The Vatican today announced that a press conference will be held at noon tomorrow for the presentation of two Apostolic Letters of Pope Francis, given motu proprio: Mitis iudex Dominus Iesus and Mitis et Misericors Iesus. These concern the reform of the canonical process for the causes of declaration of nullity of marriage (commonly called "annulment") respectively for the (Latin-Rite) Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.
The extremely short notice given for the press conference (only 24 hours) is highly unusual, as is the speed with which this reform has been accomplished -- less than a year! The Commission for the reform of the canonical process for declarations of nullity of marriage was announced only on September 20, 2014.
Let me share with you some of my frustrations with the annulment procedure as it stands and what I would welcome and hope comes to pass.
1. There needs to be a very simple process for non-Catholics who desire to join the Catholic Church. Often times, these non-Catholics are in second and third marriages, or the one interested in becoming Catholic has no previous marriage but married to someone with one or more marriages and that person is not Catholic and has no intention of becoming Catholic. It is the rare non-Catholic who has no intention of becoming Catholic who will go through a full-blown annulment in the Catholic Church just so their spouse can become a Catholic. Usually they are suspicious of their spouse joining the Catholic Church.
If I were pope, I would simply decree that only those Christian Church's that teach the indissolubility of Marriage in a formal way and call it one of the Seven Sacraments have marriages that are presumed to be sacramental. All other denominations and those who have no Christian affiliation have marriages that are simply Holy Bonds, but not sacraments even if both parties are baptized. A simple procedure to simply prove that the person belonged to a denomination that doesn't accept marriage as a Sacrament or the person got married without any real religious underpinnings would lead to a quick resolution similar to the Catholic Lack of Form process.
2. Annulment procedures need to be very simplified for Protestants and less invasive.
3. There must be a way to grant annulments to older Catholics who have no living witnesses to support their claims. My suggestion is that we simply take their word or testimony as truth when made under oath. This is the greatest obstacle, no witnesses or former spouses who vindictively stand in the way of an annulment for vengeful reasons or simply because they have not be able to cope with their spouse's divorce and remarriage and hold on tenaciously that they are still married to this person.
4. I do believe that when two Catholics get married in the Church that the annulment procedure so be more stringent, especially when witnesses are available.
What are your thoughts and hopes about the simplification of the annulment procedure?