Monks receiving dispensation


I am seeking information about the dispensation process for an ex-Franciscan monk. I am currently engaged to a wonderful man who was a Franciscan monk in France between ages 20 and 28. He fell in love with an American woman and left the monastary to marry. He did not receive dispensation to do so. He left his native France and moved to her hometown in Washington state. They had a good marriage, with three children. They lost their first child, a son, tragically in a motor vehicle accident when the boy was 18. Then his wife developed melanoma and died 4 years ago. They were married for over 30 years. The two remaining children are now ages 25 and 28.

We have been dating over a year now and recently became engaged. I would very much like to marry in the Church and am wondering if it is possible to do so without him going through the dispensation process. The decision to leave the monastary was difficult, even traumatic, for him. I do not wish to pressure him to go back into history and go through all of this again. Is there any hope for us to be married in the Church?


Franciscans are mendicants – friars, not monks. He would likely have been at a friary and not in a monastery if he was actually a Franciscan.

He should go talk to his parish priest or someone his priest refers him to at the diocese to get things started.

you do not say if he had been ordained a priest, that makes a difference.

he should begin with his parish priest who will direct him with the person in the diocese with this authority to deal on his behalf with the canon law tribunal. That person will know who to contact in his order, since there are many branches of Franciscans. If he was that young it is quite likely he had not taken any final vows, nor that he had been ordained, but an investigation will be carried out in a formal way, just as a previous marriage would be investigated had it been a divorce situation. During this process he can also be guided in any other action he needs to be fully reconciled with the Church, as well as establishing his freedom to marry.

If this man was a Franciscan and he was in solemn vows then he is unable to contract a valid marriage. The vows he takes makes it impossible for him to have a Sacramental marriage unless/until he is released from those vows by the Order and the Vatican.

His first marriage was invalid, as would be any other attempt he makes. He must contact his Order to get this cleared up if you wish to have a Sacramental marriage. If you do not then your marriage would not be valid and you would separate yourself from all the Sacraments because you would be living in sin.

It is important that this man get in touch with his Order as well as working though the diocese which may be able to help get this straightened out.

What he needs is not, technically, a dispensation. He needs to be released from his vows, if he was in solemn vows, if he was in temporary vows then he was released when the time for them ran out. But if he was in for 8 years as you seem to be saying then he was most likely in solemn vows.

Also, if he was a priest then he needs to have the Vatican release him from that also. Though that would not effect the contracting a valid marriage or not.

A priest (who is not in vows) may contract a valid, though illicit, marriage, a man in vows (in a religious order) may not contract a valid marriage. This is one way how the promises of a secular and the vows of the religious are different.

Thank you to those who have replied to my most. My fiance tells me that he had indeed taken final vows, and that he was very close to becoming ordained as a priest. At the time he was at the Unversity of Strasbourg, working on his doctoral degree in biblical studies. He was a gifted researcher and scholar, well-experienced in transcribing many of the ancient texts on the life of Jesus, which was his thesis. When he decided to leave the monastary in order to marry, he was made to feel quite humiliated and “condemned.” When he talks about it now it is with strong emotion, and he has made it clear that he has no wish to travel back into the past, all of which happened so very long ago. He also strongly believes that God would not be so cruel as to require him to do this, and that any “sins” he has committed have been forgiven long ago. In his marriage he was a devoted husband and father, and he and his late wife loved each other devotedly and completely. They suffered great tragedy when their first child, a son, died in a motor vehicle accident at age 18, just months before he was to graduate from high school. After this his wife developed melanoma which was treated and went into remission, only to resurface a few years later. She died from it four years ago. Surely this man has suffered enough grief in his life to have fully expunged his “sins.” In any case, I will not insist that he put himself through the ordeal of going into the long-ago past to dredge up once again all those painful memories. It is vexing for me, in many respects, because I have struggled with my own faith but have come round to my original Catholic roots. I embrace the Church and identify as Catholic, although I must admit I do not aree with all of the Church teachings. I cannot imagine being married in any other church, but it looks like we will have little option. My biggest regret in all this is that my mother will, once again, be hurting in her heart. My brother and sister remarried outside the Church and it was a source of great pain to her. Now she will go through it yet once again. The Church loves its children but also does a very good job of pushing them away, it seems to me. Again, thank you to those who have taken time to reply. My local parish priest has not returned my call, I have the feeling he does not want to go any where near this issue. I spoke to someone at our city’s Tribunal office, a nun experienced in Canon Law, and she stated he must contact his monastary to do the inquiries. Having come round in my faith, I must admit I now feel I’m on the outside again looking in.

Well, duh. He broke his vows. What did he expect? That his Order would throw him a party?

It is possible to be releasd from the vows, but he did not ask. He just walked away. That is a mortal sin. It can, like all sins, be rectified.

If he loves you and wants to be reconciled with the Church (and wants to ensure you do not marry outside the Church and thereby separate yourself from the Sacraments and Church) then he will do what it takes to be reconciled with the Church and released from his vows.

We often want to avoid unpleasant things. But, how we handle unpleasant things demonstrates our character or lack of it.

You say he was a scholar and had studied extensively and yet he misses the very basics of the Faith. God certainly does require us to be faithful, live according to his Law, and to go to Confession for our sins.

Has he totally rejected the Faith all these years?

That’s not how it works. God did not visit any suffering on him as “punishment.” His son’s death and his wife’s death in no way “make up” for the sins he freely committed.

He can be reconciled with the Church. He needs to take the steps to do so.

If you want to freely choose to separate yourself from the Church and Sacraments, to commit mortal sin in order to be with this man, then I hope you will think long and hard about the eternal consequences of that. All of our freely chosen actions have eternal consequences.

I don’t understand why he will not fill out some paperwork and do the right thing. Pride seems to be it.

Um, no, it doesn’t push anyone away. You are freely choosing to walk down that path all by yourself. You are rejecting the fact that Christ and his Church have authority over us, over the Sacraments, and that there is a thing called Truth. You want the Truth to conform to you, instead of the other way around. That is indeed tragic, but it is not the Church creating the situation.

It’s not that big of a deal for him to contact his Order and put this to bed. He is making it a big deal because of some “hurt feelings” that are 30 years old. Honestly, it seems a pretense to me. He’s holding on to a grudge for a very long time. He is the one who walked away. He is the one who made that choice. He is the one who can fix it.

Since he was in final vows he must be released from them to get married.

That he did not do so in his first marriage means that it was invalid, it was not a sacramental marriage.

If you wish to have a valid sacramental marriage then he must go through the process and get released from his vows. He must contact his Order/Province to have this done.

You will not be able to have a Catholic wedding without it, that is unless you lie to the Church, which would be a grave sin for both of you.

There is really nothing you can do on this issue other than encourage him to contact his Order/Province to make things right.

Your parish priest and the diocese are not the proper place to contact nor is can you make any of the inquiries, it is all on him.

I would say that you should not marry this man unless he does this though as no marriage with him in the state he is in will be valid. You would be, in essence, living and having sex with a man outside of marriage.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit