Can someone with a personality disorder be validly married?

Would a “healthy” relationship with someone with ASPD (sociopathy) be considered invalid?

Can. 1095 The following are **incapable **of contracting marriage:
1/ those who lack the sufficient use of reason;
2/ those who suffer from a grave defect of discretion of judgment concerning the essential matrimonial rights and duties mutually to be handed over and accepted;
3/ those who are not able to assume the essential obligations of marriage for causes of a psychic nature.

The Roman Rota looks at the following conditions:

  1.   When the plea is one of consensual incapacity under c. 1095, 2° and 3° , the judicial decision centers on two issues. The first is whether the party was affected by some grave psychic anomaly at the time of consent; a slight or moderate defect of the "psyche" (mind, will, affectivity) cannot generate such an extraordinary handicap as incapacity for marriage.
  1.   The second issue is whether his or her ability to assess or assume some essential matrimonial right or duty was vitiated by the anomaly in question. The latter question is no less important than the former. A psychic condition which "incapacitates" for aspects of married life that cannot be considered essential or constitutional, is irrelevant for the effects of c. 1095, 2º and 3º, as is quite clear from the wording of the canon.

The psychological condition needs to be more than merely present and grave, it needs to be proven to affect the individual’s ability to enter into marriage and assume its essential rights and obligations. As the Rota noted in another case :

Under c. 1095, therefore, a psychic anomaly has relevance only if it impacts directly on the necessary object of conjugal consent. “Regarding proof, it is not sufficient to show the existence of some particular mental disease. The relation between that disease and marital consent must also be demonstrated.”

The canon leaves no doubt about this, since the scope of both numbers 2 and 3 is textually limited to cases where the incapacity concerns such essential rights or obligations: “iura et officia essentialia”; “obligationes essentiales”. So, even if it is established that a personality disorder was present in a grave form at the time of the wedding, this is inadequate to prove consensual incapacity unless the essentiality of the obligation it affects is equally established. “The sole criteria to determine whether one is treating a serious canonical incapacity is by relating and referring the alleged incapacity to the essential obligations of matrimony.” Following the tenor of the canon, therefore, the judge must look in each case for the specification of this obligation, and in particular for the justification of why it is held to be essential.

The DSM IV defines ASPD as:

A) There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since age 15 years, as indicated by three or more of the following:
[list]*]1. failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
*]2. deception, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
*]3. impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;
*]4. irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
*]5. reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
*]6. consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;
*]7. lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another[/list]

If ASPD can be proven (e.g. reliable psychological report and witness testimony that confirms the behavior) and it can be shown to have affected the individual’s ability to consent to the essentials of marriage then a decree of nullity would seem likely (behaviros 2, 3, 5, 6 & 7 would seem to apply).

However, if (for whatever reason) the disorder is not affecting the individual’s ability to assume the duties and obligations of marriage then it would indeed be a valid marriage.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit