The following comes from an early December story in the Inland Catholic Byte, an online publication of the San Bernadino diocese.
The Diocese of San Bernardino has joined just a handful of dioceses in the United States that do not charge a fee to those seeking to have their marriage annulled.
The move took effect on August 28, the Feast Day of St. Augustine.
“In this important ministry of reconciliation every obstacle (and excuse) for not applying for an annulment should be removed,” Bishop Gerald Barnes said in a letter announcing the fee waiver. “Too many people feel they are on the outside looking in; the New Evangelization calls us to reach out to them and facilitate their return to the community.”
Father David Andel, J.C.L., judicial vicar for the diocese, said that Pope Francis’ emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation, particularly in relation to those who have drifted away from the Catholic faith, was a catalyst for the local discussion about waiving annulment fees. After discussing the idea with Father Andel, Bishop Barnes consulted the presbyteral council, his chief body of priest advisors, and received a positive reception.
The average amount of the annulment fee in the diocese of San Bernardino was about $400, Father Andel said, generating about $40,000 a year. Any outstanding annulment fees owed to the diocesan tribunal are also waived. The vast majority of dioceses in the United States charge an annulment fee. The diocese of Cleveland, Ohio and archdiocese of Detroit, Michigan are among those who have also eliminated their annulment fee.
Getting rid of the fee helps put greater focus on the spiritual process of the annulment and its potential for healing, Fr. Andel said.
“There’s been that perception than an annulment can be bought,” he said. “This flies in the face of that….”
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