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Age (Impediment to Marriage)


In legislating for the minimum age at which her subjects are capable of a valid marriage, the Church declares that males must have completed their 16th year and females their 14th year of age (Codexiuris canonici c. 1083 §1; CCEO c. 800). Nonage is, therefore, one of the diriment impediments to marriage in the Latin Church as well as in the Eastern Churches; it has its origin in Roman law that required puberty for iustae nuptiae. Natural law imposes no such impediment of nonage; it requires only that the parties be capable of marriage and have sufficient psychological maturity to give matrimonial consent (cf. Codexiuris canonici c. 1095; CCEO c. 818). Since the impediment of nonage established in canon law is a merely ecclesiastical law, it binds only in marriages involving those baptized into the Catholic Church or received into it (Codexiuris canonici c. 11; CCEO c. 1490). The unbaptized are, however, bound by a reasonable and just impediment of nonage established by the competent civil authority. In addition, non-Catholic Eastern Christians are bound by an impediment of nonage in their own law (CCEO c. 780 §1, 2°). As a matter of ecclesiastical law, this impediment can be dispensed by a local ordinary if the occasion and sufficiently grave causes warrant it. In the Latin Church, conferences of bishops may establish a higher age for the licit celebration of marriage in their territories (Codes iuris canonici c. 1083 §2). While regulating the minimum age for a valid marriage, the Catholic Church establishes no age after which a marriage would be invalid.

Bibliography: j. c. o'dea, "The Matrimonial Impediment of Nonage" Catholic University of America Canon Law Studies 205 (Washington 1944). j. abbo and j. hannan, The Sacred Canons 2:1067. j. p. beal et al., New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (New York 2000) 12831284.

[j. d. mcguire]

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