Paralyzed–and denied a church wedding

Can this be true? Catholic World News reports that an Italian bishop has refused to allow a church wedding for a paraplegic man because the impotence resulting from his crippling automobile accident would be grounds for an annulment.

A spokesman for Bishop Lorenzo Chiarinelli of Viterbo explained that although the bride was aware of her fiancé’s condition, their union could not be celebrated as a Christian marriage because impotence is grounds for annulment. The couple– whose identities were not disclosed– were married in a civil ceremony. Their pastor, having been refused permission to witness the union in a Catholic ceremony, attended the civil event.

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Nunquam stercus

posted June 11, 2008 at 10:05 pm

Off and on over the years, a quote of Thomas Merton’s surfaces that addresses the subject perfectly:
“Authority has simply been abused too long in the Catholic Church and for many people it just becomes utterly stupid and intolerable to have to put up with the kind of jackassing around that is posed in God’s name. It is an insult to God Himself and in the end it can only discredit all idea of authority and obedience. There comes a point where they simply forfeit the right to be listened to.”
This makes for one of those comical if painfully sad “jackass” Catholic stories that appears periodically. Poor God, even His infinite patience must be sorely tried. Will someone please liberate bishops from the literal? Past time to grow up.

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Sally Rogers

posted June 14, 2008 at 9:52 am

I know that this will sound awful, but the reality is that the rule has an important principle behind it, one that actually is seen in the current fight about the meaning of marriage.
As a general statement, the current belief about marriage is that it is all about the fulfilment and happiness of the couple. You fall in love, you want to have a committed relationship with the person you love.
The idea of marriage as having a larger purpose seems like an affront to us, but that is what this rule reflects. It is the idea that marriage is really about having children and raising them for the good of the larger community, not just for the fulfillment of the couple. It was a rule that existed not only in the Catholic church, but in the civil law’s focus on consummation of the marriage (if it wasn’t consumated through sexual intercourse, it wasn’t a real marriage).
Canon law reflects this same idea – a marriage that cannot be consumated is not really a marriage. It may be other extremely valuable things – reflecting deep love, commitment and friendship, but it is not marriage. And canon law defines consummation in very explicit and earthy terms. Under these terms it is quite clear why “same-sex marriage” is an oxymoron under this understanding of the concept, as such couples can never consumate their marriage.
This rule is not intended to be a slap in the face of those who cannot fulfill the requirements, or a denial of their human dignity and wish for fulfilment. It is intended, perhaps at a very high cost, to reinforce the idea that we participate in marriage as an objectively real state of life.
My sympathies with this poor couple, and I do wish them every blessing.

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posted June 16, 2008 at 5:11 am

Yes, this certainly can be true.
Impotence is not only “a ground for annulment”, it actually makes an attempted marriage invalid from the beginning, see canon 1084 of the 1983 code.
This springs out of the fact that one of the defining elements of marriage is the goal of bearing offspring.
If this can be definitely ruled out from the beginning, a marriage is not possible.
This is not due to “literal” readings by bishops, it is an issue of divine institution that the church itself is bound to.

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posted June 16, 2008 at 5:23 am

Yes, this certainly can be true.
Impotence is not only “a ground for annulment”, it actually makes an attempted marriage invalid from the beginning, see canon 1084 of the 1983 code.
This springs out of the fact that one of the defining elements of marriage is the goal of bearing offspring.
If this can be definitely ruled out from the beginning, a marriage is not possible.
This is not due to “literal” readings by bishops, it is an issue of divine institution that the church itself is bound to.

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Fr. Francis Belanger

posted June 16, 2008 at 11:23 am

This is not news. Impotence is not merely “grounds for an annulment” it is an impediment to marriage and always has been. No priest may perform such a ceremony.

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posted June 21, 2008 at 11:05 am

I was a virgin when I got married. I didn’t even think about or fantasize about having sex. When I was a teen I thought that most guys (& girls) were virgins when they got married. (I went to 12 years of Catholic school.) According to the Church we are supposed to be chaste when we got married. So before I was married I wouldn’t have known if I could “perform” because I had never done it. If we faithfully followed the Church rules we would be pure virgins and not have an orgasm until our wedding night. This is called self-mastery. How healthy young guys are supposed to accomplish this is beyond me. That was never explained to me. The number of guys who remained physically pure until their wedding night is surely very very low.

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Where is love?

posted June 22, 2008 at 9:30 am

In each of these posts, I see each of you defending the doctines of the church, yet I do not see one word of love or compassion in any of these posts. All I see is pharasitical adherance to doctrine.
We are supposed to be following Jesus’ doctrine of love. I truly doubt that in divine love, Jesus would have denied the marriage. A pharisee would, but Jesus would not.

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Marie (Belleo)

posted June 26, 2008 at 7:36 am

Yes it is grounds for an annulment . What makes it a marriage ? The definition of marriage is that one is suppose to be able to have sex . There are many other grounds for annulments in the Church . I’m not the Pope so I don’t pass judgment. Today all kinds of people say they are Catholic and that includes some priests and they do not adhere to the teachings of the Church .
Now that gets me thinking. That can be dangerous for some . What about my father who remarried in his late 80’s. I really don’t think it was to have more babies . He had already had 14 and his new bride had had 18 children . I didn’t ask them if they could still have sex as it was none of my business . Maybe that could be annulled ?

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posted June 26, 2008 at 7:39 am

This is a difficut one! The woman wanted to marry the paralysed man. She knew he was impotent – how? Sex before marriage is a breaking of God’s law of love and fidelity first and foremost to Him. If the woman found out her love was impotent by breaking God’s first commandment and she went to confession, she should have wanted to change her life by not seeking pre-marital sex again. Instead, one could argue that their emotional ties to each other were as a result of a disordered emotion, arising from carnal desire in the first instance.
As to being a Pharisee, the above comment seems to suggest that Christ – who is the Son of the Living God – somehow confirmed people in their sin. He didn’t !
Love is not contrary to reason and if this couple had looked at the situation soberly, they would perhaps understand and sympathise with the Church’s view.
Equally, if the man found out he was impotent by medical means alone; than this in itself should have led to a serious sober consideration of the facts. A couple, who should remain virgins before marriage, should be encouraged to have a medical before they marry, so that the outcome of this medical may have a serious bearing on their final decidion to marry or not.
With reference to the question of impotence, as faithful catholics they should recognise the fulfilment of God’s marriage is the bearing of children. The decision not to marry for this reason, would not take anything away from their platonic friendship and affection for one another, as Christians should indeed show such affection and the emotive issue of the man’s paralysis should not be used like an emotional entrapment for the woman or vice versa.
To sacrifice the marriage for faithful fidelity to God’s Law of Love, in the fullest meaning of the word, is not only not a bad thing, but also a primary responsiblity of a Christian, without removing the natural affection we should have for one another, as a community of brothers and sisters.
For my insight into Cohabiting Couples who have grown alienated by the Church please read my article at:-
I am praying for these guys, anyhow and all of us who have to make tough decisions.
God Bless

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posted April 29, 2009 at 4:57 am

My Husband was paralyzed some years ago (after 10 years of marraige and 4 children) and is a paraplegic. We have a very loving sexual relationship. I never heard anything so un-christian and uninformed in my life! If all men had to have sperm analysis done before marraige would this bishop deny a church wedding to all those whose sperm weren’t up to standard? I also know many paraplegics that have been married in a church. I wonder where this bishop took his instruction from?

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Basil Paralysed

posted July 4, 2013 at 10:06 am

Perhaps the Catholic church doctrine stipulates so, but doctrine of Jesus accepts in His love marriage between two persons of the opposite sex, of course when the two future spouses are aware of each other’s situation, and in love and support each other in a goal
I understand fiance knew that her fiancé is impotent, not to judge, but to accept

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