Has anyone gotten a dispensation from unconsummated marriage?

My husband and I plan to apply for a dispensation from our marriage under ratum sed non-consummatum, and I wondered if anyone on here has been through it and would be willing to share a bit about their experience. How long did it take to be granted; how did you “prove” the marriage wasn’t consummated; did you have to get a divorce first and wait a year as with an annulment; and why did you decide to go through it? Those are just a few things I’d like to know, but I’d appreciate anything you’re willing to share. Even a priest I spoke with admitted he was only vaguely familiar with the process and didn’t know anyone who could advise me, so I gather it’s not used very often. Thank you!

Who gets married but doesn’t have sex? I’ve never heard of such a scenario.

Looks like you’ll have to go to the Roman Rita to address…

Under the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the discipline of 1917 has been changed; a marriage ratum sed non consummatum can now be dissolved only by a dispensation from the pope or his delegate. The pope has delegated competency for granting such dispensations to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota


I suspect that it is more common than you imagine.


What would drive that for a couple? For the purpose of an immigration visa?

It may be for a visa. One may get scammed by the other.

But it can also happened that the couple had some medical issues that were not known before marriage, that prevent them to consummated, as well as psychiatric or psychological issues.

It may be that one of them is unwilling.

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Or a very elderly couple. Say a widower and widow get married very late in life. At 85, most people are
more motivated by companionship than sex.


Sure, but why a more than 85 years old couple would worry about annulement at that age?

More seriousely people can have “difficulties” or impossibilities as they age before than that older…

Oh, I just meant that’s one reason someone might get married and not be worried about sex.

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Yes, I know all about that, thank you. What I’m asking is if anyone would be willing to share their experience going through this process, because I don’t know exactly what to expect.

The church does not allow people physically unable to have sex to marry. Things like age or companionship don’t factor into it.

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I have an acquaintance who had this circumstance (non consummation) but they went the annulment route (successfully).

I’m afraid I don’t know much about the particular dispensation process you’re thinking of.

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Thank you, MNathaniel. Yes, we may end up going the annulment route. We’ve both been through that and know what to expect. Having more insight into the dispensation route would help us, and our priest, in deciding which path is best for us.

I hope someone with more relevant experience chimes in, so you can mentally prep for your path a bit! Or I think I see what you’re saying now: decide which path you wish to take.

Otherwise you might become the eventual CAF experience expert on this topic for the next person. :sweat_smile:

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Thank you, scousekiwi. I agree. Since sex before marriage isn’t allowed, a couple may have no way of knowing there’s a problem until after the ceremony. If they know ahead of time, then of course there can be no marriage.


Not a path I would have chosen, MN, but if I can help someone else, I’m in.

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Any number of reasons. Visa, money, parental pressure to marry when one or both people didn’t want to, one partner being unable to have relations for some physical or mental reason, one partner being unwilling to have relations because they think it’s dirty or don’t want to conceive a child, one partner not even knowing what sex was or that married people had it and recoiling from it when they find out, a planned Josephite marriage that didn’t work out. The list goes on and on.

This is not a new or particularly unusual concept, especially when the two people involved did not have sexual relations before marriage.


We’ve been over this on past threads and the Church will generally allow marriage if the person is able to have relations at all, even with some kind of medical help such as pumps, pills, lubrication etc. However, since the Church does not require a couple to have relations and does not monitor to see that they do, it’s entirely possible that the couple might choose to skip the whole thing if sex wasn’t a major factor in their choosing to get married.

It’s also possible that someone who thought they could perform, might unfortunately find themself unable to do so after being married, particularly if they were chaste before marriage and therefore didn’t really know if the equipment would work or not. And it’s further possible that someone might have been less than candid with their priest about their sexual performance ability.

I know what the process is but I’ve never been a Party to the process nor have I been assigned to such a process.

It would be impossible to say with any certainty how long it will take for you, if this is the route you go.

Someone at your local, diocesan tribunal should be able to advise you. Yes, it is not a common procedure, at least in my experience.



Of course I’m aware of all that. But you are mistaken on one point. According to canon law, a marriage, even though sacramental and ratified, isn’t considered sealed and indissoluble until it is consummated.

Here is one take on the matter from one of Catholic Answers’ own:

The last sentence of Fr. Grondin sums up the essence of the conundrum:

“Therefore, if a couple was unable to consummate the marriage, then the priest should not marry them.”

So again, a couple who has abstained from sex before marriage has no way of knowing there’s a problem until after the ceremony. Therefore, the Church allows papal dispensation from such marriages.

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The marriage may not be indissoluble, but it’s presumed valid assuming neither party moves to invalidate it. And they very well might not. In which case, the Church doesn’t chase after them about it.

Josephite marriages likely do exist out there ; the people in them may choose to keep it to themselves, especially for privacy or to avoid getting lectures on the topic.

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