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The Pope Says Marriage Is Not An Absolute Right

The Pope Says Marriage Is Not An Absolute Right

The Pope has said some rather radical things in the past few months: the most obvious was his interview with a German journalist, in which he essentially revised the Vatican’s stance on contraception (and then tried, in a fit of backpedaling, to revise his revision), but in a recent speech to the Roman Rota, the Vatican tribunal that decides marriage annulments, he reiterated a somewhat problematic position.

“No one can make a claim to the right to a nuptial ceremony,” he said.  He went on to say that priests had a responsibility to make sure that the bride and groom intend to celebrate and live their lives together “truthfully and authentically.”

The comments seemed directed at the United States, which in 2006 had more annulments than the rest of the world combined.  It’s important to note that annulments are different than divorces in that the church effectively declares that the marriage never happened.  Divorce is obviously forbidden within the Catholic Church, which sees marriage as indissoluble, so annulment is one of the only recourses for such couples.

Annulments are sometimes granted because the Catholics in question were considered at the time of their marriage to be too immature to grasp what marriage really meant.  Canon 1095 of the Code of Canon Law gives “grave lack of discretion of judgment concerning essential matrimonial rights and duties” as a reason for which a person would be “incapable of contracting marriage.” 

Some have suggested that the high rate of annulments in the United States actually signals a higher level of Catholic piety than in other parts of the world.  “In Europe, they just get a divorce, get remarried and stop going to church,” explained Jaqui Rapp, the co-author of Annulment: 100 Questions and Answers for Catholics. “And, in fact, most baptized Catholics don’t go at all. They are secularized.”

Last year, in the same annual speech, the pope told priests not to confuse “pastoral charity” with the need to uphold church law.  He told them that they have a responsibility to discern whether spouses are ready to enter into a marriage.

This, however, seems profoundly off-base.  I dislike the whole idea of annulments, although this is because I don’t see marriage as fundamentally indissoluble and would rather acknowledge that the commitment had been made than pretending it never happened.  Statements like these indicate the extent to which the church does not seem to trust its adherents; how on earth can a priest determine what makes a lasting marriage, even for two practicing Catholics?  And should these people be required to surrender their own judgment about a fundamental life decision to this figure of religious authority?  And of course, there are the implications inherent in declaring that marriage is not a right – even for heterosexual couples.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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312 comments

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4:50AM PST on Jan 11, 2014

thank you

7:43PM PST on Nov 19, 2012

It's hard to take such words seriously when they're coming from a man who dresses like a bride.

7:18PM PST on Nov 19, 2012

Ok, thank you.

7:17PM PST on Nov 19, 2012

Ok, thank you.

2:20AM PDT on Apr 3, 2011

Who cares what the pope says?

Herman Cain for US president!

10:17AM PST on Feb 26, 2011

The primary problem I see with the entire article is that the author is trying to address Catholic teachings with secular world ideas. I am a born-right-the-first-time Pagan. I can see age restrictions, but other wise marriage is an individual right and choice.

While I may disagree with some (okay, many) Catholic teachings and rules, I see that as their choice. If you don’t want to follow Catholic teachings and rules, leave the church. If you choose not to follow them you will probably be excommunicated anyway.

Catholicism is hardly the only religion with some absurd rules and teachings. Look around you.

The problem I have is when a religion starts seeking legal mandates for those outside of their religion, that is wrong. If a particular religion wants to refuse to marry same sex couples, I believe that is their right within their teachings. However, that does not give them the right to prevent or deny same-sex marriages, or any marriage, outside their religion.

Personally, I don’t pay every much attention to what the Pope has to say, especially the current one. I must admit his predecessor had much more meaningful things to say.

11:09AM PST on Feb 7, 2011

Marriage is a result of feminine pragmatism and hormone cascades capitalized by bureaucrats for income streams..a tax on madness :0) a masochism leading to eroticism :0) a man will suffer anything for steady sex. :)

10:09AM PST on Feb 4, 2011

Marriage is not a right like eating & safe shelter. It is a responsibility not to be entered lightly. Love is important but so is respect for 1 another and wedding vows. Jesus said a man should leave his parents, he & his wife become one. You give up part of yourself but it's a beautiful worthwhile sacrifice putting your spouse ahead of yourself. If he beats you then call the cops or kill him ala burning bed.

10:02AM PST on Feb 4, 2011

Marriage is not a right but it's an important responsibility, not to be entered into lightly. Of course you should love one another but you should also respect one another and wedding vows.

5:29AM PST on Feb 2, 2011

Marriage as defined by most is essentially a love union that is intended for to be permanent. I do not see why this should be forbidden. Besides the Pope is forgetting that Yeshua (Jesus) said that in Heaven there is no ''marriage" per se

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