Codex iuris canonici 1917 Canon 10l7. 1. A promise of marriage, whether unilateral or bilateral, called an engagement, is invalid in both forums unless it is signed by the parties or by the parish priest and the local ordinary, or at least by two witnesses. 2. If both parties or one cannot and will not write a valid document may be produced with the signatures of the parish priest and the ordinary or by the signatures of two witnesses as described in the first paragraph.  3. No right of action to petition the celebration of marriage arises from a promise of marriage, although it may be valid and although there is no just cause that excuses its implementation, but there does arise an action for such reparation of damages as may be due.

1. Matrimonii promissio sive unilateralis, sive bilateralis seu sponsalitia, irrita est pro utroque foro, nisi facta fuerit per scripturam subsignatam a partibus et vel a parocho aut loci Ordinario, vel a duobus saltem testibus. 2. Si utraque vel alterutra pars scribere nesciat vel nequeat, ad validitatem id in ipsa scriptura adnotetur et alius testis addatur qui cum parocho aut loci Ordinario vel duobus testibus, de quibus in 1, scripturam subsignet. 3. At ex matrimonii promissione, licet valida sit nec ulla iusta causa ab eadem implenda excuset, non datur actio ad petendam matrimonii celebrationem; datur tamen ad reparationem damnorum, si qua debeatur.

Codex iuris canonici 1983 Canon 1062 1. A promise of marriage, whether unilateral or bilateral, called an engagement, is governed by the particular law which the Episcopal Conference has enacted, after consideration of such customs and civil laws as may exist. 2. No right of action to request the celebration of marriage arises from a promise of marriage, but there does arise an action for such reparation of damages as may be due.

Canon 1062 1. Matrimonii promissio sive unilateralis sive bilateralis, quam sponsalia vocant, regitur iure particulari, quod ab Episcoporum conferentia, habita ratione consuetudinum et legum civilium, si quae sint, statutum fuit. 2.  Ex matrimonii promissione non datur actio ad petendam matrimonii celebrationem; datur tamen ad reparationem damnorum, si qua debeatur.

Domenico Ghirlandaio (Detail)




Pope Alexander III (1159-1181)  to the Bishop of Poitiers

(X 4.1.10)

         From the letter of our venerable brother Bishop Silvan, we gather that two noblemen of his bishopric, to wit, G. of Moustier and B. of Mortain, had sons and daughters below the age of puberty and, hoping to make peace between themselves, they reciprocally agreed to join these in mutual marriage.  The fathers and children promised to do this under oath.  Among these, G. swore on more than one occasion with his father's consent to take the other man's daughter as wife.   He now wants to make other vows, but the bishop intends to compel him to carry out his oath.  He has appealed to our hearing, and the other party has sent us her representative.  He himself has not come nor sent any response on his behalf.  Because it is perilous for G. to act contrary to his vow, we order by apostolic decree that Your Fraternity summon both parties before you as they have requested.  After having heard and considered their arguments more completely, you may admonish him as seems proper.  Then, if he does not heed your warnings, you may compel him by ecclesiastical censure to take her as a wife and treat her with marital affection, unless reasonable cause prevents this. If, indeed, he wishes to argue a reasonable cause, hear it with all diligence and zeal, and bring it to term in accord with the canons, barring appeal.  On the other hand, if after lawful warning he holds your decision in contempt, you may impose the bond of excommunication on both him and his father, if the latter has dared to support him in his crime.  You may interdict all divine services in their territory, excepting baptisms of children and penance for the dying.

 Alexander III Pictaviensi Episcopo

(X 4.1.10)

 Ex literis venerabilis fratri nostri Silvani episcopi accepimus, quod, cum duo nobiles viri sui episcopatus, G. scilicet de Monstra et B. de Mauritania filios et filias impubescentes haberent, et spe pacis inter eos conciliandae ita inter se convenerunt, quod eos mutuis adinvicem matrimoniis copularent. Et hoc tam patres, quam filii sub iuramento se promisere facturos, inter quos siquidem G. filiam alterius, consentiente patre, se semel et iterum iuravit ducere in uxorem. Quo volente ad alia vota migrare, eum episcopus compellere voluit, ut quod iuraverat adimpleret. Ipse ad audientiam nostram appellavit, et, altera parte nuncium suum ad nos destinante, ipse nec venit, nec responsalem aliquem pro se transmisit. Quia igitur praedicto G. periculosum est, contra suum iuramentum venire, fraternitati tuae per apostolica scripta praecipiendo mandamus, quatenus, cum exinde fueris requisitus, utramque partem ante tuam convoces praesentiam, et, rationibus hinc inde plenius auditis et agitatis si hoc tibi constiterit, eum moneas, et, si non acquieverit monitis, ecclesiastica censura compellas, ut ipsam, nisi rationabilis causa obstiterit, in uxorem recipiat, et maritali affectione pertractet. Si vero rationabilem causam praetendere voluerit, eam cum omni diligentia et studio audias, et fine canonico omni appellatione cessante decidas. Ceterum si legitime monitus iudicio tuo parere contemserit eum et patrem, si fovere ipsum in sua malitia praesumserit, excommunicationis cinculo astringas et in tota terra ipsorum omnia divina praeter baptisma parvulorum et poenitentias morientium prohibeas officia celebrari.

Pope Lucius III (1181-1185) to the Bishop of Rapolla

(X 4.1.17)

         Your Fraternity has asked us under what censure should be imposed on a woman who neglects the requirements of her oath and refuses to marry the man whom she swore under oath to marry.   You have also asked whether a woman whose husband has polluted her mother's bed can make other vows, in accord with her mother's wishes, while that husband is alive. We answer you briefly: Since by right (de iure) marriages must be free, the woman who swore that she would marry, should be urged rather than compelled, especially since [this kind of] compulsion often has a problematic outcome. She whose husband committed adultery and incest with her mother should not have carnal union with her husband, nor can she enter another marriage while he is alive.

Lucius III. Rapalensi Episcopo.

 Requisivit a nobis tua fraternitas, qua censura mulier compelli debeat, quae, iurisiurandi religione neglecta, nubere renuit cui se nupturam interposito iuramento firmavit. Quaesivisti etiam, utrum ea, cuius vir matris torum polluit, ad alia vota, cum mater fieri desideret, viro possit vivente transire. Ad quod tibi breviter respondemus, quod mulier, quae se nupturam iuravit, cum libera debeant esse de iure matrimonia, monenda est potius quam cogenda, maxime cum coactiones [huiusmodi] difficiles soleant exitus frequenter habere. Illa sane, cuius vir cum matre adulterium et incestum commisit, nec viro suo coniungi carnaliter, nec eo vivente cum alio matrimonium inire debebit.