Some weeks ago I considered the question of whether the fees associated with petitions for a declaration of nullity (a.k.a. annulments) should be ended. I answered, in short, that the fees should be ended:
I think this is wise because it completely dispels the urban legend that receiving "an annulment" depends on how much money you pay (as I'm sure you've heard). This, of course, is not true. If a tribunal did not require or request a fee for the processing of the petition, this common misconception would necessarily fade away.
Still, there is a caution I mentioned:
I was happy to see that His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, took up this same question in his recent column in the Catholic Times.The lack of such fees, however, would require dioceses to make up for these fees elsewhere, probably through greater annual appeals. If properly presented, though, I think the faithful would gladly make up this new shortfall because the benefit gained in the popular imagination would outweigh the financial constraint.
After considering the various ways the costs of the Tribunal might be lowered to allow for the removal of the fee while still meeting expenses, he came to this conclusion (with my emphases):
The current year budget for Tribunal is $174,356 in total expenses with $44,400 in revenue or a net subsidy from the ACSA of $129,908. While we already cover nearly 75 percent of the cost of these cases, completely eliminating the fees would require another $44,400 to be covered by our ACSA or other extraordinary donations.Keep in mind that ACSA also funds the education of our seminarians. Since 2010 we have more than doubled the number of seminarians, from 11 to the present 23. The cost of tuition, room and board and other expenses (including stipends, books, fees, insurance and travel) is about $32,000 per year for each seminarian. We have not seen a commensurate income in ACSA or the seminary collection to cover the increased number of seminarians.
Be sure to read the entire column. If you do, you'll find out why I'm in Rome.The bottom line is that we can only provide as much as we have the resources to do. If we want more priests, we will need more funds to pay for their education and formation. I would hate to have to cap the number of seminarians and turn away qualified candidates because we could not afford them. Similarly, if the people of our diocese value providing annulment processes for free, then we would need to see increased giving to make this possible. So I leave it up to you, our faithful and generous donors: If there is a sufficient increase in our ACSA and extraordinary donations to cover our larger number of seminarians as well as make up the difference of lost fee income from annulment cases, I will direct our Tribunal to eliminate the fees for processing marriage nullity cases.