divorce2Today the Vatican released two documents updating the Code of Canon Law regarding marriage annulments.

This is great news for all of those who were nervous about the upcoming synod of the family. As John Allen comments here, these new rules provide the way forward in the thorny issue of remarriage after divorce. There is now an easier and quicker way to minister to those who have an invalid marriage and have gone through civil divorce.

Ines San Martin explains the news very well here, and Jimmy Akin outlines nine things to learn about the annulment process and the reforms to the law in this article for National Catholic Register.

You’ll gather the facts from these linked articles, but the quick takeaway is that Pope Francis has streamlined the process making the decision about annulments quicker, easier and cheaper.

One of the most important things I’ve learned since becoming a Catholic priest is how seriously most marriage tribunal officials take their work and the fact therefore that the Catholic Church continues to take marriage seriously.

Some people complain that there are too many annulments, and no doubt there are some abuses. Some annulments are given out lightly and I expect with the new rules even more annulments will be doled out too quickly and automatically. However, that need not be the case, and the more efficient rules will mean that the obvious cases for annulment can be dealt with more quickly and this will help all those involved in the pastoral care of those in broken marriages.

Is it necessarily a terrible thing that there will be more annulments?

I will never forget what one pastor said when discussing this matter: “Of course there are more annulments than ever before. That’s because there are more invalid marriages than ever before.”

I’m sure nobody would dispute the fact that marriage and weddings in our mixed up society are a total mess.

When giving a talk about the family  recently I said it is as if a great ship has hit a rock and has gone down and we’re all swimming about amidst the flotsam and jetsam.

Our job now is to rescued the shipwrecked and help one another build a raft out of the wreckage.

These new annulment procedures will help us to do just that.