And it isn’t fair not to address your priest’s teachings. He is right, but he didn’t go into it in much depth with you.
It just seems that hindsight is 20/20. And unfortunately the arguements I am seeing for annulments is people getting them so they don’t have to “live with their mistakes.” and I am thinking about all the other sacraments that get involved in this. I guess it just has to do with my experiences. When I was married, the priest made it very clear that our marriage was a sacrament, and no matter how our hearts change, nothing can change the validity of the sacrament if we intended to be married at that time.
I don’t mean to sound harsh, but perhaps your question isn’t as much a condemnation of a long-standing church practice as it sounds. Maybe you have only a partial understanding of the sacraments. For a sacrament to be valid it must have several elements: Yes, the proper intent you speak of. But also, proper form, proper matter and proper celebrant. Your priest was saying nothing could change the validity of the sacrament if it was VALID. He did the ceremony based on what he knew of you at the time, meeting with you a few times and taking your word that what you said was true. But without the ingredients necessary for a real sacrament, there IS NO VALID SACRAMENT.
Let’s take the Eucharist. The priest must INTEND to consecrate the Host. He can’t do it only believing it’s symbolic. He must have the proper FORM… the prayers that are very specific and the rubrics that are specific. He can’t wing it and make up his own prayers. Proper MATTER: He cannot consecrate cake, vanilla wafers or lemonade. It has to be unleavened wheat bread and wine. And one has to have the proper celebrant: A validly ordained CATHOLIC male priest standing in the very person of Christ. Without all of these things, no matter how much the people in the pews want it to be a Mass and Eucharist, it isn’t. A sacrament is not confected there.
Let’s look at marriage: You need proper form: The exchange of vows according to the law of the Church between two baptized people. (I’m being very general here… experts, please refrain from picking it apart.) You need proper matter: A man and a woman free to marry with proper intent and without the impediments or obstacles to a valid marriage (blood, previous vows, psychological incapacity, fraud… etc.). You need a FREE exchange of vows between them with the proper witnesses. (No coercion, no preconditions, no escape clauses, no threats on either side.) The Catholic Church teaches that the couple confers the sacrament on each other in marriage. Well, if one of those participants in the marriage lacks something vital to make the sacrament valid, no sacrament was performed. They playacted a wedding. They played house for a time. But no marriage sacrament was performed. Not at the ceremony and not during the marriage life together.
That can only be determined with 20/20 hindsight. Just as all the lucky couples who DID confect a true bond and a real sacrament know with 20/20 hindsight on their 20th and 30th and 50th anniversaries that they DID have a real sacrament.
Sometimes you only know a building was unfit for human habitation with 20/20 hindsight, when it falls down on you. It should never have been given the go ahead by the inspectors. Fraud in a business deal can invalidate the contract completely. None of us walked down the aisle saying “I’m going to ruin my life. And if it ends in pain and horror, I can always get out of it and get an annulment.”
We didn’t get off scott free. My wedding anniversary of the wedding that wasn’t is a day of deep pain and sorrow for me.
But thank God my Church had a remedy for a great evil that was done to me and my children. Like it has the Sacrament of Reconciliation for those whose lives are marred by sin. A recognition of the reality of the human person. And sometimes that reality is one person in a marriage didn’t tell the truth about themselves or their intentions when they said the words of the vow. Or COULDN’T do what was necessary, no matter how much they wanted to live up to society’s and the Church’s standards. (Think of the men who married but were really gay. Is THAT a real marriage?)
It is because the Church honors the sacrament of marriage so much that it has a long-standing structure in place to detect and weed out the horrible misrepresentations of it and the corruption that occurs in some weddings and says “No, this is NOT what we are speaking of when we compare marriage to Christ’s union with His Church. We will not insult Christ and His Church by comparing them to this abomination.”
Otherwise, every man who beats his wife, or cheats on her, or every wife who secretly aborts her children and every union marred by violence, abandonment, dishonesty and betrayal is supposed to mirror the loving, eternal mutual sacrifice and obedience between Christ and His Bride?
Not on THIS Church’s watch!