Was Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon lawful?

I was watching A Man for all Seasons and they mentioned the reason the king was using to try to get an annulment was she was his brothers widower. Or the spouse of his dead brother. Would this be a valid marriage for the catholic church?

She was married to Arthur Tudor, but the marriage was never consummated because he was chronically ill. An unconsummated marriage, though valid, means that she was never Arthur’s wife in practice, making it lawful for her to marry Henry.

Her marriage to Henry was lawful, but he tried to undermine its validity by essentially saying that she did consummate her marriage to Arthur.

While I’m not knowledgeable on all the factors, part the reason he wasn’t able to get an annulment was because Catharine’s nephew, Charles V (King of Spain Holy Roman Emperor), had influence on the pope and didn’t exactly like the idea of his aunt being divorced, hence why Henry VIII broke away. From a history class I’ve taken, I learned Henry VIII did have affection for Catharine, but the need for a boy (to avoid the throne going to a Scottish king) was what drove him from Catharine when she was older.

Side note, here’s what a source gave for Charles V’s full title to give you an idea of how much he ruled: Charles, by the grace of God, Holy Roman Emperor, forever August, King of Germany, King of Italy, King of all Spains, of Castile, Aragon, León, Navarra, Grenada, Toledo, Valencia, Galicia, Majorca, Sevilla, Cordova, Murcia, Jaén, Algarves, Algeciras, Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, King of Two Sicilies, of Sardinia, Corsica, King of Jerusalem, King of the Western and Eastern Indies, Lord of the Islands and Main Ocean Sea, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Brabant, Lorraine, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Limburg, Luxembourg, Gelderland, Neopatria, Württemberg, Landgrave of Alsace, Prince of Swabia, Asturia and Catalonia, Count of Flanders, Habsburg, Tyrol, Gorizia, Barcelona, Artois, Burgundy Palatine, Hainaut, Holland, Seeland, Ferrette, Kyburg, Namur, Roussillon, Cerdagne, Zutphen, Margrave of the Holy Roman Empire, Burgau, Oristano and Gociano, Lord of Frisia, the Wendish March, Pordenone, Biscay, Molin, Salins, Tripoli and Mechelen.

Answered right here on CAF

No wonder he abdicated!

My wife’s native Dominican Republic, right here in the Americas, was part of his realm. There’s an inscription in his honour in the cathedral in Santo Domingo (incidentally, the oldest church in the New World).

Yes, it was valid.

The relationship created between Catherine and Henry via her marriage to his brother is called a relationship of affinity. The rules regarding impediments of affinity have varied greatly in Church history.

At the time, affinity included this particular degree (marriage to deceased husband/wife’s sibling).

Henry (well, really is father) petitioned for, and received, a dispensation from the impediment of affinity in order for Henry to marry Catherine after Arthur’s death. This allowed the marriage between Henry and Catherine to proceed.

Henry later became convinced that the impediment of affinity in the collateral line regarding siblings was a divine law impediment rather than an ecclesial law impediment (meaning he didn’t believe the prior pope had the authority to issue the dispensation for the marriage). One may view with skepticism his timely revelation just as he also had an mistress in need of marrying.

The pope ruled that it was within his predecessor’s authority to issue the dispensation. Therefore yes, the marriage was indeed valid.

Today, the impediment of affinity is accounted in the direct line only (Canon 1092) meaning a parent/step-child relationship is an impediment without a dispensation.

Speculation as to “pressure” exerted on the pope is just that, speculation. It is equally likely that pope would have been reluctant to overturn his predecessor’s decision lest a future pope be inclined to treat his own with such disregard. And affinity is still an ecclesial impediment not a divine law impediment so the Church maintains this position still today,

That is debatable.

An annulment is not a divorce. Had the pope ruled in Henry’s favor, Catherine would not have been divorced,

The “need for a boy” had nothing to do with the throne going to a Scottish king. The main concern was Henry VII’s weak claim on the throne to begin with, the lingering memory of the war of the roses, and Henry VIII’s own acts of successoin which weakens hereditary claims and gave Parliament unprecedented say in succession.

Ironically, Henry was impeded from marrying Anne Boleyn due to affinity. He had a sexual relationship with her sister, Mary, producing two illegitimate children.

He would have needed a dispensation to marry her.

This is a pretty good summary of Hank’s story. Though there is not necessarily an either/or as to the reluctance of Clement to counter Julius’ original dispensation, as to Imperial pressure, or respect for Julius’ ruling. My reading suggests a little of both. But the observation that the particular impediment which Julius dispensed had a history of different interpretations over the years is certainly correct (and contains an ironic connection with Henry’s line). But the ability of a Pope to dispense in this degree of affinity (the Levetical prohibition) was not potentially the strongest point in Henry’s favor, as Cardinal Wolsey saw. There is also the possibility of an impediment arising from the justice of public honesty.

If a marriage was contracted and consummated between A and B, two actual types of impediments might arise for person C later wishing to marry A or B. That is, there was the potential for an impediment of affinity, which arose from the consummation of the marriage, or of the justice of public honesty, which arose from the betrothal/marriage contract.

At the time, the rule was that if a valid marriage was contracted, and consummated, and later a dispensation was sought for someone who would have an impediment to marrying A or B, the dispensation need only specifically state that the affinity impediment was dispensed, and the impediment of public honesty was thereby dispensed, implicitly. But, if Catherine and Arthur’s marriage was not consummated, as was likely true, then the justice of public honesty must be explicitly dispensed. Julius didn’t do that. And hence there was a potential case for Henry.

It is probable that Catherine and Arthur had not consummated their marriage. Certainly that was her testimony, and that of her duenna, from the first. If Julius validly dispensed the affinity impediment, the unconsummated marriage raised the impediment of the justice of public honesty. Which Julius’ dispensation did not specifically address. This did not attack the dispensation as ultra vires, as in the Levitical argument, but as faulty.

That is, in the complex world of annulments, dispensations and impediments by which the sacrament of marriage was managed, and the world of statecraft was able to make and break dynastic marriages as real-politic demanded, there was reasonable argument that the dispensation was incomplete, and the annulment a reasonable request. Certainly that is the way the system worked at the time, and Henry had no reason to suspect his causa would be rejected. Look, after all, at the result of his sister’s petition for an annulment, in March 1527, 2 months before Henry’s own case was presented.

The bottom line: history is complicated. The issue of dynastic marriage in the 16th century was equally complicated. Henry was playing by the rules of the day, and he had a reasonable case, by the standards of the day, even if he failed to see its true strength, as Wolsey did.

Agreed. Henry’s wouldn’t have even been in the ballpark of dubious, say compared to Eleanor of Acquitaine’s annulment from the king of France. :wink:

The widespread net of potential impediments (of all sorts, Eleanor’s being of consanguinity) was part of the design of the system, permitting a greater chance of finding the sort of justification which matters of state might require. As a contemporary Scottish bishop remarked, it was almost impossible to find any 2 people of quality who could marry without some impediment being found, if desired. Trent began to take the problem in hand.

And in the final irony, in his concern for having a boy, not one, but TWO of his daughters ended up ruling as Queen…

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