Seeking information on marriage dispensation for first cousins.

My girlfriend and I are first cousins. We realize this is an impediment to marriage, but that according to the Code of Canon Law we can be granted a dispensation.

Unfortunately we live in states that will not issue us a marriage license. Canon Law doesn’t seem to address this and we are wondering if our local Diocese can issue the dispensation and then get married at a church in a neighboring state that will issue a marriage license.

We would also be interested in talking with a couple who has received such a dispensation. Canon Law is silent on the process and my research only turns up that the request must be made in writing. We could really use some guidance.

Thanks

I think you need to speak with your Bishop.

~Liza

Hi, thanks for the reply.

I understand the dispensation would be issued by a diocesan bishop or other ordinary, but I am hoping to gain as much information as I can now. We want to be as prepared as possible because this is not something we are taking lightly.

You start with your priest.

You would need the dispensation from the impediment and then you would also need permission to be married in a parish other than your home parish. You would need to find a parish and priest in another state to marry you.

As I understand it, in some states you must undergo genetic counseling. Your priest may want to counsel you as well regarding this close kinship.

Honestly, you need to talk to your priest about this. The internet is not going to get you the concrete answers you need.

I don’t believe that a relationship above the third degree (1st or 2nd) can be dispensed.

When talking to the priest you may wish to discuss having a basic civil ceremony in a state which allows your situation and having the Holy Sacrement of Marriage done in your parrish. Good luck and God Bless:)

First cousins are 4 degrees of consanguinity. See CIC 108 §3:

Can. 108 §1 Consanguinity is reckoned by lines and degrees.

§2 In the direct line there are as many degrees as there are generations, that is, as there are persons, not counting the common ancestor.

§3 In the collateral line there are as many degrees as there are persons in both lines together, not counting the common ancestor.

We have considered this and may very well be the route we pursue.

1 Like

That is what I thought. However first cousins would be the 4th degree. And:

**A diriment impediment renders a person unqualified to contract marriage validly.

Code of Canon Law 1073

SPECIFIC DIRIMENT IMPEDIMENTS
§1. In the direct line of consanguinity marriage is invalid between all ancestors and descendants, both legitimate and natural.** **
§2. In the collateral line marriage is invalid up to and including the fourth degree.**
§3. The impediment of consanguinity is not multiplied.
§4. A marriage is never permitted if doubt exists whether the partners are related by consanguinity in any degree of the direct line or in the second degree of the collateral line.
**Code of Canon Law 1091

§1. The local ordinary can dispense his own subjects residing anywhere and all actually present in his own territory from all impediments of ecclesiastical law except those whose dispensation is reserved to the Apostolic See.**
§2. Impediments whose dispensation is reserved to the Apostolic See are:
1/ the impediment arising from sacred orders or from a public perpetual vow of chastity in a religious institute of pontifical right;
2/ the impediment of crime mentioned in can. 1090.
§3. A dispensation is never given from the impediment of consanguinity in the direct line or in the second degree of the collateral line.
Code of Canon Law 1078

It looks like a bishop could give a dispensation.

James

This always gets really confusing. My aunts daughter is my first cousin, correct? So how is that a 4th degree relationship?

Anyway is my original statement correct or incorrect? It seems to say that a dispensation is never given for the 1st or 2nd degree collateral line.

Collateral degrees are counted by how many people are between the two in question, counting those two but not counting the common ancestor. First cousins share a grandparent so in my girlfriend and my case we would count: 1st is me, 2nd is my mother, 3rd is her mother (my mother’s sister), and 4th is her.

There is no such thing as 1 degree of consanguinity as that would refer to oneself–if you notice, Canon Law makes no mention of 1 degree. 2 degrees would be siblings. As I understand it 2 degrees is impeded by divine law whereas 4 degrees is impeded by ecclesiastical law. That is why it is possible for cousins to receive a dispensation.

Yes it can, my parents are proof of that. Initially the bishop refused but the priest went to bat for them and eventually the dispensation was granted.

Your parents are brother and sister?

No, first cousins. When I responded to Br. Rich I hadn’t yet read all the posts. Consider my wrist slapped.

Oh, ok thank you! I was starting to freak out lol.

Me too. :smiley:

Thanks for clarifying.

James

My girlfriend and I are first cousins. We realize this is an impediment to marriage, but that according to the Code of Canon Law we can be granted a dispensation.

You have to receive a dispensation from the bishop who has jurisdiction over you. Dispensations can be given in some circumstances, but it’s not a given.

Unfortunately we live in states that will not issue us a marriage license. Canon Law doesn’t seem to address this and we are wondering if our local Diocese can issue the dispensation and then get married at a church in a neighboring state that will issue a marriage license.

From what I can see looking at different diocesan websites, the bishop will not violate state law in granting a dispensation. For example, the diocese of Lexington says this directly about dispensations:
“It is rarely and only for the most serious reasons given in cases involving what we usually
call “first cousins”. It would almost never be given in any case for which the state would not issue a license.”

You really need to talk to the bishop or his designated person in the archdiocese about the marriage policies in this case.

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