I know there is a topic titled “Annulments” that I have posted in before, but that really does seem to be mostly to support those going through the annulment process. So perhaps this topic will wind up moved to some other forum, but my issue really isn’t with the theology and canon law aspects of this. I understand that there are obvious examples of invalid marriage such as one “spouse” being already married, one “spouse” who went into marriage never intending to be faithful, a “spouse” hiding that they have same-sex attractions, etc.
However, it does seem to me that the average Catholic who applies for a Decree of Nullity really doesn’t care about whether their marriage is trully null, but does so with an attitude pretty similar to when they filed for a civil divorce, that the process is merely paperwork required in order to remarry in the Catholic church. Indeed, a wish to remarry seems to be the main reason people apply for annulment, often already having a prospective marriage partner in mind for marriage attempt #2 (or even #3, #4, etc). It seems that posters who report their marriage are headed for divorce in CAF are encouraged to apply for annulment as a matter of course “since you never know if you’ll meet someone else in a couple years and wouldn’t you want to know that you’re free to marry that person?” It also seems many people see no moral problem with dating a civilly divorced Catholic, I guess as long as no sexual activity occurs, and that the situation of “waiting for an annulment” to set a marriage date is extremely common and not seen as scandalous at all. It also seems most who apply for annulment expect to get one, almost have an entitlement mentality about it, and would be shocked and surprised if it didn’t come through.
It also seems scandalous to me that it is common knowledge that annulments are easy to get in some locations and hard to get in others, that even on CAF people are encouraged to “tribunal shop” (even though “priest shopping” is discouraged for other family issues such as contraception).
Or is the true scandal that it is too easy to have a Catholic wedding that does not result in a valid marriage? Since if Catholics have an entitlement mentality about annulment, that is probably even more so for weddings. Even if one priest refuses to marry a couple because he honestly thinks their marriage attempt will be invalid, it’s easy to go find another priest that will. I get the feeling that many Catholics enter marriage knowing there is a good chance it will end in divorce and annulment, not death. They see the process as merely an attempt at a valid marriage that may or may not be successful. Isn’t that pretty close to the way the secular world sees marriage?
I just can’t shake the feeling that while annulment is justifiable on a theoretical level, on a practical level, the fact that annulment is so easy to get results in a modern Catholic culture where marriage is NOT “until death do us part”, and with marriages where the bride and groom know there is that escape hatch available. It also seems very cynically convenient that if a couple gets married not understanding the supposed permanent nature of marriage, that by itself will make the marriage null. I wonder how many couples get married thinking “well we can always get a divorce and apply for annulment if it doesn’t work out”. If that turns out to be most couples, it seems that no matter how Catholic apologists justify it, annulment for all practical purposes is “Catholic divorce”.