Ratum sed non consummatum

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The term ratum sed non consummatum (Latin : ratified but not consummated) or ratum et non consummatum [1] (Latin : ratified and not consummated) refers to a juridical-sacramental category of marriage in Catholic matrimonial canon law. If a matrimonial celebration takes place (ratification) but the spouses have not yet engaged in intercourse (consummation), then the marriage is said to be a marriage ratum sed non consummatum. The Tribunal of the Roman Rota has exclusive competence to dispense from marriages ratum sed non consummatum, [2] which can only be granted for a "just reason". [3] This process should not be confused with the process for declaring the nullity of marriage, which is treated of in a separate title of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.


Two different theories of marriage were in vogue for some time in the schools of canonical jurists. For Gratian and the school of Bologna, marriage is begun by consent, but it becomes complete, indissoluble, and a sacrament only when it is consummated. For Peter Lombard and the school of Paris, marriage contracted by mutual consent alone is a true and complete marriage, absolutely indissoluble, and, between Christians, a sacrament. This second theory had the support of early Christian writers, received the approval of Sovereign Pontiffs, particularly of Alexander III, and soon prevailed. It was conceded, however, to the first theory that, whilst non-consummated marriage is a complete marriage and a sacrament, yet it is not absolutely indissoluble. This quality belongs fully to the marriage ratified and consummated. Thus mutual consent is sufficient to constitute marriage in its essence; consummation adds an accidental perfection and more absolute indissolubility [4] Absolute indissolubility is attributed only to ratified and consummated marriages between Christians. [5]

1917 Code of Canon Law

Canon 1119 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law [6] stipulated two cases in which a marriage ratum sed non consummatum may be dissolved, [7] namely, (1) if one of the parties takes solemn vows in a religious order [8] or (2) a dispensation is issued by the Holy See. [9]

Dissolution by solemn religious profession

That solemn religious profession dissolves a merely ratified marriage was authoritatively declared by Alexander III (c. 2 and 7, x, iii, 32) and Innocent III (c. 14, x, iii, 32), universally received in practice, after them, and defined by the Council of Trent (Sess. xxiv, De Sacramento Matrimonii, Can. 6). The only question which remained controverted was whether religious profession dissolved marriage by divine, or, as more commonly admitted, by ecclesiastical, right. [10]

Current discipline under the 1983 Code

Under the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the discipline of 1917 has been changed; a marriage ratum sed non consummatum can now be dissolved only by a dispensation from the pope or his delegate. [11] The pope has delegated competency for granting such dispensations to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, one of the ordinary tribunals of the Apostolic See.

Competency for granting dispensation

The administrative process for granting the favor of a dispensation from a marriage ratum et non consummatum was formerly the exclusive competence of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments [12] under article 58 §2 of the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus. However, in 2011, Pope Benedict XVI amended Pastor Bonus with the Motu Proprio Quaerit Semper, thereby transferring jurisdiction over ratified and non-consummated marriage from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to a special Office of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. The new law obrogated the provision stating the 'exclusive competence' of the Congregation for Divine Worship regarding these marriages, for this provision was not expressly abrogated and the Office at the Roman Rota now oversees dispensations from such marriages. Since 1 October 2011 [13] it has been the exclusive competence of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. [14]

Dispensation vs. Declaration of Nullity

The favor of dispensation from a marriage ratum sed non consumatum is an inherently administrative procedure, while the process for obtaining a Declaration of Nullity (often misleadingly termed "annulment") is an inherently judicial one. [15] In a ratum the valid marriage bond is dispensed from, while in a Declaration of Nullity a marriage is declared to have been null from its beginning. A ratum ends, for a just reason, a marriage that truly is (although never irrevocably and sacramentally "sealed" by consummation) while a Declaration of Nullity juridically declares that a marriage never truly was in the eyes of Catholic theology and matrimonial law.

Related Research Articles

Annulment is a legal procedure within secular and religious legal systems for declaring a marriage null and void. Unlike divorce, it is usually retroactive, meaning that an annulled marriage is considered to be invalid from the beginning almost as if it had never taken place. In legal terminology, an annulment makes a void marriage or a voidable marriage null.

Marriage in the Catholic Church

In the Catholic Church, marriage, also known as holy matrimony, is the "covenant by which a man and woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring", and which "has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptised." Catholic matrimonial law, based on Roman law regarding its focus on marriage as a free mutual agreement or contract, became the basis for the marriage law of all European countries, at least up to the Reformation.

Consummation First sex act as part of a marriage or relationship

In many traditions and statutes of civil or religious law, the consummation of a marriage, often called simply consummation, is the first act of sexual intercourse between two people, either following their marriage to each other or after a short or prolonged romantic/sexual attraction. The definition of consummation usually refers to penile-vaginal sexual penetration, but some religious doctrines hold that there is an additional requirement that there must not be any contraception used.

In the canon law of the Catholic Church, a distinction is made between the internal forum, where an act of governance is made without publicity, and the external forum, where the act is public and verifiable. In canon law, internal forum, the realm of conscience, is contrasted with the external or outward forum; thus, a marriage might be null and void in the internal forum, but binding outwardly, i.e., in the external forum, for want of judicial proof to the contrary.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is the congregation of the Roman Curia that handles most affairs relating to liturgical practices of the Latin Church as distinct from the Eastern Catholic Churches and also some technical matters relating to the Sacraments. Its functions were originally exercised by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, set up in January 1588 by Pope Sixtus V.

The Congregation for the Oriental Churches is a dicastery of the Roman Curia, and the curial congregation responsible for contact with the Eastern Catholic Churches for the sake of assisting their development and protecting their rights. It also maintains whole and entire in the one Catholic Church, alongside the liturgical, disciplinary, and spiritual patrimony of the Latin Rite, the heritage and Oriental canon law of the various Eastern Catholic traditions. It has exclusive authority over the following regions: Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula, Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, southern Albania and Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Jordan and Turkey, and also oversees jurisdictions based in Romania, Southern Italy, Hungary, India and Ukraine. It was founded by the Motu Proprio Dei Providentis of Pope Benedict XV as the "Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Church" on 1 May 1917 and "considers those matters, whether concerning persons or things, affecting the Catholic Oriental Churches."

The Roman Rota, formally the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota, and anciently the Apostolic Court of Audience, is the highest appellate tribunal of the Catholic Church, with respect to both Latin-rite members and the Eastern-rite members and is the highest ecclesiastical court constituted by the Holy See related to judicial trials conducted in the Catholic Church. An appeal may be had to the pope himself, who is the supreme ecclesiastical judge. The Catholic Church has a complete legal system, which is the oldest in the West still in use. The court is named Rota (wheel) because the judges, called auditors, originally met in a round room to hear cases. The Rota was established in the 13th century.

The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura is the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church. In addition, it oversees the administration of justice in the church.

In the jurisprudence of the canon law of the Catholic Church, a dispensation is the exemption from the immediate obligation of law in certain cases. Its object is to modify the hardship often arising from the rigorous application of general laws to particular cases, and its essence is to preserve the law by suspending its operation in such cases.

Defender of the bond

The defender of the bond is a Catholic Church official whose duty is to defend the marriage bond in the procedure prescribed for the hearing of matrimonial causes which involve the validity or nullity of a marriage already contracted.

In the canon law of the Catholic Church, an impediment is a legal obstacle that prevents a sacrament from being performed validly and/or licitly. The term is used most frequently in relationship to the sacraments of Marriage and Holy Orders. Some canonical impediments can be dispensed by the competent authority as defined in Canon Law.

In the Catholic Church, a declaration of nullity, commonly called an annulment and less commonly a decree of nullity is a judgment on the part of an ecclesiastical tribunal determining that a marriage was invalidly contracted or, less frequently, a judgment determining that ordination was invalidly conferred.

Petrine privilege, also known as the privilege of the faith or favour of the faith, is a ground recognised in Catholic canon law allowing for dissolution by the Pope of a valid natural marriage between a baptised and a non-baptised person for the sake of the salvation of the soul of someone who is thus enabled to marry in the Church.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law, also called the Johanno-Pauline Code, is the "fundamental body of ecclesiastical laws for the Latin Church". It is the second and current comprehensive codification of canonical legislation for the Latin Church sui iuris of the Catholic Church. It was promulgated on 25 January 1983 by John Paul II and took legal effect on the First Sunday of Advent 1983. It replaced the 1917 Code of Canon Law, promulgated by Benedict XV on 27 May 1917.

Glossary of the Catholic Church Wikipedia glossary

This is a glossary of terms used within the Catholic Church.

Oriental canon law is the law of the 23 Catholic sui juris (autonomous) particular churches of the Eastern Catholic tradition. Oriental canon law includes both the common tradition among all Eastern Catholic Churches, now chiefly contained in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, as well as the particular law proper to each individual sui juris particular Eastern Catholic Church. Oriental canon law is distinguished from Latin canon law, which developed along a separate line in the remnants of the Western Roman Empire, and is now chiefly codified in the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

The jurisprudence of Catholic canon law is the complex of legal theory, traditions, and interpretative principles of Catholic canon law. In the Latin Church, the jurisprudence of canon law was founded by Gratian in the 1140s with his Decretum. In the Oriental canon law of the Eastern Catholic Churches, Photios holds a place similar to that of Gratian for the West.

Bigamy, according to the strict meaning, signifies the marrying of a second wife after the death of the first, in contradistinction to polygamy, which is having two simultaneous wives. The present usage in criminal law of applying the term bigamy to that which is more strictly called polygamy is, according to Blackstone a corruption of the true meaning of bigamy. Canonically viewed, bigamy denotes (a) the condition of a man married to two real or interpretative wives in succession, and as a consequence (b) his unfitness to receive, or exercise after reception, tonsure, minor and sacred orders. This unfitness gives rise to an irregularity which is an impediment and "not diriment", hence orders conferred in violation of it are valid but illicit. This irregularity is not a punishment, medicinal nor punitive, as there is no sin nor fault of any kind in a man marrying a second wife after the death of his first, or a third after the death of his second; it is a bar against his receiving or exercising any ecclesiastical order or dignity.

Catholic canon law is the set of rules and principles (laws) by which the Catholic Church is governed, through enforcement by governmental authorities. Law is also the field which concerns the creation and administration of laws.

Dignitas connubii is an instruction issued by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts on 25 January 2005 on the discipline to be observed in diocesan and interdiocesan tribunals regarding causes of the nullity of marriage. It was compiled in close concert with dicasteries that have a related competence, namely, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. It was partially obrogated by the matrimonial nullity trial reforms of Pope Francis in 2015, but remains in effect.


  1. Quaerit semper Latin original, accessed 18 September 2018
  2. MP Quaerit semper, Vatican.va, accessed 7-7-2014
  3. Code of Canon Law Annotated, pg. 1327 (commentary on canon 1698)
  4. Arynhac, Marriage Legislation, §187. Cf. Gasparri, n. 770; De Smet, n. 59.)
  5. Petrovits, New Church Law §547.
  6. Arynhac, Marriage Legislation, pg. 284.
  7. Petrovits, New Church Law, §547.
  8. Petrovits, New Church Law, §286.
  9. forgottonbooks.com, accessed 7-7-2014; Association, Polish Lawyers'. (2013). pp. 156-7. Studies in Polish and Comparative Law: A Symposium of Twelve Articles. London: Forgotten Books. (Original work published 1945)
  10. Arynhac, Marriage Legislation, §293
  11. Code of Canon Law, canon 1698 §2
  12. Code of Canon Law Annotated, pg. 1327 (commentary on canon 1698)
  13. MP Quaerit semper, Art. 4, Vatican.va, accessed 15 July 2014
  14. MP Quaerit semper, Articles 1 & 2, Vatican.va, accessed 15 July 2014
  15. Code of Canon Law Annotated, pg. 1326 (commentary on Book VII, Part III, Title I, Chapter III)