Pauline Privilege

Defining Pauline Privilege

1 Corinthians 7:12-14a, 15-16

If a Christian has an unbaptized wife, and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her; and a woman who has an unbaptized husband willing to live with her must not divorce her husband. For the unbaptized husband now belongs to God through his Christian wife, and the unbaptized wife through her husband. If on the other hand, the unbaptized partner wishes for a separation, let him have it. In such cases the Christian husband or wife is under no compulsion.

how it works

The Pauline Privilege is the dissolution of a presumed valid natural but non-sacramental bond in favor of a sacramental marriage, or to preserve the faith of the Catholic party in a non-sacramental marriage.

Its use dates to the Apostolic Era and requires a formal statement by one in authority that the requirements have all been met. The following criteria must be met for the use of this privilege:

  1. There was a valid marriage between two unbaptized persons;
  2. One and only one of the spouses is subsequently baptized or desires to be baptized;
  3. The unbaptized spouse refuses to cohabit peacefully and there is no possibility of restoring married life;
  4. The Petitioner now wishes to marry someone else in order to practice the faith;
  5. Neither the Petitioner nor the Intended Spouse was the prevailing cause of the breakup of conjugal life;
  6. No scandal would arise from the dissolution of the marriage;
  7. If the Petitioner intends to marry a non-Catholic, the Catholic party declares that he/she is ready to remove any danger of departure from the faith and the non-Catholic party promises to allow the Petitioner to profess his/her faith and to baptize and raise the children as Catholics.

The separation of the spouses or even the civil decree terminating the civil requirements of marriage does not dissolve the natural bond; rather valid consent to a new marriage in the Catholic Church accomplishes the dissolution.

Conversion to Catholicism is not required; rather conversion to Christianity suffices for the use of the privilege. In order to determine the potential for applying for the privilege, any of the following must apply:

  1. A convert to Catholicism, who was formerly non-baptized and married to a non-baptized person, seeks to marry a Catholic;
  2. A convert to another Christian community, who was formerly non-baptized and married to a non-baptized person, seeks to marry a Catholic;
  3. A convert to Catholicism, who was formerly non-baptized and married to a non-baptized person, seeks to marry a baptized non-Catholic or non-baptized person. In this case, the dissolution is granted in virtue of c. 1147, which is concerned with mixed marriages. Permission, if it is a mixed marriage, and a dispensation for the impediment, if it is a disparity of cult marriage (marriage to a non-baptized person) is required. In either case, all of the requirements for a mixed marriage enumerated in cc. 1124-1129 must be met.

The following is a brief outline of the stages involved in a Pauline Privilege case:

  1. Submission of the completed APPLICATION PACKET from the Forms tab along with any required documentation to the Tribunal;
  2. Commission of officers: Instructor, Defender of the Bond, Notary;
  3. Interpellation (questioning) of the unbaptized party;
  4. Instruction: deposition of the Petitioner and his/her intended spouse;
  5. Instruction: questioning of witnesses;
  6. Observations of the Defender of the Bond;
  7. Rescript of the local Ordinary authorizing the use of the Pauline Privilege;
  8. Dissolution of the first marriage upon celebration of the new marriage.

Please see the OVERVIEW OF PETITION FOR PAULINE PRIVILEGE document for more detailed information on the stages of the process.