A layman asked about the “crisis of marriage” and how Catholics can help educate youth in love, help them learn about sacramental marriage, and help them overcome “their resistance, delusions and fears.”
The Pope answered from his own experience.
“I heard a bishop say some months ago that he met a boy that had finished his university studies, and said ‘I want to become a priest, but only for 10 years.’ It’s the culture of the provisional. And this happens everywhere, also in priestly life, in religious life,” he said.
“It’s provisional, and because of this the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say ‘yes, for the rest of my life!’ but they don’t know what they are saying. Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know.”
[Pope Francis approved a revision to the official transcript to say that “a portion” of sacramental marriages are null, instead of “the great majority.”]
Pope Francis said that marriage preparation is a problem, and that marital problems are also linked to social situations surrounding weddings.
He recounted his encounter with a man engaged to be married who was looking for a church that would complement his fiancée’s dress and would not be far from a restaurant.
“It’s [a] social issue, and how do we change this? I don’t know,” the Pope said.
Uber-traditional Catholics are having yet another conniption due to the Pope's comments about the validity of many of the world's sacramental marriages. However, chances are these Traddies haven't had to endure the pain of a divorce, nor the challenge of the Marriage Tribunal, where you learn a lot about yourself and your marriage. At least in my part of the country, in my current company, nearly half of the workforce are unpracticing Catholics - and are either on their second marriage or are divorced and living with someone who is not their spouse. The Pope is right - people have a fear of lifelong commitment or they have a misunderstanding of what marriage is, I believe in part due to the Protestant Reformation and the opinion that marriage is more an event and not a Sacrament. For many Catholics, they would never accept a priest celebrating the Eucharist with a Graham Cracker and milk, but we don't consider marriage with the same respect as a Sacrament. I don't believe it's done consciously; as the Pope said, it's in the culture; society has influenced us instead of Catholics influencing society. I believe that most people just don't realize it - I've always believed marriage was forever, because that's what Scripture says, but for many people - especially Protestants - that's just one more line of Scripture that can be explained away with bad theology. So, I was not offended by the Pope's comments - he is right. And if we truly believe in "Biblical Marriage", then that also means believing in marriage "till death do us part." Until we truly believe that, then yes - our vows may be defective and our marriages may be sacramentally invalid. Only a review by your local Marriage Tribunal will determine that for sure. The pope's comments certainly don't mean for everyone to get a divorce and seek the Marriage Tribunal, but it does mean that if you find yourself divorced and wanting to pursue a new relationship, there's nothing but your own ignorance, fear, or pride stopping you from that - marriage tribunals are now free and the process has been shortened; now the Pope is pointing out the truth that most of us have no idea how serious our marriage vows are, which may mean our vows were defective, which means we may - with a vote of nullity by the Tribunal - be free to pursue a new relationship, which means a valid marriage and a full Sacramental life. Don't be lazy, or scared, or prideful - if you find yourself divorced and remarried, or divorced and living with someone, and you want a 'regular marriage' and Sacramental life, contact your diocese's Marriage Tribunal. The peace of healing alone is well worth your effort.