More petitions for annulments are opened by Catholics in the U.S. than in any other country, but the number has dropped in the past two decades amid declining numbers of marriages, fewer divorces and perceptions of a stigma from the church, analysts say.

Often misunderstood as simply a “Catholic divorce,” the subject is one of the prominent family issues under discussion during this month’s Extraordinary Synod of Bishops and one area in which the church might see some tangible changes in practice.

The most recent numbers available from the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae, which compiles statistics about theCatholic Church and its members, show that 24,010 cases, or 49 percent of annulment cases, were petitioned from the United States in 2012…

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