Ed Peters on Dissolving Valid Marriages

In a recent post titled Boudway vs. Murray is not even close, canon lawyer Dr. Ed Peters makes some good points on the indissolubility of marriage. The main point is that only a ratified and consummated sacramental marriage is dissolved only by death. And he explains correctly that a natural only marriage can be dissolved by the Pauline privilege and that the Pope has the authority to dissolve a non-consummated sacramental marriage.

But I think he errs in saying this: “the parties to a valid marriage (be it natural, merely sacramental, or sacramental and consummated) cannot dissolve it. There are no exceptions to the intrinsic indissolubility of marriage. None.”

My understanding is that matrimony ratified, but not consummated, is dissolved by the solemn profession of religion by either spouse. So in the case of a non-consummated sacramental marriage, recourse to the Holy See is not required. Either party can separate from their spouse, and then dissolve the marriage by solemn profession of religion (meaning formal entry into a religious order).

I also take issue with Peters’ objection to non-canonists trying to argue canon law with canon lawyers. Ed Peters is not a theologian, but he often argues points of theology, beyond the realm of canon law. I consider all the faithful fit to discuss all matters of concern in faith, morals, salvation, discipline, and canon law.

Finally, I need to point out that two common opinions are tenable on Old Testament divorces, one of which holds that divorce for a grave reason was absolute, permitting remarriage (by the unbaptized). But Dr. Peters speaks as if it were certain that natural marriages cannot be dissolved, apart from the Pauline privilege.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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2 Responses to Ed Peters on Dissolving Valid Marriages

  1. Raymund says:

    What limits “Petrine privilege” to change morals and values? Should “morals and values” align with social development, especially with the arriving of so many new technologies? If traditions are enough for all “morals and values”, why we still need the Pope? We can input all the rules into an App and use a phone to guide our lives.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Sorry, that’s Pauline privilege, not Petrine. I’ve edited the post now. It’s not a change in morals or values. Rather, natural marriage differs from sacramental marriage. The eternal moral law does not change, as it is essentially nothing other than the justice inherent in the nature of God. The Pope represents Christ. We need the Pope because we need Christ, our Lord and Savior.

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