On Tuesday, September 8, 2015, Pope Francis issued Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus [The Lord Jesus, Gentle Judge], a document revising the marriage nullity process. The mass media, including even some Catholic news outlets, have reported a great deal of misinformation about the new changes to the declaration of nullity (annulment) process.
Pope Francis teaches exactly what Christ taught: that marriage is indissoluble. Indissolubility is part of the Good News! It tells us that God wants us to love and be loved unconditionally, and that he made us capable of that kind of love. Nothing that Pope Francis has said or done has changed or could change that. His concern is to eliminate any unnecessary, artificial, or unduly burdensome barriers toward obtaining a just and expeditious judgment. He also wants to minimize as much as possible the amount of time people spend in a state of uncertainty while their case is pending.
The revised laws take effect on December 8, 2015, three months from their promulgation. They contain a number of “tweaks” to the process, but there are five major changes: (1) new rules for tribunal competence, (2) new requirements for tribunal personnel, (3) the elimination of the requirement for a second conforming affirmative decision, (4) a change in the approach to recovering tribunal expenses, and (5) a shorter and more streamlined process, judged personally by the diocesan bishop, for certain rare and exceptional cases.