Cleveland ends fees for annulments—UPDATED

I don’t know if this is a first for the United States, but it’s exceptional: 

In a gesture that reaches out to divorced and remarried Catholics, the Cleveland Catholic Diocese announced on Wednesday that it will stop charging fees for marriage annulments.

Bishop Richard Lennon said he made the decision to “encourage greater participation in the life of the church” by Catholics in “irregular marital situations, such as divorce and remarriage.”

Catholics who have remarried without an annulment are not permitted to receive the sacrament of communion.

“This is an effort to promote the common good for the faithful of Cleveland,” Lennon said in a statement.

The cost of an annulment has generally been about $450, according to the diocese. It will now be assumed by the diocesan marriage tribunal. Fees associated with annulments vary, but most tribunals in the United States charge between $200 and $1,000, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The elimination of annulment fees begins immediately. For petitioners already in the process and awaiting a final decision, remaining balances are being waived.

The process can vary among dioceses, but often can take 12 to 18 months, according to the bishops conference.

The statement from the Cleveland diocese said the new policy includes all types of annulment cases. It also includes dispensations and permissions, such as those for marriage in a non-Catholic rite or church or a mixed marriage.

Last year, 512 cases went before the diocesan marriage tribunal, according to the Cleveland diocese.

Read the rest.

UPDATE: Cleveland’s move is not unprecedented. A reader sent me this link, from the Archdiocese of Detroit: 

There is NO CHARGE for the services rendered by the Metropolitan Tribunal. The Tribunal is funded through the annual Catholic Services Appeal (CSA) of the Archdiocese of Detroit, usually held in May of each year. The Archbishop requests those who receive services from the Tribunal be generous in their giving to the CSA.

The offerings of the people of the Archdiocese of Detroit defray the expenses of time and personnel that each case requires. The cost of completing a case is estimated to be approximately $800.  Process takes about one year to complete.

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