The increase in annulments granted by the Church is a source of confusion and sometimes anger for many Catholics, as well as some non-Catholics. Some wonder how could a marriage go on for years and still be sacramentally invalid.
Marriage is still considered permanent, and the indissolubility of sacramental marriage remains a central Catholic teaching. But the Church also is obliged to provide justice for anyone whose marriage has failed—when it can be shown with moral certainty that the marriage lacked from the beginning some essential element for a true, life-long bond. Pope Paul VI, in the 1960’s, noted that delayed justice is injustice, and streamlined the annulment procedure.
Some people say that you can buy an annulment in the Church. If that were true, which it is not, why would there be such an elaborate scheme to thwart any form of corruption? You would have to bribe at least six different Church court officials in two different dioceses and any one of them could throw the case out in a second. The American tribunal system operated $14,000,000 in the red in 1997. It is not now and never was a money-making proposition. It is a process that seeks to balance the needs of the hurting while preserving the sanctity of sacramental marriage.