What I am going to say may come as a surprise to some persons. I think it is important we make it explicitly clear. . .You must be able to have sexual intercourse for marriage to be VALID.
Impotence, either from the man or the woman, nullifies marriage and makes it invalid. For consummation to take place, there must be full penetration. The woman must possess sex organ that must be able to receive that of the man’s. Likewise the man, his sex organ must be able to penetrate into that of the woman’s.
I am sorry I am too direct, but I sincerely don’t know how else to say it. Apologies to all those who are prudish.
Now, note these distinctions. . .
Impotency is not an impediment if it can be treated with medication or items that allow intercourse to occur. But if it is untreatable, it nullifies marriage by its very nature or it makes the marriage invalid.
Again, if intercourse happens, even if it is just once after marriage, and afterwards the man or woman becomes impotent, the marriage is VALID.
One last distinction. . .
Impotence is different from infertility or sterility.
Impotence refers to the inability to have sexual intercourse while infertility or sterility refers to the inability to procreate.
Example, a man that did vasectomy is infertile but not impotent. He can still penetrate but not impregnate.
A woman that has vagina that cannot receive the penis is impotent even though she may still be fertile. She can still become pregnant especially through IVF or artificial insemination, but not through the penetration of the penis into the vagina.
There have been questions like: what if one of the partners was aware of this before marriage and chose to go ahead?
Well, this is what the church teaches:
“Antecedent and perpetual impotence to have intercourse, whether on the part of the man or the woman, whether absolute or relative, nullifies marriage by its very nature.” (Canon 1084 §1).
I know there are non Catholics reading me, I know that impotence is also a ground of nullification (divorce) in most secular laws. So, let me clarify those terms used in that quotation.
Antecedent and perpetual impotence refer to the inability to have vaginal intercourse both before the marriage begins and throughout the entire duration of the marriage.
Absolute impotency is the inability to have intercourse with anyone.
Relative impotency is the inability to have intercourse with one’s spouse. In this case, the impotent person is theoretically able to have intercourse with someone else.
All these conditions nullify marriage even if you are aware.
When a man and woman marry, they pledge their whole being, body, mind, and soul to each other. They pledge to give themselves fully to each other. This gift of self to another must be free, full and total. It is in sexual union that the expression of two becoming one flesh finds its deeper meaning.
I know there will be many questions. . .well, we will try to answer them as we can.
©Fr Kelvin Ugwu