Marriage Advice for a Pope

John XXII and the Power to Dissolve


The Medieval Church taught that marriage was indissoluble and that consent was the key. Why then could a marriage be dissolved by one spouse joining a religious order after an exchange of consent but before consummation? This question vexed Thirteenth-century academics and, in the fourteenth century, Pope John XXII asked a group of leading theologians and lawyers to study the issue. Position-papers were produced to explain the exception to the rule of indissolubility for chaste monks and nuns, and to explore whether the pope had the power to extend it to celibate priests and deacons. These texts, edited here, were used by John XXII to draft his bull Antique Concertationi (1322). This study reconstructs the story behind the constitution, providing a unique insight into the decision-making process at the Roman curia in Avignon under a controversial pope.
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Biographical Note

Patrick Nold, D.Phil. (Oxford, 1999) is Assistant Professor of History at the State University of New York at Albany. He is the author of Pope John XXII and his Franciscan Cardinal: Bertrand de la Tour and the Apostolic Poverty Controversy (Oxford, 2003).

Review Quotes

"..This revealing study of papal-decision making in the early fourteenth century makes a valuable contribution to the history of marriage law and papal decision-making in the early fourteenty century."
James A. Brundage, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 61, 2010
"...that this work a work of great scholarship and erudition....No serious student of development of canon law in the Western Church can afford to overlook the consultations that laid the way for this apolistic constitution. In providing the text in a highly readable and well analysed manner, the author has placed within the hands of a whole generation of students a wonderful insight into the formation of decretals at the time of John XXII, into the intellectual life of the papal curia at that time, and into the real life issues that led to the development of the contemporary canonical provisions regulating clerical celibacy, religious profession, and the dissolution of non-consummated marriages."
Aidan McGrath, OFM, Archvim Franciscanum Historicum, 102 (2009), pp. 289-292

Table of contents


Part One Introduction
1. The runaway spouse joins a religious order: an inexplicable exception
2. The holdout husband takes up a holy order” an unresolved argument
3. A triptych of consultation: marriage, poverty, magic
4. Introducing the experts
5. Conclusion
6. Post-scriptum
7. Manuscript description
8. Ration editionis

Part Two Edition
I. Dicta fratris Vitalis de Furno
II. Dicta fratris Bertrandi de Turre
III. Dicta eiusdem domini Cardinalis
IV. Dicta domini Gaucelmi Iohannis
V. Dicta domini Bertrandi de Monte Faventino
VI. Dicta domini Petri Textoris
VII. Dicta domini Arnardi Roiardi
VIII. Idem Episcopus
IX. Dicta domini Durandi
X. Idem Episcopus
XI. Dicta fratis Gregorii
XII. Dicta fratis Hervei
XIII. Dicta fratis Iohannis de Alesto
XIV. Dicta fratis Iohannis de Reding
XV. Dicta fratis Iohannis de Neapoli
XVI. Dicta magistri Iohannis Panhote
XVII. Dicta fratis Roberti de Anglia
XVIII. Dicta
XIX. Frater Iohannes de Neapoli



All those interested in medieval intellectual history, theology and law, in the history of marriage and divorce, and in Church history and the papacy.


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