Alexander III to the Bishop of Poitiers  Compilatio prima 4.13.3 (X 4.13.2)


Spinello Aretino, Pope Alexander III entering Rome (ca. 1400)

P., the bearer of the present letter, coming to us, has presented to us Your Fraternity's letter, from whose contents we gather that he took a certain woman as wife.  But certain men persuaded him not to have carnal relations with her for a month after he had betrothed her.  It happened, however, as he has said, that her father ordered his wife, the betrothed girl's mother, to sleep in his bed, and there, incited by the Devil, he had relations with her.

A month later, the father and other relatives forced him to consummate the marriage with his betrothed, which he did not want to do until he had spoken with you about this matter.  When you had heard his confession, you sent him with your letter to the Apostolic See.  You asked if he could have as wife the woman with whose mother he had relations, and what penance was to be enjoined on him.

We reply to your inquiry as follows:  If this sin is still secret, the marriage cannot be rescinded because it was contracted publicly.  But if it is public that he knew his betrothed's mother, and he never had carnal union with his betrothed, a somewhat greater penance should be imposed on him than for adultery.  After he has completed it, he can, with a dispensation, contract marriage to another, and the betrothed can marry another.  Her father, if he wishes, can keep this matter a secret.

But if he knew the betrothed, either before or after he knew the mother, he can never have her or another as wife.

The italicized text was excised by Raymond de Peņafort when he compiled Gregory IX's Decretales (Liber extra)