Why would the Church want to make life difficult for those who have already gone through a painful civil divorce? According to critics of the Catholic annulment process, the Church “re-traumatizes” Catholics who want, and deserve, a second chance at marriage after their first marriage failed.
Why should the Catholic Church make people go through an annulment in the first place? No other Church or Christian community, Orthodox or Protestant, makes anyone go through this in such a detailed procedure. In fact, no other religion in the world forces anyone to review his or her previous marriage before being able to marry again. Couldn’t the priest who is preparing the couple for marriage simply discern whether both parties have sufficiently “worked through” their previous marriage(s) and are now ready to “go on?”
Why is there need for a separate Church tribunal to discern whether or not there was a valid marriage that continues to bind someone, or if there was some problem that may need attention before someone remarries? Is not this matter a personal one, and not the business of anyone else? Why does the Church take marriage so seriously, and stop people from doing what they want to do?
The only answer to these questions is the seriousness in which the Church takes Jesus’ prohibition of divorce. Jesus told the men of his time that although Moses permitted divorce, they should not (Matt 5:31). Jesus said that a man and wife are one before God and no man should “put asunder” this bond (Matt 19:6). In fact, Jesus taught that man and wife are “one flesh”, a very strong reminder of the beautiful unity of a man and woman as husband and wife.
The Church takes divorce seriously because it takes marriage seriously. Marriage is a pact, a covenant between a man, a woman and God. Nonetheless, we know that people change, they make mistakes, and sometimes cannot keep promises. The Church understands that. The practice of annulment may not be the best means to help discern the true sacramentality or validity of a marriage that has failed, but nonetheless, it is the best way the Church has been able to develop to help us to both honor our Lord’s prohibition of divorce, and at the same time to accommodate the reality of broken marriages.
If you, a family member or friend is divorced and remarried outside the Church I hope you will contact your local parish priest to discuss what can be done to help you receive the Sacraments again. You may also call Fathers Abdallah Zaidan or Francis Marini at the Eparchial Marriage Tribunals of Our Lady of Lebanon or St Maron respectively. We will assist in any way we can.
+Gregory John Mansour
(Reprinted with permission.)