In just the past few days, I've come across two thought-provoking articles by John Allen of the National [So-Called] Catholic Reporter -
- Campaign builds for rethinking zero tolerance on sex abuse and
- The Vatican's Marriage Quandary: Fewer Americans get annulments. Is it because fewer are getting married in the church at all?
As per the second,
- "Every year, Pope Benedict XVI gives a speech to the judges of the Roman Rota, a Vatican court that mainly handles marriage cases. He usually includes a warning about handing out annulments too easily, and Americans invariably assume that he's talking about them. On this matter they may have a point: Vatican statistics say that more than 60% of annulments come from the United States....
- "These days, the most common criticism comes from conservative circles within the church, and it's usually directed at the U.S.: America, they charge, is an annulment factory that undercuts church teaching on marriage. That's probably the background to Benedict's recent speech, in which he asserted that no one has a 'right' to marriage. He called for pastors to do a better job preparing people to marry, so there would be less demand for annulments. In light of these papal warnings, church courts have become a bit more rigorous, and parishes are more careful about remarrying people who have had annulments—not wanting them to make a habit of it....
- "things are already trending the way Benedict seems to want, though not necessarily for reasons likely to give him cheer. Since 2006, according to the Canon Law Society of America, both the number of cases filed and the number of annulments granted have been gradually declining. That may be partly because courts have become tougher. But it's probably more related to the fact that fewer Catholics are getting married in the church, and fewer of those who are bother to seek an annulment if their marriage breaks down."