Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence said today that he is ``extremely pleased’’ that Pope Francis has ``approved the simplification of the annulment process.’’
In a statement, Tobin said, ``It will perhaps allow some Catholics to have prior marriage situations resolved in a way that will benefit them spiritually, while also maintaining the essential Catholic teaching regarding the permanence of the Sacrament of Matrimony.
The Bishop said that the Diocese of Providence will ``study the norms very carefully and begin to implement them as soon as possible.’’
Pope Francis today announced sweeping changes to the church’s annulment process. The changes are designed to speed up and simplify what has long been a complicated and often lengthy process. The Washington Post, citing Vatican experts, states that the changes ``appear to be the most far-reaching made to the church’s annulment process in centuries.’’
The changes will eliminate a requirement that all annulment decisions get a second judgement. Local bishops will be permitted to speed the annulment process for some cases. And the annulment process will be free of charge.
While Tobin applauded the Pope’s marriage edit, he has been cited as a conservative critic of Pope Francis. In a letter to the diocese quoted by the Post in a story about conservative backlash against the Pope, Tobin was a prime example of a cleric expressing a more traditional view than Pope Francis, who makes his first visit to the U.S. later this month.
``In trying to accommodate the needs of the age, as Pope Francis suggests, the church risks the danger of losing its courageous, countercultural, prophetic voice, one that the world needs to hear,’’ wrote Tobin.