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New Marriage through the Pauline Privilege

Question. Few years ago one of my relatives obtained a Pauline Privilege to get married. I want to know what this means, and how they would have applied for it, and how long time it would have taken. – Alexander Luke.

Answer. First of all, I must thank Luke for asking such a pertinent and relevant question about the Pauline Privilege and its applicability. Here, I would try my best to answer all the questions raised by Alexander.

Before we begin to talk about the “Pauline Privilege”, we must understand the fundamental principles of Catholic marriage. Hence, at first, I would discuss about the “notion of Catholic marriage and its principles”. Secondly, I would speak about what is the meaning of a “ratified marriage”. And thirdly, I will explain what is the meaning of a “consummated marriage”. Once, we have clarified the aforementioned topics, we shall discuss about the “Pauline Privilege”.

Understanding a Catholic Marriage

Marriage is an institution belonging to the natural order based on the natural law or divine law. This is evident from can. 1055 §1 of the Code of Canon Law 1983:

The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of their whole life, and which of its own very nature is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children, has between the baptized, been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.

A Catholic marriage is equal a sacrament as evidenced in can. 1055 §2:

Consequently, a valid marriage cannot exist between baptized persons without its being by that very fact a sacrament.

From the above norms, it is evident that:

  • Marriage is a covenant, pact, contract [foedus matrimoniale (can. 1055 §1), contractus matrimonialis (can. 1055 §1), between man and woman [inter vir et mulier].
  • It is of the natural order by divine institution. This notion is taken from the Apostolic Constitution Gaudium et spes 48.
  • The marriage between the baptized parties is also a sacrament, meaning a valid marriage contract, covenant, pact as well as sacrament.

Meaning of "A Marriage between the baptized"

The question arises as to how do we understand the marriage “among baptized” [inter baptizatos]? It is important to understand the meaning of inter baptizatos or “baptized”, they mean the following:

  1. Those who are baptized in the Catholic Church which includes both the Latin and the Oriental Catholic Churches sui iuris having full communion with the Catholic Church.
  2. Those who had been validly baptized in the non-Catholic churches and subsequently received in the Catholic Church [pars in Ecclesia catholica recepta].
  3. Those who have been baptized in a Church or ecclesial community which does not maintain full communion with the Catholic Church provided that the baptism they received is recognized as valid by the Catholic Church.

It is important to note that every sacramental marriage is canonical, but not every canonical marriage is a sacrament. Why? It is because only valid marriages between the baptized are considered “sacraments” as it is clear from canon 1055 §2 seen above, as marriage between the baptized persons has been raised to the dignity of sacrament by Christ (cf. can. 1055 §1). In this, even the mixed marriage is included (cf. cann. 1124-1129).

Meaning of "A Canonical Marriage"

It may naturally be asked: “What is the meaning of a Canonical marriage?” Well, the term “canonical” is derived from the Greek word “canon” which means “reed”, “scale”, “standard” or a “measuring device”. The Church adopted this term to signify its “norms” or “standards” that can be used for its members in terms of application of laws.

Hence, the term “canonical marriage” means “the marriage of Catholics, even if only one party is Catholic, is governed not only by divine law but also by canon law, without prejudice to the competence of the civil authority in respect of the merely civil effects of the marriage” (can. 1059). Canonical marriage is the marriage regulated by the canonical legislative system binding the Catholic party. In this consideration:

  • Marriages with the dispensation from the impediment of disparity of cult (can. 1086).
  • marriages contracted using Pauline Privilege are canonical marriages involving a Catholic partner (cann. 1143-1149).
  • Marriages celebrated with the dispensation from the canonical form (cann. 1127, 1129).

Ratified and Consummated Marriage

In the Code of Canon Law, the terms “ratified” and “consummated” are important. A valid marriage between the “baptized” is called “ratified” only [ratum tantum]. While the same valid marriage is said to be “ratified and consummated” if the spouses have engaged together in a conjugal act in a human manner, the act which in itself is apt for the generation and procreation of offspring (cf. can. 1061 §1). It is also important to note that the Code of Canon Law [= CIC/1983] uses three terms to signify one and the same meaning referring to the marriage between two “baptized persons”. They are:

In summary, a ratified marriage is a Christian marriage celebrated between two validly “baptized persons”. Moreover, marriage has two essential properties, namely, “unity” and “indissolubility”. “Indissolubility” is understood in two ways – intrinsic and extrinsic. The marriage is said to be “intrinsically indissoluble” if it is merely ratified. While, if it is ratified and consummated, it is called “extrinsically indissoluble”. It is to be noted that a marriage which is “ratified” and “consummated” cannot be dissolved by any human power or by any cause other than death (cf. can. 1141).

However, there are some exceptions to the intrinsic and extrinsic “indissolubility” of a marriage in some particular circumstances and under specific conditions. In such cases, a marriage can be dissolved which provides a ground for the new marriage to be contracted. They are:

  1. Through the intervention of the Roman Pontiff for a just reason – The dissolution of ratified and non consummated marriage either between two baptized persons or between a baptized and a non-baptized person (cf. can. 1142).
  2. Through the disposition of law itself in Pauline Privilege – The dissolution of a marriage between two unbaptized persons in favor of the faith of the baptized person (cf. cann. 1143-1147).
  3. Through the disposition of law itself in Petrine Privilege – The dissolution of a marriage by reason of polygamy/ polyandry (cf. can. 1148), and by reason of captivity, imprisonment or persecution (cf. can. 1149).
  4. Through the intervention of the Roman Pontiff – The dissolution of a non-sacramental marriage “in favor of the faith” of a third party who is a Catholic (cf. can. 1150).

It is worth noting that out of the exceptions mentioned above, the marital bond is still valid because it is ordered by natural and divine. Therefore, the proper expression for such expression is preferred as “dispensation from the prior marital bond” rather than “dissolution”.

It should be noted that marriages dissolved in virtue of the Pauline Privilege, and those mentioned in cann. 1148-1149 CIC/1983, and cann. 859-860 CCEO are dissolved by the law itself when the conditions prescribed in the current legislation are fulfilled, without any need to have recourse to higher authority. Regarding other marriages entered into by parties of whom at least one is not baptized, if they are to be dissolved, they are in each case to be submitted to the Roman Pontiff who, after they have been examined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, judges in accord with his own pastoral prudence whether or not the dissolution of the bond is to be granted [cf. CDF, Preface Potestas Ecclesiae].

What is the Pauline Privilege?

Pauline Privilege is the “privilege” or “grace” in the form of a provision made available by the Catholic Church in favor of faith of the person who is rightfully disposed to be a Catholic. Canonical disposition for the Pauline Privilege are stated in the following expressions:
Canon 1143 §1: “In virtue of the Pauline privilege, a marriage entered into by two unbaptized persons is dissolved in favor of the faith of the party who received baptism, by the very fact that a new marriage is contracted by the that same party, provided the unbaptized party departs”.
Let me explain this in simplified version through the following sequence of an example:
  1. A marriage is entered into by two unbaptized parties. Example: John + Jacinta
  2. One of them gets baptized either in the Catholic Church or in any other churches whose baptism is valid according to Catholic Church. In our example, John gets baptized.
  3. The non-baptized party “departs”. Example, Jacinta who is unbaptized, departs.
  4. Now, John wants to marry Rachel a Catholic woman.
  5. Marriage between John and Jacinta is dissolved “in favor of the faith” of John when he marries Rachel.
In the above example, the prior marriage bond between John and Jacinta is dispensed [dissolved] by the Pauline Privilege [privilegium paulinum]. This is the fundamental notion of Pauline Privilege.

Important aspects to in the theory of Pauline Privilege

What is the meaning of “to depart” of the nont-baptized party? We should remember the following aspects:

  • In terms of time, “to depart” can mean that the non-baptized party leaves before or after the baptism of the believer. In our example, Jacinta left after John’s baptism.
  • In terms of law, “to depart” can mean the two possible replies on the part of the unbaptized party. First, that the unbaptized party does not want to cohabit with the baptized party. Second, that the unbaptized party wants to cohabit, but with offense to the Creator. 
  • Offense to the Creator may mean – a dishonest conjugal life, polygamy, no permission to practice religion, or no permission for the offspring to be brought up in Catholic faith etc.

Things necessary for the validity

For the Pauline Privilege to be valid, it is necessary that the “interpellation” is conducted on the non-baptized party. What is an interpellation? An “interpellation” is the important part of the process in the application of Pauline Privilege in which the non-baptized party is asked at least two questions:
  1. Whether the non-baptized party wants to get baptized.
  2. Whether the non-baptized party wants to resume cohabitation with the baptized party without affront to the Creator.
Interpellation can be dispensed from if either it is impossible or if it is not useful. In the next paragraphs, we shall know about Pauline Privilege in more details.

Biblical foundation and later development

Why do we call the above-mentioned disposition as “Pauline Privilege”? In order to answer this question, we need to know the biblical and historical foundation of the notion of the Pauline Privilege.

  1. Pauline privilege by which a marriage can be dissolved has some connection with St. Paul, or rather with the Pauline pastoral approach or solution to problems regarding marriage in the Church at Corinth. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul addresses this issue (1 Cor 7,12-15).
  2. St. Paul dealt with the situation of believers married to unbelievers. Finding no solution from what «the Lord has said», he issued his own recommendation.
  3. «If any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever and she is willing to go on living with him, he should not divorce her; and if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he is willing to go on living with her, she should not divorce her husband… If the unbeliever separates, however, let him separate. The brother or sister is not bound in such cases. God has called you to peace» (1 Cor 7,12-15).

As we see in the above text, St. Paul just permitted separation as a pastoral solution. He never recommended remarriage in such cases. In fact:

  • The baptized party has to stay with the non-baptized party,
  • If the non-baptized party does not wish to cohabit, the baptized party can separate,
  • The baptized party should not feel guilty of the separation [God has called you to peace. The other party does not want to cohabit, so no problem in the separation].

By the 12th century, this pastoral solution emerged in a highly juridicised form as the Pauline Privilege, which authorized a newly baptized Christian to enter into a new marriage after a divorce from his or her unbaptized first spouse under certain conditions.

To know more about the Pauline Privilege, read this article – “The Pauline Privilege and its conditions”

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