Pope Francis announced reforms today (September 8, 2015) aimed at simplifying and speeding up the Roman Catholic Church's procedure for marriage annulments. The new law allows a fast-track process that will be handled directly by bishops, according to the USA Today website.
An annulment is a ruling that a marriage is not valid because certain conditions are not being met, such as free choice, psychological maturity, and willingness to have children. The ruling is based on a finding that the marriage contract was fundamentally flawed from the start, and hence invalid in the eyes of the church.
Without an annulment, a Catholic who remarries is considered an adulterer and may not participate in some sacraments, including Holy Communion.
In the document, Francis emphasizes that marriage remains an indissoluble union and that the new regulations are not meant to help to end it. Rather, he said, the reform is aimed at speeding up and simplifying the annulment process, especially for poorer people who cannot afford lawyers, so that the faithful can find justice.