Pauline privalege


St. Paul implies that those who become CHristians and are married to non-Christians can leave their spouse and marry a Christian. However, why cannot one remarry if their spouse ceases to be CHristian. Isn’t this unfair? Has the Church spoken on this?


To “be Christian” means that you have been baptized. You can’t be un-baptized so you really can’t cease being Christian.


A point of clarification. The Pauline privilege does not allow one to leave an unbaptized spouse to marry a Christian. It only applies if the unbaptized spouse leaves the marriage because the other is becoming Christian. If the one becoming Christian initiates the separation then Pauline privilege does not apply. If the unbaptised spouse is willing to live in peace with the spouse that becomes Christian, then the baptized spouse is still bound.

With regard to one that “stops being Christian”, that is not possible. If someone is baptized they are Christian even if they stop practicing.


The reason a Christian cannot remarry after a Christian spouse leaves the faith is because the marriage was done as a Christian Sacrament, and therefore, if it was done validly and the union was consummated, it is bound by divine power. That makes it indissoluble except by death.

If two non-Christians marry, however, or a Christian marries anon-Christian, that is not a Sacrament, and the union is held together by human vows, not by divine power. The Church can dispense with human vows by virtue of its power to bind and loose. Therefore, a non-Sacramental union can be dissolved, but a consummated Sacramental marriage cannot be.

Is that helpful?


So if I marry a non-Christian, we can make it a sacramental marriage? Never heard of that


It is only a sacrament between two (validly baptised) Christians.

**Catechism of the Catholic Church is helpful in this instance:
**1660 The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman form with each other an intimate communion of life and love, has been founded and endowed with its own special laws by the Creator. By its very nature it is ordered to the good of the couple, as well as to the generation and education of children. Christ the Lord raised marriage between the baptized to the dignity of a sacrament (cf. CIC, can. 1055 § 1; cf. GS 48 § 1).


The Pauline Privilege is also effective in and has been used to justify divorce for reasons of perversion. This means that one spouse has become so reprobate that for reasons of decency the other spouse may legitimately divorce the other and is also free to marry again in the Church.



Hello Think.

If you are a Baptized Catholic and it comes time to marry and your intended doesn’t intend to become Catholic, you can obtain a dispensation from the norms even to this day. That means a little more work and sweat on the part of each of you. It has nothing to do with the Pauline Privilege.



And if the other party is unbaptized it will be a valid natural marriage, not a sacramental marriage. Both parties must be baptized if it is to be sacramental.


Work & sweat?

How much work is it to answer ‘Yes’ when the priest asks you if you will keep practicing your Faith and do everything in your power to have your children Baptized and raised as Catholics? It’s even less work for the non-Catholic, he/she only has to listen as the priest explains the meaning of what you’ve promised.


Hello Phemie.

Sorry, but it takes more than a simple session with the Parish Priest to obtain a dispensation. Dispensations aren’t given lightly and I’ve heard sad tales of those who needed them not even being told they needed one and being allowed to marry in the Church building, but finding out later there is a mess others made for them of their marriage. It is a Sacrament. Treating as lightly as you suggest does grave harm not only to the couple, but to the Church. If a simple one question session is all you think should be done for the couple in an irregular marriage situation, then you shouldn’t try to help anyone marry in the Church. Sorry if that offends, but bad advise taken does hurt those to whom it is given. And I’ve a dear friend who went through with a marriage that was passed off as nothing and later they found out there was much more to what should have been given them from the start. They had a mess to clean up that someone made for them.



I speak from experience. I needed a dispensation to marry my baptized, non-Catholic husband. That was in 1975, before the 1983 change in Canon Law – today you only need ‘permission’, something many, if not most, Bishops have delegated to the priest. You still need a dispensation to marry a non-baptized person. It was handled in the initial interview with my pastor. It still was with all such in the parish where I worked as secretary for 10 years.

This will come up in the initial interview and it is the priest who writes to the bishop to request the dispensation, not the couple. The priest has already at that point interviewed the Catholic, under oath, and asked him/her for assurance that this marriage will not be a danger to her/his faith and then received the promise regarding the children.


I’ve never heard of anyone having the level of difficulty you mention. I have certainly encountered people whose marriages were invalid due to the priest’s neglect in obtaining a dispensation – but the process to get one really is quite simple – and the priest is the one who does all the work.


Hello Phemie and Ann.

Why do you think there is no work involved in getting married? It is a ton of work, both temporal and spiritual and it is preparation for a Sacrament. There is work involved in going to Pre-Cana Classes and in picking the flower arrangements and sweating out the guest list and who to seat next to who and finding out all about NFP and contraception and how to live an authentic Catholic marriage, etc. This is work.



hello Ann.

Thought I’d quote you so you’d know what I mean. Just because *you’ve never heard of *a couple being dispensed from the need of a Dispensation by a Priest who isn’t exactly orthodox, doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. It did. And it stood that way for years before the couple found out what the Church really teaches and it was a royal mess by the time things got looked into. It happens. Some Priest these days marry folks under pretense of doing what the Church wills and desires, but they are acting falsely.

No the Priest doesn’t do all the work. A Priest cannot give a Dispensation although in danger of death he can act as if one was given and catch the paperwork up later. The proper authorities still need to be notified and the work needs done. Only in the gravest difficulties can the norms be dismissed and that has to be either in danger of death or for the case of an impediment that will be in place for more than a period of time 30 days. And the impediment has to be a real one that the Church acknowledges as an impediment not that the hall won’t be available for the reception if we wait for two more months.



No ‘dispensation’ is required to marry a baptized non-Catholic. Even if the priest can’t grant permission himself, something he can do in most dioceses around here, the marriage would still be valid, although it would be illicit.

In any case, the priest is the one who makes the request from the bishop telling him why he thinks the dispensation should be granted. I haven’t seen one such dispensation refused in all my years of dealing with them – and there were many since most marriages in my parish are mixed marriages with not a few disparity of cult ones.


But there is no more of that just because you are marrying a non-Catholic-- baptized or not.


Hello Phemie.

I strongly disagree with you. A person who attempts a mixed marriage must get permission from the Local Ordinary to do so. An ordinary parish priest cannot waive this. All of this is spoken of in Canons 1124, 1125, 1126, 1127. Please look them up and read them. I’m too tired to type them out of my Commentary.


Permission/Dispensation in mixed-marriages & disparity- of-cult marriages

P.S. Phemie this still has nothing to do with the Pauline Privilege and is off the track of the OP.


I know the canons.

But in the same way that a bishop can delegate to the pastor the confirmation of the parish children, he can also delegate to him the granting of permission for mixed-marriages where the non-Catholic is a baptized Christian. A quick google will show several dioceses where that is in effect.

Disparity of cult marriages still require a dispensation from the Bishop or the VG.

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