Here's another problematic aspect of the annulment reform.
Every now and then I hear some one has married following an annulment. I think, I expect most Catholics think, 'well, I'm glad they sorted that out properly'.
If someone told us of the circumstances of the annulment, and it sounded terribly dodgy, I would still try very hard not jump to the conclusion that the second marriage was in reality adulterous. I would say to myself: 'I don't have all the facts, I was not the judge in the tribunal.'
In a few years time we are all going to encounter cases of people who have had 'quickie' annulments. Assuming the reform proceeds, and until it is reversed, I suspect that few people will find it necessary to go through the 'ordinary' procedure. That is the way in the post-Conciliar Church: the exception is the rule. This appears to be the plan: the Holy Father himself has said the reform aims to help not just a few people at the margins, but rather -
"The enormous number of faithful who, despite wanting to look after their conscience, too often are turned aside by the juridical structures of the Church.”
Now when in a few years time we encounter a person who has had an annulment, we won't be able to quiet any misgivings by telling ourselves that it did at least go in front of a panel of canonical experts for serious discussion. Instead, what will we do? Will we just roll our eyes?
One of the consequences of the reform is that couples whose marriages really were invalid will be placed in the same category as any number of couples whose marriages have been annulled without any serious consideration. All of them, then, will be unable to get married again in a way which is genuinely publicly recognised. When they tell faithful Catholics they are licitly remarried, they will see rolling eyes.
This is very unjust for people who have, in some cases through no fault of their own, gone through the trauma of an invalid marriage and separation. But it won't be the fault of the people who roll their eyes; it will be the fault of the people in authority who refuse to consider petitions for annulment seriously, on their merits.
What we are going to end up with is a category of licit 'second class marriage': people of whom we say 'oh they remarried after an annulment.' It will be as if the Church were to recognise, alongside marriage, concubinage. The perception of the reality and indissolubility of first marriages will also be undermined, but nothing like as much as the reality of second 'marriages' following a quickie 'annulment'.
A second-class annulment will give couples only a second-class marriage.
The couples celebrating the possibility of 'getting married in the Church' after years of living in an 'uncanonical' situation will be the first to notice, sadly, the hollowness of their victory.
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