Making sure that fairness is at the core of the marriage annulment process. This is the message Pope Francis highlighted as he spoke to a group taking part in a marriage annulment course, organized by the Roman Rota. Fairness, he said, includes the ruling, timeliness and cost.
"Justice, so that you may be fair and justice for those who wait. Justice and also charity, because many people need an answer from the Church on their marital status. They need the 'no' or the 'yes' but the answer must be fair. Some cases end up being so long and cumbersome that they don't help and people give up."
The Pope said he's concerned about the high price tag some of these cases carry, whether it be with lawyers or the tribunals.
"We must be very careful, so that the process doesn't follow economic interests. I'm not taking about hypothetical cases. There have been public scandals. I had to remove a person from the Tribunal, some time ago, because he would tell people 'Give me $10,000 dollars and I will take care of the civil and ecclesiastical proceedings.' Please, prevent this from happening."
During the Synod, bishops also discussed the possibility of making the annulment process free. The Pope talked about this option.
"During the Synod there were some proposals about making the process free. We have to study this. But we can't mix spiritual interests with economic ones. This is not of God!"
The Mother Church has enough generosity to be able to provide justice freely, just like we, are freely justified by Jesus Christ. This point is important. These two issues must be separate.”
Usually a marriage annulment process takes about a year and a half. The price depends on the country.
In the U.S, depending on the diocese, the cost usually ranges between 300 to 600 dollars.
In Spain for example, the cost is divided between court fees and attorneys. The Tribunal receives between 600 and 1200 euros, but a request to override the fees can also be submitted. In addition, the attorney charges about 1,200 dollars.
The Pope said that in some of these cases, the price can be high enough to discourage Catholics from even starting the process.