CDF to hold study day on 2001 instruction for dissolution of marriage ‘in favorem fidei’

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The Vatican’s doctrinal office will hold a study day April 27 on the theme of the dissolution of marriage “in favorem fidei.”

The study day marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of the instruction Potestas Ecclesiae, which regulated the dissolution of a marriage between two non-Catholic persons, when at least one is not baptized, to allow for the contraction or validation of a Catholic sacramental marriage in the future.

The dissolution of a marriage “in favorem fidei” (in favor of the faith), can be approved on a case-by-case basis and only by the pope. In this way, it differs from what is called the “Pauline privilege,” when the Church recognizes the automatic dissolution of a natural marriage between two non-baptized persons.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has organized the study day in partnership with the Pontifical Lateran University; the event is intended for Catholic university students, scholars, and those working in diocesan curias.

Attendance will be possible both in-person and online. The morning of April 27 will be dedicated to studying the theological-juridical aspect of Potestas Ecclesiae; in the afternoon participants will break into moderated small groups to look at practical cases related to the instruction.

The morning talks, in Italian, will be streamed online and can be watched without the need to register.

Potestas Ecclesiae says that “marriages between non-Catholics, of which at least one is not baptized, under certain conditions can be dissolved by the Bishop of Rome in favor of the faith and for the salvation of souls.”

“But the exercise of this power, bearing in mind both the pastoral needs of times and places, and all the circumstances of each individual case, is subject to the supreme judgment of the Supreme Pontiff himself,” the document’s introduction, signed by then-CDF prefect Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, states.

The 2001 instruction explained that the dissolution of the bond “in favorem fidei” was first introduced after the promulgation of the 1917 Code of Canon Law.

Previously, the Pauline privilege had been adequate, it stated, since cases requiring the “pastoral remedy of the dissolution of the bond” were rare. In the 20th century, however, the need has increased.

Reasons include, the document states, the increase in mixed-faith marriages and marriages between a non-Catholic baptized person and a non-baptized person, as well as the increasing “fragility and inconstancy of family ties, so that divorce is spreading more and more and the number of marriages that fail is increasing day by day.”

“The Roman Pontiff, in the certainty of the power that the Church possesses to dissolve marriages between non-Catholics, of which at least one is not baptized, never hesitated to meet the new pastoral needs, resorting to the practice of exercising this power of Church, if, after an examination of all the circumstances that are found on a case-by-case basis, this would seem appropriate to him in favor of the faith and for the good of souls,” Potestas Ecclesiae says.

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