Holy Orders and Divortium Imperfectum


Hundreds of years ago it was not unheard of that a husband and wife would separate by mutual consent and one or both would then enter consecrated religious life. Additionally, the Council of Trent, immediately after its definition of the indissolubility of the marriage bond, even in case of adultery, added another canon (Sess. XXIV, can. viii): “If anyone shall say that the Church errs when she, for many causes, decrees a separation of husband and wife in respect to bed and dwelling-place for a definite or an indefinite period; let him be anathema.” This situation, I believe, was called divortium imperfectum.

Presume a Catholic couple’s marriage has ended in civil divorce after one party committed adultery numerous times, the offending party has remarried civilly, the parties have lived apart for many years, and there were and are no grounds for a declaration of nullity of the original marriage. Thinking of this scenario, does anyone know answers to the following questions:

  1. Is divortium imperfectum an ecclesiastical doctrine still in use today and, if so;
  2. Could one theoretically be eligible to attain to Holy Orders after having the Church declare a divortium imperfectum?


As far as I know, no.

A man would not be considered for Holy Orders in the Latin Church while married. He would need to apply for a decree of nullity and it would have to be granted. And even then some dioceses will not consider him as a candidate.


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