Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Correspondence Concerning the Dissolution of the Marriage Bond, 1995-1996. Private.

The following involves the existence of a prior bond (a ligamen) connected with the petition for the dissolution of the natural bond of marriage. The first piece of correspondence which follows is the votum of the Diocesan Bishop:

Votum of the Most Reverend Bishop

Concerning the petition of Jane ____________ for the dissolution of her marriage to John ____________ in favor of the faith, permit me to submit the following considerations:

1) On 28 November 1983, at a home in ____________, USA, Jane , an unbaptized person, born 22 July 1952 and now living in ____________, USA, contracted marriage with John ____________, an unbaptized person whose date of birth and current address are unknown. No children were born of this union. After a common life of ten years, the couple separated and were civilly divorced as of 25 May 1993.

The petitioner seeks to be declared free to marry in the Roman Catholic Church to a Roman Catholic who is free to marry.

2) When the Petitioner was thirty-one years old, she met the Respondent, who was twenty-two years old. After dating for six months, they thought that they were in love with one another. So, without any engagement period whatsoever, they decided to get married. Within a short period of time, the Respondent was unfaithful to her. He would disappear almost every weekend without telling the Petitioner where he was going. When he was home, he physically abused her. Finally, he told her that he no longer wanted to be her husband. The couple divorced and never cohabited again.

3) Every effort was made to try to locate the Respondent. He is not living at his last known address. Locating his relatives is impossible. The tribunal also cited him through our Catholic paper, The ____________. There was no response to the citation.

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4) The evidence is clear that neither the Petitioner nor the Respondent were ever baptized, christened, or sprinkled in any religion. In her sworn statement the Petitioner said that both of them were Buddhists. They decided to become Jehovah Witnesses. The Petitioner’s witnesses support her statements. Additionally, there is no indication from any Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses that either party was ever baptized, christened, or sprinkled.

5) There is no possibility of a reconciliation between the Petitioner and the Respondent. The Petitioner’s intended spouse, Michael ____________, stated under oath that he was in no way responsible for the breakup of the marriage between the Petitioner and the Respondent. The Petitioner and her intended spouse did not meet until after the Petitioner and the Respondent had divorced.

6) The Petitioner has made the decision that she does not want to be baptized. She has readily signed the Cautiones and we are assured that the Petitioner will permit her intended Catholic spouse to practice the Catholic Faith.

7) There would be no danger of scandal or wonderment if the marriage of the Petitioner and the Respondent is dissolved and the Petitioner is allowed to marry her intended Catholic spouse.

8) It is noted that the Petitioner’s Catholic pastor, Rev. ____________, has written an excellent letter in support of this cause. He has affirmed that the Petitioner does not want to be baptized, that her intended Catholic spouse was not the cause of the breakup of the marriage, and that her intended Catholic spouse desires to marry the Petitioner with the intention of continuing his Catholic Faith. This same priest has also indicated that once the Privilege is granted, he will begin the necessary marriage preparations.

9) This case has been prepared in accordance with the 6 December 1973 Instruction of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Rev. ____________, Judicial Vicar, ____________, JCL, Judge Instructor, Sr. ____________, Defender of the Bond, and Sr. ____________, notary have been duly delegated to prepare this case.

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Therefore, I, the undersigned Ordinary of the Diocese of ____________, do recommend and request that the marriage of Jane ____________ and John ____________ be dissolved so that the Petitioner might be free to marry Michael ____________, a baptized Catholic, who wants to continue to practice the Catholic Faith once he is married.

10) Permit me to also ask you to deal with another matter. Prior to being married to John ____________, the Petitioner Jane ____________, swore under oath that at age eighteen she married Titius ____________, who was twenty-six in August of 1973 in Korat, Thailand at a Buddhist Temple (no marriage certificate is available). She swore that Titius ____________ had been married prior to his marriage to her, and that there was one child from his first marriage. After a diligent search, we also have no knowledge of his baptismal status. He was a member of the United States Air Force at the time of the marriage. They were divorced on 25 August 1975 in ____________, United States of America (No. ____________). No children were born of this union. Jane ____________ said that a friend of theirs had often talked about Titius’ first marriage. The petitioner also added that Titius was paying child support from his military salary. Based on this testimony, the Tribunal began instructing this case as a ligamen. After making contact with the National Personnel Records, the department of Veteran’s Affairs, the HQ ARMPC, and the Archdiocese of the Military, the Tribunal was unable to locate Titius ____________. Additionally, the Archdiocese of the Military also had no record of this marriage. Under oath witnesses told us that the Petitioner, Jane ____________, was not baptized during this marriage. They also assured us that the Petitioner is a very sincere and truthful person. However, they were unable to tell us whether or not Titius ____________ had a previous marriage.

If this marriage between Jane ____________ and Titius ____________ is valid, then I am petitioning that it be dissolved in favor of the faith. If you do not consider it to be valid by reason of ligamen, I am requesting that you issue a ligamen decree since this marriage took place in ____________, Thailand and since we are not able to locate Titius ____________.

With sentiments of profound esteem, I am

Respectfully yours in Christ,

Diocesan Bishop

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On November 14, 1995, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded, requesting that “authentic disposition” of the completed sentence of nullity of the marriage of Jane and Titius be sent to the Congregation. The Judicial Vicar of the Diocese responded as follows:

14 December 1995

His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Congregation pro Doctrina Fidei

Piazza del S. Uffizio, 11

00195 Roma, Italia

Your Eminence:

I write at the direction of His Excellency, Bishop ____________, concerning the letter of the Sacred Congregation of 14 November 1995 concerning the disposition of a marriage nullity case, Jane ____________ + Titius ____________. This was investigated by our tribunal as a possible ligamen case since the Respondent, Titius ____________, was allegedly bound by a previous marriage, to an unnamed lady by whom he allegedly had a child, before he contracted marriage with the Petitioner, Jane ____________ who had not been married before.

This case was investigated by my predecessor, Msgr. ____________, as Judicial Vicar of our tribunal; and the case transferred to myself when I became Judicial Vicar on 1 July 1995. Both Msgr. and I discussed the case of Jane and Titius. We decided, after consultation with the Defender of the Bond, that there was insufficient evidence to accept a Libellus in accord with Canon 1504 for a declaration of nullity based on the impediment of ligamen on the part of the Respondent. Msgr.’s efforts in this investigation are reflected on pages twenty-seven to sixty-seven of the Acts of the case.

In reviewing the Acts we believed that no formal case for a declaration of nullity could be begun, because there remained insufficient evidence. The rationale for the decision to not formally consider an allegation of nullity due to the impediment of Ligamen was the fact that there is no civil proof of marriage. The ceremony allegedly took place in a Buddhist temple in ____________, Thailand, but we have only the testimony of the Petitioner that a ceremony took place. Secondly the whereabouts of

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the Respondent are unknown, making attempts to secure his cooperation unsuccessful. The Tribunal was not even able to secure information about any previous marriage through military records. Finally, there are no witnesses available to testify about the first alleged marriage of Titius and the unnamed lady.

Msgr. recommended that we submit the case as reflected in number ten of the Bishop’s votum on pages two and three of the Acts. We considered both cases as beyond our competence. With the Congregation’s letter of 14 November 1995, I contacted the parish priest who presented the case. The Petitioner and her Catholic fiancé remain interested and are patiently waiting for the Holy See›s disposition of the case.

We realize that this is a most difficult case for which we need the guidance of the Sacred Congregation. The grant of the Privilege of the Faith would be solely for the benefit of the intended Catholic spouse of the Petitioner. The Petitioner, Jane ____________, is a Buddhist turned Jehovah Witness. She has no intention of becoming Catholic, but she has signed the cautiones and the parish priest of the Catholic party she wishes to marry testified that he is faithful in the practice of the faith. Additionally, the Congregation will notice on pages fourteen and fifteen of the Acts that the Petitioner, Jane ____________, is most afraid that she will be shunned by the Jehovah Witnesses if they discover that she is marrying a Catholic. Msgr. found her wary and a most difficult person to interrogate.

And so, I ask the Congregation’s guidance, with respect to Jane + Titius. Without proof of marriage, the possibility of contacting the Respondent, and the absence of witnesses who are competent to speak of the Respondent’s alleged first marriage, the Tribunal of the Diocese of ____________ is unable to send an authentic disposition, affirmative or negative, in this matter.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter. I await the further instruction from the Congregation.

Sincerely yours,

Judicial Vicar

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On January 12, 1996, with the customary rescript and no further comments, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the dissolution of the marriage of Jane and John, in favor of the faith of the Catholic party Michael.

RRAO_ (1997): 19-23.