Welcome news. Let’s hope this is the beginning of a trend.
The Diocese of Pittsburgh has eliminated fees for annulments in keeping with comments by Pope Francis that the church should make it easier for some divorced Roman Catholics to remarry and receive other sacraments.
“My staff and I have long dreamed of this move,” Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik said Wednesday. “Our dear Pope Francis inspired us to act now.”
The fees in the six-county Pittsburgh diocese ranged from $50 to $650 depending on the complexity of the case, said the Rev. Thomas Kunz. As judicial vicar, Kunz heads the diocesan marriage tribunal, which investigates annulment requests and decides whether they’ll be granted under church law.
“A Church annulment, which can only be sought after a civil divorce is final, is a declaration that the marriage was not spiritually binding,” Zubik explained in a letter to some 633,000 Catholics that was released Wednesday. To receive an annulment, a church tribunal must determine that a spiritual marriage wasn’t present from the outset, perhaps because one spouse never intended to be faithful or was too immature to understand the permanence of marriage.
Annulments declare a marriage invalid and treat it as though it never happened. Without an annulment, Catholics cannot remarry in the church. Those who do divorce and remarry are considered adulterers by the Vatican and cannot receive Communion.
“My hope is that this decision will enable many people to participate fully in the sacramental life of the Church,” Zubik wrote.