For the past several weeks, diocesan officials had been working on a plan to eliminate annulment fees prior to the September 8 announcement by Pope Francis regarding the simplification of the annulment process.
With the upcoming World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and in anticipation of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, it seems to be the opportune time for me to announce my decision that all fees associated with seeking a marriage annulment in the Diocese of Buffalo will be eliminated. Effective immediately, I am eliminating all fees for those seeking an annulment in our Marriage Tribunal.
The hope is that this decision will open the door for many more people to participate fully in the sacramental life of the Church. Many divorced Catholics leave the Church after a civil remarriage because they are unable to receive the Eucharist and other sacraments. Divorced and remarried people who wish to join the Catholic Church are often discouraged from doing so by the perceived financial burden attached to an annulment process. Requesting a fee for the annulment process has been an enormous psychological hindrance that has stood in the way of some people seeking a solution to the marital situation in which they find themselves.
Previously, the fee had partially covered the cost of training and maintaining an office of canon lawyers and support staff as well as other expenses involved in processing the cases. The Diocese has always subsidized two-thirds of the cost of the annulment process. While the fee was reduced or waived for those who could not afford it, the very existence of a fee was disheartening to many people and blocked the way for them to seek an annulment.
A divorce by itself does not prevent a Catholic from participating fully in the sacraments. For those remarried outside the Church or contemplating another marriage, an annulment opens the door to full participation in the life of the Church.
Divorced and civilly remarried Catholics are welcome in our parishes. The Family Life Department of the Diocese of Buffalo offers a program called LINK aimed at assisting people to adjust to the fact of their divorce as well as helping people reconstruct their lives in relationship to others. Information about such programs may be obtained from the Tribunal or Family Life Department.
Many people are unclear about what an annulment is in the Catholic Church. A Church annulment is a statement by the Catholic Church that a particular relationship did not meet the qualifications and definition of marriage as defined by the Catholic Church. One or both parties may have entered the marriage with good will, but lacked the openness, honesty, or emotional stability or capacity to establish a community of life and love with another person.
Please share the news with your family, friends, and coworkers that the Church stands ready to help them if they are in need of an annulment. For more information about the annulment process, please contact the Tribunal at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 716-847-8769.
Be assured of my prayerful best wishes for all of you. Our Diocese will be especially in my thoughts and prayers when I meet with Pope Francis this month.
May God bless you!
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend Richard J. Malone
Bishop of Buffalo