On September 8, 2015, Pope Francis issued an Apostolic letter Motu propio, titled Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (“The Lord Jesus, Clement Judge”), initiating a reform in the Church’s procedures for determining the nullity of marriage cases.
Here is what you need to know.
A declaration of nullity is often popularly called an “annulment.” But this is not a very accurate term, since the Church is not actively making a marriage null, but is merely recognizing the fact that the marriage was actually already null from its very beginning. There are some situations where two individuals might have appeared to have entered into a “valid” marriage, when in reality some essential element to a real marriage was missing.
The details of the canonical process for determining validity of a marriage can be complex and technical, but essentially it involves a tribunal:
The most important changes include:
Each application contains a great quantity of information that needs to be transferred to the Tribunal database. A simplified application has been created to reflect the briefer and simpler procedure of the abbreviated process, but the task of the judge is still to make an assessment of the facts of the case based on the law of the Church. The central question and focus is still on the nature of the marital consent that was exchanged at the time of the wedding.
Canon Law requires that the following elements are needed to Petition for the briefer process:
Once an application has been submitted to the Diocesan Tribunal, the Judicial Vicar will determine if the case qualifies for the abbreviated process.
The judicial vicar will then decide on what the investigation should focus by determining the formula of the doubt which must be answered in the sentence.
He will name an Instructor, in order to collect the evidence or to hear the testimony of a particular witness on his behalf.
The Judicial Vicar will finally ask to both the parties and the witnesses to provide testimony within thirty days.