PurposeThe purpose of this webpage is to inform witnesses about of the lawful procedures for testimony, plus discuss the lawful basis for marriages to be declared invalid. Violating the procedural norms can diminish the integrity of the testimony. If violations of procedural norms occur, there is a risk that testimony could be challenged because of danger or likelihood of fraud, collusion or corruption.
Abbreviations: Dignitas Connubii (DC), Code of Canon Law (CIC)
Questions Must Not be Known in Advance. Witness could choose not to open letter from investigating tribunal while alone.
The integrity of the testimony can be challenged if the witness is given a list of questions before testimony is given (CIC 1565). If a witness imagines that an envelope contains questions from an investigating tribunal, the witness could bring the sealed envelope to a priest or parish staff person. If the letter contains a list of questions that the witness is being instructed to answer, the witness could ask the priest to hold the pages containing any lists of questions.Questions are to be Answered Orally in Front of Judge
Testimony is to be provided orally. A witness should receive a summons to the judicial examination from the investigating tribunal (DC 163§1, CIC 1556). If a witness lives in a distant diocese, he can inform the investigating tribunal of the reason for his absence (DC 163§2, CIC 1557). A witness can specify that he wants to be a cooperative witness, and give testimony in his local diocese by writing a letter like the following:Timing: No testimony until after decree of formulation of the doubtDear Rev. Named, Tribunal of Investigating Diocese, Protocol No. (if know),
Before providing testimony, the witness can ask (on the record) whether the formulation of doubt has been set by decree.Questions Shall not be confusing, tricky, or suggest a response. Shall be pertinent to the cause in question
The questions are to be brief, adapted to the capacity of the person being questioned, not involving several matters at the same time, not confusing, not tricky, not suggesting a response, avoiding any offensiveness, and pertinent to the cause in question (can. 1564). (DC 169)
LAWFUL BASIS FOR INVALIDITY
Canon Law, Grounds for Invalidating Marital Consent
If two Catholics marry in the Catholic Church, the Formal process is required.Scandal, Sin, Destroying Marriage
"regarding psychic incapacity in the causes of matrimonial nullity" [...] "there continues to be a concrete and pressing problem in this regard. In some cases, unfortunately, one can still perceive the urgent need to which my venerable Predecessor pointed: that of preserving the ecclesial community 'from the scandal of seeing the value of Christian marriage being destroyed in practice by the exaggerated and almost automatic multiplication of declarations of nullity, in cases of the failure of marriage, on the pretext of some immaturity or psychic weakness on the part of the contracting parties' ([Pope John Paul II] Address to the Roman Rota, 5 February 1987, n. 9)."
"[A marriage's] continuing validity does not depend on the subsequent conduct of the couple during their married life."
"there is a need for a new and positive appreciation of the capacity to marry belonging in principle to every human person by virtue of his or her very nature as a man or a woman. We tend in fact to risk falling into a kind of anthropological pessimism which, in the light of today's cultural context, would consider marriage as practically impossible."
"5. Then what can one say to the argument which holds that the failure of conjugal life implies the invalidity of the marriage? Unfortunately, this erroneous assertion is sometimes so forceful as to become a generalized prejudice that leads people to seek grounds for nullity as a merely formal justification of a pronouncement that is actually based on the empirical factor of matrimonial failure. This unjust formalism of those who are opposed to the traditional favor matrimonii can lead them to forget that, in accordance with human experience marked by sin, a valid marriage can fail because of the spouses' own misuse of freedom."
"The tendency to instrumentally broaden the causes for nullity, losing sight of the bounds of objective truth, involves a structural distortion of the entire process. In this perspective the preliminary investigation would lose its effectiveness since its outcome would be preordained."Reason of Incapacity to Fulfill the Essential Obligations of Marriage (can. 1095°1, 1095°3)
"The author of these pages has written and published many Rote decisions concerning incapacitas adimplendi necessaria matrimonii onera, all embellished, at times profusely, with references to tracts on law and psychiatry in various languages. He now wishes to cut through whatever is accessory, peripheral, or merely decorative in this matter and focus upon what Rota judges have in other contexts rather grandly called 'ipse argumenti nucleus' "Reason of Lack of Discretion about Rights and Obligations of Marriage (can. 1095°2)
"Over the past several years, the Canon Law Faculty of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome has been offering a special course for judges and others engaged in marriage tribunal work, in order to review the basic principles of matrimonial and procedural law and as well to explain new developments and approaches in both these fields. It has fallen to me to teach the section of the course entitled 'Amentia et defectus debitae iudicii discretionis'. What follows is a summary of my lectures, a summary that has been requested by many of the hundreds of students who have participated, in the course."Reason of Simulating (faking vows) and excluding Essential Element of Marriage (can. 1101§2)
"10. The 'bonum coniugum': an essential element of marriage? Can the bonum coniugum be classified as an "essential element" of marriage under the terms of c. 1101§2? The importance of the question means that it cannot be answered lightly; and an adequate answer must bear in mind the relationships of essence, property (element) and end outlined above. We repeat that all the logic of philosophical and juridic discourse, working from these fine but clear distinctions, makes it evident that since the bonum coniugum is an end of marriage, it is not and cannot be one of its essential elements or properties."
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