Pope mulls removing marriage-annulment charges
VATICAN CITY (AP): Pope Francis has denounced the hardships Catholics can face when seeking marriage annulments, revealing he once fired an official who tried to charge thousands of dollars for one.
Francis told participants at a Vatican course for officials dealing with annulments that, as bishop of Buenos Aires, he was dismayed to learn that some faithful needed to travel hundreds of kilometres (miles) and lose days of work to reach church tribunals.
He also recalled sacking an unidentified church tribunal official, possibly a lawyer, who told someone: "Give me $10,000 and I'll take care" of the annulment process.
becoming a business
"One must be careful that the procedures don't become a business," Francis said.
The Vatican teaches that matrimony is a sacrament and forbids divorce. Many Catholics wanting to end their marriages seek annulments, a church ruling their union was invalid and thus, essentially, never existed. Possible reasons include a spouse who never intended to be faithful or who was psychologically too immature to understand the forever nature of marriage in the Catholic church.
Annulments allow Catholics to marry again in the church.
Francis said he was considering requests made at a recent Vatican meeting of bishops about families to make annulments cost-free.
Many dioceses customarily ask annulment petitioners to pay hundreds of dollars to defray administrative costs, but some are now dropping fees, as a northern Indiana diocese started doing last month.