He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one?’ So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder. (Mt 19:4-6)
Marriage is the beginning of family life. So important, and so sacred, God chose to imprint upon it a fundamental characteristic: indissolubility. It means that nothing in this world, outside of death, dissolves this union. In marriage, one puts their hope in that the other gives him or herself completely, without any disclaimers or conditions, in both the good times and the bad. This is not just a duty, but also a deep desire of each one of us: to give our lives entirely to another, forever. Anything less leaves the heart empty and is not marriage. Can you imagine a marriage certificate with an expiration date or return policy?
Given its importance and its sacred nature, marriage bears with it certain fundamental requirements that must be completed, as with everything in life. For example, the engaged couple must have acted freely, without being obliged or pressured; they must have understood what they were committing to through the sacrament, etc. If one or more of these requirements were missing, even after the ceremony is already celebrated, then we can say that a fundamental piece is missing and the validity needs to be revised.
For this reason, Pope Francis has recently created a document with the goal of streamlining the process for the declaration of nullity (the marriage is nullified, it is declared null) for those who consider their marriage to be invalid. The key requirements and basic factors for the annulment remain the same; it is the process of revision and decision making that has been modified to make justice more easily available to those in need. It is not to be understood, in any way, as an approval of the “Catholic divorce”, nor does it serve to declare null those marriages that are valid. Its purpose is solely to facilitate the process. Let us continue to pray fervently for marriage and the family!