In an effort to help more Catholics return to the practice of their faith, the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio, will eliminate all fees for marriage annulments effective immediately, Bishop Richard Lennon has announced.
“This is an effort to promote the common good for the faithful of Cleveland,” Bishop Lennon said June 5.
Bishop Lennon said he hopes and prays the change will encourage greater participation among men and women in irregular marriage situations, such as those who have civilly divorced and remarried.
The diocesan tribunal will no longer charge fees for cases of marriage annulments, the Diocese of Cleveland said. A typical annulment case costs petitioners about $450. The diocesan marriage tribunal will assume the cost of the cases.
The decision also applies to pending annulment cases, whose remaining fees will be waived.
The Diocese of Cleveland marriage tribunal heard 512 cases in 2013, the diocese told the Ohio newspaper The Plain Dealer.
Costs for processing and paperwork of marriage dispensations and marriage permissions required for Catholics entering into marriage with a non-Catholic will also be assumed by the diocese.
The Cleveland bishop said the decision came after consultations with staff, the judicial vicar, and several pastors.
An annulment is church recognition that a previous marriage was invalid. Criteria for a valid marriage include intention to marry permanently and faithfully, intention to be open to children, and ability to give free consent to the union, according to the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Father Craig Hovanec, pastor of the Church of St. Peter in Lorain, Ohio, told the Morning Journal that each annulment process costs the diocese between $1,200 and $1,300.
He said a desire for money was “never a motivating factor” for the fees, which offset some of the costs to the tribunal.
The Diocese of Cleveland cited Pope Francis’ efforts to encourage ministry to divorced and separated Catholics “so that they do not feel excluded from the mercy of God.”