Hasn't the church moved with the times?

I read that in the fifties there were about 100 annulments granted worldwide by the church each year.

In recent years the church has granted over 40,000 annulments a year in the US alone. Also 75% of all annulments by the church are granted to US Catholics even though US Catholics are only 4% of the world catholic population.

Isn’t this an indication that the church has changed its position towards the family?

No… it could mean that American Catholics do not take seriously enough the sacrament of marriage. Or it could mean that American Tribunals began "rubber stamping “decrees of nullity.” I lean more toward the former rather than the later explaination.

The tribunals that hear the cases are made up of priests. No? If they are not reflecting a change in position why has this trend gone unchecked for decades?

Also it’s not just in the US. There has been a massive increase in annulments worldwide.

To me, this indicates that much more spiritual direction is required of those who present themselves to the priest and want to be married. People have gotten more worldly and do not take the faith seriously.

For instance, cohabitation before marriage is so widespread,…also the acceptance of artificial birth control and wanting to control all that goes on in the marriage.

Instruction before marriage needs to include the spiritual as well as the financial and communication problems that can occur in marriage. All of that is important, but it appears to me that the spiritual is being neglected.

If a couple lived together before getting married is this a get-out clause later when going before an annulment tribunal? Living together is enough to show immaturity. The overwhelming majority of petitions to an annulment tribunal are successful, I’ve heard.

when I took Canon Law courses, we were taught that given the extent to which Catholics are influenced by today’s mentality, there was indeed an increasing concern about the fact that many marriages find place which in fact are invalid : indeed such things as cohabitation are often deemed to be an obstacle to “free consent”.
And honestly, I totally agree with that. I know several marriages where I have serious doubt that they are valid.
And a cousin of me, who’s now divorced, would surely get her annulment, if she were religious enough to even care.

BUT this doesn’t mean that cohabitation alone is enough to get a marriage annulled. The annulment process is thorough, and many things are looked at.

I don’t believe that cohabitation is a “get out clause”… but, as you said, it does show immaturity and makes it more difficult to understand the sacredness of the marriage bond.

No, it means that there are a lot more Catholics that either do not understand the Sacrament or ignore the Church’s regulations on the ceremony itself.

A person my wife and I know got ‘married’ in a garden by a ‘rent a minister’. She is Catholic, he is not. For that marriage to be valid, she would have needed to get a dispensation from the bishop. She did not get one.

So, without a subsequent convalidation, this marriage is null and would be an automatic annulment. Our friend might have a civil slip of paper, but she really isn’t married.

That type of thing is a LOT more common now that it was in the 50’s. Combine that with more Catholics recieve their understanding of what constitutes a marriage more from the media than from the Church, and you have grounds for a LOT more annulments.


In addition to other speculation here, I submit this for one reason why there are more filings for declarations of nullity and similar requests:


With the advent of fax machines, *computers *, satellites and other technology, combined with a local diocese’s ability to handle more types of cases than what were normally handled directly in Rome, the Church in this case has been able to process more requests, faster.

The Church’s *stance *on marriage has not changed, however. As said earlier, some cultures are far too inexperienced or glib about it. So while I’ve not seen data that suggests that there is some liberalism or modernism in the Church authority that makes annulments more readily available, the probability that there are many more people emboldened to ask for annulments has definitely increased.

For those who have not gone through this, you should understand that an annulment (or similar processes such as the Petrine and Pauline Privileges–the latter of which I experienced) is a disturbingly intimate and even painful process of self-realization with the many forms and interviews that you endure in the course of the tribunal’s investigation.

There are many Catholics that** don’t** make petitions because of the “horror stories” from others who have gone through the process. These people, who need our prayers, either re-marry outside of the Church, or never seek the justice that may be calling out in their hearts regarding the situation.


That is not correct.

2/3 is a majority, but not an “overwhelming” majority.

Most diocese have as their policy that a parish priest cannot send a case to the Tribunal unless there is preliminary evidence that a sound case for nullity exists. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the majority of those sent to the Tribunals are granted, since those without merit are rejected at the parish level.

Tribunals are made up of canon lawyers. Some may be priets and some may be lay persons.

It does not reflect a change in position of the Catholic Church. It reflects the fact that many more invalid marriages are entered into.

A huge number of invalid marriages are lack of form (Catholics who marry outside the Church). And a large number are non Catholics petitioning the Tribunal regarding prior marriages because they want to become Catholic or marry a Catholic.

The 1983 code of canon law did relax the law regarding mixed marriages so it is logical that many non-Catholics seeking to marry Catholics would be petitioning-- divorce/remarriage is rampant among non-Catholics due to incorrect doctrines in their own churches.

It is a sad statement, but it is not a statement about the Church’s doctrine or canon law practices. It is a statement about the number of invalid marriages people are entering into.

This doesn’t mean anything without knowing how many people used to apply for annulments.

In the 50’s it could be that very few asked for annulments, and so very few were granted. Without more information, it’s possible that the rate of annulments being granted is lower than it was.

For the same reason, it could be more Americans apply for annulments than people from other parts of the world and so most annulments end up being granted to Americans.

If there are many more applications for annulment now perhaps it’s because people sense they are likely to get one these days.

Back in the 50s many people got married simply because of a woman’s nightmare of the shame of becoming pregnant out of wedlock. These couples were “in lust”. That was hardly a fully mature reason for getting married which took into account the sacrament of marriage. They married in haste and repented at leisure. The chances of getting out of an unhappy marriage were virtually zero. Just 400 worldwide in the 50s.

Well, since the 50’s women have been able to win the right to participate in society and no longer need men to support them. That’s a huge factor. An uneducated woman with no job prospects would have been unlikely to leave a marriage, no matter how bad it was, because she didn’t have the means to support herself.

Now women don’t need men for economic security, so the motivation for a woman to stay in a bad marriage is gone.

It’s not just annulments that have gone up, divorces in general have. People no longer want to remain in bad marriages.

Still, I wonder if that’s the whole story. Even if women didn’t have the option of leaving men, men could still have dumped their wives.

In the 1950’s, couples getting married made lifetime commitments. Now they make conditional commitments. That means they do not intend permanence (or sometimes even fidelity); this makes for invalid marriages.

Another stereotype and nowhere near the facts.

I was there for the late 1950s and 1960s. The point is, prior to the Sexual Revolution in 1968, which Pope Paul VI tried to warn Catholics about in Humanae Vitae, dating did not include sex. And if it did, both had better be prepared to get married.

You had to sit down with the girl’s mom and dad. Both had been teenagers once themselves. Both understood the blinding effects of hormones. The father would ask, “So, how are you going to take care of my daughter?” Followed by a lot more practical questions about housing, transportation and so on. If dad decided you were a bum, you had to show you were not. He would also tell his daughter she could back out at any time, up to and including the wedding.

Dating was just for fun, but there was the possibility of going steady. Going steady could lead to courtship, where both people had to meet each other’s mom and dad. Then courtship could lead to engagement. Normally, this was the part where the couple would discuss their possible future together, hopes and expectations, like kids. Then, if both parties were still agreeable, they would get married.

To someone who was not there, I probably just described an alien ritual. It was practical, it worked (most of the time), and it delayed sex until marriage because the most important part was making sure you picked someone who was interested in something more than his wedding night.

God bless,

Yet another stereotype and not very factual. When did women not have the right to participate in society? During World War II, women went to the factories and women flew finished aircraft to dispersal airfields.

Dating and being engaged actually meant something. And the parents on both sides got to know each other. There was also an intergenerational support system. The odds of being in a bad marriage were lower. And all women did not suddenly find themselves out on the street. One lady I know simply moved back home.

Women don’t need men for economic security? So what? That was never the purpose of marriage. The purpose of marriage was, and is, so that two people can raise a family and continue with intergenerational and community ties. When everybody decided to do whatever they wanted as individuals and commitment was gradually degraded into something optional, yeah, I meet way too many women today with two or three divorces under their belt. And I can see making a mistake once, but two or three times?

This isn’t about economics, it’s about making a commitment and knowing what you’re about to get into.

God bless,

Sexual intercourse was too risky for a woman out of wedlock back in the 50s. I stand by my view that many people got married back then to avoid the possibility of an illegitimate birth. It was the potential shame that was foremost in people’s minds not that they were taking the sacraments more seriously back then.

One reason why girl’s dads no doubt did take everything very seriously was simply because there were so few annulments! You burned your bridges in those days.

Many people got married because they had to get married. This wasn’t seen as an impediment to marriage, evidence that the couple weren’t taking their relationship and marriage seriously!

Could a couple get an annulment today on the grounds that the woman was already pregnant at her wedding, and so they weren’t taking the sacraments seriously? Probably, but back in the 50s this was a reason to get married, not be separated.

You acknowledge the shame of pregnancy out of wedlock was a sufficient motivator to propel a couple into marriage while ignoring the fact that in that day the shame of divorce was a sufficient motivator to convince a couple to STAY in a marriage-- regardless of how bad it was. The social stigma attached to divorce was very severe.

I find the number of annulments to be disturbing too, because so many people can just say, “I didn’t understand that it would be so hard” and “Since I didn’t understand that, it means that I was too immature to contract a valid marraige” Or they could say" I was so immature, I lacked proper judgement to make a good decision in marraige, and since my marraige has turned out to be unhappy, that proves that I was to immature to contract a valid marraige." “Next time I will be more careful to procure a marraige that makes me happy.” You can use psychology to back all of this up too. Then you can say, well, since we understand so much more about human nature these days, we can know that those people with this kind of immaturity are infact incapable of making good decisions about marraige partners, therefore, they should be given annulments if later they find out that they are just too unhappy with their marraiges to continue.

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