In which cases can the pope allow a divorce?


After reading some history and the whole Hendry VIII issue i started wondering, in which cases can the pope allow a divorce? And is this decision to do so infallible?


The Pope annulled marriages with regard to Henry the VIII, often popular history references that as divorce but this is not strictly accurate.


The Pope could allow divorce at any time.

But of course a divorced person is not free to marry anyone else.

Henry VIII did not want a divorce. He wanted a declaration of nullity. He did not get one, since his marriage was valid.

Divorce is a civil law matter, not one of faith. Infallibility has nothing to do with it.


No, he didn’t. That was the whole reason Henry declared himself head of the Church and independent of the Pope. He wanted a decree of nullity, and the Pope denied it, stating that his marriage was a valid marriage.


I will rephrase my earlier post, the Pope annulled earlier marriages in regards to Henry but would no do so for him when he wanted him to do so yet again.


What are you talking about?

Catherine of Aragon was Henry’s first wife.

If you mean Catherine’s marriage to Henry’s brother, that was not declared null. Henry received a dispensation from the impediment of affinity to marry Catherine.


Divorce - in the sense we use the word (dissolving a valid marriage) - never has been, need is and never will be within the power of a Pope.

The word has sometimes been used as a synonym for ‘annulment’ (a declaration that a marriage is not a valid one). Henry believed his marriage was not valid as Catherine was his brother’s widow. And asked the Pope to declare the marriage invalid accordingly. In other words he wanted an annulment. The Pope disagreed and refused to grant the annulment.


Wrong – the issue with Henry VIII’s marriage is that his wife, Catherine of Aragon had been married to his brother, Arthur the Prince of Wales first. Then Arthur died, and Henry VII did not want to return Catherine’s dowry to Spain. He proposed that Arthur’s brother Henry marry the widow. But canon law at that time did not allow a man to marry his brother’s widow. However, Henry VII and Catherine’s father (Francis of Aragon) applied to the Pope for a dispensation from this law, which they received, and the marriage went forward.

When Henry wished to get Catherine out of the way so he could marry Anne Boleyn, he stated that the dispensation allowing him to marry Catherine was flawed, and therefore no marriage existed…the Pope did not agree. (The fact that Catherine’s nephew, then King of Spain, had the Pope under siege at the time may have had some influence on that ruling.)


Under very specific circumstances, the Pope claims the power to and does dissolve valid marriages. Valid marriages are dissolved under the Pauline, Petrine, and certain ratum non consummatum cases by the Pope.


Do you mean that the Pope had declared that Catherine’s marriage to Arthur had never been consummated and so legally she was not only still a virgin, but also not within the degree of forbidden relationship to Henry (sister in law)? The Pope did not do that FOR Henry (in fact, since Henry was all of what, TEN at the time of Catherine’s marriage to Arthur, the question was raised by Henry’s father Henry VII, who did not want to send Catherine’s dowry back to Spain and so came up with the idea of marrying her off to Henry).

Of course the cute thing is that while Henry was bleating that Catherine was ‘his brother’s wife’ (and the reason they never had a living male heir beyond the child who lived a couple of months, and only one living female heir), Henry had ALSO had sexual relations with Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne (the one he wanted to marry). Therefore, under the same rules of forbidden relationship, Henry, having ‘known’ Mary, could not pursue a relationship with ANNE unless he had the Pope lift THAT ‘degree of forbidden relationship’ from the proposed marriage as well.

Even cuter, Anne had been contracted to Harry Percy (Northumberland) as a young woman just returned from France, and Henry broke that up. . .

But when Anne was facing death, she was forced to say that her marriage to Henry had never been legal BECAUSE (wait for it), she had been legally contracted to HENRY PERCY and was therefore (the state of marriage then being that a precontract was as binding as a wedding) not legally able to wed HENRY. Of course, that being the case, her daughter Elizabeth was made illegitimate, and of course, not being married to Henry meant that her conviction of adultery (and treason thereby) was null and void, since she, not being ‘legally’ married to Henry by this testimony, was not committing adultery with him. . .but that didn’t stop her from being executed.


It is impossible for any authority of Holy Church to dissolve a valid Matrimony, not the Pope, not a Council, for Christ spoke and said: “What God has united, let no man divide.”


The Pope can dissolve a marriage that hasn’t been consummated. Also the so called favour of the faith, which is an extension of it, basically allowing the Pope to dissolve a valid but non-sacramental marriage to enable a sacramental marriage to happen. In short, the Pope can dissolve a non-sacramental marriage or a sacramental marriage that hasn’t been consummated. But the Pope can’t dissolve a valid and consummated sacramental marriage.

Pauline privilege (dissolving a marriage when you’re baptised and your spouse won’t live with you peacefully after that) doesn’t require papal intervention.

Nope, you’re talking about separation. That doesn’t take a pope, and can’t be granted for just about any reason anyway.

Divorce is a civil law matter, not one of faith. Infallibility has nothing to do with it.

Divorce just doesn’t exist canonically, while deciding to ‘end’ a marriage (which is impossible save by death, for a valid and consummated sacramental marriage) is a matter of morality involving the faith.

Unless you’re talking about divorce simply in the sense of divortium a mensa et thoro (‘divorce from table and bed’), which is separation. But for a valid and consummated sacramental marriage there is nothing that goes farther than mere separation.


The pope can dissolve a valid natural marriage (which is between two non-Christians) when one of the parties comes to faith.


I think you mean, dissolving a valid consummated sacramental marriage.


Canon Law considers marriage solely as a creature of contract law, with all the considerations of intention of the parties; prerequisites, and promises made in assessing annulment. Neither the Pope nor the canonical courts can declare void a truly valid sacramental marriage, which is really founded on the actions and intentions of the marrying couple, not the priest witnessing the ceremony.


Actually, any bishop can dissolve such a marriage as per the Pauline privilege (both parties were non-Christians when they contracted the marriage but one party later becomes a Catholic). Dissolving a valid natural marriage contracted between a Catholic and a non-Christian, however, is reserved to the Pope via the Petrine privilege. This latter case is extremely rare. The Pope can also dissolve valid sacramental marriages between two Catholics IF and only if the marriage was never consummated.


A valid non-consummated* sacramental* marriage can be dissolved for a just cause.

CIC Latin Canon Law [CCEO Eastern Canon Law]DISSOLUTION OF THE BOND

Can. 1141 A marriage that is ratum et consummatum can be dissolved by no human power and by no cause, except death. [also CCEO 853]

Can. 1142 For a just cause, the Roman Pontiff can dissolve a non-consummated marriage between baptized persons or between a baptized party and a non-baptized party at the request of both parties or of one of them, even if the other party is unwilling. [also CCEO 862]


The Pope is the Ordinary of the diocese of Rome, and therefore the proper ecclesial authority when it comes to separation with the bond remaining in his diocese.

The Church recognizes that civil divorce can be a necessary way in which one separates with the bond remaining.

And it is not a matter of faith or morals that would fall under “infallibility”. The divorce itself is a civil matter. Separation with the bond remaining is a juridical matter. Neither are matters of faith and morals binding the entire Church.


“Francis of Aragon??” nope “Ferdinand” not Francis. Plus it was her mother, Isabella I of Castile, who really dealt with the Pope over the dispensation. Catherine’s parents were the famous Ferdinand and Isabella of Columbus fame.

BTW her nephew, in addition to being King Charles I of Spain, was Emperor Charles V of the HRE.


Brain freeze – why I couldn’t remember “Ferdinand” I don’t know, I certainly do remember Isabella – but I thought Catherine’s nephew was named “Phillip?” (Or have I got the wrong generation here?)

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