Thrilled to see that another diocese (this time, the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana) is eliminating annulment fees [h/t to Deacon Greg for sharing the same news from Cleveland a few months ago].
It’s one of those steps to support evangelization that’s long overdue, at least in the United States for the simple reason that, as much as we may not like it, perception is reality for those who hold all sorts of conspiratorial, erroneous, or just plain misleading beliefs about the nature of annulment and money in American Catholic dioceses.
As the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend plainly explained, it’s to “dispel misconceptions and help create a more welcoming process for those that may have felt they could not afford an annulment.” Bam. What else matters more than this?
Many insist that the fees are essential for supporting the ministerial and administrative costs of annulment. Are there resource costs of the annulment process? Of course! However, many diverse ministries within parishes and dioceses are supported without, what would technically be called, a “user fee.” This is why the Church asks us to give spiritually (sometimes called tithing)–so that those who are followers of Jesus Christ can provide for ministry to others, especially those who are not yet disciples and should not have to pay to hear the Gospel at say, a parish evangelistic talk, marriage prep, or even in the annulment process.
Thinking in the eternal time frame, as Church we’re all about being used by God for the salvation of souls. Eliminating annulment fees certainly supports that. And, I’d imagine that even thinking just in terms of the temporal sphere, a person who goes through a pastoral annulment process, hears and responds to the Gospel as a new (or renewed) disciple of Jesus Christ, and then lives out discipleship through spiritual giving and service to the Church and world surely “gives back” immeasurably more than the financial value of an up-front user fee!