PCILT, Leaving the Church by a Formal Act, 26 July 1993. Private.


In reference to the interpretation of c. 1117 of the new code, an urgent question has arisen among the judges which, as it is to be desired, is to be resolved as soon as possible by the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts.

The proposed doubt sounds like this:

D. Whether the canonical form established in c. 1117 is to be observed if a minor party should have defected from the Catholic Church or whether the party is to be sui compos or must have the use of reason.”

The doubt is explained: At least in Germany parents place before civil authority for themselves and for the infants, that is, minors, a formal act of defection from the Catholic Church (Kirchenaustritt) whether or not they follow into another ecclesial community or sect. Therefore the question arises whether a party who, not on his own initiative, not freely, inconsiderately and incapable of a human act, should have defected from the Catholic Church by a formal act, must observe the canonical form.

pg. 566

pg. 567
The following unofficial English translation is the response that was written on 26 June 1993, and received from the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts:




Although it is very pleasant to respond to your letter of June 25 of this year in which it is asked – “whether a party who, not on his own initiative, not freely, without consideration and incapable of a human act, should have defected from the Catholic Church by a formal act, must observe the canonical form [of marriage],” I earnestly ask you to keep in view that in such circumstances there is no defection from the Catholic Church and therefore, the supposition failing, the discussion about the formality of the act is minimally useful. This having been said, a doubt of law is not seen to be given. Nevertheless, if it is thought otherwise, I insist and urge Your Excellency to write to me again about this question, supporting it with strong and solid arguments.




PCILT, June-July 1993, Leaving the Church by a Formal Act (unofficial translation), RRAO (1995): 10-12.