Marriage is forever: Pope's reform requires proof union was invalid by Cindy Wooden, CNS/Catholic Register
Catholic marriage tribunals do not dissolve marriages, but assess whether or not a valid sacramental marriage was present from the beginning. Catholics whose first unions are declared "null" -- meaning there never was a marriage -- are free to marry in the church and receive the sacraments, including reconciliation and Communion.With the new rules released Sept. 8, Pope Francis made the process quicker, but did not make it easier for couples to prove a union was not a marriage. He removed the requirement that all decrees of nullity must be confirmed by a second panel of judges; he urged dioceses around the world to make the process free or as close to free as possible (truth be told, most dioceses in North America wave any fees if fees constitute a burden); and he established a "brief process" by which diocesan bishops can recognize the nullity of a union when both parties agree and have overwhelming proof their union did not meet at least one of the Catholic Church's requirements for a sacramental marriage. (Potential abuse alert! And if a bishop is close friends with a couple seeking a decree of nullity... ? Perhaps there should be language requiring bishops in such circumstances to recuse themselves and surrender the issue to their tribunal(s).)According to the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: "A valid Catholic marriage results from five elements: (1) the spouses are free to marry; (2) they freely exchange their consent; (3) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; (4) they intend the good of each other; and (5) their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized church minister."