Religious marriage canceled or invalid? The reform of the canonical matrimonial process


We are really sure that «only the rich can afford to go to Rome at the Tribunal of the Sacred Rota to get high cancel weddings and getting married again in church"?

– Theology and canon law –

AuthorTeodoro Beccia

Teodoro Beccia










PDF print format article



Those who dedicate themselves to the care of souls, he is often forced to read on the various blogs of wise all-rounders, or to hear statements of this kind directly from the mouth of certain naive or ill-informed believers: «Only the rich can afford to go to Rome at the Tribunal of the Sacred Rota to get stoned cancel weddings and getting married again in church".

A marriage, both the one contracted between two rich people and the one contracted between two poor people, no one has the power to undo it, because the Sacraments are not available goods, let alone voidable. If the money was enough to cancel a rich man's wedding, the Church would have been spared the English schism of 1533, originated from Henry VIII who left his wife Catherine to marry Anne Boleyn. In that case we wouldn't have even had a famous martyr saint, Thomas More, sentenced to death for having declared illicit the act of supremacy exercised by the sovereign over the Catholic Church of England, which produced a schism, precisely because no one had the power to annul a Sacrament.

A marriage can be declared null and void, not cancelled, in fact declare the nullity it's something totally different from cancel. It is not the "expensive" Sacred Roman Rota referred to as the "court for the rich" that checks whether the elements of matrimonial nullity exist., but the diocesan ecclesiastical tribunals. The Tribunal of the Sacred Rota is one of the three judicial bodies of the Holy See and is based at Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, which in the ecclesiastical legal system is equivalent to the Supreme Court of Cassation of our Italian legal system:

«The Apostolic Signatura, as an administrative tribunal for the Roman Curia, judges appeals against singular administrative acts, both established by the Departments and the Secretariat of State and approved by them, whenever it is discussed whether the contested act has violated any law, in deliberating or proceeding" [see WHO].

Claim that «marriages are dissolved by the Rota» it would be equivalent to saying that a cause, rather than in the ordinary court (first degree) or the court of appeal (second degree) be discussed directly at the Supreme Court of Cassation (!?).

Many Catholic faithful united in a sacred marriage bond, either out of superficiality or out of ignorance, they never bothered to contact the parish priests or the bishops directly to represent the situations of their failed marriages and asking if there were the necessary elements to be able to intervene with a sentence of nullity, which is the responsibility of the Diocesan Tribunal. Most divorce and remarry, then if anything they go around saying, some even crying, that "only the rich can afford to pay to have their marriages annulled by the Church" (sic!).

The costs of a matrimonial nullity case they are truly laughable, when compared with the costs and fees of Italian civil lawyers who handle divorce cases. To avoid any kind of abuse, the Holy See has established a precise tariff for the out-of-pocket expenses of these causes which can amount to a minimum of 1.600 to a maximum of 3.000 Euro. Furthermore, free legal aid is provided and granted for poor people. The cases under appeal before the Roman Rota, following the Rescript of the Supreme Pontiff Francis of 7 December 2015 they are free:

«The Roman Rota should judge cases according to evangelical generosity, that is, with patronage out of office, except for the moral obligation for wealthy believers to pay an oblation of justice in favor of the causes of the poor" [see WHO].

The Apostolic Letters in the form of a Motu Proprio: Gentle Judge Lord Jesus e Gentle and merciful Jesus (for the Latin rite churches and the Eastern rite churches respectively), promulgated by His Holiness Francis II 15 August 2015, they intervened to reform the matrimonial procedural matter in response mainly to the delay with which the judgment was usually defined, to the detriment of the faithful who were forced to wait a long time for the definition of their state of life, as well as to satisfy the need, raised in the ecclesiastical context, to make the procedures for recognizing cases of nullity more accessible and agile.

In this regard it is necessary to reiterate that the marital process does not “annul” the marriage (as it is often mistakenly indicated) but intervenes to ascertain the nullity of a marriage, albeit celebrated with the necessary external forms. In this perspective, Pope Francis wanted to share the task of protecting the unity and discipline of marriage with the diocesan bishops. Also the reform, aiming for greater speed of proceedings, can fully ensure the need to obtain a response to requests for justice within a reasonable time.

In the reform we can highlight some principles aimed at placing the care and pastoral accompaniment of the faithful who have experienced the failure of their marriage at the center of the procedure. With the Motu Proprio the Pope foresees the centrality of the figure of the Bishop as a "natural judge" and asks that each diocesan Bishop personally have a collegial Court, or a Single Judge, and that you judge personally in the process shorter. So: the Bishop himself is the judge and this emerges especially in the short trial. The judicial process requires, if possible, the collegiate judge but it is the Bishop's power to appoint a Single Judge.

The need to simplify and streamline procedures led to review, when the circumstances established by the pontifical document occur, the ordinary process. In this sense, the most significant innovations were:

1) the abolition of the mandatory double compliant sentence: if you do not file an appeal within the required time, the first sentence, which declares the nullity of the marriage, becomes executive;

2) the establishment of a new trial, shorter, which operates in the most obvious cases of nullity, with the personal intervention of the Bishop at the time of the decision. This last form of trial is applied in cases in which the accused nullity of the marriage is supported by the joint request of the spouses and by clear arguments, the evidence of marital nullity being quickly demonstrated. The final decision, of declaration of nullity or referral of the case to the ordinary trial, it belongs to the Bishop himself. Both the ordinary process and that shorter However, they are processes of a purely judicial nature, which means that the nullity of the marriage can only be pronounced if the judge achieves "moral certainty" on the basis of the documents and evidence collected.

The pontifical documents of August 2015 have therefore led to a simplification of the procedures for the possible declaration of marital nullity. The Holy Father wanted the Bishop, in whose particular church entrusted to him he is pastor and leader, let him also be a judge among the faithful entrusted to him. In the pastoral context, the Bishop will entrust the preliminary investigation to suitable people, which will serve to collect the useful elements for the introduction of the judicial process, ordinary or shorter, supporting and helping spouses through legally trained individuals. The preliminary investigation will conclude with the drafting of the application, o libello, to be presented to the Bishop or the competent court. Normally it is the spouses who challenge the marriage, perhaps jointly, but the promoter of justice can also do it according to the dictates of can. 1674. Before accepting the case, the judge must be certain that the marriage has irremediably failed, so as to make it impossible to re-establish marital cohabitation. The competent court will normally be chosen according to the provisions of can. 1672 (the court of the place where the marriage was celebrated; the court of the place where one or both parties have their domicile or quasi-domicile; the court of the place where most of the evidence actually needs to be collected).

In the matrimonial process the competent Judicial Vicar, once the libellus has been received by decree notified to the parties and to the defender of the bond, he must first admit it if he sees any basis in it. Subsequently, will have to notify it to defender of the bond and to the party who did not sign the libellus, which has a period of fifteen days to respond. Once this deadline has elapsed, the Judicial Vicar establishes the formula of the doubt, determining the nullity of the case; establishes whether the case will be handled with the ordinary procedure or shorter; in the case of an ordinary trial, with the same decree constitutes the college of judges o, lacking, appoints the single judge.

Regarding the evaluation of evidence, the Motu Proprio introduces some new features which are reported below. First of all, the principle of the value of the parties' declarations is strengthened, that, if they enjoy credible texts, considered all the evidence and arguments that, in the absence of refutation, can take on the value of full proof. Even the testimony of just one witness can be fully authentic. In cases of impotence or lack of consent due to mental illness or psychic anomaly, the work of one or more experts will have to be called upon, unless from the circumstances it appears unnecessary. Yet, if during the investigation of the case a doubt arises as to the probable non-consummation of the marriage, it will be sufficient to hear the parties to suspend the cause of nullity, complete the investigation in view of the dispensation super rated and transmit the documents to the Apostolic See, combined with the request for dispensation of one or both parties and completed by the vote of the tribunal and the Bishop. In reference to the fit process shorter, needs to be clarified, in summary, or in the presence of factual situations indicative of the evident nullity of the marriage, proven by witnesses or documents, the diocesan Bishop has the competence to judge the application.

This new ritual, in other words, allows the diocesan Bishop to issue a sentence of nullity in cases in which the following conditions exist:

a) the request is proposed by both spouses or by one of them with the consent of the other;

b) the circumstances of facts and people make the nullity manifest. These circumstances, normally found in preliminary ruling or pastoral investigations and listed by way of example in the art. 14 of the Procedural Rules, they are not new heads of nothingness. It deals with, simply, of situations that jurisprudence considers symptomatic elements of invalidity of marital consent. They can even clearly suggest the nullity of the marriage. In particular they are:

1) the lack of faith that generates the simulation of consensus or the error that determines the will;

2) the brevity of marital cohabitation;

3) abortion procured to prevent procreation;

4) the obstinate persistence in an extramarital relationship at the time of the wedding or immediately thereafter;

5) the malicious concealment of sterility or a serious contagious disease or of children born from a previous relationship or of imprisonment;

6) the cause of the marriage unrelated to married life or consisting in the woman's unexpected pregnancy;

7) physical violence inflicted to extort consent;

8) the lack of use of reason proven by medical documents.

They will be needed to start a process shorter:

a) the request proposed by both spouses or by one of them with the consent of the other, to the Bishop or Judicial Vicar;

b) the pamphlet with the facts on which the application is based, the evidence that can be collected by the judge, the documents attached to the application. Given the evident presence of factual situations indicative of the nullity of the marriage, proven by testimonies or documents, the competence to judge fit shorter it falls to the diocesan bishop, following the presentation of the pamphlet, who will have to present the facts, indicate the evidence and attach the documents on which the application is based and which must be presented to the diocesan judicial vicar.

As the Dean of the Roman Rota underlined at the time, this reform of the matrimonial process has a substantial impact and comes after three hundred years in which the matter had remained substantially unchanged. Following the reform of 2015 both the diocesan Bishops and the Metropolitans will have to proceed with the establishment of the diocesan tribunal. If a court already exists, but which has no jurisdiction for matrimonial nullity, the Bishop will be able to issue a decree with which he confers jurisdiction on his own tribunal. Moreover, if it is impossible to have a panel of three judges, the Bishop must decide to entrust the cases to a single judge, or decide to join an interdiocesan court competent in matrimonial matters pursuant to can. 1673 § 2 CIC, while considering this a residual rule to which the bishop must resort only when, due to the shortage of adequately trained personnel, it is impossible to establish a competent court in matrimonial matters. We remind you that with the entry into force of By the proper motion of the gentle judge, Lord Jesus was, de facto, repealed the provisions of Motu Proprio Here care, promulgated in turn by Pope Pius XI on 8 December 1938, which established the regional courts with jurisdiction in matrimonial matters.

If you want correct and timely information, Don't go online and type "annulment of religious marriage" into a search engine., because you will find pages and pages of wrong comments and just as many self-styled experts who write things that are sometimes even more senseless on their blogs. Contact the bishops and priests.


Velletri of Rome, 12 September 2023



Visit the pages of our book shop WHO and support our editions by purchasing and distributing our books.



Dear Readers,
this magazine requires management costs that we have always faced only with your free offers. Those who wish to support our apostolic work can send us their contribution through the convenient and safe way PayPal by clicking below:

Or if you prefer you can use our
Bank account in the name of:
Editions The island of Patmos

n Agency. 59 From Rome
Iban code:
For international bank transfers:
Codice SWIFT:

If you make a bank transfer, send an email to the editorial staff, the bank does not provide your email and we will not be able to send you a thank you message:

We thank you for the support you wish to offer to our apostolic service.

The Fathers of the Island of Patmos