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On annulments, the process is not the problem

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Sep 23, 2014

Canon-law expert Edward Peters makes a compelling argument that while there may be serious problems regarding annulments, the canonical process is not the problem.

Peters observes that Catholics are unhappy about annulments for two quite different reasons:

There are basically two groups agitating for annulment reform, one saying that there are too many annulments, the other saying that there are too few.

If there are too many annulments, Peters explains, marriage tribunals are making bad decisions. The problem, then, is not the process but the people: judges who are all too willing to ignore the constraints of canon law and declare marriages null on flimsy pretexts.

As for those who believer there are too few annulments, Peters concludes that their real goal is “to eliminate the annulment process precisely as a juridic process.” Yet the clear teaching of Christ demands that a marriage should be presumed valid until proven otherwise, and the only effective way to prove nullity it so test the evidence in a judicial process.

While leaving room for some minor steps to streamline the process Peters concludes that the existing system, properly administered, works well.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: fenton1015153 - Sep. 23, 2014 8:14 PM ET USA

    I don't think people really understand the sacramental nature of marriage and that it should be considered permanent. In the same way I don't think people understand that the Eucharist is the real body of Christ. Poor catechesis on the part of the Church and very poor teaching from Bishops, priests and lay people who have been taught by liberal leaders of the Church that the church is we the people. Maybe the Jesuits had a hand in this.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Sep. 23, 2014 5:03 PM ET USA

    But didn't I just read that Pope Francis himself believes the process needs streamlining? I agree with what you write, but if the Vatican itself is contributing to confusion, what are we to think?

  • Posted by: polish.pinecone4371 - Sep. 23, 2014 12:53 PM ET USA

    Extremely insightful, as usual.