Abduction (Impediment to Marriage)

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Abduction as an impediment to marriage comes into being when a person is forcibly carried off or at least detained, and is retained in the abductor's power for the purpose of contracting marriage. The Latin code speaks of a woman who has been abducted or detained, while the Eastern code speaks more generally of a person who has been abducted or detained (Codex Iuris Canonicis, c. 1089, Codex Canonum Ecclesiarium Orientalium, c. 806). Abduction is a diriment impediment since the law prescribes that there can be no valid marriage between the abductor and the one abducted as long as the abductor retains power over the one abducted.

The impediment of abduction considered in itself, and excluding the defect of consent that is frequently involved in it, is of ecclesiastical law and binds only Catholics. As an ecclesiastical law impediment, the impediment of abduction can be dispensed, however unlikely it might be that such a dispensation would be granted.

The impediment comes into being when a Catholic is either the abductor or the abducted person, because the impediment is intended not only as a protection for the abducted person, but also as a deterrent to the crime of abduction.

The impediment arises whether the abductor acts personally or through agents, either men or women. If a woman is abducted by agents and detained by them up to the actual moment of the marriage, the impediment renders the marriage invalid between the man who ordered the abduction and the woman whom he ordered abducted.

Violent or forceful abduction must be for the sole purpose of contracting marriage. If a woman is taken away and retained for any other purpose, e.g., for extortion or turpitude, the impediment does not arise.

The impediment arises as soon as the abductor perpetrates the abduction, and it continues to exist as long as the abducted person remains in his power. The impediment ceases to exist when the abducted person is separated from the abductor and has been restored to a safe and free place. Separation from the abductor entails a physical separation from him and from his agents. This has a special reference to the dwelling place. The abducted person must no longer be living in the same dwelling with the abductor, but the length of time for which this separation must endure is not established in the law. No change of place is absolutely required. If the abducted person has been detained by the abductor, the place can be said to become free and safe if the abductor departs and absolutely removes his influence and that of his agents over the abducted person. Hence, a safe and free place is one in which the abducted person is able freely to dispose of affairs at will, and in which the abducted person can declare his or her own wishes without external constraint.

Bibliography: b. f. fair, Catholic University of America Canon Law Studies: The Impediment of Abduction 194 (Washington 1944) 2883. h. a. ayrinhac, Penal Legislation in the New Code of Canon Law (New York 1920) 293296. h. a. ayrinhac and p. j. lydon, Marriage Legislation in the New Code of Canon Law (New York 1957) 145150.

[w. a. o'mara]