Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Affirmative sentence in the first instance confirmed by “equivalently conforming” sentence in the second instance, 2001.
This entry concerns an affirmative decision rendered by a First Instance Tribunal on the grounds of exclusion of children on the part of the respondent. The Second Instance Tribunal confirmed the nullity of the marriage, but on the grounds of grave lack of due discretion of judgment on the part of the respondent. This Tribunal described its decision as “equivalently conforming" to the decision given by the First Instance Tribunal. The Apostolic Signatura was questioned as to whether the petitioner should be allowed to enter a new marriage for which things have already been prepared. The Signatura responded that the new marriage should not be impeded. It stated, however, that the Tribunal of Second Instance is not allowed to issue an affirmative decision by decree on grounds of nullity which it introduced for the first time. In such a case, the Second Instance Tribunal must consider the matter by the ordinary process. Finally, the Signatura draws attention to canons 1420, §4, and 1426, §2, to indicate that a lay judge cannot fulfill the office of presiding judge of the court. What follows is the Signatura 's response in Latin followed by an unofficial English Translation.
ACTA TRIBUNALIUM SANCTAE SEDIS
SUPREMUM SIGNATURAE APOSTOLICAE TRIBUNALProt. N. _____
Quaesitum circa decretum quo sententia affirmativa prim; grandus confirmatur, decisione "aequivalenter conformi" (c. 1682 §2).
Lata in causa de qua supre a Tribunali "X" sententia affirmativa ob exclusum bonum prolis ex parte mulieris conventae, Tribunal "Y" secundae instantiae decreto diei 26 februarii 1996 nullitatem malrimonii confirmavit alvern ob gravem defectum discretionis iudicii ex parte eiusdem mulieris. quae decisio in eadem decreta dicebatur "aequivalenter conformis."
Epistola autem diei 10 aprilis 1996 Rev.mus Vicarius Generalis Z et hac Signatura Apostolica quaesivit utrum, necne, rebus sic stantibus, vir actor admitti possel ad novas nuptias, pro quibus omnia iam parata erant.
Re sedulo perpensa, hoc Supremum Forum die II april is 1996 dedaravit: Non apparet ratio salis cogens ad novum matrimonium viri actoris ex parte huius Signaturae Apostolicae impediendum. Pars moliva decreti d. 10 aprilis 1996: Re sedulo perpensa; Visis documentis huc transmissis: Attento quod decretum diei 26 februarii 1996, de quo supra, admittit: a) absentiam unionis sexualis in matrimonio canonico; b) conventae pertinaeiam in recusanda unione sexuali post eius celebrationem. et c) aversionem mulieris a viro iam ante eiusdem matrimonii canonici celebrationem; Non obstante magna perplexitate quoad iurisprudentiam Tribunalis secundae instantiae circa caput gravis defectus discretionis iudicii in casu; Audito Promotore Iustitiae, attamen omnia acta causam respicientia exquisivit ad videndum utrum, necne, aliquid animadvertendum esset ad adiuvandum Forum Appellationis ut deinceps in causis pertractandis reete procederet.
Quibus actis mense iulio 1996 receptis, hoc supremum Tribunal cuidam perito commisit ut ea sedulo examini subiceret. Quo examine tandem aliquando absoluto, haec Signatura Apostolica haec praesertim animadverenda censet:
1. In casu, praefato "decreto" Tribunal Appellationis de facto negati vam tulit decisionem quoad caput de quo in prima instantia, seu quoad exclusinem boni prolis ex parte mulieris conventae, et affirmativam dedit decisionem quoad caput defectus discetionis in eadem muliere conventa.
- Lata in primo iurisdictionis gradu sententia pro matrimonii nullitate, tribunal appellantionis tantummodo decreta suo illam decisionem continenter confirmare potest relate ad caput nullitatis de quo in primo gradu habetur sententia affirmative; secus causa in gradu appellationis ad ordinarium examen admittenda est et decisio pro nullitate matrimonii per decretum ferri nequit (cf. can. 1682 §2).
- A fortiori decisio affirmativa per decretum ferri nequit, si agatur de capita nullitatis de quo forum appellationis primam fert descisionem. Evidenter hoc in casu tribunal appellationis. servatis servandis. tantummodo per processum ordinarium de re videre potest.
2. Tribunal Appellationis in casu caput gravis defectus discretionis iudicii, de quo in can 1095, §2, consideravit tamquam: "Nichtigkeitsgrund, des mangelnden gesamtmenschlichen Entscheidungswillens" et de facto neglexit doctrinam ad rem a Joanne Paulo II propositam in notis allocutionibusad Rotam Romanam dierum 5 februarii 1987 (AAS 79  1453-1459) et 25 ianuarii 1988 (AAS 80  1178-1185).
3. In casu, Cl.mus D.nus N. munere praesidis collegii functus est. Id autem omnino non convenit, etenim:
- Ad normam can. 1426 §2 tribunali Collegiali "praeesse debet, quatenus fieri potest, Vicarius iudicialis vel Vicarius iudicialis adiunctus," qui debent esse sacerdotes (cf. can. 1420 §4).
- Praeses collegii quandam exercet potestatem in ceteros iudices collegii, qui in casu sunt c1erici (cf. can. 1428, 1; 1429; 1609, §§ 1 et 3).
- Can. 1421 §2, de iudice laico, exceptionem constituit relate ad § 1 eiusdem canonis, et proinde strictae subest interpretationi (cf. can 18).
Quibus animadversis. hoc Dicasterium urget Forum "Y" ut deinceps praescriptum can. 1682 §2 ad amussim observet, atque quoad capita nullitatis, de quibus in can. 1095, allocutiones Ionnis Pauli II ad Rotam Romanam dierum 5 februarii 1987 et 25 ianuarii 1988 una cum iurisprudentia Rotae Romanae sedulo prae oculis habeat. et tandem vetat quemcumque iudicem laicum munere praesidis in eodem Foro Fungi.
Occasionem nactus, cuncta fausta Tibi adprecor ac permaneo addictissimus
Gilberto Card. Agustoni
Unofficial English Translation
ACTS OF THE TRIBUNALS OF THE HOLY SEE
SUPREME TRIBUNAL OF THE APOSTOLIC SIGNATURAProt. N. _____
Question concerning the decree by which the affirmative sentence in the first instance was confirmed, by an "equivalently conforming" decision (c. l682, §2).
Most Reverend Bishop,
In the above-referenced case, an affirmative sentence was issued by Tribunal "X" on grounds of the exclusion of the good of offspring on the part of the same woman, a decision described in the same decree as "equivalently conforming."
In a letter dated 10 April 1996, the Most Reverend Vicar General Z of this Apostolic Signatura raised the question whether or not, as the matter stands, the male petitioner should be allowed to enter a new marriage, for which all things have already been prepared.
After careful consideration of the matter, this Supreme Court declared on 11 April 1996, ''There does nnt appear to be a sufficiently cogent reason, in the view of this Apostolic Signatura, for the new marriage of the male petitioner to be impeded." The crucial section of the decree issued on 10 April 1996 is this: "Having seriously considered the matter, and examined the documents presented here, previously referred to, which affirms: a) the absence of sexual union in a canonical marriage; b) the stubborn refusal of the female respondent to permit conjugal intercourse after the celebration of the marriage; and c) the aversion of the woman from her husband even before the celebration of this same canonical marriage." In spite of considerable perplexity of the Tribunal of Second Instance with regard to grounds of grave lack of discretion of judgement in this case, having heard the Promotor of Justice, we have examined all of the acts of the case, to determine whether some matters might be called to the attention of the Appeals Court so that it might proceed properly in the examination of such cases.
When these acts were received in July 1996, this Supreme Tribunal commissioned a certain expert to subject the case to a sedulous examination. When that examination had been completed, this Apostolic Signatura decided to issue the following observations:
In this case, by the aforementioned "decree" of the Appeal Tribunal, a de facto negative decision was rendered as to the grounds dealt with in first instance, that is, with regard to the exclusion of offspring by the female respondent, and an affirmative decision was issued on grounds of a defect of discretion on the part of the same female respondent.
In fact: Since the decision in the first instance of jurisdiction was for the nullity of marriage, the appeals tribunal is permitted only to confirm the affirmative decision in first instance by issuing its own decree. Otherwise, the matter must be admitted to ordinary examination in the appeal court, and the decision favoring the nullity of marriage cannot be issued by decree (cf. c. 1682, §2).
A fortiori, the appeals court is not allowed to issue an affirmative decision by decree, on a grounds of nullity which it has introduced for the first time. Obviously, in such a case, the appeals tribunal, servatis servandis, must consider the matter only by the ordinary process.
The Appellate Tribunal in this case, considered the grounds of grave defect of discretion of judgment, which is considered in canon 1095,2°, as being the "the grounds for nullity, the absence of the human ability to make a decision," and in fact, ignored the teaching on this subject proposed by John Paul II in the noted allocutions to the Roman Rota given on 5 February 1987 (AAS 79  14531459) and on 25 January 1988 (AAS 80 1178-1185).
In this case, the Honorable N. functioned as the presiding judge of the college. That is entirely inappropriate since according to the norm of canon 1426 §2, insofar as it is possible, the Judicial Vicar or Adjutant Judicial Vicar, who must be priests, are to preside (cf. c. 1420, §4).
Canon 1421, §2, concerning a lay judge constitutes an exception related to § 1 of the same canon, and accordingly is the foundation for a narrow interpretation (c. 18).
Having made these observations, this Dicastery urges Tribunal "Y" to observe diligently, henceforth, the prescriptions of canon 1682, §2, and to seriously consider, with respect to the grounds of nullity referred to in canon 1095, the allocutions of John Paul II to the Roman Rota on 5 February 1987 and 25 January 1988, together with the jurisprudence of the Roman Rota and, finally, to forbid that any lay judge fulfill the office of presiding judge of the court.
Make this opportunity to offer you every best wish, and remain, most devotedly
Gilbert Cardinal Agustoni
Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Affirmative sentence in the first instance confirmed by “equivalently conforming” sentence in the second instance, 2001, CLSA, Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions, 2001, 36-41.