Catholic community reacts to Pope’s news

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 1, 2015

While the pain and suffering of divorce can cause anguish, going through the long process of an annulment may also be a source of distress. On Tuesday, Pope Francis issued documents making the procedure more accessible and less time consuming.

“This is a great act of mercy,” Father Tom Lalor said.

Lalor is the priest at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Vicksburg.

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The reform, as written by the Pope in the National Catholic Register, does not change the stance of the Catholic doctrine on marriage and the opposition to divorce, it just changes the procedures for annulments, the method of dissolving a marriage.

“The purpose of the reform is ‘to make the investigative process more efficient and accessible’ by reducing the number of witnesses needed and by giving the bishop the power to grant annulment in certain cases,” Karen Harrison said while reading the National Catholic Register.

Harrison is a member of St. Paul Catholic Church who has reviewed the annulment reform documents.

Prior to the Pope’s reform, a couple seeking an annulment would have their marriage annulled by a second diocese in addition to the diocese in which they belong.

Where there were two reviews required by two separate bishops, now only one bishop is required to grant the annulment.

“If [the annulment process] could be done in our diocese, it could be the end of it instead of going through appeals,” Lalor said.

He also believes this new reform would make it easier for those that are divorced to return to the church.

Harrison recalled her own annulment, “It took 28 months for my annulment to be granted. At times it felt like an eternity,” but she added in hindsight that she realized everything happens “in God’s time.”

“It also helped me to understand that there were many good times and good things resulting from my first marriage, especially my four children. Perhaps the greatest gift that came from the annulment was that I knew in my heart that God loved me and forgave me in spite of my failings! Plus, once the annulment was granted we were immediately brought into the church and were to participate fully in the sacramental life of the church,” she said.

“From our point of view, as priests, we have the deepest admiration for people who have been divorced. I have seen people going through the agony of divorce. The Pope is really coming down on the side of the mercy of Christ. This is a huge step for us and a huge help for those getting an annulment. For [the Pope] to have done this, it is a huge relief,” Lalor said.

The reform document also clarifies the circumstances by which a case can be referred to the diocesan bishop for determination. The situations that may allow an annulment include “lack of faith, brevity of married life, procured abortion, persistence in extramarital affairs, malicious concealment of serious past matters, unplanned pregnancy, physical violence and medically proven lack.”


About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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