Can a priest request a dispensation to marry outside of the church from a Bishop without the couple's consent?


My fiancee and I are in marriage formation. He was married before, to a non-Catholic, in a civil ceremony. He was Catholic at the time of the marriage and DID NOT request permission from the Bishop to marry outside of the church. We explained this to the Priest at our church and both he and the Deacon said the marriage would be nullified because of “lack of form” - because he was Catholic and did not marry in the church or ask for a dispensation. So, we go to his church of baptism and his baptismal certiciate lists a CATHOLIC marriage to his ex-wife on this record. He then asks why that was listed when the marriage was civil and never blessed by the Bishop. They then said the Bishop DID write a letter of dispensation. My fiancee was beside himself! He is adamant that he never requested this letter of dispensation from the Bishop nor did he consent to it. Now the diocese where the letter was written is researching who made the request. The theory was that his Parish Priest may have requested it in order ot “legitimize” the marriage. But, if he DID do this he did so without my fiancee’s consent or even knowledge. I spoke to our Deacon doing formation and he believes that a third party (i.e. the priest) CANNOT request this without the Catholic party’s permission. But, now the diocese has to find the paperwork containing the original request.

Question one, if they find the paperwork and see that my fiancee never requsted or consented - is the dispensation then invalidated?

Second, what if the diocese cannot find who made the request (remember, at this point we are THINKING it was the priest but we dont know who did it until or unless the paperwork is found)?

We know we can get an annulment easy because his ex-wife is a lesbian now married to another woman and that invalidates her sacrament. But, we have already paid deposits for much of this wedding and would have to go forward with a civil ceremony and just get it convaildated later if we are stopped from marrying.


Now here is a case where I think Church Officials should be able to expedite things a bit, rather than spend endless time researching things. If you can’t identify the priest, or if at least the Church can’t find the needed paperwork within several weeks some other course should be allowed. You stated that you fiances’ “X” is a lesbian so an annulment should be possible. I agree and I would think officials could expedite that process so you can marry.

I don’t believe that what you describe should have been done without your fiance’s consent. That would make me angry if it happened too me. I certainly hope things can work out for you sooner than later. It seems to me that your fiance’s prior marriage was certainly not valid and that should not take months to confirm or annul.:rolleyes:


Nothing in the law indicates that the dispensation would be “invalid”.

While typically it would be the Catholic party requesting it, the priest certainly could. Nothing in the law requires that the Catholic party give “permission” for the priest to obtain the dispensation.

It is also possible the dispensation was granted as part of radical sanation-- which according to Canon 1164 can be done without either party’s knowledge.

Granted, I do not believe that the intended use of the canon would be what you describe, it is more typically used when, for example, the priest forgot to do some paperwork and having the couple know it was invalid would burden their consciences. The priest can get the marriage sanated without either party knowing.

But it’s still valid, even if used inappropriately

If the bishop granted the dispensation, it is likely a decree of nullity will be needed. This is a ruling your bishop or judicial vicar will have to make.


I would suggest keeping in contact with the priest and the tribunal at least once a week with gentle requests for a status report.

I would hope that the Church can speed this process up.

As a side question, would it be possible that a Grandmother, Aunt/Uncle, etc may have requested the dispensation? Just curious.


I agree. This is certainly a tricky one. It baffles me how the priest could attest to the bishop that he received the declaration of promises from the Catholic party.

This one is a real puzzler. Hopefully there is a process for determining

Not formally, no. They may have discussed it with the priest. On all counts, if the story is as the OP relates, the priest was wrong to either apply for the dispenation or radical sanation. I am just not sure it was actually invalid


To answer some questions posed by people who have replied… My fiancée and I have asked all of his family and none of them admit to having asked for the dispensation, this is why we assume it was his parish priest wanting to make an honest couple out of them. Whoever it was was so unfamiliar with the situation that they even have the date of marriage wrong. Family members would have known the real date of the wedding. Tomorrow the diocese that granted this “dispensation” is supposed to call to tell us who’s signature is on the request. Not that I think it will help at this point. :confused:

The wedding is set for 12/27/14 – I sincerely doubt they would grant the annulment in time, everything I have ever heard was that the process took at least a year - even in an open/shut case like this one and even if the reason we need it was because of priest doing something against my fiancées wishes. And I need to move forward with SOMETHING, if I wait forever and have the annullment delayed or fall through I wont be able to book a civil venue. I AM GETTING MARRIED 12/27/14 with or without the church… He only has his children for Christmas and summer and summer weddings wont work for me because of my profession (I deploy as a responder during hurricanes). I will not put this out 2 years from now because my mom is up in age and sick and I want her to see me get married PLUS I am 35 and childless, I don’t have time to waste… :frowning:

This is devastating!



  1. I suspect it is still valid. As canon 61 says: “Unless it is otherwise evident, a rescript can be requested for another even without the person’s assent and has force before the person’s acceptance, without prejudice to contrary clauses.” A rescript is a document form in which a dispensation is granted. I know of no contrary clauses. Besides this possibility, there is also the notion of a rescript granted “motu proprio”–i.e., the one who can grant the favor can do so without any request from anyone. So, it doesn’t really matter who requested it. If it was granted by one who has the authority, it is valid.

One might say “Well, a dispensation is like a gift. I don’t need to open it if I don’t want to and how can I open it if I don’t even know it exists?” Generally speaking, that is correct. But, it this case, that doesn’t apply. “Canon 71: No one is bound to use a rescript given only in his or her favor unless bound to do so by a canonical obligation from another source.” Since Catholics are obligated to follow the law in regard to the form for marriage, this man had to use the dispensation.

  1. Answered above. It doesn’t matter who made the request.

  2. I hope and pray you don’t go that route…

I am surprised that anyone in the Church would have known that your intended spouse was going to enter a civil marriage.


P.S. Disclaimer: these are my opinions. Those with authority over you may have more information and/or come to a different conclusion.


Yes, it would be unusual. But, it can happen.



I’m really confused about this.

In my diocese, to petition for a dispensation from form the priest would submit to the bishop the entire prenuptial investigation file with all the proper forms, including:

*]the couple’s personal information;
*]the promise, under oath, of the Catholic to do everything in his power to have the children baptized and raised in the Catholic Church;
*]a statement from the non-Catholic that he/she has been informed of the promise;
*]the priest’s signed reasoning for why he thinks the dispensation should be granted;
*]the name of the proposed officiant and the place where the wedding is to take place.
This entire file would be returned to the parish with the Bishop’s signature granting the dispensation. The marriage would not be entered into the register until the Catholic party returned to the parish office with a marriage certificate.

How could someone who never approached the church to get married in the first place be granted a dispensation from form??


Canon LawCan. 1118
§1. A marriage between Catholics or between a Catholic party and a non-Catholic baptized party is to be celebrated in a parish church. It can be celebrated in another church or oratory with the permission of the local ordinary or pastor.
§2. The local ordinary can permit a marriage to be celebrated in another suitable place.
§3. A marriage between a Catholic party and a non-baptized party can be celebrated in a church or in another suitable place.
Can. 1164
A sanation can be granted validly even if either or both of the parties do not know of it; nevertheless, it is not to be granted except for a grave cause.


I am extremely disappointed that you are willing to disobey the Church and God and strike out on your own in an invalid marriage. As a Catholic, you should know better than that, and you should value your own soul above worldly things such as your fiancé or having children before it is “too late”. You need good counsel from the priest who is preparing you for marriage. I hope you will make the right choice in the end. You will be in my prayers.


One of your statements brings me to a question that doesn’t really fully apply to your situation, as there are many mitigating factors that affect your request.

You state that his first wife is in a committed lesbian relationship and that this would be grounds for an annulment. I’m not sure if this is as cut and dry as that. If there is a true sacramental union with a first spouse, than that spouse leaving may not give automatically give grounds for an annulment. Tho it would give great argument as to it being a “true sacrament” or not.

My understanding is if it is a true sacrament there can be no annulment.

Again, in my opinion, this doesn’t apply in your situation as there is so much doubt as to the requirements for a true sacramental marriage with the first wife.


Actually, the fact that his exwife is a lesbian now and married to another woman does not by itself invalidate a Sacrament. If she was a lesbian before and at the time of the vows,and lied to him about it, yes it would invalidate the marriage in that case. Otherwise, it would have to be something else to invalidate the marriage.

I can understand your disappointment. Totally. But just understand that if you do go through with this marriage, without an annulment declared for his previous one, you and he won’t be able to have Communion until all this is fixed – And probably indefinitely if there are no real grounds for annulment.


If someone lying about their sexual orientation and committing adultery and ultimately leaving to wed another of the same sex is not evidence that the person did not take their sacrament (or lack thereof because it was a civil wedding) seriously, what does? If the sacrament is to remain committed to the marriage, how could they if they are not even INTERESTED in the opposite sex?

As for disobeying the church, I do believe that seeking a convalidation is a opportunity offered to members of the church for just the type of predicament we are in. And confession of sins is offered to the church as well. And, if you notice I said my age and “time” is only one factor. I suppose you would tell me I should wait and not care if my mom dies not knowing what my future is?

Thanks everyone.


If she lied to him about her sexual orientation, then that’s grounds for annulment for sure.

Adultery and abandonment unfortunately are not grounds for annulment. Basically an annulment means the marriage wasn’t a marriage in the first place. Something had to happen in order to make the vows not valid. So, that something had to happen before the vows were taken (and hidden from the other party) or at the time of the vows. Something happening after the vows usually doesn’t invalidate a marriage itself, but sometimes it is connected with things that happened before the vows. Get what I mean?

They can’t. But if your fiancé new that she was gay and gave it a try anyway, he may have thrown his annulment out the door…just saying. But if she was gay before the wedding and lied to him, then consent (without all the information) was a problem that would have invalidated the marriage.


Here’s the thing, though: the OP indicates that this was a mixed marriage; therefore, c. 1165 §2 holds – that is, the requirements of c. 1125 apply (the Catholic would have to have declared his intent not to defect from the faith, and have promised to do all in his power to baptize and raise in the faith any children that would proceed from the marriage). Therefore, it would seem that there would have to be some sort of paper trail demonstrating that he made these promises.

Maybe the OP’s fiance signed something that he doesn’t remember signing? That’s the only thing I can think of…


To add to what I posted before (in bold, italics), I highly suggest considering enlisting the support of an “annulment advocate.” Rose Sweet, a published author and annulment advocate, was recently on Catholic Answers Live. She charges for her services, but it might be worth it since you are trying to “rush” this annulment process.

Her website is:

You can also listen to the podcast of show she was on here:

Finally, no matter the outcome, please do not let this lead you away from Christ’s Church. While the Church is infallible, it is filled with fallible human beings who make mistakes (like this Priest who most likely thought he was doing a good thing, assuming the priest did it on his own).

Please let us know the outcome tomorrow and throughout the process. We will all be praying for you. And again, I do suggest that you consider hiring Rose Sweet or someone like her.

God Bless


Which means they were to be instructed on essentials (assuming the 1983 canon law was used then):Can. 1055 §1 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.

Can. 1055 §2 Consequently, a valid marriage contract cannot exist between baptized persons without its being by that very fact a sacrament.

Can. 1056 The essential properties of marriage are unity and indissolubility; in christian marriage they acquire a distinctive firmness by reason of the sacrament.


Correct, the fact she was a Lesbian was NOT known to my fiancée at the time he wed. She had not disclosed to him or anybody. She didn’t come out until later. This is why I am confident an annulment and convalidation will be possible later. If we start now, the time of excommunication won’t be long.



On this issue here, I would suggest engaging a canon lawyer, rather than depending upon the advice of a bunch of anonymous posters on an Internet forum. You should be able to get a referral to one or more from your local diocesan tribunal.

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