• Changes in Catholic annulment process affect central Missouri

    By Hailey Godburn and Fan Feng

    The divorce rate among American Catholics is lower than the national average at only 28 percent. But Catholics have something they do differently when they want to remarry: they get an annulment. Pope Francis made changes earlier this month to the annulment process, making it easier and cheaper for divorced Catholics to come back to the Church.

    “Annulment, first of all, is not Catholic divorce,” said Father Francis Doyle, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Columbia, Missouri. “It is a process that just determines if a marriage was invalid.”

    But it was a process that kept Judy Barnes outside of the church for 22 years when she got remarried to Jim Barnes. Both had been divorced.

    Judy Barnes was born and raised in the Catholic Church, but she always felt a stigma toward the word annulment when she separated with her first husband. Remarrying after a civil divorce is considered adultery in the church, and getting an annulment was a necessary step for her marriage to be considered valid by church standards.

    That was why the couple only went to a Lutheran church afterward. However, for Judy Barnes, Catholic Church always has a special place in her heart.

    “The consecration in the Catholic Church is so sacred to me and I’ve never found that in any other church,” Judy Barnes said.

    It was that desire that motivated both Jim and Judy to get their previous marriages dissolved religiously.

    “We went to St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church originally and then she wanted to get back into the Catholic Church so we went through the process, the annulment process and everything.” Jim Barnes said.

    Jim Barnes waited longer to get his annulment because he could not prove he was baptized in the Catholic Church. His paperwork had to travel all the way to Rome to get approved by the pope. With the new changes that are going to take effect Dec. 8, bishops in the local diocese can now complete that request and save much more time.

    Associate professor of religious studies department at MU Rabia Gregory said the new changes will likely bring more divorced Catholics back to the church.

    “By making annulment easier and by granting access to community again to the divorced, yes Francis is making it easier for people to come into the church and have that path in,” Gregory said. “I don’t think that’s explicit, it is definitely the outcome but I don’t know whether that was the intention.”

    After going through the annulment process and getting their marriage legitimate in the church, the Barnes now devote a lot of their time after retirement to a local Catholic church.

    MARRIAGE0924_DOCS_Page_1“We’re pretty busy at Sacred Heart,” Judy Barnes said. “We do quite a bit with homeless and I’m the chairman of the emergency response team there, so we’re getting that all organized and it’s busy.”

    Two years after the couple’s initiations of their annulments, the Church finally blessed their 22-year marriage this July.

    Doing the paperwork

    In the Catholic Church, the annulment process requires a large amount of paperwork. Jim and Judy Barnes shared just a fraction of it, their notifications that their annulments had been approved.

    Daniela Vidal is supervising editor. Judd Slivka is faculty editor.

    ----------Posted on January 4, 2016 by in Student Work

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