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NCR: Simplified annulment process coming from synod

Thomas Reese, NCR, skriver bl.a.: 

Those expecting quick change in the church will be disappointed by the first day of the synod of bishops on the family. On the other hand, those who were present at the 1980 synod on the family will be amazed at how much things have already changed.

The biggest change is that open discussion is being encouraged by the pope. Under John Paul II, raising controversial questions was frowned upon, but Pope Francis has told the bishops not to be afraid of saying what they think, even if they disagree with him. For more on this, see NCR Rome correspondent Josh McElwee's piece.

The second big change is in attitudes toward the church's annulment process, by which the church declares that a marriage was invalid and therefore it is okay for the former spouses to marry new partners.

At the 1980 synod, the U.S church came under heavy attack for granting many more annulments than the rest of the world combined. The American bishops had to defend their tribunals, which were efficient and staffed with well trained canon lawyers.

Today, no such criticism is heard. Instead, the current annulment process is under attack as too complicated and legalistic. As Cardinal Péter Erdő reported to the bishops in his opening address to the synod, the preparatory document, the Instrumentum Laboris, "describes a rather broad consensus in favor of simplifying marriage cases from the pastoral view." 

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