When a couple seeks to marry in the Catholic Church, the priest is supposed to interview the man and woman to determine IF the couple can licitly marry under the rules of Canon Law and IF they intend to marry. If their is a legal impediment to forming the marriage or an expressed lack of consent, the priest is supposed to try to resolve this conflict or not allow the wedding to take place.
When a couple seeks an annullment, they are arguing that the original priest failed his job. He failed to see a particular legal impediment or he did not do his due diligence to discern that the man or woman were holding back essential parts of matrimonial consent. One party may have consented. The other party may not have. People can lie. Priests can have varying views on the red tape and decide it’s not important. Those who marry outside the faith don’t go through this interview.
“Oh your spouse cheated on you? That shows that he or she never intended marriage to be permanent, so you never had a marriage in the first place.”
There IS the possibility that members of the tribunal are just trying to make people’s lives as easy as possible within the laws of the Church and will search for the most subtle things as evidence that matrimonial consent was lacking. Certainly, there are those who want to get rid of the process and simply forgive divorce.
But it’s ultimately an issue of which is the sin, The divorce or the remarriage after the divorce? There is the view that divorce is not always a sin. Indeed, it may be necessary. What IS is sin is viewing divorce as an actual dissolution of marriage instead of a dissolution of the civil aspects of marriage. In fact, the Church REQUIRES you to get a divorce BEFORE submitting your case to the marriage tribunal.
Popcak described possible reasonable reforms would be to allow annulments with the cause being listed as “lack of educational formation on the meaning of matrimonial consent,” REQUIRING Catholics seek an annulment if they get a divorce (as opposed to waiting until they’re engaged to someone else), and allowing married Catholics to submit their cases to the tribunal without a divorce. If the annulment is denied, the tribunal can give the couple their reasons why they believe the marriage is valid and refer them to a therapist or whatever.
The way annulments are handled today seem to stem from an ideological compromise over the issue.