Our sister’s marriage recently was declared null. How should we react to that news?
First, a declaration of nullity is not a “victory” in the case of those who wanted it or as a “defeat” for those opposed. The Church doesn’t look at it that way.
Neither is it a second chance to do something right; it is a recognition that the first time never satisfied the objective requirements of law. There is nothing satisfying about declaring marriages null. Every annulment, correctly decided, discloses a failure. It documents the frustration of one, and often two, people who tried to do what they thought was right and who might well have wanted to enter the kind of lifelong union the Church calls marriage. But for reasons centered in one or both parties, that attempt was null from the outset.
In annulment cases involving Catholics, every declaration of nullity represents the failure to identify factors which could threaten the validity of a marriage and address them adequately in advance, as called for in canon 1066. Every annulment is another voice calling for higher standards in marriage preparation programs, not lower.