Pope Francis Says Too Many Marriages Are ‘Null’ In Today’s Society

Heather Tooley - Author

Jun. 17 2016, Updated 8:19 a.m. ET

Pope Francis said the majority of marriages are “null” in today’s society because couples don’t understand the concept of a lifetime commitment.

The pope’s statement on Thursday had some traditional Catholics blasting him as “irresponsible,” fearing that his remarks would discourage people from working on their marriage and finding an easy way out, according to the Washington Post.

Comments Pope Francis made about marriages came about during a Q&A session at a meeting of the Diocese of Rome when he was asked about the “crisis of marriage” and how Catholics can help young people overcome their “resistance, delusions and fears” about entering into such an institution that lasts the rest of their lives.

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Francis noted a case that he’d learned of involving a young man who wanted to become a priest, but only for 10 years. The culture is too “provisional,” Francis said.

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“It’s provisional, and because of this the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null,” the pope said. “Because they say ‘yes, for the rest of my life!’ but they don’t know what they are saying. Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know.”

Not long after the pope’s statement about marriage being null, the Vatican issued an Italian transcript altering Francis’s words by changing “great majority to “some.” A Vatican spokesman commented that sometimes Pope Francis’ remarks are edited after consulting with him, or among his aides.

Pope Francis had put intense focus on the unique challenges facing modern families. In April, he released a document that has the Catholic church welcoming divorced and remarried couples into its denomination. He reiterated that those couples shouldn’t be held in judgement, be discriminated against, or be isolated from church life. Francis encouraged priests to be more merciful in whether divorced or remarried Catholics can participate in Communion.

The report had a message from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website that read, in part, marriage is “an original gift from God to humanity.” It continues, “It is a permanent, faithful, fruitful partnership between one man and one woman.”

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The USCCB declares that divorce “claims” to break marriage, but only a church tribunal can say that a marriage isn’t valid because a real bond was never present.

One instance of the church courts annulling a marriage is to claim that the parties were unprepared.

In his eyebrow-raising comments about marriage, Pope Francis recalled a time he was archbishop in Buenos Aires when he’d prohibited marriages in the case of “shotgun weddings” — cases in which the bride was pregnant. He did this on the grounds there was a question of the spouses’ free consent to marry.

“Maybe they love each other, and I’ve seen there are beautiful cases where, after two or three years they got married,” he said. “And I saw them entering the church, father, mother and child in hand. But they knew well (what) they did.”

Francis cites the marriage crisis to people who “don’t know what the sacrament is” and don’t know “the beauty of the sacrament.”

The pope said that too many couples don’t realize marriage is “indissoluble, they don’t know that it’s for your entire life. It’s hard.”

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New York Mag reports that this case essentially represents Pope Francis’ stance that maybe it’s not such a bad idea for couples to live together before marriage. This way “fidelity” is more apt to be successful and the man and woman know each other’s quirks a lot better.

Still, some think Pope Francis calling marriage “null” is extreme for people not fully aware of what the vows mean for a lifetime.

[Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images]


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