Marriage continues to be a victim in a world where an increasing number believes church teaching should follow popular opinion. Archbishop Gerhard L. Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, recently supported the church’s position regarding the indissoluble nature of the sacrament of marriage. In his writings he also reaffirmed that divorced couples, remarried outside the church, should refrain from reception of the sacraments including holy Communion. This has been wrongly interpreted by some as a persecution of men and women of good faith by denying them the very sacrament that aids in the forgiveness of sins.
When an annulment is granted, the Church has declared that there is sufficient evidence to pronounce that despite appearances at the time their vows were exchanged the essential conditions were not fully met for the sacrament of marriage. Therefore the marriage is declared invalid. Whenever there is doubt or lack of evidence to the contrary, the assumption of a valid sacramental marriage must be the outcome. When there is not sufficient evidence to declare a marriage null, we must see it not as the church persecuting the faithful but as the church protecting the sanctity of marriage at the universal level. Her inability to compromise the teachings of Christ strengthens and upholds the dignity of all married persons in the Church.
There can be hardship among those faithful who have contemplated a decision to remarry despite having an annulment petition denied. However, since marriage is a public action, when an individual previously bound to another in sacramental marriage chooses to remarry outside the church all public consequences must be considered.