Glossary of terms

Canon Law The canon law of the Catholic Church (Latin: jus canonicum) is the system of laws and legal principles made and enforced by the hierarchical authorities of the Church to regulate its external organization and government and to order and direct the activities of Catholics toward the mission of the Church.

Canonical Form The requisite conditions for a valid marriage in which one or both parties are Catholic.  For the marriage of a Catholic to be valid, there must be present:

  1. a bishop or a parish priest in his parish or another priest duly delegated, and
  2. two witnesses. A dispensation from the canonical form can be obtained for mixed marriages.

Convalidation When a Catholic marries in a non-Catholic religious ceremony or in a civil ceremony, and with no dispensation from a Catholic bishop, then a convalidation is needed.  Otherwise, the Catholic is not permitted to receive Holy Communion.

There are two forms of convalidation: A simple convalidation, which is used most of the time and which involves a simple marriage ceremony, at least the exchange of consent part of a wedding.  Or a radical sanation, which is used on more rare occasions which does not involve a new ceremony but instead entails the diocesan bishop issuing a decree that accepts the original consent of the marriage as valid.

Defect of Canonical Form When a Catholic marries in a non-Catholic religious ceremony or in a civil ceremony, and with no dispensation from a Catholic bishop

Dispensation of Canonical Form The local Ordinary (Bishop) can dispense from canonical form, if a serious reason is required for him to do so.  The dispensation cannot be given simply and solely because the couple would like it.  Reasons for granting dispensations from canonical form should concern in some important way:

  • The spiritual well-being of the parties, especially if the non-Catholic party is attached to the familial faith:
  • The tranquillity and peace of their personal or family relationships:
  • Or be based on the special relationship that the non-Catholic party has to a minister or non-Catholic place of worship.

Formal nullity The judicial process that may result in a declaration of marriage nullity is a “formal process” or what some refer to as an “annulment.” 

Local Ordinary An ordinary (from Latin ordinarius) is an officer of a church.  Diocesan bishops are ordinaries in the Roman Catholic church.

Mixed-marriages Technically, mixed marriages are those between Catholics and non-Catholics

Norms regarding mixed-faith marriages The Catholic party promises to practice his/her faith, and fulfil to the best of his/her ability his/her obligation to have all children who may be born to the marriage baptised in the Catholic Church and carefully raised in the knowledge and practice of the Catholic Faith.

The non-Catholic party promises to permit his/her spouse to practice the Catholic religion and that all the children of the marriage will be baptised and raised in the Catholic faith.

Pauline Privilege of the Faith Where both partners were unbaptised.  A party seeking baptism can invoke this privilege by which their Christian sacramental marriage dissolves the natural bond of their first marriage.

Petitioner The person initiating the process of a nullity investigation.

Petrine Privilege of the Faith Also known as the privilege of the faith or favour of the faith, is a ground recognised in Catholic canon law allowing for dissolution by the Pope of a valid natural marriage between a baptised and a non-baptised person, for the sake of the salvation of the soul of someone who is thus enabled to marry in the Church.

Respondent The ex-partner of the petitioner

Vetitum In some cases, what is known as a ‘vetitum’ is attached to the final decision, and this means that, in view of the circumstances of the failed marriage, either or both parties are not allowed to marry in the Catholic Church until specified conditions have been met.  The Judicial Vicar will explain what the implications are for you.  If this mandatory counselling has been required it will simply be a part of your expected marriage preparation.  The priest or deacon who is preparing you will normally liaise with the Tribunal to confirm that this restriction can be lifted if all has gone well in the arranged preparation.