Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Requests for dispensation of a ratum et non consummatum marriage, 13 June 2009.


In a memorandum to the U.S. Bishops dated August 3, 2009, Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, forwarded a request from His Eminence Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, dated June 13, 2009 (Port. N. 551/09M), that the Congregation’s December 20, 1986 procedures be disseminated to those competent in such matters. An English translation of the 1986 procedures can be found in Canon Law Digest Vol. 13, pages 695-701. The Congregation expressed concern that some tribunal officials, viewing the ratum process as highly specialized and complex, may be hesitant to utilize it, even in appropriate cases. To assist with the local instruction of such cases and the preparation of the necessary acta for submission to the Holy See, the Congregation also provided a helpful Pro Memoria. An English translation of the Pro Memoria, prepared by USCCB staff, follows:




Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments

June 13, 2009

(unofficial translation)

Pro Memoria For the Instruction of a Cause for Dispensation of a Ratum et Non Consummatum Marriage

1. The petition of both spouses, or of one of the two, is directed to the Holy Father, with a summary of the matrimonial history, an indication of the causes that have prevented the consummation, the reasons for the dispensation being sought, the date and place of the drafting of the libellus, and the diocese of the domicile or quasi-domicile of the one, or both, petitioner(s).

2. The request ought to be signed by hand.

3. The pastoral attempts to obtain the reconciliation of the parties ought to appear in the acts.

4. The baptismal certificates of the parties and the marriage certificate (original copies). Birth certificates of children conceived before the marriage.

5. If applicable, the acts of a civil process of divorce, separation or nullity; or at least copies of the sentence of the civil Tribunal.

6. The decrees of appointment of the Instructor of the cause, the Defender of the Bond and the Notary. The instructing judge, which in a first instance Tribunal will be a single judge, must always to be a priest (simper debet esse sacerdos), who can rely, in case of necessity, on a lay person, but as an auditor only (tantum uti auditor).

7. The interrogation of the parties is to be conducted by the Instructor in the presence of the Notary and the Defender of the Bond, under oath to speak the truth (de veritate dicenda), with questions designed to clarify the marriage of the parties and, at the conclusion, under oath confirming the truth of what was said (de veritate dictorum). In particularly delicate or complex cases involving the manner of intimate life, a medical expert may be present to pose the questions.

8. Include, if applicable, the acts of a canonical trial for the declaration of nullity of marriage.

9. For the suspension of the process of nullity, the consent of the parties (consensus partium) is required by can. 1681. However, if the respondent was declared absent by the judge during the cause of nullity, he or she must be cited for the purpose of obtaining consent regarding the transfer of the cause to the administrative process. Bearing in mind can. 1592 §1 and Dignitas Connubii 138 §3, if the respondent, legitimately cited, does not respond to the citation, the tribunal may interpret this silence as a tacit assent to the suspension of the process and to the procedure for requesting the dispensation.

10. The interrogation of witnesses, indicated by the parties or selected by the Instructor, under oath to speak the truth (de veritate dicenda), is to be conducted with prepared questions, pertaining to their knowledge of the non-consummation and of the more significant aspects of the case.

11. Collect attestations of the credibility of the parties and of the witnesses from their pastors or, in their absence, from other priests, religious or committed laity who have particular knowledge of the persons in the case.

12. Enclose any medical examinations on the state of the genital organs of the woman, of the man, and on their capacity or not for conjugal life, and other aspects relative to the case.

13. Enclose other useful documents for physical and moral proofs (for example, medical records, police reports, private letters, etc.).

14. A suitable report (apta relatio) from the Instructor providing a summary of the process (cf. can. 1704 §1).

15. The animadversions of the Defender of the Bond with the grounds for reasonably (rationabiliter) opposing the dispensation of the marriage (cf. cann. 1432 and 1701 §1).

16. The votum of the Bishop of the domicile or quasi-domicile of the petitioner, pro rei veritate guaranteeing the absence of scandal from the granting of the dispensation (cf. can. 1704 §1 CIC and art. 23 of the Circular Letter of the Congregation for the Sacraments of December 20, 1986).

17. The above acts, written or translated exclusively in a language used by the Roman Curia (Latin, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, German), collected and neatly bound, arranged and numbered, with an index, should all be authenticated by a Notary, and shipped in triplicate copy to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and not containing illegible handwritten documents, which, if deemed of any importance, must be transcribed into typewriting. This applies equally to the legibility of photocopies. Also note that the original acts of the proceedings must be kept in the archive of the diocesan curia.

18. The Congregation is always sensitive to the inclusion of a request for a reduction in fees and, in more severe cases, even a total exemption, provided it is accompanied by documentation and a recommendation from the diocesan curia, which, in turn, declares its inability to cover the actual costs locally for the Congregation.




Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Requests for dispensation of a ratum et non consummatum marriage, 13 June 2009, CLSA, Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions, 2009, 29-31.