(Opening address to the Canadian Canon Law Society Convention, St. John's, Newfoundland, October, 1997)
If I am glad to have been invited to speak on a topic other than canon 1095, the reason is certainly not any feeling that the last word has been said on consensual incapacity. It is simply because of a personal conviction that there are more null marriages today through simulation of consent, than through incapacity for it.
The mentality of our age is hostile to the christian concept of marriage and to any true marital commitment. Couples in ever-growing numbers are living together casually and temporarily, without a thought of marriage, and apparently with no sense that they are excluding something profoundly human from their lives. Of those who cohabit in this way no doubt quite a few do think of an eventual ceremony or social event which will "formalize" their relationship - always provided that it has gone satisfactorily.
To begin with, it should be noted that the term "annulment" is not exact. To "annul" implies to dissolve or rescind something that had really existed. A civil contract can be annulled, but not the covenant of marriage. Once a true marriage has been entered on and a real marital bond created, it can only be dissolved by death.
I have been asked to reply to an article written under the pseudonym of Polonaise in the last June issue of the Catholic World Report. Anonymous writings do not appeal to me, since I feel that each one should have the courage of his or her convictions. So, while Polonaise involves me in his animadversions, I would probably have let that pass, also because it is never pleasant or easy to answer a critic who has not understood the position he criticizes. But since he also misrepresents the teaching of the magisterium (partly by ignoring it), I think your readers are entitled to some comments which hopefully can clarify some important points.