Francis blesses a bride and groom © Osservatore Romano (CBA)
Pope Francis considers most marriages performed in church "invalid". The majority of couples lack the necessary understanding of the duration and commitment of a marriage, the pope said in Rome, according to Italian media reports.
In the current "culture of provisionality," brides and grooms promise each other lifelong fidelity and are of good will – "but they don't know what they are saying," the pope said. Their promise was therefore "only provisional, and therefore the vast majority of our sacramental marriages are invalid". The occasion for the statements in the Lateran Basilica was a congress of the diocese of Rome.
Pope: "People don't know what the sacrament means"
Francis was responding to a question about the crisis in marriage. The cause of the current crisis of marriage is that "people don't know what the sacrament means" and don't know its beauty. They did not know "that it was indissoluble and that it lasted a lifetime.
Vatican relativizes statement
The Vatican qualified that statement in a written capture of the conversation distributed Friday. He echoed Francis in saying "a portion" of marriages performed in church are invalid. According to the live broadcast and video recording, he said "vast majority".
Francis had already repeatedly expressed doubts about the validity of many church marriages. According to current canon law, a Catholic marriage is invalid – apart from formal errors or non-consummation of the sexual act – if one of the bride and groom excludes lifelong fidelity or the procreation of children from the outset.
Against "quick-fix marriages
The pope explicitly opposed "quick-fix weddings" that are scheduled because the bride is pregnant. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he banned such marriages, he said, because he doubted the free consent of the spouses. He has had good experience with this practice, he reported. If the couples then went down the aisle after two or three years, they would have known what they were doing.
Francis exhorted priests not to prere young couples into marriage. In Argentina, for example, he said, the church faces the challenge that a majority of couples in marriage preparation classes are already living together. In such cases, however, one should not ask: "Why don't you get married??"Rather, one must "accompany them, wait and help them to mature, help the faithful to grow up". Marriage is "the most difficult area of pastoral care".