So the news is that the pope wants to make changes in the system for annulments. The Roman Catholic Church is debating what it means.
The rest of the Christian world can’t understand why Rome has the system. It is one of the human additions to Christianity that the papacy added–tribunals and judges, investigations and paperwork, expense to the parties, canon lawyers and the schools to train them and the book to explain the minutiae of the law and its application, all intended to lead to a decree of nullity that says a marriage was never valid in the first place.
And how can they say that? Two people fell in love, they exchanged vows, the church blessed it. God was there. How can you say he wasn’t? Well, maybe there was defective form–they didn’t observe the rules that the church said they had to. How about just change those manmade rules? Well, maybe there was defect of consent–maybe they were too immature at 20 to really know what they were doing. That would nullify most of the marriages in history. Maybe there was an impediment that made them unable to get married. Perhaps the church should have said something at the time, not after thirty years and four kids.
Beyond this is the fact that the church is looking for ways to rationalize divorce, which the Catholic church teaches is wrong for Christians. And that does have Biblical foundation. “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
So this entire edifice has been established as a way to get around the teachings of Jesus. “The Church” decides to be a lawyer, and a judge, and to be more “pastoral” in is application of Jesus’ teachings. All in the belief that it has the authority to act in the name of Jesus, to bind and to loose. Protestantism doesn’t have canon law, or tribunals, or defenders of the bond, or annulments, because the Reformers decided Jesus didn’t give the church the authority to act in this way.