Problemet med katolikker som er gjengifte og lever i et ekteskap Kirken ikke kan godkjenne er ganske stort, ingen er uenige i det. Men nå som dette spørsmålet diskuteres og får en del oppmerksomhet i media, sier noen feilaktig at dette er noe Kirken kan løse med et enkelt pennestrøk. Men skal Kirken plutselig si at man kan oppløse et sakramentalt ekteskap, og deretter inngå et annet gyldig/sakramentalt ekteskap, må man jo først drøfte dette teologiske spørsmålet svært grundig – og vil det i det hele tatt være mulig å forandre noen Kirken har hevdet i over 1500 år.
Kirkerettseksperten Edward Peters skriver nokså tydelig om hva bispedømmenes Tribunaler kan gjøre i denne sammenhengen; noe mye mer begrenset:
…. Such casual talk about marriages “being annulled” is okay in chit-chat, but scholars discussing—to say nothing of lawyers attacking—the annulment process itself must, before anything else, describe that process accurately: Tribunals don’t do anything to a marriage, rather, they conclude something about a marriage. Grasp that, and one has the essence of the thing.
Long story made short, every society needs a process whereby agreements apparently entered into by its members can be assessed for their ‘validity’, that is, every society needs a way to determine, objectively and fairly, whether an agreement seemingly made between two people qualifies as a contract enforceable in that society. This is Contracts 101, of course, and has not a whit to do with theology or Gospel teaching; these are purely questions of nature and justice.
Now, to describe marriage as a “covenant” (c. 1055 § 1) builds upon, but does not erase, the fact the every marriage is essentially an agreement between two people, that is, every marriage is, before it is anything else, a contract. But, precisely as a contract, it is possible that two people might desire to enter, and might even think that they have entered, that contract known as marriage, when, as a purely legal (specifically, canonical) matter, they have not done so. And if they have not entered into that contract known as marriage, then they are not married in the eyes of that society. Period.
The only question treated by a tribunal is this: has the couple before it entered into that contract known as marriage? If they have done so, certain consequences (some, but not all, derived from our theology) flow; if they have not done so, certain consequences (some, but not all, derived from our theology). Whether the couple chose wisely in marrying and lived happily in it, or whether they betrayed each other repeatedly and were lucky to escape with their sanity, is irrelevant to the question that a tribunal has the expertise and responsibility to decide: whether this couple actually entered marriage. ….