Updated and Revised: Problems in Modern Marriage, by Mr. Michael Creighton

[Publisher-Editor's Foreword: Mr. Michael Creighton, whose concise summary of the errors of the Society of Saint Pius X has been cited on in about twenty-five articles this site, has revised a study on the modern problems of marriage that was published on this site on August 31, 2012, the Feast of Saint Raymond Nonnatus. Mr. Creighton undertook the study as a result of questions that had been posed to him by a number of people in his acquaintance concerning the disparity that exists amongst traditional clergy the status of marriages that present canonical questions of great pastoral sensitivity.

[The disparity that exists within traditional circles on the issue of marriage is understandable given the fact that the principle of unity that is the Chair of Saint Peter is lacking at this time of apostasy and betrayal. Mr. Creighton's study is only that, a study that provides food for thought and reflection that is based upon a review of the teaching of the Catholic Church.

{Readers will find this to be a very thoughtful and well-written analysis. 

[This revised study is being published now in light of Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s Amoris Laetitia, March 19, 2016, that undermines Holy Mother Church’s true teaching about the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony in a number insidiously subtle ways as well in a number of quite overt ways. Amoris Laetitia is thus a true work of Modernist minds that are capable of mixing truth and error in such a manner as to occlude their intentions to Catholics who have never read Pope Saint Pius X’s Pascendi Dominici Gregis, September 8, 1907. Amoris Laetitia is thus the antithesis of Pope Leo XIII's Arcanum, February 10, 1890, and Pope Pius XI's Casti Connubii, December 31, 1930.

[I thank Mr. Creighton for his slight revision of  this study and for giving me permission to publish it on Christ or Chaos.]

The questions of modern marriage are legion given a divorce rate in excess of fifty percent, lack of Church hierarchy and heresy and schism that abound today resulting in many false annulments or marriages into schismatic sects. In this brief survey these questions are asked and addressed.

Are most marriages valid?

The answer to that question resolves to several categories: Let us consider 2 cases: 1. The Novus Ordo in the view of the Catholic who rejects the Novus Ordo Church as a false religion and 2. the Catholic who operates outside the jurisdiction of the Novus Ordo Hierarchy of which there are two subcategories: a. those that do not recognize the Novus Ordo jurisdiction and b. those that do.

The case of pagan or protestant marriages is glossed over as it is assumed to be valid by virtue of the natural law since outside the Church no form of ceremony is specified and assuming the man and woman intend to procreate in a stable society. Marriage, of course, can only happen between rational animals of the opposite sex, which is exclusively a man and woman. The same invalidating conditions below apply to all outside the Church except civil marriage and disparity of cult.

Are Novus Ordo Marriages Valid?

To be brief, almost all of them are, even if most are displeasing to Almighty God, provided there is no obvious impediment such as consanguinity, spiritual relationship, civil marriage (Canon 1042, 1076-1080), marriage of children (Canon 1067), impotence (Canon 1068), prior bond (Canon 1069), contracts between baptized and unbaptized persons (Canon 1070), violations of disparity of cult (Canon 1071: Canon 1060-64), clerics (Canon 1072), religious (Canon 1073), Kidnapping (Canon 1074), Spoucide and previous Adultery (Canon 1075), error of who the actual person is (Canon 1083) or force or grave fear (Canon 1087).

What is the definition of Marriage?

Canon 1081.2 states “Matrimonial consent is an act of the will by which each party gives and accepts a perpetual and exclusive right over the body, for acts which are of themselves suitable for the generation of children.”

“In order that matrimonial consent may be possible it is necessary that the contracting parties by at least not ignorant that marriage is a permanent society between a man and woman for the procreation of children. 2. Ignorance is not presumed after puberty.” (Canon 1082.1)

What does 'at least not ignorant marriage is a permanent society and 'for the procreation of children' mean? Bouscaren and Ellis ask the question:

What Degree of Knowledge is Required? A recent decision of the Rota expressed this rather succinctly as follows: "It is not necessary that the parties explicitly intend to assume all the rights and duties which derive from the nature of marriage; but it is sufficient that they in a general way intend to contract marriage as others do, or as it was instituted by God." [Rota, 20 Jan, 1926. S. R. Rota Decisiones, Vol 18. P4. Digest II, P. 296] It will be noted that the first part of the is passage refers to the intention of the will , the second to the knowledge requisite for consent. We may conclude:

1. Some knowledge of procreation is necessary; that is, that children are procreated by mutual cooperation of husband and wife. It seems certain that this must be known to be bodily cooperation, not a merely mental one. [Capello De Matrimonio n. 582.]

2. Explicit knowledge of act of copula is certainly not required. "Distinct and explicit knowledge, either of acts themselves, or of the way in which the organs by which they are exercised or of their juridical importance for the marriage contract is not required." [Rota, 30 Jan, 1927. S. R. Rota Decisiones, Vol 19. p. 351. Digest II, P. 298]

[Canon Law: A Text and Commentary, Bouscarden and Ellis, Bruce Pub. 1945, p. 556]

Woywood and Smith concludes:

"Practically it will be difficult to declare marriage null and void for lack of the necessary knowledge, because as the code states, the law presumes that knowledge in persons who are of the age of puberty (12 - girls; 14 - boys). The burden of proof rests with the person who asserts that he did not have the necessary knowledge."

Canon 1084 concurs: “Simple error regarding the unity, or indissolubility, or sacramental dignity, even if it gave rise to the contract, does not invalidate the matrimonial consent.”

Does canon 1084 contradict Canon 1082.1? No. Canonists demonstrate that to view marriage as a permanent society only means one may be in error as to one's ability to break the society as Canon 1085 confirms, “The knowledge or belief that the marriage is null does not necessarily exclude matrimonial consent.”

In other words it doesn't matter how much we feel the marriage is null, the burden of proof is on the one making the assertion.

However one exception must be made here with regard to canon 1083.1 and .2.  The error regarding the person (1) or some quality of the person (2) will invalidate the marriage. The common examples given by canonists of invalidation are 1, a twin is substituted for the original and 2, a person marries one who they believe to be free but are in a condition of slavery. 

One must be careful of assuming any quality invalidates.  Canonists make a distinction from true qualities and only apparent ones.  Buscarden and Ellis give an example of an apparent (not real) quality.

 “A man wishes to marry a wealthy girl; he would knowingly marry none other; he thinks Jane is wealthy and marries her for that reason.  Janes turns out to be penniless.  The marriage is not for that reason invalid.”  [Ibid p557]

There could be obvious qualities such as a physical or mental illness kept from one party which clearly either makes human acts impossible or at least the function as spouse and parent.  Physical invalidating examples are mental retardation and Down's Syndrome make marriage impossible.  Mental illness which may significantly impair human acts such as schizophrenia may be invalidating.  There may even be such modern examples such as those who are on some psychotropic drug which may impair their ability to contract marriage as the drug is mind altering and can cause amnesia or disorientation according to the drug manufacturers own insert. This condition could not influence validity if it developed after marriage.  Certainly the burden of proof on the one claiming invalidity to prove a mistaken person via quality.   If one cannot prove the fact, then the marriage is presumed valid.

We must distinguish these invalidating qualities, both internal and external, which may make a person unsuitable for marriage but do not invalidate, such as lack of Christian virtue or lack of means to provide for the family or even a lower intelligence quotient (IQ) which does not constitute sufficient retardation.  This is proved because the prospective spouse outwardly desires to contract marriage without coercion or prompting.

Canon 1086.1 states “The internal consent of the mind is always presumed to be in conformity with the words or signs used in celebrating the marriage. 2. But if one or the other party, by a positive act of the will , excludes marriage itself, or rights to the conjugal act, or an essential property of marriage, he contracts invalidly.”

Examples of validity in spite of a imperfect will include:  Getting married to “do the right thing” because I got my girlfriend pregnant.   You can’t go back later and say you didn’t know what you were doing or it wasn’t a free act of the will.  Planning on limiting the number of children.  Saying if it doesn’t work out, I can get a divorce.

Some may claim that marriage is nullified because the parties did not intend to have all the children God wanted them to. The reason the 1917 edition of canon law doesn't dwell on this, is it was due to general acceptance of even schismatic, heretical and heathen sects that marriage was for procreation, even if they incorrectly thought the bond soluble. Hence, the law of the Church must address the common error. At the 1930 Anglican Lambeth Conference this sect allowed for contraception under certain circumstances and every other sect outside the Church eventually followed suit. Hence we can see why the 1917 code doesn't dwell on this impediment.

Therefore we must interpret the above canons in harmony with previous judgments. It is only necessary for validity that they know it is for procreation of children, if they think they might limit the number of children just as they erroneously thought they could break the bond.

To summarize: Canon 1014 tells us “Marriage enjoys the favor of law; therefore in doubt the validity of marriage is to be upheld until the contrary is proved, with due regard of the prescription of canon 1127.” Canon 1127 “In the case of doubt, the privilege of the faith enjoys the favor of law.”

The presumption is on the side of validity as canon 1035 states: ”all of those are able to contract marriage who are not prohibited by law.”

Finally, while admitting there are many impediments to the Novus Ordo marriage, for instance not being sufficiently instructed in Christian doctrine (Canon 1020) or on marriage and its impediments (canon 1018), nevertheless the canon 1036 states that the grave prohibitions do not invalidate the marriage contracted. Unless the impediment was clearly a diriment (i.e. that which invalidates), one would have to judge in favor of the marriage. These general rules apply to the schismatic and heretic.

Validity of traditional marriages:

Given the virtual destruction of the hierarchy and the scattering of the flock, what may we say about traditional marriages outside of normal jurisdiction? Canon 1044 allows a priest and those who assist at the marriage in cases where the local ordinary cannot be contacted or we may interpret where the local Ordinary has apostatized, the powers of dispensation given in Canon 1043 for the legitimization of children, disparity of cult, mixed religion and for any impediment of law except affinity of direct line or sacred ordination.

Even those impediments which require dispensation from the Holy See may be dispensed with immediately by the local ordinary (canon 1045) if it cannot be put off without grave evil. Given we have not Holy See functioning at this time we may presume this power of dispensation applies to the clergy in general applying canon 1045 with precautions in canons 1058-1080.

If there is no priest available for a situation in excess of one month, then a marriage may take place in the presence of two witnesses (canon 1098).

What about those marriages that take place between “Catholics” in heretical and schismatic sects such as the so called “Society of Saint Pius X” (SSPX)? On first glance these marriages would seem to be all invalid. Canon 1094 states:

“Only those marriages are valid that are contracted in the presence of the pastor, or the local ordinary, or a priest delegated by either, and two witnesses, according to the rules expressed in the Canons that follow, with due regard for the exceptions mentioned in Canons 1098 and 1099.”

I have already touched upon the exception of Canon 1098 canons but this exception doesn't apply to the SSPX or like groups who give lip service to the Novus Ordo Hierarchy. The second exception is to those who are not Catholic at all. Canon 1099.2 doesn't impose any form of marriage on non-Catholics whether baptized or not therefore in their case civil ceremonies can be considered valid. There is a presumption of marriage as long as the parties believe it is a permanent union and for the procreation of children as has been discussed above in the Novus Ordo case.

Let us review the arguments put forward by the SSPX who admit they do not have actual jurisdiction to do what they are doing: They resolve into several categories.

Common error: Canon 209 states "In common error or in positive or probable doubt about either law or fact, the Church supplies jurisdiction for both the external or internal forum"

“If the error is purely an error of fact, then it need not be probable; but if the mistaken conclusion results from an error of law, the error is not sufficient unless it has some probability” [Canon Law: A Text and Commentary, Bouscarden and Ellis, Bruce Pub. 1945, p. 142 paragraph. 4].

Can the SSPX "faithful" say they don't know or with some effort come to know that they have been declared outside the Church? Don't they constantly hear about the “negotiations” with Rome? In the case of marriage, it is clear there can't be a simple case of mistaken identity as there is in the confessional. Hence no argument in favor of error in fact can be made. Therefore the SSPX attendee would have an obligation to find out about what the law states. A simple ignorance of the law argument is not sufficient as the canonists have observed above.

Positive or Probable Doubt of Law or of Fact: The definition of doubt is a state of mind where judgment is suspended. This is not willful ignorance, but a true indecision based on probable reasons for a proposition or doubt of a law. Given the world wide apostasy and utter confusion, we may make a case that those who wish to contract marriage may have probable doubt as to the legitimacy of the Novus Ordo substitute Church since there is ample evidence it is not Catholic. Furthermore we have a decision of the Code Commission from 26-March-1952 (AAS 44-497) stating “provision of canon 209 is to be applied in the case of a priest who assists at marriage while lacking delegation.” [Canon Law: A Text and Commentary, Bouscarden and Ellis, Bruce Pub. 1945, p. 143] In this case we can definitely say the marriage is valid.

The tragedy of sects such as the SSPX leading the couple to view the an apostate church as the one founded by Christ such that they have the heretical view that the Church's ordinary Magisterium may teach heresy and error and are lead into schism by denying the jurisdiction of the Pope over every individual would in no way effect the validity of the marriage. These are in the same category as any other false Christian sect and we would have to consider the marriage valid without the nuptial blessing.

Danger of Death: While admitting the arguments made by the SSPX in danger of death because Canon 1098.1 does so, this is not the majority of cases nor does it address the question of the validity of other sacraments such as Confirmation.

The faithful for any just cause may request sacraments: Unlike other sacraments, in the case of marriage, it is actually the man and woman that marry each other affecting the sacrament and by law legitimate authority is called on to witness the marriage provided there is no grave inconvenience (in excess of one month). This argument depends on the requestor and we must distinguish three categories:

The Catholics who recognizes a usurpation of the papacy, would validly contract a sacrament since they do not deny the jurisdiction of the pope or local ordinary but see that they don't exist, therefore Canon 1094 doesn't apply to these people since they do not have a functioning hierarchy to witness.

The confused Catholic who sees an apostate Novus Ordo Church and wanting to avoid heretics sees a probable doubt of law. While at least materially an act of schism, which is to distinguish this category even from actually being formal schismatic's, the couple would contract marriage validly under the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in, which were not envisioned by the Canonists. If we consider the party formal schismatic's due to willful ignorance or a formal denial of the Church's teaching on jurisdiction or adhesion to a non-Catholic religion, then the marriage is certainly valid, even if without the blessing of the Church. As has been stated above a decision of the Code Commission from 26-March-1952 (AAS 44-497) stating “provision of canon 209 is to be applied in the case of a priest who assists at marriage while lacking delegation” makes certain the validity of marriage.

Some theologians place material heretics and schismatics into the category of not actual members of the Church [Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Dr. Ludwig Ott, TAN Books and Publishers, 1974, p.311. Ch 5.19.3.b]. For “The members of the Church are those who have validly received the sacrament of baptism and who are not separated from the unity of the confession of faith and from the unity of lawful communion of the Church.” Our Lord says that those who are outside the fold, he must bring into the one fold (Jn10:16). However this author believes contrarily other theologians, such as Fr. Muller, who hold those who are truly material heretics as members of the Church and those who are in formally adhere to sects declared to be outside the Church to be formal heretics. As this author doesn't believe the present usurpers are true popes, therefore I am unwilling to declare every member of the Novus Ordo, SSPX, Society of Saint Pius V (SSPV), etc. a formal schismatic and/or heretic, without a formal declaration of the Church.

To support this argument, please consider no less a source than Saint Augustine in On Baptism (Against the Donatists), Book 4, Chapter 16: “…Let us therefore put the two cases in this way. Let us suppose that the one, for the sake of argument, held the same opinions as Photinus about Christ and was baptized in his heresy outside the communion of the Catholic Church; and that another held the same opinion but was baptized in the Catholic Church, believing that his view was really the Catholic faith. I consider him as not yet a heretic unless when the doctrine of the Catholic faith is made clear to him he chooses to resist it and prefers that which he already holds; and till this is the case, it is clear that he who was baptized outside is the worse. And so in the one case erroneous opinion alone, in the other the sin of schism also requires correction…”  This makes the clergy and its members at most tolerated excommunicates.  Formal adherence to a banned sect puts the person in a banned category which is different than the cases mentioned above and my thoughts should not be construed as denying the Bull Cantate Domino of the Council of Florence which states of vidandi (banned groups):

“It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.” (Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Cantate Domino, February 4, 1442.)

To summarize: The general rule is to accept the marriage as valid, save for clear cases of diriment in the case of this particular sacrament. This looseness of this interpretation doesn't apply to other sacraments such as Penance or Confirmation since one can validly receive this sacrament of marriage while not having the proper intention or proper jurisdiction of witnesses, hence the reason why the so called orthodox have valid first time marriages in most cases but not valid absolution or Confirmation of adults. The whole tenor of canon law is to put the burden of proof on demonstrating the marriages are not valid and not the other way around.

What can the clergy today legitimately dispense with today?

Again this question breaks down to three categories: a.) ratified and consummated marriages; b.) ratified and unconsummated; c.) unmarried with impediments.

Before we answer these questions, let us consider some general principals on dispensation.

“He who makes the law can dispense from the law; as also his successor or superior, and any person to whom any of these may give faculty”(Canon 80).

Canon 81 gives an important grant of power to Ordinaries to dispense with the general laws of the Church where:

1.) Recourse to the Holy See to obtain a faculty is difficult. Difficult does not mean moral impossibility, however today it is impossible.

2.) Delay occasioned by such recourse will probably result in grave damage. The harm may be private or public, physical or moral, or economic and financial. The harm need not be extremely grave but today the circumstances are such that the gravity is extreme.

3.) The dispensation is one which the Holy See usually does grant and must be known from law and the practice of the Roman Curia.

Catholics see that the conditions for 1 and 2 exist. However, can a simple priest dispense? Canonists say that Pastors have the power to dispense in marriage for a.) both public and occult cases when the ordinary cannot be reached and there is danger of death according to canon 1044 and b.) occult cases only when the impediment is discovered and all is ready for the marriage and the ordinary cannot be reached without danger of violating the secret according to canon 1045.

The next question is, can a simple priest in this apostate age that has no ordinary to report to be considered a pastor? In this case, the answer must be affirmative, since from the history of the Church, we know that the clergy continued to operate when their bishop had apostatized. (e.g. Nestorius).

The priest recognizing clear and provable cases of nullity in previous “marriages” cannot be said to be giving dispensation for but acting according to the law of the Church in not recognizing what the Church does not recognize provided there is absolute certainty. These may include consanguinity, spiritual relationship, civil marriage of Catholics (Canon 1042, 1076-1080), marriage of children (Canon 1067), prior bond (Canon 1069), un-dispensed contracts between baptized and unbaptized persons (Canon 1070), violations of disparity of cult* (Canon 1071: Canon 1060-64), prior marriage to a clerics (Canon 1072) or religious (Canon 1073)*, Kidnapping (Canon 1074), error of who the actual person is (Canon 1083) or force or grave fear (Canon 1087).

Caution in assuming nullity must be applied to certain cases of disparity of cult and merely ecclesiastical diriments such as in cases where it is morally impossible to ask for dispensation

For instance, if the two parties are baptized, one Catholic and the other protestant and the Catholic party believes they have a dispensation or due to the woeful even culpable ignorance of those Catholics who contract marriage with heretical &/or schismatic ministers then they the marriage should be considered valid. Pope Benedict XIV's declaration “Matrimonia, quae in locis” of 4 November 1741 states:

“But if by chance some marriage of this sort [Catholic with heretics], without observing the Tridentine form, has already been contracted there, or may be contracted in the future (which God forbid!), His Holiness declares that such a marriage, provided that no other canonical impediment exists, must be considered valid, and that neither of the spouses, as long as the other one lives, can in any way enter into a new marriage under the pretext that the prescribed form was not observed;” (Pope Benedict XIV, Matrimonia, quae in locis, November 4, 1741.)

And he concludes about other regions “His Holiness has thought that nothing new should be decreed and declared, wishing that whenever a dispute arises concerning them, they be decided according to the canonical principles of the common law, and by the resolution approved in similar cases at other times and published by the Sacred Congregation of the Council, and so he has declared and decreed and commanded that it be observed by all for the future.”

This declaration applies to the protestant territories in Belgium and Holland but we may see application in our day. Pope Benedict XIV declares this resolution is approved in similar cases at other times.

Other cases of civil marriage or marriage outside the Church where the Catholic knows he does not have a marriage approved by the Church hierarchy, even if he or she later realizes the Novus Ordo sect is not the Church, should be considered invalid.

In summary of the above cases of "Catholics", validity depends on the state of the person at the time of the attempted contract of marriage: 1.) either by formal or practical apostasy, validity is assumed. By practical apostasy it is meant no significant practice of the "faith" even if the person is nominally Catholic - that is Catholic in name only. 2.) by intending to be a Catholic but violating ones conscience regarding marriage, one knows oneself to have not validly contracted marriage as has been stated above.

Novus Ordo annulments for such cases as SSPX marriages are therefore not valid judgments. SSPX annulment tribunals are schismatic and therefore illicit but the judgment on individual cases may or may not be valid.

Caution should be used in assuming nullity for merely ecclesiastical diriments such as in cases where it is morally impossible to ask for dispensation, especially in danger of death. [Canon Law: A Text and Commentary, Bouscarden and Ellis, Bruce Pub. 1945, pp. 484-485]

What about the traditional bishops who cannot said to be ordinaries? Can they act? This resolves into a major dispute today; one side would argue they act completely illicitly since there is no papal approval to receive consecration and the other would argue from the above exceptions mentioned from no access to the Holy See that their actions are licit. This author takes the later liberal opinion since from history we know that canon 26 of the Fourth Lateran council allowed prelates to make other bishops where there was no ready access to the Holy See. Although this legislation was rescinded by Pope Pius IX, due to changing circumstances, we recognize that such a condition of lack of access to the Pope now exists again. Since these bishops are not Ordinaries, they are Bishops of No One; that is, they only rule over those priests and faithful under their care such as an abbot of a monastery would rule over those clergy, religious and persons on monastic lands. (Canon 309). I must note for modern English speaking audiences the word 'liberal' is intended not to mean license (false liberty) but to mean what liberties a Catholic may take in good conscience.

If we take this liberal position then, the Bishop can act like an Ordinary with no access to the Holy See. In this case he could only dispense in a very limited way as a “bishop of no one” over those under his pastoral care.

We now return to our previous categories to discuss what can the clergy do without access to the Pope or Ordinaries: a.) ratified and consummated marriages; b.) ratified and unconsummated; c.) unmarried with impediments.

Not even the pope himself can dissolve ratified and consummated marriages sacramental marriages, so it is obvious that no Ordinary or Bishop of No One or priest could do so for what God has joined, no man may put asunder (Mt18).

"...let the faithful woman who has left an adulterous husband and attracts another faithful one, be forbidden to marry; if she should marry, let her not receive communion unless he whom she has left has previously departed this world." Council of Illiberi, 300 A.D.

The cases of baptized - unbaptized are null, therefore not ratified, so no dispensation is required again provided there is certainty about the status of both parties. Only the Holy See could allow such marriages and today's clergy should not attempt to dispense what the Holy See usually would not dispense. We have discussed above Catholic-Heretic marriages above and the Holy See has allowed these, especially where Catholics are few and sufficient precautions are taken. That leaves the non-sacramental marriages of unbaptized persons which although ratified and consummated are not sacramental. The Pauline privilege allows one who receives baptism to contract a sacramental marriage provided the clergy ascertain that the unbaptized spouse will not live peaceably, that is let the Catholic convert practice their religion without persecution. In this case the Holy See was wont to permit a Catholic marriage and the clergy may assume the Pauline privilege in force.

Ratified but unconsummated marriages are to be considered valid (c. 1069) until they are declared null according to law and with certainty. Spiritual marriages like those of Our Lady and St. Joseph are certainly marriage as St. Joseph is referred to as the Most Chaste Spouse. Therefore lack of consummation alone doesn't absolutely invalidate the marriage. The most typical case of this type is impotence which we must distinguish from sterility. These are broken up into several divisions:

1. Certain or Doubtful in law or fact.

2. Antecedent or subsequent impotence.

3. Perpetual or temporary.

4. Natural or accidental; congenital or acquired.

5. Absolute (all persons) or relative (some persons).

6. Organic defect or functional which is usually not permanent.

Impotence is essentially anything that prevents copula. In general impotence before marriage, especially if permanent, would invalidate the marriage. However if there is a doubt, the presumption of marriage prevails. The priest if discovering such an impediment should make careful inquiry before witnessing however if there is a doubt in law or in fact, the marriage should not be hindered. If the impotence is subsequently cured in cases considered certain impotence of law and fact, the marriage still needs to be ratified. If there is subsequent impotence, this doesn't invalidate the marriage however care must be taken not to pollute the marriage with acts that don't end in perfect copula. [ibid p528].

Sterility, that is the inability to generate offspring, is not considered invalidating if congenital and not acquired as defined by the Holy Office. There is dispute about acquired sterility (vasectomy or fallectomy) before marriage among canonists. In the case of man the procedure is considered permanent and although canonists dispute the topic, the "settled jurisprudence of the Rota, holds the certainly vasectomized male to be certainly impotent" and therefore the marriage would be considered invalid according to the weightier authority.[ibid 528]. The modern controversy of this judgment would bar men from marriage who have had this procedure. What was a rarity 100 years ago affecting few persons is much more common place today. Due to modern techniques of sterility reversal, this impediment can be removed through surgery for both men and women which should not be an objection to those persons who have truly converted to the Catholic faith and accept the teachings of Pope Pius XI in Casti Conubii, December 31, 1930.

Of course each case will have its own particulars so one should consult competent clergy or commentaries, especially in grey areas.  It is this author's opinion that due to the medical reversal being so expensive, it still would not prevent couples from marrying who have repented of such a sin and would wish to reverse the procedure but do not have the means. What was common knowledge as an act against the natural law (sterilization) is not so in this apostate age.  If we compare the validity of a couple beyond child bearing years as valid we should consider these cases as valid.

What are the rules by which the clergy should act with regard to marriage today? Just as they always have:

He must instruct the faithful on the purpose of matrimony and its impediments (Canon 1018).

Before marriage is celebrated he must be morally certain of its valid and licit celebration. (Canon 1019).

He must investigate any obstacles (Canon 1020) including free will of both parties, their understanding of the purpose of marriage and educate them in the rudiments of the faith.

Ensuring both parties are definitely baptized and where possible confirmed (Canon 1021).

Observing the banns of marriage if possible. (canon 1022-1026)

If doubts arise as to impediments (1030-1031) the following rules apply:

Reasonable doubt of impediment a priest will investigate witnesses, consult with his bishop, either ordinary or bishop of no one if applicable.

If an impediment is found it must be resolved and if public (not occult) there should be no banns of marriage unless already begun. No marriage can take place for those which cannot be resolved.

If there is a doubt of law then the impediment is not binding. If there is a doubt of fact then the law is binding and the Ordinary has the power to dispense according to canon 15.

If the impediment of divine law we may consider several cases:

Marriage with baptized non-Catholic where there is a danger of perversion to the Catholic party or to the children. In this case the divine law forbids but does not invalidate the marriage. Ibid p.483. The example given by one priest in this apostate era was to insist on instructions of the non-Catholic party for 6 months before marriage. In this way the priest would often convert the other party, relieving the impediment or determine if the danger to the Catholic spouse and future children. If the non-Catholic party refused catechism, then the priest presumed the danger sufficient and would not witness the marriage. The priest must have a moral certainty of safety of the spouse and children and have an oath in writing from the non-Catholic party. The clergy should never attempt to dispense without the Holy See cases of notorious apostates (c.1065) and public sinners (c.1066). The clergy must stress the duty of the Catholic spouse to work for the conversion of the non-Catholic (c.1062).

Vows: if the vow is private (c.1058) or sacred orders or solemn religious profession [not yet received] (c. 1072, 1073) would not prevent licit marriage as it would for sacred orders received or solemn religious profession made. Ibid p.484. No clergy or solemnly professed religious should attempt dispensation without the Holy See.

Consanguinity in all degrees in a direct line or first degree in a collateral line are diriments and no clergy should attempt dispensation without the Holy See.

Previous bond of marriage is a diriment as has been discussed above and can in no way be dispensed.

The above rule of thumb is certainly not exhaustive, but applies as a simple overview of the modern problems of marriage. This author would encourage the consultation of commentaries and those clergy properly trained in canon law.

For those who would argue that the clergy today have no ability to act due to excommunication for accepting Vatican II, it must be said that the faithful have a right to request the sacraments. In this case the priest can by simple confession be received back into the Church and has supplied jurisdiction due to the needs of the faithful. Hence the above actions regarding marriage for this clergy still apply.

For those who say the author has no authority to speak on this topic, my only reason for studying this issue is to address the consciences of mine and others I come in contact and give only the Churches view and not my own. It is hoped this short study will give some guidance to those who are in a hard situation and desire to know what their rights and duties are and what the Church has said on the topic.