Regulations for Matrimony between Relatives

Dear Catholic Exchange,

Is it licit for an adopted daughter to marry a cousin, nephew or uncle, or even a brother, as long as that relative is belonging to an entirely different set of biological parents? Please present and explain Canon Law in these regards. Thank you.

Bernard Ozbolt

Chippewa Twp., OH

Dear Mr. Ozbolt,

Peace in Christ!

Before any response, a disclaimer: If your question is practical (i.e., there’s a decision to be made), you should consult with a priest or canon lawyer.

Canon 1094: “Those who are related in the direct line or in the second degree of the collateral line by a legal relationship arising from adoption cannot contract marriage together validly.”

Blood relationships can be understood in terms of the direct line and the collateral line. The direct line refers to persons who are directly descended one from the other, such as grandparents, parents, and children. The indirect line refers to persons who have a common ancestor, such as brothers and sisters, first cousins, second cousins, etc. Brothers and sisters are related in the second degree of the collateral line.

Thus, reading canon 1094 strictly, adopted children cannot validly marry members of their immediate family. A few commentaries on canon law say that a bishop can dispense from the impediment given in canon 1094 and allow such marriages to take place.

Adopted children are generally considered in the same way as natural children, and the laws reflect the need for family members to maintain natural relationships with proper boundaries.

United in the Faith,

Eric Stoutz

Information Specialist

Catholics United for the Faith

827 North Fourth Street

Steubenville, OH 43952

800-MY-FAITH (800-693-2484)

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