Last week, Pope Francis made some off-the-cuff remarks about how the majority of Catholic marriages are invalid. This was headline news in a lot of places, and it made the news again when his remarks were later removed from the official transcript.
So what's going on here?
Well, as you may know, Catholics do not allow divorce. Catholic marriages last until one of the spouses dies. If you don't know or believe this, that may affect your ability to get married as a Catholic. It might even make your marriage invalid!
Pope Francis was saying that most Catholics follow modern society, culture and beliefs on the subject of marriage. The culture currently teaches that divorce is completely acceptable. If most Catholics DO believe in the possibility of divorce, then yes, it's possible that most Catholic marriages are invalid.
I've got three thoughts on this.
1. How can you go through Catholic marriage prep and NOT know that marriage lasts forever? It's possible, if your marriage prep is bad. It's also possible, if the people taking marriage prep aren't paying attention or just don't care.
That happened with the marriage prep I took with my wife. There was a 20-25 minute segment on money and finances, and one of the salient points that got repeated was "don't keep secrets from your spouse". The instructor said this multiple times. So what happened? Months later, one of the couples broke up, because the one fiancée had a $50,000 debt that they were trying to keep secret forever. That's exactly the sort of problem that the marriage prep was designed to avoid! It's almost like they were asleep during the marriage prep classes.
2. I said that not knowing Catholic marriages last forever may affect your ability to get married. It may not. The key point is, if you knew divorce was impossible, would you still have gotten married? Because that affects your will, and a marriage is only valid if done out of free will.
3. If you're legitimately worried your marriage is invalid, you can always go through convalidation. That is the official term for making an invalid marriage into a valid one. My wife and I will have to do that if, say, it turns out the priest who performed the wedding was an impostor in disguise, and we were never really married. I'm 99% sure that's not the case, though.
Normally, though, convalidation is a short ceremony/process, done when a couple is married outside the church, and they want the church's blessing.