The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Pope Benedict ordered the clampdown after new figures showed that the Church's appeals court allowed 69 annulments in 2005 for reasons which included husbands being too attached to their mothers.
The court, known as the Sacra Rota, considers petitions from couples claiming their marriages were never truly valid.
Among the reasons cited as grounds for annulment were an "inability to assume conjugal obligations", usually due to a childhood trauma, alcoholism, use of cannabis, infidelity and a serious lack of "moderation in judgement" by a partner, meaning jealousy or a propensity to lie.
But the Pope appeared to take a hard line on Saturday when he told the court's 20 judges to "respond with courage and faith" to "a distorted interpretation of the canonical norms in force".
According to the Catholic News Agency, Pope Benedict in his annual address to the court also lamented that in many ecclesial circles there is a feeling that out of a desire for pastoral sensitivity, there should be created a "sort of canonical regularisation, independent from the validity or nullity of marriage, that is to say, independent from the reality surrounding their personal conditions".
He emphasised that "in the face of the subjectivist and libertarian relativisation of the sexual experience, the tradition of the Church clearly affirms the naturally juridical nature of matrimony".
In the address, the Pope also criticised the Italian Government's plans for a law defining rights for unmarried couples.
Marriage, he said, was in danger of becoming no more than a legal agreement, "manipulated at will", and "denied of its heterosexual character". The Italian Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, said on Saturday that a bill on civil unions was close, the Sydney Morning Herald says.
No change expected on condoms
In another story, an official of the Italian Catholic Bishops Conference, Mgsr Angelo Amato, has said that change of Vatican policy on condoms is "not on (the) agenda", France 24 reports.
"Whether the use of prophylactics is licit ... does not seem to me to be on the agenda," Mgsr Amato told Avvenire, the journal of the Italian Bishops' Conference published on Sunday.
The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is at present looking into the issue.
However, Mgsr Amato said the congregation was studying "the hypothesis of reviewing" bioethical questions raised in the 1987 document Donum Vitae.
The aim is not "to abolish the preceding document, but to confront the various bioethical and biotechnological questions which present themselves today, which at the time were unthinkable," he said.
Amato said "new challenges" have arisen "such as an embryo which is considered a biological product rather than a human being," while according to the Catholic Church, "respect due to the human embryo is a non-negotiable anthropological principle."
He could not say when the dossier would be submitted to the Pope.
A wife is for life: Pope gets tough on marriage (Sydney Morning Herald, 30/1/07)
Pope exhorts Roman Rota to defend marriage against relativism (Catholic News Agency, 29/1/07)
Change of Vatican policy on condoms 'not on agenda' (France 24, 29/1/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Sacra Rota Romana (Wikipedia)
Sacra Rota (New Advent)
Tribunal welcomes new annulment guidelines (CathNews, 18/2/05)
Cardinal insists on scrutiny of failed marriages before annulment (CathNews, 9/2/05)
Vatican cold feet on marriage annulment reform (CathNews, 8/2/05)
30 Jan 2007