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There are only two people involved here, and therefore Nancy and Mark’s relationship is considered second-degree consanguinity in the collateral line. Obviously not, because canon 1091.2 states that marriage in the collateral line is invalid up to the fourth degree, and their relationship is much closer than that. Let’s say that Susan’s mother Mary is the sister of Uncle Bill.In this case, their “common ancestor” would be the parent(s) of Bill and Mary.Since Bill and Susan are related in the third degree, they cannot marry validly.This brings us now to the relationship addressed in Jeremy’s question: what is the degree of consanguinity between two cousins? Jenny’s mother, Beth, is the sister of Mike’s father, David.So these two cousins — who in our parlance are “first cousins” — are related in the fourth degree of the collateral line. Not according to canon 1091.2, which says marriages are invalid up to the fourth degree.First cousins, therefore, cannot marry in the Church.The “direct line” refers to direct descendants — parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren.

In canon 108, the code provides some general definitions to explain the system it does use, which involves lines and degrees.The latter have been established by human authority, but the former were instituted by God Himself.The Church holds that if a law was made by church authorities, it can be dispensed if there is sufficient justification for doing so.This should certainly be no surprise to anyone, because we are quite comfortable with the notion, founded in natural law, that such marriages are forbidden.(Natural law is, incidentally, the rationale behind the fact that these marriages are against the civil law as well.) While direct-line consanguinity is pretty easy to calculate, figuring other blood relationships can quickly become rather complex.