Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Rights of parties in marriage cases, 28 October 2014, Private.
A diocesan bishop wrote to the President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, seeking clarisfication regarding the status of the cited party in a marriage case who wishes no longer to receive communications from the tribunal. The President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts responds in light of the provisions of Instruction Dignitas connubii. The initial correspondence from the bishop and the President’s response follows.
12 August 2014
Francesco Cardinal Coccopalmiero
President, Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
I am writing at this time to seek the assistance of the Pontifical Council in resolving difficulties that we are experiencing in our Diocesan Tribunal addressing the proper protection of the rights of parties in marriage cases who have specifically requested not to be contacted again by this forum.
Only article 258, §3, in the Instruction Dignitas connubii addresses the specific issue of a party who has declared that he or she does not want any notice concerning the case before the tribunal. This article provides that in such circumstances, with due regard for particular law, such a party is to be considered as having renounced the right to obtain a copy of the definitive sentence.
Of specific concern within our Tribunal are the proper actions to be taken if, in fact, a respondent has specifically requested at the time of citation that he or she not be contacted again about the case that has been presented by the petitioner. It is clear by reason of article 134, §2, that parties who have entrusted themselves to the justice of the court must be provided the decree by which the formulation of the doubt has been set, the decree of publication of the acts, and all decisions that are rendered. However, in such circumstances a party may not necessarily have requested that he or she receive no further communications.
What remains unclear and has prompted this letter are the obligations that the Tribunal must fulfill when a party who has been properly cited and informed of his or her rights has specifically requested not to be contacted again concerning the case that has been presented. While it is clear that article 138 of the Instruction Dignitas connubii provides specific obligations to be fulfilled when the respondent fails to appear or refuses to respond and has been declared absent, this article does not appear to address the circumstance in which a respondent has been properly cited has specifically requested not to be contacted again or provided any further communication or notifications from the Tribunal about the case that has been presented.
While the tribunal certainly has an obligation to provide for the rights of a party who has requested no further notifications, of specific concern is the question of sending any further communication to such a party such as the formulation of the doubt or the decree of publication; as there are possible implications associated with such additional communications. If, for example, a party were extremely offended by such further communications, this party could file a formal complaint in the civil forum for harassment due to the failure of the Tribunal to abide by the party’s specific request that he or she be sent no further communications or notifications.
It would be most helpful if the Pontifical Council could provide us with guidance and direction in dealing with circumstances of this nature. At the moment it is not clear whether or not a party who has responded but who has specifically requested no further communications from the Tribunal should be declared absent; and, if so, whether it would be proper in such cases to respect this party’s request and not send further notifications, specifically, the formulation of the doubt, the decree of publications of the acts, or the definitive sentence.
In closing, I am most grateful for the careful consideration that the Pontifical Council will afford these questions. Please do not hesitate contacting me should there be additional information that would be needed in considering these issues.
With sentiments of the greatest respect and esteem to your Eminence, I am
In The Heart of Christ,
PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR LEGISLATIVE TEXTSVatican City
28 October 2014
Prot. N. ______
This Pontifical Council has taken into consideration your letter dated August 12, 2014 in which you asked whether a cited party in a matrimonial case, who specifically requests no further communication from the tribunal, can be declared absent and, if so, whether it would be proper to respect that party’s request and not send further notifications, specifically the formulation of the doubt, the decree of the publication of the acts and the definitive sentence.
Canon 1592 §1 CIC prescribes that the respondent in such a case is to be declared absent (cf. Art. 138 §1 of the Instruction Dignitas connubii). This is applicable even if the party responds to the citation, but requests in the same response not to be contacted anymore and thereby refuses to be part of any further procedural steps. This position is strengthened if the citation also requires the party to appear before the tribunal for the concordance of the doubt.
As regards the notifications in question, the law allows for a practice, which has become common in many tribunals whereby a formulation of the doubt is proposed to the parties in the very citation itself, thus making it possible to avoid a notification (cf. Art. 127 §2 DC). The tribunal, once declared a party absent, has no obligation to notify that party of the decree of the publication of the acts (cf. Art. 134 §3 DC). It also has no obligation to notify the same party of the sentence, although its dispositive part may be communicated to him or her if particular law so requires (cf. Art 258 § 3 DC).
I hope that the above information will be helpful to you. Be assured of my best prayerful wishes and fraternal esteem.
Devoted yours in Christ,
+Francesco Cardinal Coccopalmerio
+Juan Ignacio Arrieta
Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Rights of parties in marriage cases, 28 October 2014, Private. CLSA, Roman Replies and CLSA Advisory Opinions, 2015, 18-20.