Pope Changes Annulments in Biggest Way Since 1700s Francis makes them easier, cheaper to obtain By Kate Seamons, Newser Staff Posted Sep 8, 2015 7:04 AM CDT 15 comments Comments Pope Francis attends to an audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican on Saturday. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca) (Newser) – Pope Francis majorly reformed annulments today, in a move that Reuters describes as the "most substantial changes" to the process since the mid-1700s, changes that "radically" simplify it. CNN reports that the reforms, contained in two "motu proprio" ("by his own initiative") documents, are threefold: There's no longer a second review required by a cleric; bishops can fast-track and even grant the annulments themselves (for instance, in a situation of domestic abuse); and there's no longer any cost beyond a modest administrative charge. The changes are set to be part of Catholic canon law effective Dec. 8—the start of the "Year of Mercy." Church teaching holds that Catholics can remarry only if their first marriage is declared invalid by a church tribunal. Catholics have long complained that it can take years to get an annulment—at a cost of as much as thousands of dollars—if they can get one at all, and CNN notes that the pope echoed that sentiment in 2014: "Some procedures are so long and so burdensome, and people give up." Reuters notes that a Vatican official today explained that the last time annulments were so drastically altered was under Benedict XIV, who was pope from 1740 to 1758.