Petrine privilege, also known as the privilege of the faith or favour of the faith, is a ground recognised in Catholic canon law allowing for dissolution by the Pope of a valid natural marriage between a baptised and a non-baptised person, for the sake of the salvation of the soul of someone who is thus enabled to marry in the Church.
In essence, it is an extension to marriages between a baptised and a non-baptised person of the logic of the Pauline privilege, the latter being dissolution of a marriage between two non-baptised persons to enable one of them, on becoming a Christian, to enter a Christian marriage.
While the Pauline privilege is so named in reference to the instructions of Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:12-15, the term "Petrine privilege", which was coined by Franz Hürth in his 1946 lectures on the Holy See's norms and practice, refers not to any rule given by Saint Peter, but to an exercise of authority by the Pope as successor of Saint Peter.
Canonists now generally consider inappropriate the term "Petrine privilege" (as opposed to "privilege or favour of the faith"), but it remains in common use.
The kind of marriage to which the "favour of the faith" applies is a valid natural marriage. Baptism is required for valid reception of the other sacraments, and because in marriage two people are involved together, if either of them is not baptised, there is no sacrament. A natural marriage, while recognised as valid, is classified as not confirmed (non ratum) and can be dissolved for the sake of the higher good of a person's faith.
If at any time, even after separation, the non-baptised party receives baptism, the marriage becomes sacramental and the "favour of the faith" no longer applies. However, if the husband and wife do not have marital intercourse after both become baptised persons, a marriage thus confirmed but not consummated (ratum sed non consummatum) can still, for a just cause, be dissolved in accordance with canon 1142 of the Code of Canon Law.
In response to the missionary growth of the 16th century, the popes (primarily Paul III, Altitudo, 1 June 1537; St Pius V, Romani Pontifices, 2 August 1571; and Gregory XIII, Populis, 25 January 1585) developed new norms in order to deal with polygamists, whereby a number of new "privileges" were approved that went well beyond those provided for by the Pauline privilege. The 1917 Code of Canon Law extended these to the whole Church, and the great increase of mixed marriages and of divorce in the 20th century has greatly increased pastoral needs in relation to marriage. Accordingly, the governing norms have continued to undergo development.
A precedent was set when in 1924 Pope Pius XI dissolved the 1919 marriage of Gerard G. Marsh (unbaptised) and Frances E. Groom (a baptised Anglican) of Helena, Montana, who were civilly divorced a year later. This was done to favour Marsh's marriage to Lulu LaHood, a Catholic. Cases became so numerous that, in 1934, the Holy Office issued "Norms for the Dissolution of Marriage in Favour of the Faith by the Supreme Authority of the Sovereign Pontiff".These applied even when the baptised party was a Catholic who had married a non-baptised person after obtaining a dispensation so as to enter into a valid natural marriage. On 6 December 1973, new norms were issued revising those of 1934. These in turn were replaced by a revised text on 30 April 2001.
The petitioner (one of the parties in the marriage to be dissolved):
- if baptised and Catholic at the time of the marriage in question, must intend to marry a baptised Christian (soon after or in the future).
- if non-baptised or baptised in another Christian Church, must either
- Bruno Primetshofer, "Petrine Privilege
- Randall D. Noller, "Marriage, Divorce, and the Pauline Privilege"
- Eileen F. Stuart, Dissolution and Annulment of Marriage by the Catholic Church (Federation Press 1994 ISBN 978-1-86287136-6), pp. 108-114
- Orlando O. Espín, James B. Nickoloff (editors), An Introductory Dictionary of Theology and Religious Studies (Liturgical Press 2007 ISBN 978-0-81465856-7), p. 1036
- Arlington Diocese, "Dissolution of the Bond of Marriage – Favor of the Faith- Petrine Privilege"
- Code of Canon Law, canon 1142
- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Norms on the preparation of the process for the dissolution of the marriage bond in favour of the faith"
- Diocese of Covington Tribunal, "Petition for Favor of the Faith – Petrine privilege"
- Diocese of Venice in Florida, "Application form for Petrine Privilege Dissolution "in favor of the Faith"
- Archdiocese of Chicago Metropolitan Tribunal FAQ: Question 40
- Noonan, John T., JR. A Church that Can and Cannot Change. University of Notre Dame Press. Notre Dame, Indiana. 2005. Chapters 24-26.
- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican, Norms on the Preparation of the Process for the Dissolution of the Marriage Bond in Favour of the Faith, 30 April 2001