Roman Catholicism famously doesn’t believe in divorce. But it does believe in annulments, a procedure which determines that for one reason or another–immaturity, not knowing what they are getting into, etc.–a valid marriage never took place.
The implication is that many couples who had a church wedding and a marriage license, who have had children together, and who have lived their whole lives together are not really married. I suppose this comes out if the couple wants to break up the marriage and, if they are Catholic, receive an annulment, but even if they stay together, they can never really know if they are married.
I would say that, from a Lutheran perspective, this is another example of Roman Catholicism’s being not nearly sacramental enough. Catholics believe that marriage is a sacrament, but the objective sacrament doesn’t make the marriage, just the subjective experience of long ago when they first became married. Similarly, Catholics can’t really know if they have been saved, even though they have been baptized, received Holy Communion, etc.
This is also an example of legalism in religion, in which laws that are too difficult to fulfill are, in practice, weakened by creating technicalities and loopholes that make it easier to accomplish while defeating the whole purpose of the original law. (If you don’t believe in divorce because marriage is a sacrament and thus permanent, don’t have annulments either! These are just divorces by another name, even though they “save the appearances” of permanent marriage by declaring that a marriage never happened, though at the expense of your whole sacramental theology.)
Anyway, the Pope last week said that, because of the lack of commitment, “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null.” His handlers later edited the original transcript to change “the great majority” to “some,” but still. . . .If so many people who have gotten married are really just living together, committing fornication and their children illegitimate (to use other Catholic categories), then the line between wedlock and cohabitation is fatally blurred. If marriage, however, is a VOCATION, a calling from God, it’s a different story. [Read more…]