process in the Church now in force is in effect changed until the Holy Father – a man of Mercy and Compassion - officially provides otherwise in due time.