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Ne Temere

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Ne Temere (literally meaning "not rashly" in Latin) was a decree (named for its opening words) of the Roman Catholic Congregation of the Council regulating the canon law of the Church about marriage for practising Roman Catholics.

The notable effect of the decree was the requirement for a non-Catholic spouse to agree to educate and raise his/her children as Roman Catholics. In some cases it was also expected for that spouse to convert to Catholicism before the marriage, to ensure compliance.

Tametsi, 1545

To the clandestinity requirements of the decree Tametsi of the Counter-Reformation Council of Trent, it reiterated the requirements that the marriage be witnessed by a priest and two other witnesses (adding that this requirement had now universal), added requirements that the priest (or bishop) being witness to the marriage must be the pastor of the parish (or the bishop of the diocese), or be the delegate of one of those, the marriage being invalid otherwise, and the marriage of a couple, neither one resident in the parish (or diocese), while valid, was illicit. It also required that marriages be registered and provided some instances in which the priest was not required.

It explicitly laid out that non-Catholics, including baptized ones, were not bound by Catholic canon law for marriage, and therefore could contract valid and binding marriages without compliance.

Ne Temere, 1908

The decree was issued under pope Pius X, 10 August 1907, and took effect on Easter 19 April 1908. This decree was voided for marriages in Germany by the subsequent decree Provida.

The result made official civil marriages difficult for lapsed Catholics in some Church-dominated nations. It also meant that, because a priest could refuse to perform mixed marriages between Roman Catholics and non-Roman Catholics, he could impose conditions such as an obligation for any children to be baptised and brought up as Catholics, and for the non-Catholic partners to submit to religious education with the aim of converting them to Catholicism.[1]

On the success of a divorce action brought by a non-Catholic spouse, the Catholic spouse was still considered married in the eyes of the Church, and could not remarry to a third party in Church.

Conflicts of laws

Before and after 1907 legal reforms across Europe were slowly creating new personal freedoms. Ne temere was widely criticised by non-Catholics for restricting choice in family matters.[2]

The issue of the Roman Catholic Church's Canon law declaring marriages invalid, which were however recognised as valid by the State, raised major political and judicial issues in Canada, especially Quebec,[1] and in Australia. In New South Wales, the legislature came within one vote of making a criminal offence the promulgation of the decree.[2]

The use of the decree to extract commitments in mixed marriages led to enforcement in the Republic of Ireland courts such as the Tilson v. Tilson judgement where Judge Gavan Duffy said

"In my opinion, an order of the court designed to secure the fulfilment of an agreement peremptorily required before a mixed marriage by the Church, whose special position in Ireland is officially recognised as the guardian of the faith of the Catholic spouse, cannot be withheld on any ground of public policy by the very State which pays homage to that Church."[3]

A similar dispute led to the Fethard-on-Sea incident. The New Ulster Movement publication "Two Irelands or one?" in 1972 contained the following recommendation regarding any future United Ireland:[4]

"The removal of the protection of the courts, granted since the Tilson judgement of 1950, to the Ne temere decree of the Roman Catholic Church. This decree which requires the partners in a mixed marriage to promise that all the children of their marriage be brought up as Roman Catholics, is the internal rule of one particular Church. For State organs to support it is, therefore, discriminatory."

Matrimonia Mixta, 1970

Ne Temere was replaced in 1970 with the more relaxed Matrimonia Mixta.[5]


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