There was news with Pope Francis this week! And it's real news, not fake news, like last week.
Pope Francis issued two motu propio documents. Unofficial translation: "Just 'cuz I wanna". That's a type of document the Pope can issue out of the blue, which changes church rules. An example would be the previous Pope's Summa Pontificorum. In the document, Benedict said, "The 1962 Latin mass can now be said anywhere at any time. Deal with it, tradition haters!". Then he put on his sunglasses and rode off on his motorcycle.
As promised, Pope Francis' motu propio documents change the rules for annulments. In the document, Francis said, "We're going back to the 1981 rules. Deal with it, tradition haters!". Then he put on his sunglasses and rode off on his motorcycle.
Let me explain. An annulment is a legal document, stating that a marriage did not take place. For example, if I had a secret wife when Katie and I had our wedding, then a marriage would not have taken place. Some people think annulments are the Catholic version of divorce, so the issue of annulments tends to be hotly contested. I wouldn't be surprised if there are abuses on both sides of the debate.
There are three main changes that Pope Francis made to the annulment process.
#1. To get an annulment, you only have to go through one court, not two. The requirement of going through a second court was added in 1982. Getting rid of this requirement is a timesaver. Provided that the first court did its job properly, though, the second court shouldn't take up that much time; it should just rubber-stamp the first court's decision.
#2. Annulments should be provided free of charge, if possible. Obviously, the lawyers need to be paid, but some places were charging exorbitant amounts for the annulment process, and they need to knock that off, right now.
#3. The local Bishop can step in and bypass the entire annulment process. (This ability was removed in 1983, because it was being abused.) That is, he can say, "Hey, no need to go to court; I'm giving you an annulment right now." He can do this in the following cases.
c. spouse beating
d. one person had secret children
e. one person had secret incarceration
f. one person has a secret, contagious disease
g. one person was secretly infertile
h. one or both parties lack the faith to give full consent to a Catholic marriage
i. abortion or something else showing one person is unwilling to procreate
j. getting married for a reason that's completely foreign to marriage
k. getting married because the woman is pregnant
l. a short marriage (I'm not sure what this means here. "Brevitas convictus coniugalis" literally means "short living together of marriage".)
m. the list ends with "and others", so presumably, there are other cases where this applies.
The document is only in Italian and Latin right now. So we'll have to wait a while, before the specifics come in.