Josephite Marriage?

I was talking with my parents and we were talking about whether a “Josephite Marriage” is an option for me [a paraplegic]. It may be a way to “Bypass” Canon 1084. Does anyone have any info?


I think a Josephite marriage can only happen one when gives up the right to marital embrace, not where one is unable to have the marital embrace.

Do you know for sure?

A feature of Catholic spiritual marriage, or Josephite marriage, is that the agreement to abstain from sex should be a free mutual decision, rather than resulting from impotence or the views of one party. (SOURCE)

I would think that your Priest would be the best person to snswer your question…may I suggest that you go and speak with him

I offer this:

Marriage is a union in which you give someone the right to have sex with you, and if you are unable to fulfill this commitment then you aren’t capable of granting someone this right. I can’t give someone right to have me turn lead into gold for them unless I first have the ability to turn lead into gold, and in the same way, a person permanently and untreatably unable to have sex cannot grant someone the right to have sex with them.

true…but in a Josephite marriage there is no sex…(think Mary and Joseph)

Mary and Joseph both had the ability to have sex. It was something they freely gave up, not something they were unable to physically do.

Priests, by the same token, must not be impotent when they enter the seminary. Celibacy is something they must freely choose and not enter into the priesthood because they are unable to have sex and therefore unable to get married. It isn’t a default. Just like a Joesphite marriage isn’t a default for those unable to have sex within marriage.

My prayers are with you, Scotty.

Right, but they had the ability to have sex. As the link points out one cannot give up what one does not have.

Yeah…I think the ability to have sex, and to choose to abstain is the key in a Josephite marriage. I believe that St. Therese’s parents lived as brother and sister with the permission of their spiritual advisor, and then they went on to have…was it 7 children? I know some/one of the babies died as a baby…anyways…every marriage is a Josephite marriage for some amount of time. Whether it’s until the reception is over or a more sustained length of time.

From what I understand…Mary and Joseph’s marriage also was different from the marriage that we have today because their marriage was not sacramental…it was covenantal. In their case, they didn’t have to consumate in order for the marriage to be valid because…those rules did not yet apply. I think a Josephite marriage is still not considered completely valid until the couple consumates…but I guess the key is that they have the ability to do so when ready.

Did you have a source for this?

Hold on.
Here’s what I think is being said here. I may be wrong.

  1. this person, by reason that they are unable to enter into a sexual union, is ineligible for the married state…

  2. this person, by reason that they are unable to enter into a sexual union, is ineligible for seminary…

So where does this leave this person? Two sacraments are being denied them. Marriage and Holy Orders.

Or can this person become a religious but not a priest in spite of the inability to have sexual relations and therefore enter into the sacrament of Holy Orders?

Conditions that exclude a man from moral ordination to the ministerial priesthood, and considered sufficient cause for his removal from legal priesthood …

*]*Physical deformities and diseases – they diffuse focus upon authentic teachings. *
*]*Effeminate actions – includes the wearing of jewelry (necklaces, ear rings, rings, bracelets), non-conformists apparel styles and preferences, hair stylization, or cosmetized appearance. *
*]*Inadequate reading skills, stuttering, effeminate voice, manner of speech or related characteristics. *
*]*Lack of righteous conformity to God’s stated word and authentic Church teachings *
*]*Tattoos, visible or not, as they are a sign of personal dysfunctionality. *[/LIST]

That’s what was explained to me by my college campus Roman Catholic priest. I don’t have a source but I could try to google maybe?

He said that priests must freely give up the option to be married, which an impotent man cannot do because he is unable to be married–he isn’t freely giving up anything as he’s physically unable to have sex and therefore couldn’t be married anyway. My priest basically said that the seminary isn’t a default choice for a man who can’t get married, so if he knows himself to be impotent he is asked to reveal that information. He explained that impotent men don’t automatically have a calling to the priesthood, but they might believe they do since being married is an impossibility. That they must be able to have sex but choose not to do so…he also went into how the call of the priesthood is not just that, but also celibacy…and that celibacy is something that has to be chosen as an aspect of the priesthood–an impotent man is automatically celibate.

I think I’m butchering the explanation as this was several years ago. And it’s always possible I misunderstood…so please correct me if needed.

Thanks Karin. (Our little CAF link queen.) :slight_smile:

:slight_smile: oh shucks was nothin’ … I just find some of this stuff interesting…


[quote=“Princess_Abby”]That’s what was explained to me by my college campus Roman Catholic priest.

Maybe he has the source and you could ask him. In the meantime, you might want to consider something else.

Canon 1040 provides, “ Persons who are affected by a perpetual impediment, which is called an irregularity, or a simple impediment are prevented from receiving orders; the only impediments which can be contracted are contained in the following canons.”

Canons 1041 and 1042 then proceed to list those impediments.So you might want to read the canons, and they are accessible on the internet. I do not think think impotence is mentioned as an impediment in those canons.

Clearly, there is not a right to be ordained. A bishop is to ordain those who possess the necessary qualities for the order and whom he judges suitable for the service of the diocese or institute or personal prelature. Certainly, there could be another basis, associated with — but not identical to — the condition, by which the bishop determines someone does not have the necessary qualities or would be unsuitable. As well, there could be doubt about the motives of the person who believes he has no other choices in life. If the impotence was caused by serious and malicious self-mutilation, it would appear to fall into the list of impediments though.

Celibacy, for secular priests, is a choice in a way, but juridically, it is a promise (c. 1037) by which one assumes the obligation of perfect continence. Although obviously and repeatedly recognized as of great value and esteem and usefulness to the service of the Latin Church, it is not constitutive of the priesthood but disciplinary (since it is dispensible). It strikes me as more something accepted rather than selected judicially per se, with the exception of those in religious institutes who select it as the direct object of one of their evangelical professions .

The US Norms governing seminaries and admission are found at They may be of interest.

Sometimes things should not be done because they are not prudent, and sometimes things should not be done because the Church renders them illicit or even invalid. So you may want to look up those canons and determine which category this discussion fits into, and see where you end up. Something to think about.

Thanks Deacon.

I’m not looking into the priesthood, but rather a way to be formally recognized in a catholic marriage while being impotent



I’m sorry that I was addressing the side bar rather than the main point. You can pm me or contact a canon lawyer in your diocese to discuss that. The best place to start would normally be with your parish priest and he would consult the canon lawyers of the diocese. It should be a confidential discussion rather than a public one here. In general, one could say that if there is a doubt about the condition or that it is perpetual, the marriage is not impeded, but that would pertain to the confidential discussion.

God bless you.


I would like to ask you a general question. It has nothing to do with Scotty’s case or anyone’s private matter.

It involves canon law regarding perpetual impotency as an impediment to marriage. I am aware there are medical tests that can gather information about such things and each case is different. My question is how much weight is given to the medical advisors reports. I would think in some cases there is concrete proof that severe structural damage will never allow for this problem to be corrected.

So, is the law interpreted in a very liberal way meaning that unless their is absolute proof the problem can never be corrected the couple would be allowed to be married. Or, is the law interpreted more narrowly?

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