Catholic priest: “Sorry, I cannot marry you.”

Yesterday, I was listening to Catholic talk radio and the “delicate” subject material below was discussed. Some may be offended by this post, but God is the Lord of “delicate” and difficult circumstances as well as the politely acceptable.

Priest turns away engaged couple

Bob and Jennifer are both dutiful young Catholics and are planning to get married, but there’s one issue; Bob is sexually impotent due to a medical problem. Jennifer is fully aware of Bob’s condition, but loves him and is looking forward to marrying him. The couple meets with their parish priest to initiate the wedding ceremony plans. When the priest asks the couple if they are agreeable to having children (a mandatory requirement in Catholic sanctioned marriage), Bob candidly divulges his problem. The priest responds that he is restrained from marrying the couple, citing Canon law # 1084 which forbids marriage in a case where sexual union cannot be consummated. Bob and Jennifer look at each other in disbelief and angrily exit the church. Back in Bob’s car, the two reaffirm their decision to marry, in front of a civil magistrate if necessary, and also discuss leaving the Catholic church.

The above is a fictional scenario, but it represents the reality of what some Catholics seeking marriage have encountered. As Catholic priest, Paul McDonald, stated on the “Calling All Catholics” program broadcast on 10/12/17, priests are expressly forbidden by Canon Law from marrying someone who is physically incapable of consummating a marriage. See the article far below for detailed information.

Catholicism has some very strange teachings with regards to marriage, which is understandable given they were all formulated by celibate men. The church has always presented marriage as a much-less desirable option in comparison to a celibate religious vocation. The supreme role of marriage, according to church thinking, is to bring more little Catholics into the world and nothing must interfere with that. The use of any non-abortifacient contraceptives such as condoms is strictly forbidden under pain of mortal sin and eternal damnation. The church takes the contraceptive ban to dizzying, reason-defying heights by forbidding the use of condoms even when one of the marriage partners has a sexually communicable disease.

Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, “Humanae Vitae,” reaffirmed Catholicism’s ban on all forms of contraception, to the chagrin of church liberals. Most traditionalists view “Humanae Vitae” as an infallible declaration, but the vast majority of Catholics thumb their nose at it. Catholic sources report that “82 percent of American Catholics say birth control is ‘morally acceptable,’ and 98 percent of U.S. Catholic women of childbearing age have used contraception at some point while they’ve been sexually active.” “Humanae Vitae” precipitated a crisis of faith among many American Catholics, who reasonably conjectured, “If the church is wrong about contraception, what else is it wrong about?” The church recommends unreliable natural family planning (NFP) aka the “rhythm method” for married couples who seek to limit pregnancies, but members logically ask why NFP is allowed and not contraception? The bottom-line intent is the same and condoms and other non-abortifacient contraceptives are much more reliable than NFP.

Without going into great detail, the church also teaches that any sexual activity in a marital union outside of intercourse is sinful. See here. Imagine, if you can stomach it, contrite Catholic wives confessing their “forbidden” sexual activities with their husbands to a celibate priest.


Catholicism’s formal ban on marriage for the sexually impotent is as wrong as the day is long. It’s interesting to me that the Catholic church can’t bring itself to act graciously toward a couple in need, but had/has no problem jumping through thousands of hoops covering for pedophile priests. As Catholics study their religion ever more closely, they will increasingly find that it takes the form of religious calculus with its 1752 Canon Laws and 2865 numbered paragraphs in its official catechism. In startling contrast, the Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone is so simple even a child can understand it. Forgo complex religious legalism. Accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior by faith alone!

“Marriage is to be held in honor among all [that is, regarded as something of great value], and the marriage bed undefiled [by immorality or by any sexual sin]” – Hebrews 13:4 AMP

Why the Catholic Church Cannot Marry the Impotent

21 thoughts on “Catholic priest: “Sorry, I cannot marry you.”

  1. It’s irrational and immoral; it’s madness; it’s arrogance and meanness to interfere with personal matters between a husband and wife that are truly sacred. It makes me fighting mad. This institution twists everything, faith and morals. Tom, all of this is wicked. I hate and despise this. It is one thing to offer pastoral counsel or suggestions for consideration, but quite another to legislate. May the Lord deliver Catholics from evil! It’s Pharasaism gone to seed. No!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Maria! Yes, I was VERY angered as well as I listened to the podcast of the priest defending the church’s position on this. It’s revolting. Sickening. There’s no doubt that the vast majority of Catholics simply ignore these kinds of dictatorial mandates and acts of intrusion and understandably so. But the poor souls have no Foundation, no Shepherd.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If I had nothing but time on my hands I would like to see what other unpublicized gems are in the Canon Codes, but I don’t have the time and I imagine I would need a Canon lawyer to decipher them.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re always teaching me something new, brother Tom! I had no idea that there were so many laws, including the one about childbearing within the RCC. When I was pregnant with Kayliegh I got really sick, I haven’t been able to have anymore children. It’s heart breaking to hear that someone in a worse situation, worse I say because I’ve been blessed beyond measure by my sweet little girl, would be told not to marry. When we stop traveling we hope to look into adoption (my husband works in the NICU as a RT and sees many beautiful little babies made in Gods image taken into custody of the state, it’s always hard for him to not say ‘I’ll take the baby!) These couples who can’t bear their own children could so easily be a family for the orphans! But I am thankful, and I praise God for His sovereignty, that these couples might turn away from the RCC. It would be a beautiful testimony for any couple that they found Christ due to their desire to marry!

    I’m curious though, why do they call these laws and rules of theirs ‘Canon’? Surely they don’t believe they’re writing scripture so they?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sister, Thanks for your testimony of faith and gratefulness for your family and your determination to follow the Lord’s will for your life! Thanks, also for your words of encouragement regarding this post. There are no doubt MANY who have turned to Christ after being discouraged by institutional religion. “So many laws” is exactly right! The RCC needs many canon lawyers to try to keep it all straight. The average Catholic in the pew is unaware of most of it. I’ve been unable to determine how many canon lawyers the church employs but I’m sure the number is in the tens of thousands worldwide. RE: meaning of “Canon.” Good question! It comes from a Latin word meaning “rule” or “standard.”

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow those are some bizzare traditions and canonical law in Romanism. Really weird…and to top it all, things like this being confessed to celibate priests…recipe for disaster if you ask me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Jim. Yeah, just more examples of how Catholicism gets way, way into the undefendable weeds on some issues. It goes without saying that there’s MANY liberal priests who flout canon law who would marry a couple with a impotentcy problem and also bless the use of non-abortifacient contraceptives. It’s also very clear why extremely few Catholics go to confession despite the threat of mortal sin…few are comfortable confessing their most private, embarrassing sins to a celibate man who possibly may be involved in criminal deviancy.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m very thankful for the no-nonsense condemnation of pagan practices in Catholicism on this site, but I must note that the rejection of artificial birth control is actually the traditional Protestant/Evangelical position–that is, until the 20th century. One only needs to read Luther or Calvin or essentially any Protestant up through the early 20th century to see the firm Bible based rejection of artificial contraception universally taught by the Bible believing Protestant Church.

    This is one issue where I have to commend the conservative Catholics for sticking to the historic Christian faith (and the faith of our Evangelical forefathers for that matter) better than the majority of Bible believing Evangelicals. The sad reality is that it was under the sway of creeping liberalism in the early/mid 20th century that Protestants/Evangelicals jettisoned the culturally unpopular practice of allowing God to be Lord over their reproductive lives.

    Further, while artificial birth control methods are illicit per the historic Protestant faith, it appears that limited use of NFP (i.e. as morally necessary for the health and safety of mother and child) is compatible with the historic Evangelical beliefs. However, the broad use of NFP often advocated or allowed even among traditional Catholics is effectively contraception as you correctly note (not to mention, a blatant violation of 1 Corinthians 7:5).

    Finally, I must note that while I do believe this is an important issue, there are numerous fine believers I know who take the opposite position from myself on this matter, and I have no doubt that most if not all these individuals are far better Christians than myself. God Bless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. William, thanks for the comments. There really is not a clear Biblical mandate against non-abortifacient contraceptives. John MacArthur stated:

      Nothing in Scripture prohibits married couples from practicing birth control, either for a limited time to delay childbearing, or permanently when they have borne children and determine that their family is complete … In our viewpoint, birth control is biblically permissible. At the same time, couples should not practice birth control if it violates their consciences (Romans 14:23)—not because birth control is inherently sinful, but because it is always wrong to violate the conscience. The answer to a wrongly informed conscience is not to violate it, but rather to correct and rightly inform one’s conscience with biblical truth.

      It’s obviously true that the Protestant consensus changed in regards to contraception, but the same could be said of the once favored notion of the state church.


  5. Thanks Tom, I appreciate MacArthur’s strong stand for truth on numerous issues, but on this matter I can’t ignore the faithful Scriptural interpretations of the Evangelicals for hundreds of years prior to MacArthur (even if I may not take as extreme of view as the seriousness of the sin involved in the use of artificial contraception as Calvin and many others did).

    The following quote from the “Purely Presbyterian” website is a helpful summary of the historic protestant view on the sin of Onanism:
    [Begin Quote]The lewdness of this fact was composed of lust, of envy, and murder; the first [lust] appears, in that he went rashly upon it, it seems he stayed not till night, for the time of privacy for such a purpose, else the bed would have been named as well as the ground; the second [envy] is plain by the text, he envied at the honor of his dead brother, and therefore would not be father of any child, that should be reputed his, and not his own; the third [murder], in that there is a seminal vital virtue, which perishes if the seed be spilled; and by doing this to hinder the begetting of a living child, is the first degree of murder that can be committed, and the next unto it is the marring of conception, when it is made, and causing of abortion: now such acts are noted in the scripture as horrible crimes, because, otherwise many might commit them, and not know the evil of them: it is conceived, that his brother Er before, was his brother in evil thus far, that both of them satisfied their sensuality against the order of nature, and therefore the Lord cut them off both alike with sudden vengeance; which may be for terror to those Popish Onanites who condemn marriage, and live in sodomitical impurity, and to those, who, in marriage, care not for the increase of children (which is the principle use of the conjugal estate) but for the satisfying of their concupiscence.
    -Westminster Annotations and Commentary on the Whole Bible (1657), Genesis 38:9.

    Likewise, former delegates to the Synod of Dort in their commentary recognized the implications of the 6th commandment in Onan’s act:
    this was even as much, as if he had, in a manner, pulled forth the fruit out of the mother’s womb, and destroyed it.
    -Dutch Annotations on the Whole Bible (1637), Genesis 38:9

    Notice it says “as if he had, in a manner…” and is not claiming that the seed alone is a human being. They knew that it took both the man and the woman together to create a human being. Spilling the seed is a kind of murder in the sense that it is a sin against the 6th commandment, not in the sense that abortion or other taking of human life is literally murder. Both Dort and Westminster commentaries on this passage should be understood in this sense.[End quote]

    Note: I’m not familiar with the group that created the above linked article, so I can’t say that I endorse their overall positions, but I did find that their webpage provides a brief and helpful overview of the historic Evangelical and Christian perspective on Artificial Contraception.

    Other historic Protestant commentaries also focus on the violation of the 7th commandment (vs. the violation of the 6th commandment) entailed by the use of artificial contraception. I assume, though, that we’ll have to agree to disagree on the belief that artificial contraception is sinful. Despite our differences, thanks again for your excellent work on this site.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. William, thanks for the comments. Yes, we’ll have to agree to disagree on the interpretation of the “sin of Onan.” And as I mentioned, modern solidly orthodox theologians disagree with the early Reformers on other points as well.


  6. I’m so sad how this doctrine is being misconstrued. The couple needs only be “open to life” and willing to embrace any children God chooses to give them. Miracles can happen where someone who is infertile could end up conceiving … there are so many examples in the Bible including Mary’s own parents.
    A priest would never deny marriage to someone who is sterile.
    Birth control, however, is a direct violation of a couple’s requirement to be open to the life God blesses them with. It represses the natural cycles and hormones God instituted in order to bring children into the world. Even condoms are a direct action against the bringing forth of life through the action of spousal love.
    NFP is completely different – there is no direct action against the of bringing new life into the world, since the couple is not violating the sacredness of sex. It is also only supposed to be used in extreme necessity such as financial crisis.


    1. RE: I’m so sad how this doctrine is being misconstrued.

      And I am sad that you don’t know what your own church teaches on the subject of impotence and marriage. See the two Catholic articles below:

      Impotence, infertility and marriage
      By Fr. William Saunders

      Why The Church Cannot Marry the Impotent

      Before you send in rebuttals, you need to educate yourself on your own church’s teachings. But what I’m most sad about is that you’re attempting to merit your salvation via sacramental grace and good works rather than believing the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Repent of sin and accept Jesus Christ by faith alone. Your sacraments and alleged merit cannot save you.


      1. I don’t follow your reasoning. In your initial response to my post, you wrote, “I’m so sad how this doctrine is being misconstrued.” The post in question was entirely about engaged couples dealing with an impotency problem. NOWHERE in my post was infertility or sterility mentioned. When I provided RCC sources confirming the church’s ban on marriage when the male partner is impotent, you write back saying, “I was correct in that someone who is sterile can marry.” Again, who mentioned anything about sterility?

        Nevertheless, whether a couple is dealing with impotency or sterility is none of the priest’s business (or any other issue for that matter). Celibate priests and bishops have enough trouble staying out of the headlines these days without dictating to a couple whether they are able to marry or not.

        By the way, why put so much effort into defending your church when your pope says even atheists can merit Heaven if they follow their conscience and are “good”? Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and forsake your false church with it’s false Gospel which says every religionist and atheist can merit their salvation. That is (c)hristianity without Christ.


  7. Another way to view this is to say that if/when the impotent go through a wedding (such as by going to a justice of the peace), they are not married in the sight of God. Intercourse is a necessary step in the two becoming “one flesh.” If they can’t have intercourse, they cannot become one-flesh. That is the root of the Catholic position.

    From one perspective, it does seem harsh that the Church won’t participate in the weddings of these couples. I can see how it could be taken as cold and heartless. On the other hand, in principle it can’t say that something is true that is in fact not true. Just because couples have marriage certificates, it does not automatically follow in all cases that they are married in God’s sight. I’m sure there are cases in which you would agree. Same-sex couples, for example. The reason they are not married in God’s sight–even though they have civil marriage certificates–is more than the fact that they are the same sex. It is that they cannot have coitus, sexual intercourse.


    1. RE: Consummation

      Legal historians scratch their heads over the origins of consummation as a requirement of a legally valid marriage. If a man withheld the fact of his impotence prior to a marriage, it would make sense that the woman would be able to invalidate the marriage. Coitus legally defined marriage in previous eras both for the protection of the female and the interests of the male re: legal heirs. Elaborate “bedding ceremonies” once took place, with the participation of the church. Do you advocate returning to those rituals? The woman’s family witnessed the consummation and kept the bloody sheets as proof of her virginity in case the man later accused her of fornication as grounds for annulment. The Roman Catholic church has major problems at this juncture without busying itself denying marriage to a consenting woman and impotent man. The RCC strains at gnats like this, but swallows camels (most importantly, by teaching a false gospel of sacramental grace and merit).


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