Dissolution of the Bond of Marriage – Privilege of the Faith - Petrine Privilege

While the teaching of the Church reflects the principles of Natural Law, it also extends to those baptized, certain particular obligations and duties which arise from their baptism. “Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to live in the Spirit and the door which gives access to the sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: ‘Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water and in the word.’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1213)

When we speak of marriage being a sacrament, we are presupposing that both of the parties of the marriage are baptized. The sacrament can only be received by one who is baptized. When both parties are baptized, they confer on one another the sacrament of marriage. Let us now consider the situation when one of the parties is not baptized. Although it is not a sacramental marriage, it is a natural, legitimate and valid marriage. In virtue of his authority as the Vicar of Christ, the Holy Father has the jurisdiction to set aside the union of a couple when one has not been baptized. In this dissolution of the natural bond, which is sometimes call the Petrine Privilege, it must be established that one of the parties to the original marriage was not baptized. When this fact can be shown with certainty, it follows that the marriage in this circumstance is not a sacrament. When this is the case, and in certain circumstances, a petition can be placed before the Holy Father asking that the former union be dissolved in favor of the faith of the Catholic party who is now involved.

What are the requirements for a Privilege (or Favor) of the Faith case (Petrine Privilege)?

  1. The marriage in question must be the first non-sacramental marriage for both the Petitioner and the Respondent.

  2. There is no hope of reconciliation between the two parties.

  3. The Petitioner and/or the current or intended spouse cannot be the exclusive or predominant cause of the breakdown of the marriage.

  4. (At least) one of the parties was unbaptized before and during the entire common life of the marriage.

  5. The non-baptized party must participate by completing a questionnaire and providing the names of at least three witnesses who are willing and able to testify to the non-baptism and have knowledge about the party’s entire life. In this way, the witnesses will also be able to speak to the cause of the breakdown of the marriage with some authority and credibility.

  6. The Petitioner must be engaged to be married or already civilly married. By the Privilege, the Holy Father dissolves a presumably valid and binding natural marriage for the good of the faith of the Catholic party (either the Petitioner or current/intended spouse). Since the Privilege is granted so that a person may enter into marriage with a particular person in a way which is recognized by the Church, the Petitioner must be married or formally engaged at the time the Privilege is requested.

  7. The Respondent has the right to participate in this process and an attempt must be made to contact them. If the Petitioner has no contact information for the Respondent, a letter must be written to the Tribunal outlining what steps have been taken to find the Respondent.