Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Observations on a diocese’s Annual Report on the “State and Activity of the Diocesan Tribunal,” with clarifications on the bonum coniugum and defective convalidation, 28 May 2014, Private.
The Apostolic Signatura contacted the Judicial Vicar of a U.S. diocese following submission of the diocese’s Annual Report on the State and Activity of the Diocesan Tribunal. The letter, signed by Bishop Frans Daneels, o.praem, Secretary, offers observations from the Apostolic Tribunal and clarifications concerning decisions rendered on the ground of contra bonum coniugum and defective convalidation. The letter from the Apostolic Signatura follows.
SUPREME TRIBUNAL OF THE APOSTOLIC SIGNATURAVatican City
28 May 2014
Prot. N. ______
Dear Reverend __________,
The Apostolic Signatura has received the Annual Report on the State and Activity of the Diocesan Tribunal of __________ for the year __________. After an attentive review of the report, this Supreme Tribunal wishes to offer the following observations.
1. Concerning the five affirmative decisions in _ on the ground of contra bonum coniugum, this Dicastery considers it opportune to offer the following clarifications for a correct jurisprudential handling of such cases:
The Tribunal, before deciding to settle for the judgment of a marriage case under the heading of simulation contra bonum coniugum, is encouraged, first, to discern carefully whether a particular case falls under the traditional headings of total or partial simulation through a positive act of the will. For a correct use of the ground of contra bonum coniugum, a clear specification should be made of what really pertains to the bonum coniugum as an essential element of marriage (cf. can. 1101, § 2). On the one hand, the bonum coniugum in this context has to be distinguished from the bonum sacramenti (indissolubility of marriage), the bonum fidei (unity of marriage and fidelity) and the bonum prolis; on the other hand the bonum coniugum, understood to be the mutuum adiutorium which is an essential element of marriage, can refer only to the minimum and essential requirements of the same. In other words, a distinction between the central element and other supplementary elements must be made: the essence of the bonum coniugum is the orientation of marriage toward the good of the spouses and the exclusio boni coniugum is a positive intention to exclude the good of the spouses. The fact is that it would appear to be very rare that someone enters marriage with the intention not to promote in any way the good of the spouses. Furthermore, it should be noted that simulation is verified only when it is proven that a party rejected, by a positive act of the will, the obligation at the moment of consent. The fact that a party in the marriage later fails to fulfill an obligation he or she had assumed at the wedding does not invalidate that party’s marriage consent. The exclusion of an obligation at the moment of the exchange of marriage consent (simulation) cannot be deduced from the mere fact of the non-fulfillment of such an obligation during marriage.
2. In addition, it was reported that two pro nullitate decisions were based on the ground: “defective convalidation.” The Apostolic Signatura considers it advisable to offer some clarifications that will enable the Tribunal to check the correctness of its jurisprudence and to judge such cases without error:
a) In these cases one must keep in mind the praesumptiones iuris which govern every marriage, namely:
* A marriage is presumed to be valid until the contrary is proven (cf. can. 1060);
* The internal consent is presumed to be in conformity with the signs or words used in the celebration of the marriage (cf. can. 1101, §1).
The application of these presumptions to a marriage celebrated in the canonical form lead to some conclusions:
* The consent expressed according to the canonical form must be presumed valid, until the contrary is proven;
* The proof of a defect of consent in view of a declaration of the nullity of marriage must therefore follow the usual criteria, taking into account the established Rotal jurisprudence that has developed secure models of proof regarding defects or flaws of consent.
b) Can. 1160 refers to the convalidation of a marriage contracted invalidly because of a defect in the canonical form. The prevailing doctrine does not consider said canon to regard also an attempted civil marriage or one attempted in a non-Catholic rite, in those cases in which at least one party was bound to the canonical form. In fact, no judicial process is required for the declaration of nullity of such an attempted marriage. In any event, one must remember that in such a case a celebration in the canonical form is required.
c) The requirement of can. 1157 refers clearly to the convalidation of a marriage which is invalid because of a diriment impediment (cf. can. 1156, §1) and not to the convalidation of a marriage which is null because of a defect in the canonical form.
At times it is claimed that from the psychological point of view there cannot be a matrimonial consent when one does not know or at least suppose that the attempted marriage was null. In this regard, it is important to keep in mind that:
* Psychologically, it is sufficient to have a vague understanding that the attempted civil marriage or the one attempted in a non-Catholic rite lacked some element which the Catholic Church considers significant;
* This sufficient understanding does not require that the parties know how to explain it in a technical-canonical manner, nor does this sufficient understanding exclude the possibility that on the emotional level the parties continue to attribute some value (e.g., existential or in civil law) to the preceding union, for example, by celebrating its anniversary;
* Nor is it required that the parties be able to explain in a technical-canonical manner what happened in the celebration of the marriage in the canonical form; even when they use certain non-technical expressions such as “blessing” to describe it, one must presume, until the contrary has been proven, that in the celebration in the canonical form consent was duly expressed and given;
* Even when a party considered the celebration of the marriage in the canonical form to have no value, can. 1100 should be considered: “The knowledge or opinion of the nullity of a marriage does not necessarily exclude matrimonial consent.”
While thanking you, I extend my prayers for faithful perseverance in the demanding task of providing justice for the people of God, and I remain
Yours in Our Lord,
+ Frans Daneels, o.praem.
Titular Archbishop of Bita
Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Observations on a diocese’s Annual Report on the “State and Activity of the Diocesan Tribunal,” with clarifications on the bonum coniugum and defective convalidation, 28 May 2014, Private, CLSA, Roman Replies and CLSA Advisory Opinions, 2015, 23-26.