The New Annulment Norms and the American Experience

Pope Francis’s new motu proprio, which streamlines the annulment process, has been both praised and criticized. It is being praised because it seems to be another act of generosity and mercy by this pope and a blessing on those in bad marriages, who can now go through a fast annulment process and marry again in the Church. It is being criticized because some see it as yet another step undermining the indissolubility of marriage and Church discipline.

Some who praise it also seem to think that the pope has cleverly defused some of the controversy expected to surface at the coming Synod on the Family; and those who criticize it would say that he has defused it by simply granting another quick solution to the process of divorce and Communion. They think this is an extreme liberalization, which virtually guarantees the quick and easy annulment. The basis of this last assessment may well be the experience of the American Church.

In 1971, Paul VI allowed the National Conference of Catholic Bishops to use experimental norms for marriage cases. These norms became the law in the United States. What were they? First, one judge alone could hear a marriage case in most circumstances. Second, there was no mandatory appeal to a second tribunal. Third, short time frames were established for each part of the entire process so that a case could move from start to finish in eight months. Sound familiar? They are virtually the “new” procedures, though they go one step further and shorten the process – in some cases to forty-five days.

These very procedures, however, were deliberately omitted by St. John Paul II when he personally addressed the marriage canons in the 1983 Code of Canon Law (and obviously found the experimental American norms lacking). His annual addresses to the Roman Rota over the years suggest why he did so, for he frequently warned how the indissolubility of marriage could be undermined by a too-lax annulment process.

He never mentioned the American experimental norms as such, but was well aware of the explosion of annulments in this country after those norms were put in place. In the late 1960s (before the new norms), there were fewer than 400 annulments here, but in the years following the number of annulments ballooned into the tens of thousands. Today, the Church in the United States accounts for half the annulments worldwide, even though it has only 6 percent of the world’s Catholics. It would take real blindness not to see the relevance of those norms for this explosion, and St. John Paul II was anything but blind.

Today, the United States is the abortion capital of the world, and the American Church is the annulment capital. The Church can say all she wants that an annulment is not a divorce, which is obviously true in terms of Catholic doctrine, but the general population, including a huge percentage of Catholics, has simply come to see the annulment process as Catholic divorce. An Anglican friend of mine used to chide me in the 1970s, “we Anglicans call it divorce and you Catholics call it annulment, but in the end it amounts to the same thing in the way it affects people’s lives.”

Pope Francis with judges of the Roman Rota
Pope Francis with judges of the Roman Rota

They have a divorce mentality, and we now have an annulment mentality. That new mentality might explain why the number of marriages itself is sinking today and the number of annulments is gradually declining. Many Catholics ask, “Why bother?” If that doesn’t suggest something has happened to undermine the permanence of marriage, I don’t know what it could suggest.

Pope Francis surely has the best intentions, but he has quite clearly rejected the careful and prudential decision made by his predecessor, who gave us the 1983 Code. And it seems he thinks that the experimental American norms were just fine and should be extended to the whole Catholic world. But is he ready for the same results that followed in the United States?

If he really thinks that fast tracking the annulment process is simply going to help the poor and won’t result in undermining the permanency of marriage in general, all I can say is I hope he’s right. But the experience of the American Church is not reassuring.

It is not simply the relaxing of canonical norms that accounts for the annulment explosion here. That certainly played a part, but there’s more to it. What really happened was that, in addition, the grounds for annulment were greatly expanded to include all kinds of psychological impediments to valid consent. Most annulments today are granted on these grounds, usually on the ground of lack of due discretion regarding the essential obligations of marriage.

And what are these essential obligations? They used to be the three marriage goods identified by St. Augustine, which are reasonably objective: offspring, fidelity, and indissolubility or permanence. Likewise, the grounds connected to these were fairly objective, if not easy to verify: an intention not to have children by either partner; the intention not to remain faithful; the intention to enter a marriage that was not permanent.

With the new experimental norms, the incapacity to form the “communion of life” that constitutes marriage was added. But “communion of life” is a very subjective and indeterminate concept, as are psychological impediments to forming that communion. Moreover, the subjectiveness of the grounds inevitably entailed more subjectivity on the part of the judge, i.e., whatever his particular understanding of psychological impediment is, based on whatever psychology he personally embraces.

The combination of the subjective grounds, and the subjectiveness of the process created an explosive mix, and explosions inevitably followed. Will this same combination, now extended worldwide by Pope Francis, lead to a different outcome? Only time will tell, but given that Pope Francis has said several times now that he believes half of the marriages worldwide are invalid, I wouldn’t bet on it.

Fr. Mark A. Pilon

Fr. Mark A. Pilon

Fr. Mark A. Pilon, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, VA, received a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from Santa Croce University in Rome. He is a former Chair of Systematic Theology at Mount St. Mary's Seminary, and a retired and visiting professor at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. He writes regularly at littlemoretracts.wordpress.com.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Two points

    (1) This piece recalls to mind the words of a great Scottish lawyer, F W Walton, the author of the leading textbook on marriage: “It is a curious fact, though true, that there must always be… a considerable number of persons who could not say off-hand whether they were married or not. It is only when the question has been decided in a court of law that their doubts can be removed. But although they do not know if they are married, and no one could tell them with certainty till the action was tried, it is nevertheless true that they must be either one or the other. There is no half-way house.” Why not enable them to find out as soon as possible?

    (2) The real protection to the indissolubility of marriage is found in Canon 1643 “Cases concerning the status of persons, including cases concerning the separation of spouses, never become res iudicata.” A decision that can always be revised can prejudice only those who are prepared to submit to it. An annulment is final, only if there is no one in the world who has any interest in challenging it.

    • Michael Machiavelli

      This is patently false, challenging an annulment in the USA will only get you a deaf ear once the decision is made, it is final, truly a done deal. I married my ex-wife after she got divorced and got her first easy annulment in 1977, when her two children were then 10 and 8 years old, We were married in the church, had three more children when she divorced me and got her second easy annulment after 27 years of marriage, despite my protests I took her 60 days to make it final. So now I am fully able to re-marry in the Catholic Church and so is she. Do you realistically think that I will? Give me a break, it seems like marriage means nothing to the American Church. Any American will think, why marry? To throw away your Social Security?

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Two points

    (1) This piece recalls to mind the words of a great Scottish lawyer, F W Walton, the author of the leading textbook on marriage: “It is a curious fact, though true, that there must always be… a considerable number of persons who could not say off-hand whether they were married or not. It is only when the question has been decided in a court of law that their doubts can be removed. But although they do not know if they are married, and no one could tell them with certainty till the action was tried, it is nevertheless true that they must be either one or the other. There is no half-way house.” Why not enable them to find out as soon as possible?

    (2) The real protection to the indissolubility of marriage is found in Canon 1643 “Cases concerning the status of persons, including cases concerning the separation of spouses, never become res iudicata.” A decision that can always be revised can prejudice only those who are prepared to submit to it. An annulment is final, only if there is no one in the world who has any interest in challenging it.

    • Michael Machiavelli

      This is patently false, challenging an annulment in the USA will only get you a deaf ear once the decision is made, it is final, truly a done deal. I married my ex-wife after she got divorced and got her first easy annulment in 1977, when her two children were then 10 and 8 years old, We were married in the church, had three more children when she divorced me and got her second easy annulment after 27 years of marriage, despite my protests I took her 60 days to make it final. So now I am fully able to re-marry in the Catholic Church and so is she. Do you realistically think that I will? Give me a break, it seems like marriage means nothing to the American Church. Any American will think, why marry? To throw away your Social Security?

  • DeaconEdPeitler

    If pope Francis has said several times that half of Catholic marriages he believes to be invalid and he, as head of the Roman church, does nothing to correct this scandal then he is surely guilty of a breach of the duties of his office.

    What would be the difference between this and stating that half of priestly ordinations were believed to be invalid and then do nothing to get at the root of the problem? Would the church continue to ordain men without sufficient scrutiny? Sacramental marriage is not treated with the same degree of seriousness as the sacrament of Orders.

    One would have thought that with the tens of thousands of annulments that have taken place since the 1970’s, Rome would have tightened up the process of sacramental marriage to insure as much as is humanly possible that no marriages are performed that could later be determined to be invalid.

    • M Elizabeth Gillson

      AMEN!

      “Sacramental marriage is not treated with the same degree of seriousness as the sacrament of Orders.”

      I am not a scholar of the law, just a simple wife and mom.
      The problem I see in the many marriages that I witness is that folks to get married when they have no idea what a marriage is in the first place. (Look at all the Catholics that think homosexuals can marry each other. How many Catholic married heterosexuals believe this? Lots- Clearly they don’t understand the essence of marriage.)
      Celibate priests, brothers, sisters spend years preparing to knowingly and faithfully live their vocation
      Current family life, and the way that kids are raised today does not give people an understanding of what marriage is or properly prepare them to enter into a valid marriage and remain faithful to it.
      Annulment process is not the problem. Why are so many “faithful/true” Catholics so slow to grant mercy? Why do we conservative types disdain and look down on attempts to heal and bring individuals back into communion with the Church?

      Marriage has been undermined by the widespread use of contraception and the terrible effects that that has had in our society, and by the poor catechesis of two or three generations.

    • BXVI

      Deacon –

      If half of all Catholic marriages are invalid, then what is the status of all those Catholics who believe themselves to be married but supposedly aren’t because of some defect? Are they mere fornicators? Are their children illegitimate? Should we all go back and “investigate” to determine if our marriages are valid and then get married all over again if they find we are not validly married? I am confused.

      What about people who lacked the requisite elements on the day of marriage but they later acquired them? For example, what if, on the wedding day, one spouse had the intention to have no children, but within a few months changed his mind and fully accepted the Catholic teaching? And suppose the couple has lived in conformity with a valid sacramental view marriage for 20 years? Can they then get an annulment 20 years later based on that initial defect, even though the defect was almost immediately resolved?

      • Murray

        Yes, these are excellent questions. In his Point 1 above, Michael Paterson-Seymour makes a similar point: one is objectively either married or not, and the annulment process is designed to determine which is the case. It’s certain that some people are currently in marriages that will (rightly or wrongly) later be deemed invalid. Presumably these people are not guilty of fornication. And as you ask, what about those marriages that would be deemed invalid if they went to a tribunal, but survive (or even flourish) due to the efforts of the spouses? Are they valid sacramental marriages or not?

        But the way people talk these days, it’s almost as if you can’t enter into a valid marriage without a doctorate in Sacramental Theology. How on earth did illiterate peasants in the 14th century manage? And notice that we only apply this exalted standard to marriage: we don’t regard people as invalidly baptized, or inadmissible to the Eucharist, because their knowledge and understanding of these sacraments is deficient.

        • SD

          Your points are accurate and they remind of the reasoning used by superficial thinkers who claim it is almost impossible to commit a mortal sin because the actor lacks understanding. Such nonsense reveals a serious lack of formation with moral theology.

    • SD

      He makes the standard so high that no one in history has a valid marriage it is simply absurd and lacks serious thinking.

  • DeaconEdPeitler

    If pope Francis has said several times that half of Catholic marriages he believes to be invalid and he, as head of the Roman church, does nothing to correct this scandal then he is surely guilty of a breach of the duties of his office.

    What would be the difference between this and stating that half of priestly ordinations were believed to be invalid and then do nothing to get at the root of the problem? Would the church continue to ordain men without sufficient scrutiny? Sacramental marriage is not treated with the same degree of seriousness as the sacrament of Orders.

    One would have thought that with the tens of thousands of annulments that have taken place since the 1970’s, Rome would have tightened up the process of sacramental marriage to insure as much as is humanly possible that no marriages are performed that could later be determined to be invalid.

    • M Elizabeth Gillson

      AMEN!

      “Sacramental marriage is not treated with the same degree of seriousness as the sacrament of Orders.”

      I am not a scholar of the law, just a simple wife and mom.
      The problem I see in the many marriages that I witness is that folks to get married when they have no idea what a marriage is in the first place. (Look at all the Catholics that think homosexuals can marry each other. How many Catholic married heterosexuals believe this? Lots- Clearly they don’t understand the essence of marriage.)
      Celibate priests, brothers, sisters spend years preparing to knowingly and faithfully live their vocation
      Current family life, and the way that kids are raised today does not give people an understanding of what marriage is or properly prepare them to enter into a valid marriage and remain faithful to it.
      Annulment process is not the problem. Why are so many “faithful/true” Catholics so slow to grant mercy? Why do we conservative types disdain and look down on attempts to heal and bring individuals back into communion with the Church?

      Marriage has been undermined by the widespread use of contraception and the terrible effects that that has had in our society, and by the poor catechesis of two or three generations.

    • BXVI

      Deacon –

      If half of all Catholic marriages are invalid, then what is the status of all those Catholics who believe themselves to be married but supposedly aren’t because of some defect? Are they mere fornicators? Are their children illegitimate? Should we all go back and “investigate” to determine if our marriages are valid and then get married all over again if they find we are not validly married? I am confused.

      What about people who lacked the requisite elements on the day of marriage but they later acquired them? For example, what if, on the wedding day, one spouse had the intention to have no children, but within a few months changed his mind and fully accepted the Catholic teaching? And suppose the couple has lived in conformity with a valid sacramental view marriage for 20 years? Can they then get an annulment 20 years later based on that initial defect, even though the defect was almost immediately resolved?

      • Murray

        Yes, these are excellent questions. In his Point 1 above, Michael Paterson-Seymour makes a similar point: one is objectively either married or not, and the annulment process is designed to determine which is the case. It’s certain that some people are currently in marriages that will (rightly or wrongly) later be deemed invalid. Presumably these people are not guilty of fornication. And as you ask, what about those marriages that would be deemed invalid if they went to a tribunal, but survive (or even flourish) due to the efforts of the spouses? Are they valid sacramental marriages or not?

        But the way people talk these days, it’s almost as if you can’t enter into a valid marriage without a doctorate in Sacramental Theology. How on earth did illiterate peasants in the 14th century manage? And notice that we only apply this exalted standard to marriage: we don’t regard people as invalidly baptized, or inadmissible to the Eucharist, because their knowledge and understanding of these sacraments is deficient.

        • SD

          Your points are accurate and they remind of the reasoning used by superficial thinkers who claim it is almost impossible to commit a mortal sin because the actor lacks understanding. Such nonsense reveals a serious lack of formation with moral theology.

    • SD

      He makes the standard so high that no one in history has a valid marriage it is simply absurd and lacks serious thinking.

  • James

    The Holy Father has proven that he is more than willing to do whatever he wants. It is all looking frighteningly like the buildup to a Babylonian captivity. The Abomination is within the temple and the Chaldeans are at the gates. When you extinguish the light the vermin make known their presence. I am beginning to think that the entire heterodox impulse in Roman Catholicism is
    rooted in self-contempt.
    It’s so obvious. And it explains all the rage…

    • BXVI

      Well, James, I do agree with one thing. The Holy Father is far from humble. He is the opposite in my mind. He seems to have little respect for the hard work of his immediate predecessors on these issues. He casts away small “t” traditions like they are his personal playthings (example – footwashing). He up-ends practices that were thoughtfully put in place by his predecessors without consultation even with the CDF (example – these motu proprios). It is quite shocking, especially since one of those whose pontificates he is essentially dismantling will go down as the greatest Saint in the past 200 years, Pope St. John Paul II, the Great.

  • James

    The Holy Father has proven that he is more than willing to do whatever he wants. It is all looking frighteningly like the buildup to a Babylonian captivity. The Abomination is within the temple and the Chaldeans are at the gates. When you extinguish the light the vermin make known their presence. I am beginning to think that the entire heterodox impulse in Roman Catholicism is
    rooted in self-contempt.
    It’s so obvious. And it explains all the rage…

    • BXVI

      Well, James, I do agree with one thing. The Holy Father is far from humble. He is the opposite in my mind. He seems to have little respect for the hard work of his immediate predecessors on these issues. He casts away small “t” traditions like they are his personal playthings (example – footwashing). He up-ends practices that were thoughtfully put in place by his predecessors without consultation even with the CDF (example – these motu proprios). It is quite shocking, especially since one of those whose pontificates he is essentially dismantling will go down as the greatest Saint in the past 200 years, Pope St. John Paul II, the Great.

  • givelifeachance2

    Required reading: Dr Seuss’ “The Sneetches”.

  • givelifeachance2

    Required reading: Dr Seuss’ “The Sneetches”.

  • Fr. Pilon, thank you for your frank evaluation of the Church’s current norms for annulment. I might add, How many diocesan marriage tribunals encourage applications for annulment while affirming the indissolubility of marriage? Genuine pastoral care would encourage intervention and repair of troubled marriages especially for the sake of married couples’ children. I remember, for example, at a deanery meeting a representative of the tribunal who complained that the tribunal was not receiving sufficient annulment applications which I would consider a “good thing.” I do know, however, that any canonically proper marriage is assumed valid and real. In the end before God spouses’ petitions for annulment depend on their truthfulness which is one of the purposes of the retreats I offer for laymen and women especially those considering marriage.

    • BXVI

      My experience is that most American Catholics seeking an annulment want the following from the Church: they want their annulment granted; they want it quickly; they don’t want to pay; and they don’t want to have to answer too many hard questions to get it. It is quite sad.
      I wonder what the percentage of annulments sought in the United States are granted? I have never met anyone who admitted to me that their request for an annulment was denied. I know many people who have been granted annulments who had lived in seemingly valid marriages for many years, with children, etc. My guess is that the rate of approvals must be close to 100%

      • Murray

        BXVI, TCT won’t allow comments that contain links, but I encourage you (and everyone else) to listen to an outstanding homily from last year, titled “What God Has Joined Together”. It’s available on YouTube by Sensus Fidelium and the Romans Ten Seventeen website. I have not heard a better (or more heartbreaking) overview of marriage and the annulment process.

        Among the statistics cited by the priest from the Canon Law Society of America, all from 2011:
        – Los Angeles tribunal: 530 formal decisions. Petitions found contrary to nullity: 0
        – Cleveland tribunal: 277 formal decisions. Contrary to nullity: 1 (0.4%)
        – Pittsburgh: 1/217 formal decisions (0.5%).
        – Milwaukee: 0/208
        – Rockville Center: 0/194
        – Toledo: 0/149

        According to the priest, there were 42 US diocesan tribunals in 2011 with a “contrary to nullity” rate below 1%; i.e. they approved between 99-100% of the petitions that came before them.

        On the other end of the scale, the following tribunals had the highest “contrary to nullity” rate in 2011:
        – St Paul-Minneapolis: 46/151 (30%)

        – Colorado Springs: 11/35 (31%)
        – Fort Wayne-South Bend: 21/63 (33%)

        So in 2011, even the most rigorous tribunals approved almost 70% of the annulment petitions that came before them.

  • Fr. Pilon, thank you for your frank evaluation of the Church’s current norms for annulment. I might add, How many diocesan marriage tribunals encourage applications for annulment while affirming the indissolubility of marriage? Genuine pastoral care would encourage intervention and repair of troubled marriages especially for the sake of married couples’ children. I remember, for example, at a deanery meeting a representative of the tribunal who complained that the tribunal was not receiving sufficient annulment applications which I would consider a “good thing.” I do know, however, that any canonically proper marriage is assumed valid and real. In the end before God spouses’ petitions for annulment depend on their truthfulness which is one of the purposes of the retreats I offer for laymen and women especially those considering marriage.

    • BXVI

      My experience is that most American Catholics seeking an annulment want the following from the Church: they want their annulment granted; they want it quickly; they don’t want to pay; and they don’t want to have to answer too many hard questions to get it. It is quite sad.
      I wonder what the percentage of annulments sought in the United States are granted? I have never met anyone who admitted to me that their request for an annulment was denied. I know many people who have been granted annulments who had lived in seemingly valid marriages for many years, with children, etc. My guess is that the rate of approvals must be close to 100%

      • Murray

        BXVI, TCT won’t allow comments that contain links, but I encourage you (and everyone else) to listen to an outstanding homily from last year, titled “What God Has Joined Together”. It’s available on YouTube by Sensus Fidelium and the Romans Ten Seventeen website. I have not heard a better (or more heartbreaking) overview of marriage and the annulment process.

        Among the statistics cited by the priest from the Canon Law Society of America, all from 2011:
        – Los Angeles tribunal: 530 formal decisions. Petitions found contrary to nullity: 0
        – Cleveland tribunal: 277 formal decisions. Contrary to nullity: 1 (0.4%)
        – Pittsburgh: 1/217 formal decisions (0.5%).
        – Milwaukee: 0/208
        – Rockville Center: 0/194
        – Toledo: 0/149

        According to the priest, there were 42 US diocesan tribunals in 2011 with a “contrary to nullity” rate below 1%; i.e. they approved between 99-100% of the petitions that came before them.

        On the other end of the scale, the following tribunals had the highest “contrary to nullity” rate in 2011:
        – St Paul-Minneapolis: 46/151 (30%)

        – Colorado Springs: 11/35 (31%)
        – Fort Wayne-South Bend: 21/63 (33%)

        So in 2011, even the most rigorous tribunals approved almost 70% of the annulment petitions that came before them.

  • Michael Dowd

    Excellent article Fr Pilon. Pope Francis clearly went the wrong way with easy annulment process. The current nearly automatic annulment process should have been tightened up from the lax and phony procedure it has become which is merely a salving of consciences based on specious arguments. All of this is just more evidence that the apparent objective of the Vatican II Catholic Church is to become just another Protestant sect. God help Pope Francis and the Catholic Church and our resolve to continue the fight to maintain Christ’s teachings.

  • Michael Dowd

    Excellent article Fr Pilon. Pope Francis clearly went the wrong way with easy annulment process. The current nearly automatic annulment process should have been tightened up from the lax and phony procedure it has become which is merely a salving of consciences based on specious arguments. All of this is just more evidence that the apparent objective of the Vatican II Catholic Church is to become just another Protestant sect. God help Pope Francis and the Catholic Church and our resolve to continue the fight to maintain Christ’s teachings.

  • Marguerite

    Wouldn’t non-consummation of marriage be considered a psychological impediment? If one of the spouses becomes a drug dealer after ten years of marriage, wouldn’t this be grounds for an annulment? If the spouse is a sexual molester, or is impeding the practice of one’s faith, wouldn’t these be grounds for annulments also? There might be more than three reasons for granting declarations of nullity. However, I don’t advocate the ease suggested. Annulments are serious and should be considered such. Has anyone considered that those who who “married” outside the church, however, are probably so convinced they are legitimately married that they wouldn’t even bother anymore to obtain an annulment. So what’s the point in making the process easier.

    • RainingAgain

      I always understood annulment to be specific to the state of mind of the couple at the time of the marriage. If that state was sound at that point, surely the vow of remaining married for better or worse would also be valid, regardless of what happened afterwards? To me, the alternative seems a free-for-all.

  • Marguerite

    Wouldn’t non-consummation of marriage be considered a psychological impediment? If one of the spouses becomes a drug dealer after ten years of marriage, wouldn’t this be grounds for an annulment? If the spouse is a sexual molester, or is impeding the practice of one’s faith, wouldn’t these be grounds for annulments also? There might be more than three reasons for granting declarations of nullity. However, I don’t advocate the ease suggested. Annulments are serious and should be considered such. Has anyone considered that those who who “married” outside the church, however, are probably so convinced they are legitimately married that they wouldn’t even bother anymore to obtain an annulment. So what’s the point in making the process easier.

    • RainingAgain

      I always understood annulment to be specific to the state of mind of the couple at the time of the marriage. If that state was sound at that point, surely the vow of remaining married for better or worse would also be valid, regardless of what happened afterwards? To me, the alternative seems a free-for-all.

  • Aliquantillus

    This reform of the annulment process is only the first step of a Pope who intends to abrogate and demolish the entire traditional edifice of Catholic sexual morality norms. His strategy seems to be to remove one stone in order to let the whole building collapse. The October Synod will be the next step in this disastrous development.

  • Aliquantillus

    This reform of the annulment process is only the first step of a Pope who intends to abrogate and demolish the entire traditional edifice of Catholic sexual morality norms. His strategy seems to be to remove one stone in order to let the whole building collapse. The October Synod will be the next step in this disastrous development.

  • Dave

    I am grateful for the interventions here of Fr. Tom and Deacon Ed, as well as for Fr. Pilon’s fine article, especially Fr. Tom’s and his understanding that real pastoral care could well heal damaged marriages. But I think more is needed: if so many priests and deacons are incorrectly discerning couples’ readiness for marriage and their understanding of its nature and properties, why not simply promulgate a law, a rule, or a direction that says if more than x-number of attempted marriages a clergyman officiates are deemed worthy of annulment, that priest can no longer officiate at marriages, either -period-or until the bishop has compelling evidence that the priest has gained the knowledge and skills necessary to discern and to prepare the couple properly? It is not just the couple that is failing here: who is supposed to determine whether the couple presenting for marriage possesses the due discretion? We need to encourage our priests to recall that part of governing, teaching, and sanctifying means saying “no” when no must be said.

    I am reminded of a famous case in Spain in which a famous celebrity notoriously sought, and won, multiple annulments. The last one was granted on the condition that when she thought she was ready to remarry, the Archbishop of her archdiocese would make the determination as to whether this time around she possessed sufficient due discretion: if she didn’t accept that condition, she wouldn’t be granted the annulment. And so she accepted it. That seems to be the right route. Let people annulled seeking remarriage obtain the permission of the bishop for the second attempt.

    I think that with these two steps — suspension of faculties to marry for priests who inadequately prepare, and episcopal oversight of second attempts — we might see a rather substation decrease in the number of requests for declarations of nullity, and more marriages that are sound from their inception.

  • Dave

    I am grateful for the interventions here of Fr. Tom and Deacon Ed, as well as for Fr. Pilon’s fine article, especially Fr. Tom’s and his understanding that real pastoral care could well heal damaged marriages. But I think more is needed: if so many priests and deacons are incorrectly discerning couples’ readiness for marriage and their understanding of its nature and properties, why not simply promulgate a law, a rule, or a direction that says if more than x-number of attempted marriages a clergyman officiates are deemed worthy of annulment, that priest can no longer officiate at marriages, either -period-or until the bishop has compelling evidence that the priest has gained the knowledge and skills necessary to discern and to prepare the couple properly? It is not just the couple that is failing here: who is supposed to determine whether the couple presenting for marriage possesses the due discretion? We need to encourage our priests to recall that part of governing, teaching, and sanctifying means saying “no” when no must be said.

    I am reminded of a famous case in Spain in which a famous celebrity notoriously sought, and won, multiple annulments. The last one was granted on the condition that when she thought she was ready to remarry, the Archbishop of her archdiocese would make the determination as to whether this time around she possessed sufficient due discretion: if she didn’t accept that condition, she wouldn’t be granted the annulment. And so she accepted it. That seems to be the right route. Let people annulled seeking remarriage obtain the permission of the bishop for the second attempt.

    I think that with these two steps — suspension of faculties to marry for priests who inadequately prepare, and episcopal oversight of second attempts — we might see a rather substation decrease in the number of requests for declarations of nullity, and more marriages that are sound from their inception.

  • Dennis Larkin

    And what of ordinations? Might it be claimed that,under the circumstances outlined above for spouses, that half of ordinations worldwide are invalid? That psychological impediments have nullified half of all ordinations worldwide? I don’t think so, nor do I think that half of all marriages are invalid.
    I do be puzzled by the feverish work of the ordained to denigrate the married. I wonder if it is a sort of jealousy, like that of a former pastor who boasted that Holy Orders preceded marriage as a sacrament, and that marriage wasn’t recognized as a sacrament for centuries in the Church. I wonder if it may be that a number of the ordained have a chip on their shoulder about marriage.

  • Dennis Larkin

    And what of ordinations? Might it be claimed that,under the circumstances outlined above for spouses, that half of ordinations worldwide are invalid? That psychological impediments have nullified half of all ordinations worldwide? I don’t think so, nor do I think that half of all marriages are invalid.
    I do be puzzled by the feverish work of the ordained to denigrate the married. I wonder if it is a sort of jealousy, like that of a former pastor who boasted that Holy Orders preceded marriage as a sacrament, and that marriage wasn’t recognized as a sacrament for centuries in the Church. I wonder if it may be that a number of the ordained have a chip on their shoulder about marriage.

  • xabi kiano

    Interesting piece, Fr Pilon. Pope Francis & marriage typically = lively commentary. No one can deny the experience of the “American church”, sacramental marriage & annulments is deeply linked to consumer culture and the contraceptive mentality. Francis’ purported view that “half of all marriages worldwide are invalid” seems to me accurate, especially given the widespread use of artificial contraception. “Non-consummation” as a result of birth control is the norm by considerable distance.

    My understanding is orthodox Catholic sacramental theology (pace Aquinas) views the deliberate closing of the conjugal act by one or both spouses to procreation from as it were “effectively blocking the sacrament from sticking.” My framing is awkward but the key point is this: artificial contraception denies one of a sacramental marriage’s key objective goods–offspring. Citing Augustine, Fr Pilon notes the use of artificial birth control is the result of the “intention not to have children.” How this plays out when contraception is used periodically–not as typical practice–in a marriage, from the perspective of annulments, is another (messy) question. My sense is the psychological disposition behind this behaviour precludes the authentic sacramental character of the union from existing.

    Fr.Pilon writes, “They have a divorce mentality, and we now have an annulment mentality. That new mentality might explain why the number of marriages itself is sinking today and the number of annulments is gradually declining.” I’d argue at toot the psychological issue is a consumer-come-contraceptive mentality. Put differently,

    -marriage (and offspring/children) are conceived as one good among many other goods that “I”, the individual consumer, may choose;
    -although all goods may not be equal, no objective hierarchy of goods exists, so “I” the individual consumer may construct a hierarchy based on my views and values;
    -since marriage and children are goods based on preference and have no objective value, “I” the individual consumer am free to use whichever means I consider useful for acquiring and disposing of these goods.

    What we see here is the confluence of a powerful utilitarian philosophy of human action paired with a hard relativism. One outcome is the common psychological condition where conscience seeks not to form itself to the objective hierarchy of goods (understood from the historic Catholic perspective) but makes itself the arbiter of truth. Veritatis Splendor provides not only an exceptional analysis of the moral philosophies and theologies that brought us to this place, but also some of the steps to remedy the situation.

    What’s most unfortunate is the consequences–vast numbers of human casualties, the colossal amount of pain & suffering we see in “developed nations” etc. Seems to me Pope Francis is proclaiming the need for a more mission-centered Catholicism, a Church committed to proclaiming the good news, lifting the sinner form his/her sin(s), so to speak administering mercy as Christ’s spouse. If anything, we are at a propitious moment where acting mercifully while transmitting the richness of orthodox Catholicism is exactly what those of us tasked with work in the vineyard must do.

  • xabi kiano

    Interesting piece, Fr Pilon. Pope Francis & marriage typically = lively commentary. No one can deny the experience of the “American church”, sacramental marriage & annulments is deeply linked to consumer culture and the contraceptive mentality. Francis’ purported view that “half of all marriages worldwide are invalid” seems to me accurate, especially given the widespread use of artificial contraception. “Non-consummation” as a result of birth control is the norm by considerable distance.

    My understanding is orthodox Catholic sacramental theology (pace Aquinas) views the deliberate closing of the conjugal act by one or both spouses to procreation from as it were “effectively blocking the sacrament from sticking.” My framing is awkward but the key point is this: artificial contraception denies one of a sacramental marriage’s key objective goods–offspring. Citing Augustine, Fr Pilon notes the use of artificial birth control is the result of the “intention not to have children.” How this plays out when contraception is used periodically–not as typical practice–in a marriage, from the perspective of annulments, is another (messy) question. My sense is the psychological disposition behind this behaviour precludes the authentic sacramental character of the union from existing.

    Fr.Pilon writes, “They have a divorce mentality, and we now have an annulment mentality. That new mentality might explain why the number of marriages itself is sinking today and the number of annulments is gradually declining.” I’d argue at toot the psychological issue is a consumer-come-contraceptive mentality. Put differently,

    -marriage (and offspring/children) are conceived as one good among many other goods that “I”, the individual consumer, may choose;
    -although all goods may not be equal, no objective hierarchy of goods exists, so “I” the individual consumer may construct a hierarchy based on my views and values;
    -since marriage and children are goods based on preference and have no objective value, “I” the individual consumer am free to use whichever means I consider useful for acquiring and disposing of these goods.

    What we see here is the confluence of a powerful utilitarian philosophy of human action paired with a hard relativism. One outcome is the common psychological condition where conscience seeks not to form itself to the objective hierarchy of goods (understood from the historic Catholic perspective) but makes itself the arbiter of truth. Veritatis Splendor provides not only an exceptional analysis of the moral philosophies and theologies that brought us to this place, but also some of the steps to remedy the situation.

    What’s most unfortunate is the consequences–vast numbers of human casualties, the colossal amount of pain & suffering we see in “developed nations” etc. Seems to me Pope Francis is proclaiming the need for a more mission-centered Catholicism, a Church committed to proclaiming the good news, lifting the sinner form his/her sin(s), so to speak administering mercy as Christ’s spouse. If anything, we are at a propitious moment where acting mercifully while transmitting the richness of orthodox Catholicism is exactly what those of us tasked with work in the vineyard must do.

  • Mary

    Since many surveys of American Catholics has shown that over 90% regularly opt for artificial contraception within their marriages, or have made that choice permanent through sterilization, it would seem the vast majority of those marriages might be invalid on the question of offspring alone. Most couples today come to “marriage preparation” already cohabitating. Pastors are between a rock and a hard place. Do they deny the couple marriage because they are using and plan to continue using artificial contraception, or marry them to stop the sin of fornication? How clearly can that parish priest see into the intentions of the couple? The problem is deep and wide and doesn’t admit of easy solutions.

    • Micha Elyi

      Do (pastors) deny the couple marriage because they are using and plan to
      continue using artificial contraception, or marry them to stop the sin
      of fornication?
      Mary

      This only appears to be a dilemma to those who will use one sin to try to cover over another sin.

  • Mary

    Since many surveys of American Catholics has shown that over 90% regularly opt for artificial contraception within their marriages, or have made that choice permanent through sterilization, it would seem the vast majority of those marriages might be invalid on the question of offspring alone. Most couples today come to “marriage preparation” already cohabitating. Pastors are between a rock and a hard place. Do they deny the couple marriage because they are using and plan to continue using artificial contraception, or marry them to stop the sin of fornication? How clearly can that parish priest see into the intentions of the couple? The problem is deep and wide and doesn’t admit of easy solutions.

    • Micha Elyi

      Do (pastors) deny the couple marriage because they are using and plan to
      continue using artificial contraception, or marry them to stop the sin
      of fornication?
      Mary

      This only appears to be a dilemma to those who will use one sin to try to cover over another sin.

  • Manfred

    Does anyone remember the Joseph Kennedy II and Sheila Rauch Kennedy annulment which Joe had gotten? Sheila Rauch challenged the annulment and ten years later the Vatican overturned it! She had the financial resources and the legal team to accomplish it.

  • Manfred

    Does anyone remember the Joseph Kennedy II and Sheila Rauch Kennedy annulment which Joe had gotten? Sheila Rauch challenged the annulment and ten years later the Vatican overturned it! She had the financial resources and the legal team to accomplish it.

  • Howard Kainz

    Pope Francis’ conjecture that half of marriages are invalid may be correct if half of married couples consistently use contraceptives to avoid procreation.

    • Manfred

      The validity if a marriage is determined at the point of the wedding. Example: A husband is potent at the time of the wedding, but subsequently becomes impotent. Is the marriage valid?
      Use of contraceptives after children are born of the marriage does not invalidate the marriage.
      The practice of contraception is mortally sinful.

  • Howard Kainz

    Pope Francis’ conjecture that half of marriages are invalid may be correct if half of married couples consistently use contraceptives to avoid procreation.

    • Manfred

      The validity if a marriage is determined at the point of the wedding. Example: A husband is potent at the time of the wedding, but subsequently becomes impotent. Is the marriage valid?
      Use of contraceptives after children are born of the marriage does not invalidate the marriage.
      The practice of contraception is mortally sinful.

  • Michael Dowd

    Now in order to apply for an annulment a person must be civilly divorced. All that is desired by the applicant is the Catholic Church’s stamp of approval. A better approach, it seems to me, would be to apply for an annulment before obtaining a divorce. The annulment process could be expanded to include some attempt at spousal reconciliation to save the marriage. Doing this would probably extended the current process by 6 months but would hopefully result in some saved marriages.

  • Michael Dowd

    Now in order to apply for an annulment a person must be civilly divorced. All that is desired by the applicant is the Catholic Church’s stamp of approval. A better approach, it seems to me, would be to apply for an annulment before obtaining a divorce. The annulment process could be expanded to include some attempt at spousal reconciliation to save the marriage. Doing this would probably extended the current process by 6 months but would hopefully result in some saved marriages.

  • Rene

    The more you try to be pastoral (incorrectly understood as making the narrow gate wider and caving in to modernity) the more modern people leave the Church. We all have seen the consequences of the hermeneutic of rupture used to interpret the Second Vatican Council. Time will tell whether Pope Francis’ approach will help the Church or will harm the Church. I am not terribly optimistic.

    • Tamsin

      Interesting metaphor: the wider the gate, the more people fall out of the Church. Or, the gate is so wide now, all feel within reach of salvation where they are at, without moving toward Christ.

  • Rene

    The more you try to be pastoral (incorrectly understood as making the narrow gate wider and caving in to modernity) the more modern people leave the Church. We all have seen the consequences of the hermeneutic of rupture used to interpret the Second Vatican Council. Time will tell whether Pope Francis’ approach will help the Church or will harm the Church. I am not terribly optimistic.

    • Tamsin

      Interesting metaphor: the wider the gate, the more people fall out of the Church. Or, the gate is so wide now, all feel within reach of salvation where they are at, without moving toward Christ.

  • cestusdei

    My main concern is the shorter process. I think it should be postponed. Give the other reforms a chance and see what happens. If canonists do their jobs they may not need the shorter process at all.

    • Micha Elyi

      My main concern is the shorter process.
      cestusdei

      My understanding that this shorter process is at the discretion of the bishop.

      • cestusdei

        The JV decides. But I see flaws in the process itself.

  • cestusdei

    My main concern is the shorter process. I think it should be postponed. Give the other reforms a chance and see what happens. If canonists do their jobs they may not need the shorter process at all.

    • Micha Elyi

      My main concern is the shorter process.
      cestusdei

      My understanding that this shorter process is at the discretion of the bishop.

      • cestusdei

        The JV decides. But I see flaws in the process itself.

  • bernie

    Thank you Father Pilon. So many people seem to have been “gaming” Declarations of Nullity that it has become a profound challenge to the credibility of the Church, the whole theology of marriage and, to those who see in it the very vocation that fulfills God’s Will for the whole of mankind, it will be a grave insult to the nature god gave to each of us. My heart has been troubled for so long by observing the experiences of people I have known. As I apologize for the length of these comments, but I offer the following for our thought,
    Many dismaying stories come easily to mind. Two of them are representative of my perspective.
    A couple married in her Catholic Parish Church. They then had children, but then fell out of love, were separated, and proceeded to get a Declaration of Nullity (DoN). He then married his
    childhood sweetheart. She too had been married in a Catholic Church and she too had received a DoN after having had children with her first spouse. After a few years, they separated, received a DON and remarried their first partners, again in the Catholic Church. So much for the integrity of today’s DoN. It is fraudulent.

    An elderly acquaintance’s granddaughter was soon to marry a young Catholic fellow. She told me the granddaughter, a non-Catholic, thought she might be able to “put up with his religion”. I
    suggested that the grandmother would thus became the first likely witness in proceedings for a DoN, if one were ever sought. A second witness will surely be the Deacon or instructor in the Pre-Cana course who didn’t tell the couple to live apart before their wedding or explain the immorality of using contraceptives, and did not talk about a permanent and generous family life.
    So much for the quality of marriage preparation. It seems to have failed to present the full expression of Catholic marriage, particularly as given to us in the recent and relevant Magisterial
    teachings of Humanae Vitae and of Pope John Paul II.
    Surely, the essence of the Marriage commitment as it ought to have been agreed to in the past and must be stated in the future, if we are to have a coherent Church, is close to the following :
    “I agree to give myself, my body and my affections, to you alone until death intervenes. I agree to have children only with you. I recognize that this is an exclusive and profound personal covenant to live a common life that is open to raising children in a stable and permanent Divine institution which we call a family. I agree to this before God Who is my Judge, before our families, and before the society in which we live. If you do not agree with this or have any reservations, you are enjoined to withdraw from this Covenant or incur grave sin of injustice”
    So,what would this imply about the Pope’s loosening of the procedure for getting a DoN? Simply this – anybody married in the last few generations can easily get whatever he or she wants. If one Priest or Bishop doesn’t agree, it should be easy to find another. The Church has been played the fool by its own Ministers and members. The DoNs will skyrocket.

    From now on, however, if all involved in marriage preparation are enjoined to abide by the above clearly stated and certain teaching of the Church, and the marriage bond is henceforth properly understood and agreed to in publicly pronounced vows, again with the substance presented above, The result would be simple – If you marry in a Catholic way there are no more excuses. Otherwise, the Church will be consciously offering a marital service for both the serious and the uncommitted.
    If this should mean many no longer practice the Faith of walk away, at least they will not be dishonest with a person they profess to love.
    May God help married couples in the coming years to be true, honest and courageously in love.

  • bernie

    Thank you Father Pilon. So many people seem to have been “gaming” Declarations of Nullity that it has become a profound challenge to the credibility of the Church, the whole theology of marriage and, to those who see in it the very vocation that fulfills God’s Will for the whole of mankind, it will be a grave insult to the nature god gave to each of us. My heart has been troubled for so long by observing the experiences of people I have known. As I apologize for the length of these comments, but I offer the following for our thought,
    Many dismaying stories come easily to mind. Two of them are representative of my perspective.
    A couple married in her Catholic Parish Church. They then had children, but then fell out of love, were separated, and proceeded to get a Declaration of Nullity (DoN). He then married his
    childhood sweetheart. She too had been married in a Catholic Church and she too had received a DoN after having had children with her first spouse. After a few years, they separated, received a DON and remarried their first partners, again in the Catholic Church. So much for the integrity of today’s DoN. It is fraudulent.

    An elderly acquaintance’s granddaughter was soon to marry a young Catholic fellow. She told me the granddaughter, a non-Catholic, thought she might be able to “put up with his religion”. I
    suggested that the grandmother would thus became the first likely witness in proceedings for a DoN, if one were ever sought. A second witness will surely be the Deacon or instructor in the Pre-Cana course who didn’t tell the couple to live apart before their wedding or explain the immorality of using contraceptives, and did not talk about a permanent and generous family life.
    So much for the quality of marriage preparation. It seems to have failed to present the full expression of Catholic marriage, particularly as given to us in the recent and relevant Magisterial
    teachings of Humanae Vitae and of Pope John Paul II.
    Surely, the essence of the Marriage commitment as it ought to have been agreed to in the past and must be stated in the future, if we are to have a coherent Church, is close to the following :
    “I agree to give myself, my body and my affections, to you alone until death intervenes. I agree to have children only with you. I recognize that this is an exclusive and profound personal covenant to live a common life that is open to raising children in a stable and permanent Divine institution which we call a family. I agree to this before God Who is my Judge, before our families, and before the society in which we live. If you do not agree with this or have any reservations, you are enjoined to withdraw from this Covenant or incur grave sin of injustice”
    So,what would this imply about the Pope’s loosening of the procedure for getting a DoN? Simply this – anybody married in the last few generations can easily get whatever he or she wants. If one Priest or Bishop doesn’t agree, it should be easy to find another. The Church has been played the fool by its own Ministers and members. The DoNs will skyrocket.

    From now on, however, if all involved in marriage preparation are enjoined to abide by the above clearly stated and certain teaching of the Church, and the marriage bond is henceforth properly understood and agreed to in publicly pronounced vows, again with the substance presented above, The result would be simple – If you marry in a Catholic way there are no more excuses. Otherwise, the Church will be consciously offering a marital service for both the serious and the uncommitted.
    If this should mean many no longer practice the Faith of walk away, at least they will not be dishonest with a person they profess to love.
    May God help married couples in the coming years to be true, honest and courageously in love.

  • RodH

    All the polls and common sense, too, indicate that most Catholics in the USA don’t believe in the teachings of the Church. This scandalizes the rest of the world. That the Pope wants what we have FOR the rest of the world is, if not purely speaking heresy, shall we say…theologically and morally disgusting.

    We also have Catholics to thank for abortion in the USA. Yes, we do. The majority vote Democrat and procured abortion is a plank in the Democrat platform. Catholics vote for abortion every time they vote for a national Democrat leader. Every time. Republicans {who theoretically are against or ambivalent about abortion} will never push for the elimination of abortion with the numbers the way they are. So the millions will continue to be murdered in order that Catholics can feel good about voting for more entitlements for themselves, their friends and those they call “the poor” who on the world scale are not poor at all. Especially when obesity {a symptom of the mortal sin gluttony by the way} is higher among “poor” in America than even among the morally decadent rich.

    And the Pope? He says we Catholics talk about abortion too much and he says we need to make getting out of a marriage easier. Oh, sorry, getting an annulment…

    It is difficult for me to conceive that this Pope is not encouraging vast and pervasive sin in those who call themselves Catholic. Last I checked, he’s supposed to be doing just the opposite.

    Someone should remind the Pope that with his doctrnal positions he might want to take a stab at stumping for Archbishop of Canterbury. He might have to brush up on his English but, hey, he’s an educated Jesuit. Shouldn’t take him long.

  • RodH

    All the polls and common sense, too, indicate that most Catholics in the USA don’t believe in the teachings of the Church. This scandalizes the rest of the world. That the Pope wants what we have FOR the rest of the world is, if not purely speaking heresy, shall we say…theologically and morally disgusting.

    We also have Catholics to thank for abortion in the USA. Yes, we do. The majority vote Democrat and procured abortion is a plank in the Democrat platform. Catholics vote for abortion every time they vote for a national Democrat leader. Every time. Republicans {who theoretically are against or ambivalent about abortion} will never push for the elimination of abortion with the numbers the way they are. So the millions will continue to be murdered in order that Catholics can feel good about voting for more entitlements for themselves, their friends and those they call “the poor” who on the world scale are not poor at all. Especially when obesity {a symptom of the mortal sin gluttony by the way} is higher among “poor” in America than even among the morally decadent rich.

    And the Pope? He says we Catholics talk about abortion too much and he says we need to make getting out of a marriage easier. Oh, sorry, getting an annulment…

    It is difficult for me to conceive that this Pope is not encouraging vast and pervasive sin in those who call themselves Catholic. Last I checked, he’s supposed to be doing just the opposite.

    Someone should remind the Pope that with his doctrnal positions he might want to take a stab at stumping for Archbishop of Canterbury. He might have to brush up on his English but, hey, he’s an educated Jesuit. Shouldn’t take him long.

  • Manfred

    Great column, Father. Here is a thouight. Pope Francis canonized John Paul II who is the author of Familiaris Consortio, Yett many of the positions Francis supports were explicitly condemned in F. C.

  • Manfred

    Great column, Father. Here is a thouight. Pope Francis canonized John Paul II who is the author of Familiaris Consortio, Yett many of the positions Francis supports were explicitly condemned in F. C.

  • Billy

    I remember hearing a priest explain to me that it used to be that if the vows professed by the man and woman, who were free to marry, were valid vows, the annulment wouldn’t be granted unless it was shown that one party or both, didn’t comprehend the words they spoke; in other words they were stupid, in the true sense of the word. Personally I still believe this to be true, the norms in place now are useless, just like in pro life legislation that allows for HEALTH of the mother. In both cases it can be used to justify anything.

  • Billy

    I remember hearing a priest explain to me that it used to be that if the vows professed by the man and woman, who were free to marry, were valid vows, the annulment wouldn’t be granted unless it was shown that one party or both, didn’t comprehend the words they spoke; in other words they were stupid, in the true sense of the word. Personally I still believe this to be true, the norms in place now are useless, just like in pro life legislation that allows for HEALTH of the mother. In both cases it can be used to justify anything.

  • Clare

    Great article, Fr. Pilon! God bless you for your decades of loyalty and love for the Church! If I could just add, as another reason for the numerous annulments today, that the lack of solid catechesis has been shaping the average Joe Catholic for the last 50 years. Yes, there are some pockets of solid teaching but overall, at least in the US, catechetical formation has left some big holes in peoples minds and souls. Having been educated in the 1970-early 80’s Catholic grade and high school levels, God was presented without a face; He was just a faceless ball of marshmallowy love; sin was BARELY mentioned and our accountability of doing our share of keeping up a relationship with God wasn’t mentioned.

    The thick foundation of our Faith has not been properly taught; namely, we are children of a loving Father. He created us, He loves us, we belong to Him, His commandments are a loving parent’s guidance, He has a Face and we can look to Him. So many of the Faithful (laity and clergy alike) have lost (or were never taught) that we have our identity in the Father through Christ. If more were to embrace their identity as children of a living and loving Father, God, then more souls will embrace the Magisterial teachings. The void which is in so many hearts and souls will be so completely filled and there will be no room for the world to step in as a surrogate parent.

    “SEE WHAT GREAT LOVE THE FATHER HAS GIVEN US, THAT WE SHOULD BE CALLED THE CHILDREN OF GOD; AND YET SO WE ARE!” 1Jn 3:1

    One can preach ’til blue in the face but until the average Catholic sees with their hearts the love of God for them, numbers, statistics aren’t going to change.

    Jesus says, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven” — Mt 18:3.

  • Clare

    Great article, Fr. Pilon! God bless you for your decades of loyalty and love for the Church! If I could just add, as another reason for the numerous annulments today, that the lack of solid catechesis has been shaping the average Joe Catholic for the last 50 years. Yes, there are some pockets of solid teaching but overall, at least in the US, catechetical formation has left some big holes in peoples minds and souls. Having been educated in the 1970-early 80’s Catholic grade and high school levels, God was presented without a face; He was just a faceless ball of marshmallowy love; sin was BARELY mentioned and our accountability of doing our share of keeping up a relationship with God wasn’t mentioned.

    The thick foundation of our Faith has not been properly taught; namely, we are children of a loving Father. He created us, He loves us, we belong to Him, His commandments are a loving parent’s guidance, He has a Face and we can look to Him. So many of the Faithful (laity and clergy alike) have lost (or were never taught) that we have our identity in the Father through Christ. If more were to embrace their identity as children of a living and loving Father, God, then more souls will embrace the Magisterial teachings. The void which is in so many hearts and souls will be so completely filled and there will be no room for the world to step in as a surrogate parent.

    “SEE WHAT GREAT LOVE THE FATHER HAS GIVEN US, THAT WE SHOULD BE CALLED THE CHILDREN OF GOD; AND YET SO WE ARE!” 1Jn 3:1

    One can preach ’til blue in the face but until the average Catholic sees with their hearts the love of God for them, numbers, statistics aren’t going to change.

    Jesus says, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven” — Mt 18:3.

  • lauravett

    As a Canadian, I must say that USA may have a larger number of abortions, but Canada (one of only three countries in the world) that has absolutely NO protection for the unborn right up until the moment of birth (our law does not recognize a child even if only one toe remains inside of the mother). Under our socialized medicine scheme, we all pay for these abortions. To top it off, we have no political party (and only a handful of politicians) willing to bring up the subject at all. Pro-lifers in this country are dismissed everywhere, everytime….we even have two women who have served more time in jail than many murderers or rapists for simply standing outside of abortion clinics. One was even told her “god was wrong” at her trial by the judge. God help us.

    • SJ Man

      Amen to that. I concur completely with lauravett, as a fellow Canadian forced to tolerate these injustices.

  • lauravett

    As a Canadian, I must say that USA may have a larger number of abortions, but Canada (one of only three countries in the world) that has absolutely NO protection for the unborn right up until the moment of birth (our law does not recognize a child even if only one toe remains inside of the mother). Under our socialized medicine scheme, we all pay for these abortions. To top it off, we have no political party (and only a handful of politicians) willing to bring up the subject at all. Pro-lifers in this country are dismissed everywhere, everytime….we even have two women who have served more time in jail than many murderers or rapists for simply standing outside of abortion clinics. One was even told her “god was wrong” at her trial by the judge. God help us.

  • Daniel

    how about the new ground of “lack of faith”? Didn’t Benedict XVI singled that out to reject because giving consent to marry another person is in the natural order?



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