One of my least edifying experiences in ministry was acting as an advocate for declarations of nullity. In my training, I was urged to accompany the people seeking annulments, looking for opportunities for healing and insight. It was difficult work, reviewing old relationships with parishioners. Once I was working with a Protestant person who wanted to become Catholic. Try justifying to people why a Catholic who married outside the Church would have a far easier time being permitted a second marriage than a Protestant who never even knew what the Tiber was at the time a first marriage was crumbling.
David Gibson sums up the lay of the land here. What was new to me was this piece of info: there are ten times as many divorced and remarried Catholics as there are annulled marriages. Almost 5 million to about 400,000. Honestly, I would have thought the separation would have been closer.
One lament I have about the discussion is the assumption that advocates for change have an ulterior motive, mainly making things easier on themselves. It doesn’t always occur to people I talk with that my own outspoken advocacy for a thaw is due not to my secret desire to bail on a 17-year marriage, but because I’ve seen people turned away from the sacraments, especially non-Catholics from joining the Church.
I trust the lay people and bishops will have a good discernment on this in the coming months. Fear is useless. What is needed is trust. And mercy.