Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Dispensation of two Catholics from the canonical form of marriage twice denied, 22 July 2006 and 23 August 2006, Private.


This request for dispensation from the Canonical Form for Marriage for two Catholics, one of the parties being recently received into the Catholic Church, is being printed since it seems to indicate an apparent change in practice of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.




First request:

20 June 2006

His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect

Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments

Piazza Pio XII, 10

00193 Rome, Italy

Your Eminence,

On behalf of Bishop _______, the Bishop of _______, I respectfully wish to request a dispensation from the canonical form of marriage on behalf of Albert _______, Roman Catholic, and Edith _______, Roman Catholic. The are both residents of the Diocese of _______ and had planned to be married at _______ Episcopal Church of _______. This is the family church of Edith, a former Episcopalian. They approached Father _______, associate pastor of St Xavier Church_______, [who] directed his request to this Chancery.

The reason for this request is that Albert, a life-long and practicing Catholic, had planned to marry Edith for several years. Recently, Edith decided to become a Roman Catholic and was received into the Catholic Church and Confirmed at Easter. Long before their now strong commitment to the Catholic Church, they made plans to be married at _______ Episcopal Church in _______, by the minister there who is a close friend of [Edith’s] family. Also [her family] are very strong and practicing members of the Episcopalian Church. According to the parish priest, there was a good amount of opposition on the part of the bride’s family to her conversion to Catholicism.

Because of the long-stranding wedding plans of Albert and Edith and with Edith’s conversion just having taken place, the couple is most anxious to have their wedding recognized by the Catholic Church. However, to attempt to change plans now, or to arrange for a Catholic priest to witness the marriage would only further alienate Edith’s non-Catholic family, although they are agreeable to having the Catholic priest present at the ceremony.

There is no danger of admiratio or scandal since the wedding is taking place in another town several miles from where the couple will live. Also, not many people other than Edith’s immediate family are aware of her conversion. This arrangement is perfectly acceptable to Albert’s Catholic family, who see it as a good sign of good will to Edith’s family who have a difficulty understanding her conversion.

The wedding has been arranged for 1 October 2006.

I am encouraged to make this exceptional request by the knowledge that your Congregation permitted such a dispensation in a very similar case submitted by the Bishop of _______ [another diocese] in 1973 and recorded in the Canon Law Digest, volume 8, pages 818-819.

A copy of the bride’s letter requesting this special consideration is enclosed for your information.

Because of the circumstances described above and because of the adverse attitude of the bride’s family lest an already strained family relationship should be irreparably weakened because of the bride’s recent acceptance of the Catholic Church, and for many other pastoral reasons, Bishop _______ strongly lends his support to the groom and bride in their request for a dispensation from the Catholic form of marriage.

Sincerely in Christ,

Reverend _________

Chancellor




The reply from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments is dated 22 July 2006.

Prot No _______

Your Excellency, [Bishop of _______]

This Congregation for Divine Worship has received the letter of Fr. _______, Chancellor of he Diocese of _______, in which he requests a dispensation from canonical form of marriage on behalf of Albert _______ and Edith _______, who are both presently Roman Catholics, but desire to celebrate Marriage in the Episcopal Church. After due consideration of the circumstances described in the letter, this Dicastery has decided not to grant the requested dispensation, as two Catholic parties have the grave obligation to celebrate Marriage in the Catholic Church.

Wish every good wish and distinct regard, I remain,

Archbishop Secretary

Under Secretary




Second request:

The Bishop of _______ subsequently [17 August 2006] addressed another letter to the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, “to ask your reconsideration of a decision recently received _______ from your Congregation.” This letter reiterated the circumstances, adding,

“Edith’s family had long planned their daughter’s wedding at _______ Episcopal Church, which has been their family church for several generations. The Catholic family of Albert _______ is overjoyed at the bride’s decision to become Catholic. Aware of her family’s hopes for the wedding to take place in their Episcopal Church, the Catholic family hoped that it would be possible to accommodate the wishes of the bride’s family knowing that Edith _______’s family were not pleased with their daughter’s decision to enter the Catholic Church at this time. [Albert’s] family sought advice from their parish priest who contacted my Chancery Office for direction.

The parish priest was informed that over the past twenty years or so there have been a few situations involving very similar circumstances of a recent conversion of one of the spouses-to-be, and the wish to avoid the alienation of the new convert’s family, by seeking a dispensation from the canonical form since there was a presumption that marriage would take place in the family church of the Protestant family. [Two rescripts are cited, 1986 and 1988, and were included in the mailing.]

With the encouragement of my Chancery, the couple went ahead and planned the wedding in good faith and to the great satisfaction of both families. If these plans would have to be changed now, it would cause wonderment to the couple and their families as to why their request is denied while similar requests have been granted, it could lead to a certain and serious alienation of the families involved, and it could also leave both the parish and diocese legally liable for the expenses incurred.

Since the Congregation has granted the faculty to the diocesan Bishop of _______ to dispense two Catholics from the Canonical form of marriage in the past, and since the wedding involved is scheduled to celebrated on 7 Oct. 2006, and since the couple has done everything in good faith with the advice of their parish priest and the Chancery office, I kindly ask your Eminence to reconsider the Congregation’s decision given in the recent letter received [Protocol _______] and to grant the faculty for me to dispense two Catholics from the Catholic form of Marriage, as was requested [the initial letter is cited]. Pastorally I feel that the circumstances of the present case and the precedence of the two prior granting of faculties to dispense that the granting of this request would be for the good of the Church.

If it is the desire of the Congregation that in the future this type of request should not be put forth please be assured that the wish of the Congregation will be so followed.

With thanks for your past assistance and with sentiments of my personal esteem and respect, I remain

Sincerely in Christ,

Most Reverend _______

Bishop of _______




The response from the Congregation is dated 23 August 2006.

Your Excellency [Bishop _______]

As requested in your letter of 17 August 2006, this Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has reconsidered the matter of permitting Albert _______ and Edith _______, both Catholics, to be dispensed from the canonical form of marriage.

This Dicastery has, however, been unable to find sufficient cause for granting the requested dispensation, and therefore, has confirmed its decision in the negative, communicated to your Excellency on 22 July 2006.

It is the earnest request of this Congregation that the couple be provided appropriate counsel to explain clearly the reasons why Catholics are gravely obliged to celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church.

Likewise, particularly in light of the short period which remains until the couple is to be married, every courtesy is to be extended to them to facilitate their marriage in a Catholic Church.

Wish every good wish and kind regard, I am,

Sincerely your in Christ,

Archbishop Secretary




Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Dispensation of two Catholic from the canonical form of marriage twice denied, 22 July 2006 and 23 August 2006, Private, CLSA, Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions, 2007, 33-37.