Catholic church wants 'due process' to include free annulments for all

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
Pope Francis, foreground, walks past members of the Vatican tribunal, Roman Rota, on the occasion of the opening of the judicial year at the Vatican, Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. | L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO/Pool

VATICAN CITY (Christian Examiner) -- In addition to raising the controversial questions about Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried in the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope apparently hopes to see the Vatican's judicial court that oversees annulments (The Roman Rota) grant more of them and for free.

The already centuries-long debate in the church surrounding the issue of annulments continues following Pope Francis' remarks January 23 to Vatican marriage judges that they should not "lock the salvation of persons within the straits of legalism," The Religion News Service reported.

For a Catholic individual whose marriage ends, a major difference between filing for divorce and being granted an annulment is the freedom to participate in the Eucharist if that individual remarries. The Eucharist is a key sacrament in the Catholic faith necessary to achieve unity with the church and the fulfillment of the embodiment of Christ.

According to the Vatican's news network, the Pontif implored the church's highest judges to remember that the "highest law" is the salvation of souls.

"I would like, therefore to exhort you to a greater and passionate diligence in your ministry," Pope Francis said before reminding the court that not all Catholics, especially those in the poorer regions of the world, can afford the legal fees for an annulment.

Despite consideration for those who cannot afford legal proceedings the Pope's push to ease the process of annulments has stirred discussion among conservative Catholics in the United States, the Huffington Post reports.

The bottom line for Francis -- who has worked for some time to streamline the administrative end of the annulment process -- is that if something is a requirement the church should not set up a financial burden for participating in it.

"This is a point I would like to stress: sacraments are free-of-charge. The sacraments give us grace -- and due process in marriage cases touches the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. How I would like all marriage processes to be free-of-charge," he said.