Apostolic Signatura, General executory decree on the preservation of judicial acts, 13 August 2011.
In response to questions from Episcopal Moderators and Judicial Vicars regarding the preservation of judicial acts, especially from cases of marriage nullity, the Apostolic Signatura, aware of the burden proper preservation creates for Tribunals, issued a general executory decree regulating this matter. An unofficial English tranlsation of the decree is presented, followed by the original Latin decree.
UNOFFICIAL ENGLISH TRANSLATION
SUPREME TRIBUNAL OF THE APOSTOLIC SIGNATURAOften Episcopal Moderators and Judicial Vicars frequently transmit to this Supreme Tribunal observations and questions concerning the preservation of judicial acts, after trials have been completed. For the burden of keeping these acts weighs more heavily on Tribunals every day, especially on account of the more numerous cases of the nullity of marriage examined before Ecclesiastical Tribunals since the nineteen-seventies and also on account of the increased amount of judicial acts especially from the use of photocopying.
Up to now, this Apostolic Signatura has given responses in particular cases, allowing judicial acts to be destroyed after ten years from the conclusion of the process under two conditions, namely, that the original text of the decisions always be preserved and also that the remaining acts be kept by means of more recent technologies so that they can be reproduced in their entirety whenever there should be a need.
Nevertheless, to regulate this matter more aptly one does not want a single response for all Ecclesiastical Tribunals, since the economic or local circumstances affecting Tribunals are not of a single kind. On the other hand, it does not appear opportune to leave the matter to statutes or particular decisions, since abuses could insert themselves in a matter of such importance.
Having considered these matters,
THE SUPREME TRIBUNAL OF THE APOSTOLIC SIGNATURA
Holding as established the general principle according to which judicial acts, after the completion of a trial of the nullity of a marriage, must be preserved in the safest possible manner at least until the death of one or the other spouse, even using for this purpose more recent technological means, keeping , however, the definitive decisions in the original;
Attentive, however, to the increasingly heavier burdens which the proper preservation of judicial acts creates for Tribunals;
Observing moreover that it is the responsibility of the competent judge to curb an excessive quantity of acts, both by an attentive application of the canons (cf. especially can. 1527, §1; art. 157, §3, of the Instruction Dignitas connubii) and, whenever it is possible, by the more recent technological means, applied with due precautions;
Having considered the prescript of canon 489, §2, issued in a similar matter;
Having confirmed the prescript of can. 1475, §1 (cf. art. 91, §1, of the above noted Instruction);
Having examined the prescripts of canons 1472, 1492, 1522, 1525, 1598, 1611, 1621, 1643, 1644, 1646, 1684 (cf. articles 88; 148; 151; 235, §1; 250; 271; 289, §1; 290 of the same Instruction);
With due regard for the laws of the Tribunals of the Apostolic See (can. 1402);
In virtue of articles 121 and 124, n. 1, of the Apostolic Constitution, Pastor bonus (cf. also can. 1445, §3), articles 32, 35 and 112 of the proper Law, by which this Supreme Tribunal is regulated, and also can. 31, §1;
After the matter had been carefully examined twice in Congresso before the undersigned Prefect;
Having heard the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts according to the norm of art. 131, §5, of the General Regulation of the Roman Curia;
The text of this decree having been reviewed and recommended by the Cardinal and Bishop Members of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, in a plenary Session held on 3-4 February 2011 before the undersigned Prefect, and also having been presented to the Supreme Pontiff according to the norm of art. 131, §6, of the above noted Regulation, and having been approved by POPE BENEDICT XVI on 20 July 2011,
If the preservation of judicial acts by any secure means whatsoever, even by the use of more recent technological means, constitutes a grave inconvenience, the Bishop Moderators of Ecclesiastical Tribunals have the competence, having duly pondered all of the circumstances, to issue norms concerning the destruction at fixed times of the judicial acts of cases of the nullity of marriage, under these conditions:
* the cases in question have been concluded for at least twenty years;
* concerning these individual cases, the definitive sentences, decrees of confir-mation, decisions having the force of a definitive sentence and, if there by any, interlocutory pronouncements are to be preserved in the original text or in an authentic copy.
Given at Rome, from the Seat of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, on 13 August 2011.
Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke
+Frans Daneels, O. Praem.
Prot. N. 42027/08 VT
Supremum Signaturae Apostolicae Tribunal
Decretum generale exsecutorium de actis iudicialibus conservandisSaepe saepius Episcopi Moderatores et Vicarii iudiciales ad hoc Supremum Tribunal animadversions atque quaesita transmittunt de actis iudicialibus, post expleta iudicia, conservandis. Nam onus eadem asservandi in dies gravius Tribunalibus incumbit, praesertim ob numerosiores causas nullitatis matrimonii ab annis septuaginta praeteriti saeculi apud Tribunalia Ecclesiastica pertractatas necnon ob actorum iudicialium incrementum praesertim ex usu exemplarium luce impressa confectorum.
Usque adhuc haec Signatura Apostolica responsa dedit in casibus particularibus, acta iudicialia post decem annos a conclusione processus destrui posse concedens duabus sub condicionibus, id est, originales decisionum textus semper servandos esse atque cetera acta adhibitis mediis technicis recentioribus asservanda esse, ita ut integra reproduci possint quotiescumque opus sit.
Ad hanc materiam aptius moderandam, tamen, non una responsione pro omnibus Tribunalibus Ecclesiasticis opus est, cum adiuncta sive oeconomica sive loci, quibus Tribunalia afficiuntur, non unius generis sint. Nec, ceterum, opportunum apparet rem relinquere statutis vel decisionibus particularibus, cum abusus in re tanti momenti irrepere possint.
SUPREMUM SIGNATURAE APOSTOLICAE TRIBUNAL
Pro comperto habito principio generali iuxta quod acta iudicialia, expleto nullitatis matrimonii iudicio, saltem usque ad mortem alterutrius coniugis conservanda sunt tutiore quo potest modo, etiam ad rem adhibitis mediis technicis recentioribus, decisionibus tamen definitivis sub originali servatis;
Perspectis autem oneribus in dies gravioribus, quae pro recta actorum iudicialium conservatione Tribunalibus incumbunt;
Animadverso ceterum quod iudicis competentis est nimiam actorum multitudinem refrenare sive ex sedula canonum applicatione (cf. praesertim can. 1527, §1; art. 157, §3 Instructionis Dignitas connunii) sive, quantum fieri potest, ex recentioribus mediis technicis, cum debitis cautelis applicandis;
Considerato canonis 489, §2 praescripto in re simili lato;
Firmo praescripto can. 1475, §1 (cf. art. 91, §1 praefatae Instructionis);
Visis praescriptis canonum 1472, 1492, 1522, 1525, 1598, 1611, 1621, 1643, 1644, 1646, 1684 (cf. artt. 88; 148; 151; 235, §1; 250; 271; 289, §1; 290 eiusdem Instructionis);
Salvis legibus Tribunalium Apostolicae Sedis (can. 1402);
Vi artt. 121 et 124, n. 1 Const. Apost. Pastor bonus (cf. etiam can. 1445, §3), artt. 32, 35, et 112 Legis propriae, qua hoc Supremum Tribunal regitur, atque can. 31, §1;
Re sedulo bis examini subiecta in Congressu coram infrascripto Praefecto habito;
Audito Pontificio Consilio de Legum Textibus ad normam art. 131, §5 Ordinationis generalis Romanae Curiae;
Huius decreti textu ab Em.mis et Exc.mis Patribus Supremi Signaturae Apostolicae Tribunalis, in plenario Coetu diebus 3-4 Februarii anni 2011 coram infrascripto Praefecto habito, recognito et probato, atque Summo Pontifici ad normam art. 131, §6 praefatae Ordinationis porrecto, eoque a BENEDICTO PP. XVI die 20 Iulii 2011 approbato,
Si grave incommodum constituat actorum iudicialium conservatio, quocumque tuto modo peracta, etiam recentioribus mediis technicis abhibitis, Episcopis Moderatoribus Tribunalium Ecclesiasticorum competere ut, omnibus adiunctis aeque ponderatis, normas edant de actis iudicialibus causarum nullitatis matrimonii, statutis temporibus, destruendis, his sub condicionibus:
* causas de quibus saltem a viginti annis conclusae sint;
* de iisdem singulis causis semper serventur, sub textu originali vel exemplari authentico, sententiae definitivae, decreta confirmatoria, decisiones vim sententiae definitivae habentes et, si quae sint, pronuntiationes interlocutoriae.
Datum Romae, e Sede Supremi Signaturae Apostolicae Tribunalis, die 13 Augusti 2011.
Raimundus Leo S.R.E. Card. Burke
+Franciscus Daneels, O. Praem.
Prot. N. 42027/08 VT
Apostolic Signatura, General executory decree on the preservation of judicial acts Saepe saepius, 13 August 2011, AAS 103 (2011) 626-628. English in CLSA, Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions, 2012, 40-44.