CDW, Dispensation from the Canonical Form of Marriage for Two Roman Catholics, 4 September 1990. Private.


The background of the case is as follows:




The case involved a Catholic woman, Agnes, who wished to marry a man Spartacus, who had been recently received into the Roman Catholic Church. This dispensation was being requested so that the father of Spartacus, a minister in another Christian denomination, could receive the couple’s exchange of consent during a Mass which was to be celebrated in the parish church of the bride – St. Mary’s in Trastevere. This particular church is in the Diocese of Tre Tavernae. For this favor, the following documents were sent to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments:

1. the petition of Agnes and Spartacus,

2. a letter of recommendation of the parochial vicar of St. Mary’s parish, Rev. Paul Romanus,

3. the baptismal certificate of Agnes,

4. the certificate of reception into full communion for Spartacus, along with his Christian baptismal certificate, and

5. the prenuptial questionnaire.

Along with all of this documentation, Clement, the Bishop of Tre Tavernae, sent his votum .

To make the matter entirely clear, the following documents are now reproduced here:

pg. 557

pg. 558
Letter from Agnes to Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments:




I am writing you concerning my upcoming marriage to Spartacus. Spartacus has recently been confirmed and become a member of the Catholic community. Spartacus made this decision after years of attending weekly Mass with me and also because someday we hope to have a family and raise our children in the Catholic Church.

Spartacus’ family is very active in the Christian Church. Spartacus’ father is a Christian minister and yet, has been very supportive of Spartacus’ conversion, understanding our situation. Spartacus’ father believes that the most important aspect of religion is to have a strong faith and to pass this faith on to children.

Spartacus and his father are very close to each other and it has been a life long dream that Spartacus’ father may one day give Spartacus the vows of marriage.

I believe that this would be a wonderful way to pay back Spartacus’ family for all of the support and love they have given us in making our decision.

I understand that this is an unusual situation and I respectfully request that Spartacus and I be allowed to receive a dispensation for our marriage vows so that Spartacus’ father may be able to participate.

Spartacus and I appreciate your consideration in this matter and hope that your decision may be favorable.




With this petition, the parochial vicar of St. Mary’s parish in Trestevere included this letter of recommendation:




Agnes and Spartacus have requested that permission be granted to allow Spartacus’ father to witness their exchange of vows. Agnes (22) has been a faithful Church member at St. Mary’s for 4 years. This past Easter, Spartacus (26) completed the RCIA and entered the Catholic Church. They currently are planning a wedding for December 29, 1990.

The father of Spartacus is a Christian minister and has been supportive of his son becoming a Catholic. It has been a life-long wish of the father as well as for Spartacus for the father to marry his son when the occasion arrived. Both Spartacus and Agnes are committed Catholics. They have dated each other for three years. The wedding ceremony would occur in the context of the Mass celebrated by a priest of St. Mary’s Church in Trestevere. There appears to be no reason to expect any type of scandal regarding this ceremony and an explanation will be extended to those present citing the position of Spartacus’ father and their relationship.

pg. 558

pg. 559
Granting a dispensation would express support for Spartacus and Agnes regarding the sensitivity and concern of our Church. It would also be a gesture of friendship extended to Spartacus’ father who has been supportive of his son’s decision to become a member of the Roman Catholic Church. I have no doubt that all parties involved would be deeply appreciative if this dispensation were granted.




The bishop’s votum which accompanied all of the materials to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments was written in this manner:




Re: Dispensation from canonical form for Spartacus and Agnes

I, Clement, Bishop of the Diocese of Tre Tavernae, humbly request a dispensation from canonical form for Spartacus and Agnes both Catholics, who are free to marry. They are planning to marry on December 29,1990, and wish to have Spartacus’ father, who is a Christian minister, officially witness their exchange of marriage vows.

Spartacus and Agnes are very religious persons who value their Catholic faith highly. Each of their families gave them a strong education in their respective faiths and both parties are close to their families. They request this dispensation in order to promote family unity in a spirit of ecumenism.

Although Spartacus’ father had always desired to be the minister at his son’s wedding, he gave full support to Spartacus’ decision to become a Catholic. As the enclosed petition and baptism certificate indicate, Spartacus was received into the Catholic faith on April 14, 1990, in Albano, at which time he also received the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. Because of his zeal to begin living his Catholic faith as soon as possible, Spartacus decided to be baptized at Easter instead of waiting until after his marriage.

Spartacus and Agnes understand that as Catholics they are bound by the Church requirement of canonical form. However, they also believe that Spartacus’ close relationship with his father and his father’s lifelong desire to witness the marriage of his son are special circumstances which warrant their requesting that a dispensation from canonical form be granted for their wedding.

Another serious consideration for this dispensation concerns the fact that the relatives and friends attending the wedding would be predominantly non-Catholic and the granting of this dispensation would be an important ecumenical gesture of mutual understanding and faith.

Reverend Paul Romanus, who has given marriage instructions to Spartacus and Agnes assures me that both parties are mature Catholics

pg. 559

pg. 560
who devoutly practice their faith. The wedding will take place during Mass, which will be celebrated in St. Mary’s in Trastevere where Agnes’ family have been parishioners for a number of years. I believe that it would not cause any scandal if Spartacus’ father asked for and received the couple’s consent.

Those present at the wedding would be informed of the nature of the dispensation, the function which Spartacus’ father would perform and the close relationship between Spartacus and his father.

I strongly favor the granting of this dispensation as an expression of the Church’s concern for family unity and ecumenism, for the new faith life of Spartacus and for the sake of the couple who want to be sensitive to both families and faiths at this important time in the beginning of their life together.

Therefore, out of a pastoral concern for the faith life of Spartacus and Agnes as married Catholics, for harmony between their families’ different faiths, and in recognition of Spartacus’ close relationship to his father who wants to be able to witness his son’s marriage, I recommend that the couple be granted a favorable consideration for a dispensation from canonical form.

Please be assured that I am most grateful for your kind assistance in this matter.




The file was forwarded to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in July of 1990. On September 4, 1990, the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio wrote to Bishop Clement to inform him that the dispensation had been granted. The dispensation was granted with the following rescript:




The bishop of the Diocese of Tre Tavernae prostrate at the feet of Your Holiness, humbly requests the faculty for dispensing from canonical form for the celebration of marriage, in that Agnes and Spartacus – both Catholic– desire to contract marriage in the Catholic Church of St. Mary’s in Trastevere, with an assisting non-Catholic minister, because of the reasons in the proposed request.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, for the proposed concerns, and particular accompanying circumstances in the case, and other pastoral reasons, concedes to His Excellency the petitioner [ed. note, the ordinary] the concession of the requested dispensation, with the scandal and wonderment of the faithful having been removed.

pg. 560

pg. 561
The rescript at hand, with clear attestation of the execution, is to be diligently preserved in the episcopal curia, so that for all time and place the validity of the marriage is clear, with notation having been added in the registers of baptisms and marriages, according to the norm of the law (c. 1121, §3).

Nothing to the contrary shall prevail.




CDW, 4 September 1990, Dispensation from the Canonical Form of Marriage for Two Roman Catholics (unofficial translation), RRAO (1991): 25-30.