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Pauline Privilege

What is a Pauline Privilege? The concept of a Pauline Privilege is rooted in St. Paul's First letter to the Corinthians, "To the rest I say - I and not the Lord - that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, and as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you." 1 Cor 7: 12-15 The idea is that a valid marriage between two unbaptized persons ("unbelievers") can be dissolved in favor of the faith of the one who converts to a Christian religion and wants to remarry. 

Pauline Privilege is possible for those marriages in which all of the following conditions are met:

  1. There is a valid marriage between two unbaptized persons.

  2. One of the spouses is subsequently validly baptized (or desires Christian baptism).

  3. The unbaptized spouse refuses either to cohabit physically, or to cohabit peacefully "without giving offense to the Creator."

How long does it take? Once we have received the petition with all the accompanying documents, it may take four months to process; however, the Tribunal absolutely must have the participation of the Respondent and witnesses in order to be morally certain that neither party has ever been baptized. A Pauline Privilege absolutely requires the help of one's former spouse.

How much does it cost? Since August of 2014, there is no longer any fee for any type of annulment. The elimination of fees makes the application for an annulment accessible to all people and avoids the impression that one can buy an annulment. Although there are no fees, you should be regularly tithing to your parish, as the Bible commands. ​Like the ministry of Jesus was funded by the women who followed Him, so too the good work of the mission of the Catholic Church - including annulments - happens partly because of the obligation we have to give a percentage of our income to God.

The Petitions must be accompanied by the following:

  1. A copy of the civil marriage license/certificate for the marriage. Each state or nation will have a different form. We are looking for the form that provides statistical information, in particular which marriage this was for each party, 1st, 2nd, etc. It should also contain the name of the minister or official who performed the ceremony as well as his or her title.

  2. A copy of the Final Decree of Judgment of Dissolution, Divorce or Nullity issued by the civil court terminating the civil aspect of the marriage. Each state or nation will have a different form. We are looking for the form that specifies the date on which the marriage is terminated by the civil authority. The copy must bear a stamp or imprint showing that the Final Decree or Judgment has been entered by the court. (We do not want martial settlement agreements or copies of court orders regarding property.)


No Petition is to be sent to the Office of Canonical Services unless accompanied by each of these documents. The absence of any of these documents will prevent the case from being processed. In such a situation, the Office of Canonical Services reserves the option of returning the Petition to the Advocate without further action. If a document truly cannot be provided, the Petitioner must supply a complete written explanation for the inability to provide the document - why is it impossible to provide the document (e.g., "the church burned down," or "the marriage was never recorded civilly or in the church") and how the Petitioner knows the event actually took place (e.g., "I must have been baptized because all my siblings were, and I made my First Communion"). If the Petitioner is unable to provide a document, simply write a paragraph explaining why.

No Petition is to be sent to the Office of Canonical Services without completing that portion of the Petition concerning the current whereabouts of the Respondent because the participation of the Respondent is essential in proving non-baptism and ascertaining the possibility of reconciliation of the spouses.

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