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LEGAL IMPEDIMENT

An obstacle to valid marriage, determined by civil authority. According to the constant tradition of the Catholic Church, the State has no power to legislate invalidating impediments to Christian marriage. This follows logically from the Church's teaching that, since Christian marriage is a supernatural contract, the conditions for its validity are subject only to the Church, which has received this authority from her Founder. It is disputed whether the State can establish diriment impediments for marriages in which both parties are unbaptized. Yet, if even one of the parties is baptized, the Church alone has jurisdiction over the marriage, and only her invalidating impediments are binding.

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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