As a tribunal judge for marriage cases, I often here the complaints both from inside and outside the Church about the concept of annulment. Some complain we annul too many, and act as the the grounds are made up by the Catholic Church.
In fact in today's reading we hear two of the categories with we we operate in the modern tribunal. First Jesus addresses what he calls, "unlawful" marriage. There was in the Mosaic Law and there is in Canon Law definitions of what constitutes a lawful marriage.
More interesting is the fact that he recognizes as canon law does that there are some people who are incapable of marriage. As today's gospel says, "Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others."
I have often heard, "How can you say they were never married when they had a beautiful mass in a catholic church and 4 children?" Without meaning to, this question reduces marriage to saying "I do" and procreating. Marriage is more than saying some words and making babies.
In the gospel Jesus is trying to get the people to understand the full reality of what marriage is, and to acknowledge that some people are simply incapable of that "partnership of life and love" we call marriage. Modern psychology has simply helped us to understand more clearly the full range of issues that can make person incapable of marriage. They may spend thousands of dollars on wedding, and be capable of procreation, but that does not always mean one is capable of marriage. It is sad but true that there are some who enter marriage with the best of intentions but are simply incapable of forming that bond with another person.
I think most priests and other pastoral ministers would agree that if young couples spent half the time and energy thinking about and planning the marriage that they spend on planning the wedding, we would have fewer weddings, but more of them would end in an actual marriage.
The other hard reality we see is that often enough family members and friends saw the problems before the wedding and, for a variety of reasons, said nothing. The couple themselves are often blinded by being in love, and they need their friends and families to slow them down and get them to take an honest look at themselves and their potential spouse and ask the difficult questions.
Let us pray for all those couples who are engaged or contemplating getting engaged that they truly look beyond the wedding to the life-long marriage.