This is great news for people who want an annulment but is meeting with mixed reviews by those who will be in charge of granting them. So here are a couple of things to keep in mind while this gets sorted out.
1. The Church is not in the business of granting annulments, the state is. Tell a canon lawyer that you want an annulment and he will sigh and roll his eyes and say as much. It is impossible for the Church to nullify a marriage, the Church can simply recognize that there was a "fatal flaw" of sorts and that a sacramental marriage was never truly established.
2. Pope Francis wants the costs greatly reduced. In many places, such as the Diocese of Cleveland, it is already a free service of the diocese. But for those in other places this is great news.
Now to be sure, the nullity process is cumbersome and I have long wished that it could be simplified. But part of the lengthening of the process was to put safeguards in place to protect the people involved as well as the upholding of the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage. So now, many of the safeguards that were put in to place to make sure that there were no abuses to the system are being removed which will greatly cut down on the time and fuss.
If I read correctly, the final buck stops with the bishop to make the final call (there has GOT to be a way around this) instead of a Tribunal judge. The bishop must already confirm every Catholic in the diocese, approve all major work projects, run seminaries, hospitals, and school systems, speak out on important topics, and a billion other things that I won' even think of (please. Lord, NEVER make me a bishop) and now he must determine every nullity case in the diocese. So now, not only does he have to review every case, there is now a time limit set by the pope. How careful will a bishop be able to be?
So here is the problem that each bishop much work out before December 9th:
1. You will have to find a new way to pay for this process.
3. You must do it more quickly.
It reminds me of a sign I saw in store once:
You may pick two of the following:
You may have your project done -
Alright bishops: There is your mandate. You do not get to choose to you must do all three.
I am both excited about this and worried.