Expert says better marriage prep needed to reduce marriage annulments

The Judicial Vicar and Canon Lawyer of the Archdiocese of Oviedo, Fr. Andres Perez, said this week the diverse and complex nature of the marriage annulment cases processed by the archdiocesan tribunal belies the need for better preparation for those who wish to marry in the Catholic Church.

Fr. Perez, who was assigned the post in 1999, said, “99% of the cases we handle have to do with marriage annulments.”

He issued his call after witnessing daily the high rate of failed marriages, which in some cases, were truly surprising.  “Last year there were 5 cases of the 29 we received in which the marriage did not last even 1 month, even though they had been dating for years.”

Fr. Perez said the change of mentality in young people who decide to get married constitutes a real problem.  “People are more immature, less thoughtful, and have less of a sense of commitment.  Consequently, many couples split up.”

After counseling people who have decided to begin the annulment process not to contact a lawyer—who “always is going to try to convince them to go forward with the process”—Fr. Perez said they should instead contact the tribunal, “where we will tell them if there are grounds for an annulment.”

“In 70% of the cases it’s usually because of some type of psychological conflict.  For example, if there is drug addiction, alcoholism, or obsessive gambling, these are significant grounds.”

He also explained why there is such a high rate of annulment among lower-income couples.  “Some kids were drug addicts and they thought that one way to get money was to get married, so they could get gifts.  They did, and it resulted in a disaster.  They asked for an annulment and it was granted.  Those that are poor are poor in every sense,” he said.

Fr. Perez also outlined the profile of those who tend to request an annulment.  “Normally, the person that requests an annulment is in a new relationship and desires to marry in the Church, or if they are already married, they want to regularize the marriage.  Most of the time women are the ones who file the petition.  When a man does, it is usually because his girlfriend is more devout than is he.”

Regarding the “veto” that the Church places on a high number of those “guilty” of an invalid marriage, Fr. Perez explained that “many times the reason for the invalidity is still present in the person.  In this case, if the person remarries, the marriage will again be invalid.  The Church exercises a veto in order to protect the other person and the nature of the sacrament.”

After revealing these details, Fr. Perez called for tougher requirements for those wishing to marry.  “In my opinion we should be stricter.  The problem is if a priest refuses to marry someone, the person ends up on some talk show, and they can always find some other priest who is not as strict.”

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