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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. 1. What is the meaning of a diriment impediment?

A. 1. A diriment impediment is an obstacle that invalidates the attempt to administer a Sacramental marriage in the Catholic Church.

The are a number of diriment impediments that invalidate a Sacramental marriage. They are:

Age: As a general rule, if the man is under the age of 16 or the woman is under the age of 14, then their marriage is not valid. Please note that the age varies in some countries. Example: in Canada and New Zealand, the minimum age is 18 for both parties. This impediment does not apply to non-Catholics. However, if a Catholic marries a non-Catholic, than the minimum age applies to both parties.

Physical capacity for consummation lacking: Both parties must be physically capable of completing vaginal intercourse, wherein the man ejaculates "true semen" into the woman's vagina. If perpetual impotence exist, the marriage is invalidated.

Previous marriage: To marry in the Catholic Church, both parties must be free from a previous marriage in the Catholic Church, in another church, or by the State (Justice of the Peace). If any of the parties were previously married, their marriage must be declared null prior to marrying in the Catholic Church.

Disparity of cult: A marriage between a Catholic and a non-baptized person is invalid, unless this impediment is dispensed by the local ordinary (Bishop).

Sacred orders: A person cannot marry if he has received the Sacred Orders, unless dispense by the Apostolic See (Vatican).

Perpetual vow of chastity: If one has made a public perpetual vow of chastity, he/she cannot marry.

Abduction: If one of the parties, usually the woman, was abducted for the purpose of contracting a marriage, it is not valid.

Crimen: One or both of the parties has killed a spouse for the purpose of marrying each other.

Consanguinity: Both parties are closely related by blood.

Affinity: The parties are related by marriage in a prohibited degree.

Public propriety: The parties are "related" by notorious concubinage.

Adoption: The parties are related by adoption.

Spiritual relationship: One of the parties is the godparent of the other. This no longer applies in the Latin Rite, but still applies in the Eastern Catholic Churches.

There are other factors that invalidate a marriage, such as the "Lack of form," "Coercion," "Psychological immaturity or mental incapacity to enter into a Sacramental marriage," "Refusing to have children," and "exclusion of fidelity."

There are also impediments to the ordination to the priesthood, such being called "irregularities." They are:

Mental Illness: Preventing the fulfillment of priestly duties.

Physical incapicty to perform the rites of the Church.

Apostasy, heresy or schism.

Attempted marriage.

Participation in an abortion or murder.

Attempted suicide, self-mutilation, or mutilation of others.

Attempt to perform an act proper to the priesthood or episcopate.

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(On the subject line: Indicate "FAQ" for "Frequently Asked Questions.")

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