The idea that annulments should be readily available as a back-up plan for marriage problems is a post-V2-ism. In the old days annulments were rare as hens' teeth. You never heard of them. I doubt the Church was letting people "spiritually wither."
May I ask, Fr. Cekada (and others who lament the radical increase in failed "Catholic marriages") if you do not see that the number of annulments these days is also and LARGELY a function of improper catechesis from the same VII fallout? I don't understand how that fact is so often ignored.
Dear friends and benefactors,
We are frequently asked about our position concerning the delicate question of marriage annulments, whether we should accept those granted by the modernist tribunals, and why it is that the Society should presume to establish a tribunal to make judgments of its own. It is an interesting question, for it demonstrates in yet one more way just how serious the crisis in the Church really is.
The statistics are interesting. In 1968 there were in the U.S. a total of 338 annulments. In 1992 there were no less than 59,030, that is one hundred and seventy-five times as many. Another interesting figure. The total number of annulments in the Catholic Church world wide in 1992 was 76,286, which means that no less than 75% of all annulments were from the U.S., that is from a little over 5% of the world's Catholic population. Moreover, not only do one in two Catholic marriages here in the States end up with a divorce, but one in five is officially annulled, 90% of the demands for annulment being successful. What do these figures tell us about the seriousness of such annulment processes, especially when the vast majority are granted for purely psychological reasons, namely lack of maturity, as if young age were sufficient to render one incapable of entering into a life long contract? What does that tell us about the authority of Pope John-Paul II, who has several times spoken out against such abuses, but without ever bringing any sanctions against or closing of the tribunals which allow such a fraud to continue?
In fact, an annulment is not created by the decision of an annulment tribunal. The function of the tribunal is simply to establish beyond any reasonable doubt that there never was a marriage in the first place, that is that there never was any true exchange of marriage vows.
Consequently, a decision which is not well founded does not nullify a marriage. It is invalid, worthless. If a person who had obtained such an annulment were to enter into a second marriage, even one blessed by a priest, it would certainly be an invalid marriage. How incalculable are the thousands of such unions, which look on paper to be Catholic marriages, but which are nothing more then officially blessed concubinages?
What must be the attitude of the Catholic priest before the tragedy of the destruction of the indissolubility of marriage by the Church's own ministers? His duty is to preserve the sanctity of the sacrament above all else, to defend the sacred marriage bond which is the foundation of human society and consequently of the social life of the Church herself. How could he dare presume to accept such decisions, so lacking in certitude? It is clear, then, that just as the Church supplies the jurisdiction for traditional priests to bless marriages, so also does she, in such tragic circumstances, supply the authority to form tribunals, without which it would be impossible to come to any kind of certitude at all. The clear conscience and salvation of souls depends upon it. It is clear, also, that a traditional priest can neither marry a person with an annulment, nor recommend that he marry, unless such a marriage has been thoroughly studied and declared null and void by a traditional tribunal, operating on truly Catholic principles, —which will always be a rare and extremely exceptional thing. Be prepared, then, to find our priests totally uncompromising on these principles. It is not because a person sincerely thinks that his "annulment" is different from the 59,030 others that it will be accepted.
May the fidelity to your solemn marriage vows, the sacredness of this sacrament of the Church, the sense of true submission to divine Providence and the desire to be detached from the vanity of this world help you all in the struggle to live your Catholic marriages. May the Blessed Virgin Mary grant perseverance to our marriages, "for better for worse, till death do us part".
Yours faithfully in the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Fr. Peter R. Scott SSPX
Full article linkhttp://www.sspx.org/miscellaneous/canonical/Canonical_Commission/august_1995_ltr.htm