Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Prorogation of competence, 8 April 2011, Private.

A Judicial Vicar requested prorogation of competence from the Apostolic Signatura on a case concerning an Orthodox party who attempted marriage before a civil official. The response of the Apostolic Signatura, including the Apostolic Signatura’s response in a similar case (English and Latin) follows.

His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke


Apostolic Signatura

March 28, 2011

Your Eminence,

May the blessings of this Lenten season be with you, and all who work with you to insure justice in the Church.

I respectively request the prorogation of competence in the case of the marriage of ________, a Bulgarian Orthodox, and ________, an unbaptized atheist and member/former member of the Communist Party. The parties married on November 4, 1973, before a civil official in ________, in the province of ________, in the country of Bulgaria. They were civilly divorced on January 5, 2000, by a decree of the First Judicial District Court, ________, State of ________, USA. Ms. ________ has attempted a civil marriage with ________, who is unbaptized. Ms. ________ and Mr. ________ both want to become Catholic, and be married in the Catholic Church. Ms. ________ has presented documents proving her Orthodox baptism, and thereby, being bound by the Orthodox form of marriage, and documents showing she failed to observe this form. A documentary case can be done.

We are competent to hear the case on the ground of forum of most proofs, since we have all the documents to prove the requirement to observe Orthodox form for marriage and the non-observance thereof. We wrote to the Bishop of the Diocese of ________ and ________, the domicile of the Respondent, for his or his Judicial Vicar’s consent, on January 18, 2011 and resent our letter again on February 28, 2011. We have heard nothing. We would like to be able to process this case in order for the Ms. ________ and Mr. ________ to be received into the Catholic Church this Easter Vigil and be married immediately thereafter. To meet prescription, however, we need to begin the case immediately. Would you be so kind to grant us competence?

I have enclosed a copy of the letter sent and a memo from our auditor that it was resent. If there is any additional information you need, we would be pleased to provide it.

Respectfully yours in Christ,


The Reverend ________, JCD

Judicial Vicar

Supremum Signaturae Apostolicae Tribunal

8 April 2011

Prot. N. ________


Reverend Father,

The Supreme Tribunal has received your letter of 28 March 2011, with which you asked for a prorogation of competence in the above-captioned case.

However, when dealing with the matter of an Orthodox party who attempted to celebrate marriage before a civil official, please refer first of all to the response given recently in a similar case by this Supreme Tribunal, which is being sent as an enclosure.

If, during the pre-matrimonial examination, it becomes clear that a process of nullity should be initiated, you are kindly asked to send to this Supreme Tribunal:

a) A copy of the petition presenting the case to your Tribunal;

b) The pastoral recommendation of the Ordinary of ________, as the domicile of the petitioner, concerning the proposed favor;

c) Any objections made by the respondent, who is to be informed of the requested favor and given a reasonable time limit within which to respond, noting that in the absence of a timely response it will be presumed that he has no objections;

Devotedly Yours in Our Lord,


Frans Daneels

Praen. Secretary

(with enclosure)


Supremum Signaturae Apostolicae Tribunal

3 January 2007

Prot. N. ________


Your Excellency,

By reason of your request of September 14, 2006, I have put forth the specific case of a marriage entered into by a baptized Orthodox woman without a sacred rite and I have inquired from this Sacred Tribunal whether, in such cases, “a prematrimonial investigation according to the norms of canons 1066-1067 is sufficient to establish the free state” or “if it must be treated as a case under the rules of an ordinary process according to the norms of canons 1671-1685 where commonly it is well treated as a documentary process according to the norms of canons 1686-1688.”

Attentive that a juridic act is presumed valid only insofar as its external elements are rightly posited (cf. canons 124, §2, CIC; 931, §2, CCEO), and that the very fact a marriage itself, consequently, would not enjoy the favor of law spoken of in canons 1060 CIC and 779 CCEO, if the form of celebration, certainly required for validity, has been thoroughly omitted;

having examined canon 781, 2°, of the CCEO and article 4, §1, 2°, of the Instruction Dignitas connubii;

having before our eyes, proportionately, both the authentic interpretation of June 26, 1984, concerning canon 1686 CIC and canon 1372, §2, CCEO,

this Apostolic Signatura on the above related question has determined to respond thusly:

A case of this manner must be resolved by the local Ordinary, or by the pastor, having consulted the Ordinary, in the prior investigation for the celebration of marriage.

But if a doubt arises whether the marriage could not be celebrated according to the sacred rite without grave inconvenience, or at least the one non-Catholic party of an eastern Church had been actually baptized at the time of the celebration of the marriage, or some other doubts of this nature, the case must be remitted to the competent tribunal.

The Most Reverend ________

Bishop of _________

Taking this occasion, with all due respect, to You

Most devotedly


Agostino Card. Vallini



Velasio De Paolis



Supremum Signaturae Apostolicae Tribunal

3 ianuarii 2007

Prot. n. ________


Excellentissime Domine,

Instantia dici 14 septembris 2006 exposuisti casum concretum matrimonii a muliere baptizata orthodoxa sine ritu sacro initi et quaesivisti ex H.S.T. utrum, hisce in casibus, “une investigation prématrimoniale ad normam cann. 1066-1067 suffirait pour établir le status liber” an “s’il faut traiter le cas selon les règles d’un procès ordinaire ad normam cann. 1671-1685 ou bien comme un procès documentaire ad normam cann. 1686-1688”.

Attento quod actus iuridicus praesumitur validus tantum si quoad sua elementa externa rite positus sit (cf. cann. 124, §2 CIC; 931, §2 CCEO), quodque igitur illud matrimonium favore iuris, de quo in cann. 1060 CIC et 779 CCEO, non gaudet cuius forma celebrationis, certo ad validitatem requisita, penitus omissa fuerit;

visis can. 781, n. 2 CCEO et art. 4, §1, n. 2 Instr. Dignitas connubii;

prae oculis habitis, ex analogia, tam interpretatione authentica d. 26 iunii 1984 ad can. 1686 CIC quam can. 1372, §2 CCEO,

haec Signatura Apostolica supra relatio quaesito ita respondendum censet:

Huiusmodi casum solvendum esse ab Ordinario loci, vel a parocho, consulto Ordinario, in praevia investigatione ad matrimonium celebrandum.

Quod si dubium oriatur num matrimonium ritu sacro celebrari non potuisset sine gravi incommodo, num una saltem pars acatholica Ecclesiae orientalis tempore celebrationis matrimonii reapse baptizata fuisset, vel aliud huiusmodi dubium, res remittenda est ad competens tribunal. ________

Episcopo ________

Occasionem nactus, cuncta fausta Tibi adprecor



Augustinus card. Vallini



Velasius De Paolis


Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Prorogation of competence, 8 April 2011, Private, CLSA, Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions, 2011, 30-34.