Catholicism and Cousin Marriage

A common misconception is that cousin marriages are forbidden in the Catholic Church. It is, in fact, restricted. However, first cousins may marry provided they obtain "dispensation", or special permission from the Diocese, as long as the civil laws of the state allow such marriage.

It appears that dispensation is nearly always granted, unless the preceeding generations also intermarried. Still, other factors may prevent a couple from being given permission to marry. In instances where an influential family objection threatens to bring scandal to the church, or where a priest is personally biased against or ignorant of the church law regarding such marriages, a couple may need to bypass the priest and implore dispensation directly from the diocese, or marry in another parish.

One may wonder that a priest could be ignorant of the church's laws regarding cousin marriage. This may be particularly true for priests who have served for many decades. Prior to 1983, even 2nd cousins were required to receive dispensation to marry. Although still occasionally granted, such marriages were discouraged within the Catholic church.

The history of Canon Law and consanguinity is one that has changed periodically as far back as 600 BC. A more thorough article covering this history will be made available in the future.

If you are Catholic and are having a difficult time obtaining dispensation, please contact us via the email form in the "About" section. Your letter will be forwarded to Amy Strickland, a Canon Lawyer who serves as a consultant for C.U.D.D.L.E. International.