Sacrament of marriage for paraplegic

Can my paraplegic cousin get married in the catholic church?

If he has the ability to consummate his marriage then yes. The permanently impotent cannot validly marry.

What did his/her parish priest advise?

From Canon Law:

Can. 1084 §1. Antecedent and perpetual impotence to have intercourse, whether on the part of the man or the woman, whether absolute or relative, nullifies marriage by its very nature.

§2. If the impediment of impotence is doubtful, whether by a doubt about the law or a doubt about a fact, a marriage must not be impeded nor, while the doubt remains, declared null.

§3. Sterility neither prohibits nor nullifies marriage, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 1098.

He would need to work with his priest and his doctor to make a determination regarding true perpetual impotence from both the medical and the canonical standpoint.

I suspect though that these days even an impotent paraplegic can, in the majority of cases with medication (pills, injections) or surgical implants complete the marital act, so only in rare cases would it be an impediment.

When there is a will there is a way.

One of those situations where canon law hasn’t caught up with medical sciences. :slight_smile:

That being said, we dont know if the OP’s cousin is a male.
A female paraplegic doesn’t have problems impotency.

Not to mention, one can always get a dispensation (they did in the ancient Church when 1st cousin wanted to marry, which is also against canon law)

Canon law has nothing to “catch up” with.

one cannot receive a dispensation from a divine law impediment. There is a difference between an ecclesial law, which can be dispensed, and a divine law impediment, which cannot be dispensed.

Can. 1084 §1. Antecedent and perpetual impotence to have intercourse, whether on the part of the man or the woman, whether absolute or relative, nullifies marriage by its very nature.

The above canon must be referring to a very severe form of physical disability then in this day and age.

A paraplegic, esp a female, wont have a problem. Neither will a male with the aid of medical advancements.

Though there are all kinds of physical ailments that could fall under that canon. Those with the severe condition most likely will never have the opportunity to marry anyway in our culture.

Well, admittedly, I’m a relatively new Catholic and this never came up in my RCIA nor subsequent experiences with the Church (which have been deeply grace filled).

That said, I find it shocking that human beings due to no fault or choice of their own would be denied the ability to marry–to have a life partner to love and grow with. It seems like a punishment for something that, again, they did not choose nor was any fault of their own. It just seems totally lacking in compassion–which was one of the Lord’s primary qualities as God/Man.

The solution for the situation would be for the couple to leave the Church–and I’m sure many have. But what a loss–for both the Church and the couple.

While I do not see myself as a “liberal” Catholic, I am open-minded–and this is deeply disturbing.

Actually, your view is another problem with the not understanding the actual definition of marriage. Marriage is the ability to engage in the sexual embrace.

A vegetarian, by definition, doesn’t eat meat. Marriage, By definition of what the word means, has the sexual embrace.

The “solution” for the couple is to remember that Jesus’ bride, the church cannot be separated from Him, and has the souls of the people in mind.


Perpetual impotence that is certainly present is not that common so I wouldn’t be sure that “many” have left the Church because of this. Be that as it may, marriage is not just about having a “life partner.” It is a conjugal relationship. If one is clearly and undoubtedly unable to have a conjugal relationship, that person cannot marry. Similarly, if someone’s psychological state is such that it is certain that he/she is unable to have an interpersonal relationship (conjugal or not), he/she would not be allowed to marry in the Church because, in fact, that person simply cannot marry. It’s not the person’s fault and it’s not the Church’s fault.

There are many threads here that speak of this topic but the quality of the contributions varies greatly.


Exactly. Matrimony literally means “to confect motherhood.”

This whole notion of love and giddiness really has little to do with marriage. Marriage is a contract between one man and one women contracting bodily rights to the other. If you can’t do that, you can’t get married.

So if you are no longer able to engage in the marital embrace, then you are no longer married, if “marriage is the ability to engage in the sexual embrace”?

Sigh, the key here is at the time of the marriage. Any subsequent injury/condition or otherwise can never invalidate a marriage.

It is unclear how you arrived at this conclusion.

As a mom of a 19 yr. old who was born with disabilities… how does someone know if they can consumate a marriage if they are a virgin prior to marriage? How do you find a doctor that can explore this without inappropriate means? My son talks about being married but I don’t know that he could have a valid marriage from the info here.

That is not my belief, at all. But this statement seems problematic (to me)

"Actually, your view is another problem with the not understanding the actual definition of marriage. Marriage is the ability to engage in the sexual embrace. "

If marriage IS the ability to engage in the sexual embrace (not the ability to contract a valid marriage, but marriage itself IS the ability to engage in the sexual embrace), then inability to engage would, by this definition, mean the marriage could not exist.

Again, this is NOT my belief or understanding, I was questioning the statement. I guess I would have thought it was more along the lines of “A valid marriage cannot exist without the ability to consumate the marriage”.

I agree with you on the compassion sentiment…but the facts seem to show that this is how it is and as a Catholic, correct me if I am wrong, but I think you are supposed to agree with it even if it feels wrong to you. Your feelings are not supposed to come into play, I think. You are supposed to adhere to the rules even if you feel they should be different.

What you describe is one of the main points people bring up on this site when they argue against gay marriage… that gay people cannot get married because the marital act cannot be completed and procreation is impossible–even tho they, too, want also to “have a life partner to love and grow with” and they would tell you it’s “no fault or choice of their own” that they cannot.

Great point!
That would be the loophole, as it were.
Even if a doctor told a man who is paralized that it would be impossible for him to ever complete the act…they could never know for sure until he tries…right?
And since he’s not supposed to try until he’s married, then it is not for sure that he cannot.
Therefore…there is a chance…and therefore, he can get married!
No one can say for sure that he would not be able to consummate the act!

I don’t see how your “definitions” work. Two opposite-gender people past puberty have “the ability to engage in the sexual embrace,” but that doesn’t, by itself, make them “married.” Your vegetarian analogy doesn’t work either. Unlike what you stated, a vegetarian is someone who CHOOSES not to eat meat; clearly,they retain the physical ability to eat meat. A couple can choose not to have sex, but that choice doesn’t un-marry them nor invalidate their marriage. You might also want to research a “Josephite marriage.”

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