It today's society, it seems the church is granting more annulments and it is believed anyone with enough money can "buy" one. Catholics are confused and upset and wonder how the church can grant a divorce when it does not allow for divorce. Well to begin with, the church does not grant divorces, what they do grant is a declaration of nullity. This declaration does not dissolve an existing marriage, but states it never was a true marriage. This declaration is granted when it can be proved that "some essential or juridical defect made the marriage invalid from the beginning." The church still believes that marriage is permanent, a covenant, a commitment of trust and self-giving and sacrificing love and its purpose is to give live as well as to share it. According to the 1983 code of canon law, the church has a responsibility to protect marriage, but it also has a responsibility to provide justice to those whose marriage is lacking a true sacramental bond, whose marriage is one in appearance only.
There are two basic questions that may prove the invalidity of a marriage. The first question is was there free and discerning consent. Did the couple have the chance to make a free choice, or were there factors greatly influencing their decision to marry. Secondly, did the couple have the capacity to carry out consent. Did they have "what it takes" to carry out their promise. St. Thomas said it best, "No one can oblige himself to what he can neither give nor do." Jeffrey Keefe states it his article that in most cases these problems are visible before the marriage, but are denied or simply ignored in the hopes that marriage will solve them. It is for these reasons the Catholic Church has the annulment process, to "bring justice and compassion to divorced and separated Catholics whose marriage actually was one in appearance only." So back to the question, why is the Church granting more annulments? As with a person, the church grows and matures over time. The church must grow with society by recognizing the needs of its members and understanding the problems they are faced with in order to remain strong. It today's society we are pressured into doing things we know we should not. These proceedings give Catholics a second chance , the opportunity to establish a stable second marriage and the ability to return to the church and the sacraments. For some couples, it is best described by an elderly priest who said "after taking part in an annulment hearing, put it simply and poignantly: It's a great healing."