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Ne Temere was a decree issued in 1907 by the Roman Catholic Congregation of the Council regulating the canon law of the Church regarding marriage for practising Catholics. It is named for its opening words, which literally mean "lest rashly" in Latin.[1]


The decree was issued under Pope Pius X, 10 August 1907, and took effect on Easter 19 April 1908. Marriages in Germany were exempted by the subsequent decree Provida.[2]

Differences from Tametsi[edit]

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 was 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.[3]

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.

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.[3]

Conflicts of laws[edit]

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.[4]

The result made official civil marriages difficult for lapsed Catholics in some Church-dominated nations.[citation needed] 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.[3]

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,[5] and in Australia. In New South Wales, the legislature came within one vote of criminalizing the promulgation of the decree.[6]

The use of the decree to extract commitments in mixed marriages led to state-sanctioned enforcements in the Irish courts, such as the Tilson v. Tilson judgement, where Judge Gavan Duffy, then President of the High Court, 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."[7]

A similar dispute led to the Fethard-on-Sea boycott. The New Ulster Movement publication "Two Irelands or one?" in 1972 contained the following recommendation regarding any future United Ireland:[8]

"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."

BBC Radio Ulster examined the decree and its impact on a single Belfast family, with a mixed Presbyterian and Catholic marriage performed in a Presbyterian church, in its 2010 documentary Mixing Marriages.[9]

Matrimonia Mixta (1970)[edit]

Ne Temere was replaced in 1970 with the slightly more relaxed Matrimonia Mixta, given by motu proprio. Section 15 revoked an automatic "latae sententiae" excommunication for certain offences, but they remained offences.[10]


  1. ^ "Ne Temere". Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 11 February 2016. 
  2. ^ "Mixed Marriages". Catholic Encyclopedia. 1911. Retrieved 11 February 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c Ne temere text online
  4. ^ British parliament debate, 1911 (Hansard)
  5. ^ http://www.umanitoba.ca/colleges/st_pauls/ccha/Back%20Issues/CCHA1981/Moir.html
  6. ^ http://www.uniya.org/publications/pdfs/politics.pdf#search=%22ne%20temere%22; B. Moore, Sectarianism in NSW: the Ne Temere legislation 1924-1925, Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society, 9 (1987), 3-15.
  7. ^ Irish Law Times Report LXXXVI 1952, pages 49–73.
  8. ^ "Two Irelands or one?" text online
  9. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-11705764
  10. ^ Matrimonia Mixta online; accessed Dec 2009

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ne_Temere — Please support Wikipedia.
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62 news items

BBC News

BBC News
Sun, 07 Nov 2010 07:40:42 -0800

On Easter Sunday in 1908, the Catholic Church's Ne Temere ruling came into force. It meant the Catholic Church would not recognise a marriage between a Protestant and a Catholic unless it took place in a Catholic church. It also decreed children from ...

Irish Independent

Irish Independent
Wed, 03 Feb 2016 18:37:07 -0800

Relationships between the two main religious denominations became strained after 1908 following the worldwide decree on marriage issued by Pope Pius X. The Ne Temere ('not rashly') decree sought to regulate canon law on Roman Catholic marriage, ...

Slugger O'Toole

Slugger O'Toole
Tue, 02 Feb 2016 12:56:03 -0800

A position that in 1950, in the Tilson v Tilson case, led the President of the High Court, Judge Gavan Duffy, to rule that the Catholic doctrine of Ne Temere had the force of the law of the state to support it. In that regard the 26 counties outscores ...
Slugger O'Toole
Mon, 21 Mar 2016 05:29:48 -0700

After Friday's Newsletter frontpage I was prompted to purchase a copy of Peter Lynas' recently published “100 Days 100 Years” – a magazine format read that contains prayerful reflections on 1916 from a diverse range of personalities with a public ...

Irish Times

Irish Times
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 06:52:30 -0700

In his mind, the minority thus becomes further marginalised through forced indoctrination into the Catholic Church. Although set during the second World War, the impact of the Ne Temere decree was felt for many generations in Ireland, and remained a ...

Slugger O'Toole

Slugger O'Toole
Sat, 05 Apr 2014 03:45:41 -0700

Sheila signed the Ne Temere contract, which obligated her to raise her children as Catholic. In the film, the priest Father Stafford ratchets up his outrage at her non-compliance, instructing his parishioners to boycott all non-Catholic business. Yet ...

Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph
Fri, 10 Apr 2015 01:09:44 -0700

Catholics refused to buy goods from their Protestant neighbours after Sheila refused to honour the infamous Catholic Ne Temere pledge to send her daughters Eileen and Mary to the local Catholic school. Under immense pressure, Sheila fled to Belfast and ...

Irish Independent

Irish Independent
Sat, 20 Sep 2014 18:30:00 -0700

There was a deep fear of a Catholic takeover, fuelled by the Vatican's promulgation in 1907 of the Ne Temere decree. This decree said that a Catholic could not marry validly unless the marriage was witnessed by a priest. This priestly 'veto' on valid ...

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