Marriage "prohibition"?


About a year after submitting my case to the Tribunal, I received this letter:

"With this letter I wish to inform you the Tribunal formed to judge the marriage case of (names deleted) reached a final affirmative decision on (date deleted), and now issues a decree of invalidity regarding that marriage.

Should you ever wish to remarry in the Catholic Church, however, there is a concern that factors which caused difficulties in your prior marriage not be repeated in another union. Thus the Tribunal directs that another marriage in the Catholic Church on your part be prohibited or postponed until it is determined that such factors are no longer present.
If at any time you wish to marry in the Catholic Church, please consult the parish minister who is assisting you in the preparations about resolution of this matter."

This is the sum and total of the letter. Immediately after receiving it I called my Parish Priest (who submitted the original paperwork and is very knowledgeable in the case) and asked for clarification about the “factors which caused difficulty in your prior marriage”. He had no idea what the factors were, and said he would find out. Some time later, he called and said he had some answers, and requested that we meet.

He told me that the Tribunal was, as the letter said, concerned that “factors which caused difficulties in your prior marriage not be repeated in another union”, and outlined some very vague factors, all of which were peculiar to the marriage that was declared invalid. He further explained that to be free to marry in the Church, I must undergo individual counseling for six months to one year, but he was not at all certain what the counseling would entail or where I could go to begin.

Though I have no plans for marriage I would like the door to be open, and I’m very disheartened by the lackadaisical manner in which this is being handled. I thought that if the marriage was declared invalid, that was that. Now I’m facing perhaps another year before this matter is truly settled, and I’m not young.

Is this valid procedure? Can a Tribunal impose vague “prohibitions” to future marriage?



Can. 1684 §1 After the judgement which first declared the nullity of the marriage has been confirmed on appeal either by decree or by another judgement, those whose marriage has been declared invalid may contract a new marriage as soon as the decree or the second judgement has been notified to them, unless there is a prohibition appended to the judgement or decree itself, or imposed by the local Ordinary.
§2 The provisions of can. 1644 are to be observed even if the judgement which declared the nullity of the marriage is confirmed not by a second judgement, but by a decree.

Can. 1685 As soon as the sentence is executed, the judicial Vicar must notify the Ordinary of the place where the marriage was celebrated. This Ordinary must ensure that a record of the decree of nullity of the marriage, and of any prohibition imposed, is as soon as possible entered in the registers of marriage and baptism.



Yes, it can, and this type of procedure is not rare. Canons 1684 and 1685 refer to “prohibitions” which can be attached to a decree of nullity. The usual example (I’m NOT saying it applies in your case) is where a marriage is declared null because one of the parties was incapable of understanding the marriage vows for some reason; if the incapability still exists, the person cannot marry. So, if a decree of nullity is granted based on the groom being mentally incompetent, a prohibition might be issued restricting him from marrying again until he becomes mentally competent.

The purpose is to protect both the person being prohibited and his or her future would-be spouse. For instance, many decrees of nullity are granted these days because one or the other party was thinking “Well, if it doesn’t work out, we can always get divorced.” That mental reservation might well mean that the celebrants (of whom that spouse is one) lacked the requisite intent to perform the sacrament, so the decree of nullity will issue. But, if he or she still thinks that way, then why let him or her get married again? There’ll just be another case a few years down the road.

Suppose I had been married and was now divorced, and I sought an annulment because I want to get married again, and my own testimony before the tribunal was along this line: “What are you talking about, ‘forever’?! That’s ridiculous! I never meant that literally! I just thought we’d have fun for a few years, then move on! That’s what marriage means!”

I might well be granted a decree of nullity, because clearly I didn’t form the requisite intent to marry. But they aren’t about to let me marry again; that would be unfair to me and to my future bride.

I’m not implying anything about you; I’m just answering whether the tribunal has the power to do this sort of thing in general. I have no way of knowing whether it was the proper thing to do in your case. I wish you grace and peace – not to mention a little more forthcoming-ness from your tribunal, as well as more help from your priest.


I had no idea the tribunal could do this. But it does speak to the fact that the Church values the sacrament.

I hope you get the answers you’re looking for. —KCT


As has been pointed out, prohibitions can be issued. However, the actual rulings are not secret, so ask them why they issued that prohibition and what to do with it since that parish minister they spoke about couldn’t give you the specifics.


This is not unusual. They don’t want you to make the same mistake again. No biggie. You go to some counseling sessions. The therapist sends the tribunal office a note, CCing you, that you have completed the sessions and all is well.

I did have a “heads up” when I started mine, and started some sessions BEFORE the decree was entered. It is not a bad thing. But my decree had no prohibitions, in the end.

The tribunal office generally has a list of therapists they feel can handle this situation. Give them a call, and see if any match your current health insurance. If not, as they recommended it, perhaps that office can find you a way to fund it.


such a situation is rather common. For instance, if one of the factors present at the time of the marriage which impeded one party’s ability to give valid consent was a drug habit, this person could not obviously contract a valid marriage until evidence is forthcoming that this has been overcome. I am choosing an extreme example just by way of illustration. Some impediments, such as those in natural law, may not be amenable to resolution, for instance, primary impotence.

The best thing to do is to discuss this with the priest, ask him to get more specifics from the tribunal, and get recommendations on what steps must be taken to insure that, should you marry again, any situation that would affect valid consent is remedied, and is seen to be remedied. The goal here is that you never again have to go through this process, it is for your protection.


If you couldn’t validly give consent the first time, they’re not going to marry you again until you prove you can give valid consent the next time–they’re going to be much more strict then to make sure you don’t enter into *another *invalid union.


Yup… We found out dh had to go to individual counseling before we could get married…the reason… he was too young the first time…even though he was in his 30’s when we got married, they still made him go to counseling for a little while to determine he was mature enough. He actually enjoyed it! Don’t worry! Go do the counselling…it is very healing and educational!


n my diocese - Orange, CA, - the diocese has a list of approved counselors for such cases. Particular priests may create their own shorter list from this for those they are working with.

If your priest can’t help you, write or call the Tribunal and request referral to an appropriate counselor.


My heartfelt thanks to all who have responded. It is reassuring to see that others have met similar situations, and I truly appreciate your sharing.

The original “marriage” took place in a Protestant church in another state, so I don’t know if this means they will be sent a copy too. If so, I imagine they would be completely confused.

Upon doing some further digging, I have unearthed this:
Dignitas Connubii

Art. 251 – § 1. If a party in the process was found to be absolutely impotent or incapable of marriage by reason of a permanent incapacity, a vetitum is to be added to the sentence, by which the party is prohibited to enter a new marriage unless the same tribunal which issued the sentence has been consulted.
§ 2. But if a party was the cause of the nullity of the marriage by deception or by simulation, the tribunal is bound to see whether, having considered all the circumstances of the case, a vetitum should be added to the sentence, by which the party is prohibited to enter a new marriage unless the Ordinary of the place in which the marriage is to be celebrated has been consulted.

§ 3. If a lower tribunal added a vetitum to the sentence, the tribunal of appeal is to see whether it is to be confirmed.

Art. 258 – § 1. The publication or communication of the sentence is to be made either by giving a copy of the sentence to the parties or their procurators, or by sending it to them in accordance with art. 130 (cf. can. 1615).*

According to this, there appears to be only two instances where a prohibition could be added. One is “permanent incapacity”, which is obviously not the case. By the wording of the letter I received Art. 251§ 2 appears to apply, and it allows only for premarriage consultation, not extended individual counseling.

In any event, according to Art. 258 § 1 there should have been a sentence provided which would explain any “vetitum” in detail. I sure haven’t seen this document. I think I need to call the Tribunal.


It is hard to read law. It is hard to read civil law, and it is not easy to read ecclesial law.

I recommend you find Deacon Cameron Lansing out on the Internet someplace. He rarely posts here, but he does on several other Catholic sites. He is a canon lawyer, and very good at explaining canon law.


I think his user name here and on at least one other Catholic forums site is cameron_lansing. But Lansing refers to where he lives, and Cameron is his last name. His first name is John.


But he does lurk, and responds when appropriate, sometimes by PM.

I’d send him a PM.


same situation here, and was really not a huge deal. We had to go to counseling, do compatibility testing, etc.

the idea is to prevent you from making the same mistake …
I’m very thankful for the whole process …


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