Ratum sed non consummatum

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The term ratum sed non consummatum (Latin: ratified but not consummated) refers to a specific type of marriage in Catholic matrimonial canon law. If a matrimonial celebration takes place (ratification) but the spouses have not yet engaged in intercourse (consummation), then the marriage is said to be a marriage ratum sed non consummatum. The Tribunal of the Roman Rota has exclusive competence to dispense from marriages ratum sed non consummatum,[1] which can only be granted for a "just reason".[2] This process should not be confused with the process for declaring the nullity of marriage, which is treated of in a separate title of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

ratum sed non consummatum vs. Declaration of Nullity

The favor of dispensation from a marriage ratum sed non consumatum is an inherently administrative procedure, while the process for obtaining a Declaration of Nullity (often misleadingly termed "annulment") is an inherently judicial one.[3] In a ratum the valid marriage bond is dispensed from, while in a Declaration of Nullity a marriage is declared to have been null from its beginning. A ratum ends, for a just reason, a marriage that truly is (although never irrevocably and sacramentally "sealed" by consummation) while a Declaration of Nullity juridically declares that a marriage never truly was in the eyes of Catholic theology and matrimonial law.


The 1917 Code of Canon Law stipulated two cases in which a marriage ratum sed non consummatum may be dissolved:

  1. if one of the parties takes solemn vows in a religious order or
  2. a dispensation is issued by the Holy See.[4]

This has been changed by the 1983 Code of Canon Law; a marriage ratum sed non consummatum can now be dissolved only by a dispensation from the Pope.[5]

This administrative process for granting the favor of a dispensation was formerly the exclusive competence of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.[6] Since 1 October 2011[7] it has been the exclusive competence of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.[8]


  1. ^ MP Quaerit semper, Vatican.va, accessed 7-7-2014
  2. ^ Code of Canon Law Annotated, pg. 1327 (commentary on canon 1698)
  3. ^ Code of Canon Law Annotated, pg. 1326 (commentary on Book VII, Part III, Title I, Chapter III)
  4. ^ forgottonbooks.com, accessed 7-7-2014; Association, Polish Lawyers'. (2013). pp. 156-7. Studies in Polish and Comparative Law: A Symposium of Twelve Articles. London: Forgotten Books. (Original work published 1945)
  5. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 1698 §2
  6. ^ Code of Canon Law Annotated, pg. 1327 (commentary on canon 1698)
  7. ^ MP Quaerit semper, Art. 4, Vatican.va, accessed 15 July 2014
  8. ^ MP Quaerit semper, Articles 1 & 2, Vatican.va, accessed 15 July 2014


  • Caparros, Ernest, Michel Thériault, Jean Thorn, and Hélène Aubé, Code of Canon Law Annotated: Prepared under the Responsibility of the Instituto Martín De Azpilcueta, Montréal: Wilson & Lafleur/Midwest Theological Forum, 2004.
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