Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A canonical comment on the case of Harm and Edeltraut Klueting

A Catholic married couple in Germany, Harm and Edeltraut Klueting, has received papal permission for him to be ordained to priesthood and for her to enter religious life. It would be nice if we had all the relevant facts on this interesting case (the Vatican Press Office seems to know little about it), but until then, we can at least correct one widely repeated mistake: this couple did not receive the pope’s “permission to remain married” as several secular news sites put it. A consummated marriage between two baptized persons can be dissolved only by death. So the pope did not need to approve this couple’s “staying married”.

Rather, the pope doubtless dispensed him from the impediment that marriage is for the reception of holy Orders (
1983 CIC 1042, 1°) and her from the obstacle that marriage is for entry into religious life (1983 CIC 643 § 1, 1°). Before these dispensations were granted, one can be sure, the couple demonstrated full awareness of the rights they were surrendering (such as that of conjugal living, per 1983 CIC 1135 and 1151). In any case, while such dispensations are not common, neither are they unheard of, even in modern times. See, e.g., CLSA, Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions (1984) 19-23.