Ne Temere

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Ne Temere was a decree issued in 1907 by the Roman Catholic Congregation of the Council regulating the canon law of the Church regarding marriage for practising Catholics. It is named for its opening words, which literally mean "lest rashly" in Latin.[1]


The decree was issued under Pope Pius X, 10 August 1907, and took effect on Easter 19 April 1908. Marriages in Germany were exempted by the subsequent decree Provida.[2]

Differences from Tametsi[edit]

To the clandestinity requirements of the decree Tametsi of the Counter-Reformation Council of Trent, it reiterated the requirements that the marriage be witnessed by a priest and two other witnesses (adding that this requirement was now universal), added requirements that the priest (or bishop) being witness to the marriage must be the pastor of the parish (or the bishop of the diocese), or be the delegate of one of those, the marriage being invalid otherwise, and the marriage of a couple, neither one resident in the parish (or diocese), while valid, was illicit. It also required that marriages be registered.[3]

On the success of a divorce action brought by a non-Catholic spouse, the Catholic spouse was still considered married in the eyes of the Church, and could not remarry to a third party in church.

It explicitly laid out that non-Catholics, including baptized ones, were not bound by Catholic canon law for marriage, and therefore could contract valid and binding marriages without compliance.[3]

Conflicts of laws[edit]

Before and after 1907, legal reforms across Europe were slowly creating new personal freedoms. Ne Temere was widely criticised by non-Catholics for restricting choice in family matters.[4]

The result made official civil marriages difficult for lapsed Catholics in some Church-dominated nations.[citation needed] It also meant that, because a priest could refuse to perform mixed marriages between Roman Catholics and non-Roman Catholics, he could impose conditions such as an obligation for any children to be baptised and brought up as Catholics, and for the non-Catholic partners to submit to religious education with the aim of converting them to Catholicism.[3]

The issue of the Roman Catholic Church's canon law declaring invalid marriages that were recognised as valid by the State raised major political and judicial issues in Canada, especially Quebec,[5] and in Australia. In New South Wales in 1924, the legislature came within one vote of criminalizing the promulgation of the decree.[6]

The use of the decree to extract commitments in mixed marriages led to state-sanctioned enforcements in the Irish courts, such as the 1952 Tilson v. Tilson judgement, where Judge Gavan Duffy, then President of the High Court, said:

In my opinion, an order of the court designed to secure the fulfilment of an agreement peremptorily required before a mixed marriage by the Church, whose special position in Ireland is officially recognised as the guardian of the faith of the Catholic spouse, cannot be withheld on any ground of public policy by the very State which pays homage to that Church.[7]

A similar dispute led to the 1957 Fethard-on-Sea boycott. The New Ulster Movement publication "Two Irelands or one?" in 1972 contained the following recommendation regarding any future United Ireland:[8]

The removal of the protection of the courts, granted since the Tilson judgement of 1950, to the Ne temere decree of the Roman Catholic Church. This decree which requires the partners in a mixed marriage to promise that all the children of their marriage be brought up as Roman Catholics, is the internal rule of one particular Church. For State organs to support it is, therefore, discriminatory.

BBC Radio Ulster examined the decree and its impact on a single Belfast family, with a mixed Presbyterian and Catholic marriage performed in a Presbyterian church, in its 2010 documentary Mixing Marriages.[9]

Matrimonia Mixta (1970)[edit]

Ne Temere was replaced in 1970 with the slightly more relaxed Matrimonia mixta, given motu proprio by Pope Paul VI. Section 15 revoked an automatic "latae sententiae" excommunication for certain offences, but they remained offences.[10] The 1970 apostolic letter relaxes the Catholic clergy requirement and allows for dispensations from a Catholic priest so long as the Catholic in the couple agrees to maintain loyalty to the Catholic faith and so long as both parents raise and baptize their children as Catholics.[11]


  1. ^ "Ne Temere". Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  2. ^ "Mixed Marriages". Catholic Encyclopedia. 1911. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "On Marriage". Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  4. ^ "MARRIAGE LAW—THE "NE TEMERE" DECREE. (Hansard, 28 February 1911)". Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  5. ^ John S. Moir. “Canadian Protestant Reaction to the Ne Temere Decree”, (PDF) CCHA Studv Sessions, 48(1981), 78-90. (Retrieved 2018-07-22.)
  6. ^ Brigid Moore. Sectarianism in NSW: the Ne Temere legislation 1924-1925, Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society, 9 (1987), 3-15.(subscription required)
  7. ^ Irish Law Times Report LXXXVI 1952, pages 49–73.
  8. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Issues: Politics: New Ulster Movement (1972) 'Two Irelands or One?', May 1972". Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  9. ^ "How a mother's children were taken away forever". 7 November 2010. Retrieved 25 September 2017 – via
  10. ^ "The Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church". Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  11. ^ "Matrimonia mixta (March 31, 1970) - Paul VI". Retrieved 25 September 2017.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]