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Vatican To Help U.S. In Sacrament of Marriage

The Catholic Church in the U.S. is quite young, and is consequently still learning how to do things like administer the sacraments, marriage in particular. At least such is what one would conclude from the fact that roughly 66% of all annulments granted world wide are decreed by U.S. (arch)dioceses.

To help combat this (okay, they didn't put it quite that way, but we are reading between the Italian lines here) the Vatican has just released updated guidelines for the annulment process.

Of course we still suffer from the media framing of annulments as "Catholic divorce" (perhaps the U.S. Bishops should put some of those annual Communication Campaign dollars to work combating this) which only results in disenfranchised faithful when they get that "bad" news that their marriage was really legit.

The document is called "Dignitas Connubii,” though I haven't been able to find a copy online yet.


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Comments (5)

I have a canonist friend who works in a marriage tribunal that believes the statistic about the disproportionate number of American annulments doesn't lead to the conclusion that American tribunals are granting shady annulments. He says that it is much higher because American divorcees go through the process more consistently than do their European counterparts. In other words, Europeans snub the annulment process and simply get remarried outside the Church. He also says the third world countries have lower rates because they either don't have tribunals or they don't get divorced at the same rate as Americans.


I don't doubt American divorcees go through the process more, but therein lies the problem. Annulments are viewed as "Catholic divorce" here in America.

Consequently the determining factor in the validity of the marriage is no longer the disposition of the parties invovled and the circumstances at the time of the marriage, but rather whether things "work out" in hind sight, which deals a serious blow to the life-long character of the sacrament.

If the Europeans do choose instead to marry outside the Church as you state, I think that reflects a deeper respect for the sacrament, for it is an acknowledgement that one is still married in the eyes of the Church.

This is not to say annulments are nver warranted, but with most diocese insisting on the six months of preparation, several meetings with a priest, compatibility tests, and the like, I'm not persuaded that there are as many licit annulment cases out there as are being granted.

"If the Europeans do choose instead to marry outside the Church as you state, I think that reflects a deeper respect for the sacrament, for it is an acknowledgement that one is still married in the eyes of the Church."

Either that, or it signals no respect for the Church, i.e. they are indifferent to the Church and would rather not go through Her processes. I think this possibility is likely given the decline of faithful Catholicism in Europe.

Let me pose this question. Do you think, as society grows more and more into a wasteland, that valid marriages are in fact more difficult to find? In other words, do the dispositions, lifestyles, etc. of modern man make it nearly impossible for him to intend to fulfill the promises of marriage?

Jason A.:

Perhaps, but what value do you give the recitation of the words that bind the couple in the sacrament? Interesting hypothesis, but ultimately unhelpful. It is the words that bind, and we should assume that to a degree, folks have contemplated them (even if their fingers are crossed). If they were rational enough to freely enter the union, then there is really no excuse for an annulment.

It is the words that bind, and I think people can contemplate them. The problem is that it is not merely a matter of freedom; that is only one of the three promises. The other two are promises to be faithful and open to children that will be raised in the Catholic faith. I was thinking of cases where people lie about one of the three promises. I have an acquaintance who lied about the third (she did not want children and had no intention of having them) and divorced after less than a year. This seems to be a ground for an annulment as there was never an intent to follow the third promise.

My question was regarding the state of the culture as it pertains to the second and third questions. People are less chaste and less open to children these days. In light of that, is it reasonable to think that many have no intention of keeping these promises, i.e. they lie while making their vows?

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