Further it was laid down that no man should give his daughter or female relative to anyone without priestly blessing. If he does otherwise, it should not be adjudged a proper marriage (ut legitimum conubium) but like the union of fornicators (ut fornicatorium).


Prelim draft: Marriages are not to be secret but open, in the face of the church (in facie ecclesie).

c. 18.   No believer...is to make marriages in secret, but should marry in the Lord after receiving blessing from a priest. So if a priest is fouind to have joined people in secret, he is to be suspended from office for three years.


What sort of people ought to contract marriage? A man may not contract marriage with any blood relation of his former wife, similarly neither should a woman with the blood relative of her former husband. And no man should contract with the daughter of the baptizer or of the one who took him up, whether she be born before or after. And let not any marriage be contracted without proclamation repeated three times in the church, nor if the persons are not knownBut people should only be joined in matrimony publicly in the face of the church (nec...nisi publice in facie ecclesie) with a priest present. And if it is done otherwise, let them not be admitted anywhere in church without special permission of the bishop. No married persons are permitted to set off on a journey involving pilgrimage to distant places until they have made public the couple's mutual consent. Saving in all things [the honor and privilege of the holy Roman church].

[Tr. from Councils & Synods, I (1981) adapted from C. Donahue]

d. IV LATERAN COUNCIL , 1215, c. 51.

FOURTH LATERAN COUNCIL, 1215, c. 51 (=X 4.3.3), in G. Alberigo et al., Conciliorum oecumenicorum decreta 258 (3d. ed. 1972)

The 51st canon of the Fourth Lateran Council under Innocent III (1198-1216)

"Although the prohibition of the conjugal bond has been revoked in the last three degrees, in other degrees we want it strictly observed.(1) Wherefore, following in the footsteps of our predecessors, we strictly forbid clandestine marriages, also forbidding any priest from presuming to participate in them. Therefore, extending generally to all places the custom of some places, we decree that when marriages are to be contracted, they shall be proclaimed publicly in the church by the priests, and that an appropriate time be set within which anyone who wishes to and can may bring forward a lawful impediment. Regardless of whether this happens, the same priests shall investigate whether any impediment exists. When a probable conjecture appears against the joining, let the contract expressly be forbidden until it can clearly be established by documentary evidence what ought to be done about it.

"If anyone presumes to enter into this kind of clandestine or interdicted marriage in the forbidden degrees of kinship, even if unknowingly, the progeny born of such marriage shall be deemed illegitimate, having no assistance from the ignorance of their parents, even though those who so contract seem not to be privy to the knowledge or rather pretend ignorance. Similarly, off-spring shall be deemed illegitimate if both parents, knowing of a lawful impediment, despite all interdict, presume to contract in the face of the church.

"Clearly any parish priest who fails to prohibit such unions or any regular priest [i.e., a member of a religious order] who presumes to becomes involved with them ought to be suspended from office for three years and should be more severely punished if the gravity of the fault demands it. And also let a fitting penance be imposed on those who enter into such marriages even if in a permitted degree [of kinship]. Moreover, if anyone maliciously interposes an impediment to a lawful joining, let him not escape ecclesiastical sanction."

1. Lateran IV, c. 50, had reduced the degrees of kinship within which marriage was prohibited from seven to four, i.e. previously marriage had been prohibited among sixth cousins and anyone more closely related; the Council reduced it to third cousins.

Note to the student: The prohibition of clandestine marriage and the concomitant requirement of the publication of banns was repeated in various forms in over thirty pieces of English conciliar legislation and episcopal decrees between 1200 and 1342. Several of these were collected and glossed in his Provinciale by the great English canonist William Lyndwood, who tells us that he finished his work on the Vigil of Pentecost, 1430.

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