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Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin has chosen to eliminate all fees previously connected to canon law investigations related to petitions for declarations of nullity of marriages, commonly known as annulments. (Read his full statement)
In an interview with The Criterion, Archbishop Tobin said that “my heart goes out to the many good people who have suffered the tragic breakup of their marriage.”
“My hope is that the decision to waive the fees for the annulment process may encourage these brothers and sisters who have a doubt regarding the sacramentality of their previous marriage to submit a petition to our Metropolitan Tribunal,” he added.
As archdiocesan vicar judicial, Father Stanley Pondo leads the ministry of the archdiocese’s Metropolitan Tribunal.
He said that the investigations tribunal staff members carry out can help petitioners to come to terms with aspects of their own lives related to their failed marriages in ways that the civil divorce process doesn’t address.
“When a person goes through a divorce, a lot of times it’s a traumatic experience and there’s not a lot of self-reflection that occurs as a part of the civil process,” Father Pondo said. “The civil process essentially deals with the civic effects, such as custody of children and division of property that results from a civil divorce.
“The civil courts really don’t encourage any sort of reflection about what the marriage was, what the behaviors in the marriage were, what may have contributed to the breakup of the marriage. One of the things that happens in the annulment process is that the person is encouraged and helped to consider those kinds of issues. That can have a healing effect.”
Archbishop Tobin noted that the waiving of fees related to annulment investigations is part of a broader effort of the Church in central and southern Indiana to support couples preparing for marriage and thse already married.
“Christian marriage is a precious gift and holy lifestyle that is beset by new stressors and whose meaning is blurred by cultural confusion,” he said. “The Catholic community must respond to these challenges with prophetic witness and pastoral charity.”
The archdiocese also reaches out to people who have experienced divorce and separation through the Divorce and Beyond program, sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Pro-Life and Family Life.
“This vital ministry supports individuals whose marriages have ended by providing encouragement and support in order that they have the tools to move forward in a healthy manner,” said Rebecca Niemerg, director of the Office of Pro-Life and Family Life. “Divorce and Beyond groups, Catholic based peer-ministry support groups, are scheduled at various locations and times throughout the archdiocese. These groups explore the stress, anger, blame and guilt of divorce with the goal of leading participants toward forgiveness, happiness and growth.” †