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Canonical impediments is an ecclesiastical law term that refers to a condition rendering a marriage subject to annulment. The canonical impediments were consanguinity, affinity and impotence, while the so-called civil disabilities, such as want of age, idiocy, lunacy, and the like, made a marriage void ab initio.
The following is an example of a case law referring to canonical impediments:
Under the common law, the canonical impediments of consanguinity and affinity only rendered a marriage voidable. Until set aside, it was practically valid. Some of the American courts, following this doctrine, have construed statutes declaring such marriages void as meaning voidable, when such construction was not expressly precluded by the terms of the statute. But our statute, which expressly provides that marriages within the prohibited degrees shall be absolutely void without any decree of divorce or other legal process, renders this marriage void. It is impossible to put any other construction upon the statute without doing violence to the English language, and defeating the clearly expressed intention of the legislature. [Hayes v. Rollins, 68 N.H. 191, 191-192 (N.H. 1894)].