CHARLESTON—On Jan. 1, the costs associated with the marriage annulment process in the Diocese of Charleston were dramatically cut.
In response to the reforms Pope Francis has made to canon law designed to speed up the process and make it more affordable, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone permanently reduced the Tribunal annulment fee from approximately $900 to $200.
“It helps people who might see the fee structure as an obstacle to trying to obtain an annulment,” Bishop Guglielmone explained. “The Holy Father asked where possible to eliminate or reduce the fee, but the diocese … decided it was best to require a minimal fee.”
The apostolic letters making the changes, “Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus” (“The Lord Jesus, the Gentle Judge”) for the Latin-rite church and “Mitis et misericors Iesus” (“The Meek and Merciful Jesus”) for the Eastern Catholic churches, went into effect Dec. 8, the opening of the Year of Mercy.
The pope’s reforms to canon law are intended to make the process provide better for the spiritual well-being of the laity, but they are not designed to favor the nullity of marriages.
The bishop said that it is important for people to understand exactly what an annulment is — a statement that a sacramental marriage never existed — and that it has no effect on civil law. It is a common misconception that an annulment makes children illegitimate, but that is not the case as the Church does not negate the moral or civil obligations of parenthood.
In an era where many marriages fail and divorces are commonplace, the bishop does not think that Catholics will be inclined to take marriage blithely.
“I think folks who take their faith seriously have every intention of making it a permanent commitment,” he said. “As the Holy Father has said, the Church must make sure people enter marriage with a deeper understanding of what that is.”
He added that it does not make a lot of difference to those in a superficial relationship with the Church.
“It gives people who are very serious about their faith the opportunity to rectify an uninformed judgement,” Bishop Guglielmone said.
For more information about the marriage annulment process, contact the Diocese of Charleston Tribunal at 843-261-0450.