Annulment and excommunication Print
By Pope Bededict XIV   
Monday, 11 August 2014

Therefore all avenues are closed by which one could determine whether a marriage is contracted with the necessary liberty and consent; when any such impediment exists between the contracting parties, the marriage must be dissolved and declared void. So the conditions are set for annulling marriages, even those consecrated in the Church. At times it is argued that the marriage was entered upon by force or by fear, in either case without the free consent of one or the other of the contracting parties; at other times a legitimate and canonical impediment is alleged, which could have been known before the marriage was contracted if it had not been purposefully concealed; also at times, and this happens more frequently, a marriage is annulled because it was contracted before another priest, even with the consent of the parish priest or of the ordinary bishop but without the necessary and usual formalities. Certainly it is clear that these dissolutions of marriages in Poland are a source of evil and an open door to crime. Furthermore the canonical benefit of appeal, which one of the spouses can enjoy after the case is decided in favor of the other, is impeded by these frauds and subterfuges. Finally these frequent marriage dissolutions are not without the gravest offense and scandal to the upright.
 
To remedy this pernicious evil, We, with certain knowledge and after mature deliberation, declare all pacts between spouses for the dissolution of marriages to be null, invalid, and ineffectual, both now and for the future. We also annul those pacts which interfere with the appeals process, even if the pacts were approved by oath, and even if they were agreed upon before the publication of our most recent letter. So that no such pact may ever be considered valid and obligatory, We inflict the penalty of excommunication on anyone entering into a pact, from which no one can obtain absolution except through Us and Our successors, except at the hour of death. Besides We declare that any judge who may have dared to announce and further the pacts We mentioned before also incurs or will incur the same penalty of excommunication. We again confirm whatever is contained in the aforementioned last letter or in our Constitution, and especially all that concerns the procedure and order of the appeals from the unsuccessful defender of the marriage, and the sentence of the judge against the annulment. – from Nimiam Licentiam (1743)