Aug 21, 2006

Dignitas Connubi (DC) and Annulments

The purpose of the Vatican document, Dignitas Connubii (DC) is designed “to offer the ministers of justice who work in ecclesiastical tribunals a practical Document, a sort of vademecum that will serve as an easy guide to enable them to handle their work better in canonical processes of matrimonial nullity.” When DC was issued in February 2005, it was compared to a similar Instruction, Provida Mater, issued in 1936. The old instruction, Provida Mater, consisted of 240 articles, while the new DC is a somewhat weightier document with 308 articles.

The Code of Canon Law recognizes the following grounds as invalidating a marriage: force or fear; ignorance, error; fraud; intention against fidelity; intention against children; intention against permanence; intention against partnership of life; lack of reason; grave lack of discretion of judgment; and inability to assume the essential rights and duties of matrimony.

So how goes the implementation of DC? Is the new Vatican instruction issued in early 2005 having an effect on annulments in the U.S.? Or is DC like a lot of post-Vatican instructions that have been ignored?

The Canon Law Society of America (CLSA) is a good place to start to see whether DC is being implemented. The annual convention of the CLSA is scheduled for October 9–12, 2006 in Fort Worth (at a $160/night hotel, plus taxes). A pre-convention workshop will be given on Rota Jurisprudence and Formal Marriage Cases. The workshop will explain recent Rotal decisions that impact marriage. Attendees will likely see an expanded list of reasons for nullity of marriages, because the announcement for the workshop says “Other grounds of nullity that have seen development will be presented…”

The 4-day conference program identifies two presentations on marriage. The first one deals with “Negligence, Dolus, and Personal Canonical Liability in Tribunals.” Apparently DC explicitly allows for legal actions for personal damages against tribunal personnel in case of their negligence. The CLSA is clearly concerned about being sued for damages that could be considerable, particularly if they involve reimbursing wedding expenses.

The second presentation considers the bonum coniugum as an essential element of marriage and as a possible exclusion in the processing of a marriage nullity case.

A new book on DC, , Dignitas Connubii: Norms And Commentary, is expected to be released right before the CLSA conference. It sounds like this book will ‘interpret’ DC. After all, how can you apply Canon Law and the 308 articles in DC without a book that explains what DC means? I think this really means that tribunals are struggling with, delaying, or interpretating DC in the most liberal way they can. Don't look for a solution soon to the problem of annulments that sometimes serve as "Catholic divorces."

2 comments:

dmartin said...

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