Sentence of Nov 5, 1992 (Paris) (c. 1095,2 [freedom and motivation])

[English version: Studia canonica 27 (1993), 486-496]

I. The Facts



1.         Jean-François E and Claire B met at the University (where he was studying Medicine and she Psychology) in March 1976, and soon after began to live together. They were married on March 3, 1979, but their married life together, despite the birth of one child, lasted little more than a year. They were divorced in November 1982.

            On Nov. 9, 1983 he presented a libellus to the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of Paris, requesting the declaration of nullity of his marriage "par défaut de délibération et de liberté interne de ma part". After instruction of the case, an Affirmative decision was handed down on Nov. 4, 1985, on the grounds of "grave lack of discretion of judgment on the part of the man", but this was reversed by the Appeal Court on April 11, 1987. The Petitioner appealed to this Apostolic Tribunal, and appointed his own rotal lawyer. However, due to inertia on his part, the case was declared perempted in April 1989. It was subsequently reopened at his request, and further evidence was slowly gathered. Today, after receiving and studying the advocate's briefs and the Observations of the Defender of the Bond, we must now give our answer to the douobt proposed: "An constet de matrimonii nullitate, in casu".

II. The Law



2.         "Matrimonial consent is an act of the will..." (c. 1057, § 2). This act of the will, to be a truly human choice, must be preceded by an intellectual act of deliberation about the matter to be chosen (cf. St. Thomas, Suppl., q. 51, art. 1). A grave defect of either mind or will can therefore nullify matrimonial consent. As Gasparri says: "Matrimonial consent being an act of the will which supposes intellectual knowledge (since nothing can be willed unless it is first known), it follows that consent can be defective either on the part of the mind or on the part of the will" (De Matrimonio, n. 880). The question that has long exercised canonists is how grave the defect of mind or will must be, in order to have an invalidating effect on consent.

3.         Imperfection of knowledge and weakness of will characterize man in his present state (cf. Summa Th., I-II, q. 85, art. 3). Therefore no perfection or fullness of knowledge of all the aspects of married life can be required for valid consent; such knowledge is bound to be defective in some respects. Similarly, no perfection or even exceptional strength of will is demanded. A person of weak will, who for instance is easily influenced, can also consent validly. Marriage is not just for very independent types, nor can the right to marry be limited to self-reliant persons (who may in fact be those least interested in marrying).

4.         But there is something further which has to be noted here. Knowledge (or its defect) can be measured, as is borne out by the practice of academic examinations. Canon law indicates a minimum knowledge of the nature of marriage which is necessary for consensual capacity (c. 1096; c. Fiore, May 30, 1987: RRD, vol. 79, p. 337, n. 8). This knowledge however cannot be merely conceptual or theoretical, as might suffice in order to know something which has no bearing on one's own life. According to established jurisprudence, it must also be critical (cf. c. Felici, Dec. 3, 1957: RRD, vol. 49, p. 78; c. Sabattani, Feb. 24, 1961: vol. 53, p. 117; c. Ferraro, Apr. 30, 1970: vol. 62, p. 413; c. Di Felice, Jan. 12, 1974: vol. 66, p. 2; c. Fiore, Feb. 22, 1980: vol. 72, p. 103-104; c. Bruno, July 28, 1981, vol. 73, p. 402; c. De Lanversin, March 20, 1985: vol. 77, p. 168, etc.); that is, it must be accompanied by a certain ability to weigh up the fundamental practical implications of such an important personal choice.

            Since c. 1095, 2º calls for a degree of critical awareness of the essential rights/obligations of marriage as a prerequisite of consensual capacity, it must be possible (although by no means necessarily easy) to determine both the content of these essential rights/obligations, as well as the minimum critical knowledge of them required for valid consent. In his Address to the Rota in 1984, Pope John Paul II pointed this out as a task to be undertaken especially by qualified rotal jurisprudence (AAS vol. 76, 648).

5.         Now, degrees of will do not lend themselves to human measurement as do degrees of knowledge, a point one sees reflected in the reluctance of contemporary moral theology to judge the imputability of individual acts. There is no canon, corresponding to c. 1096, which specifies the minimum degree of will sufficient for valid consent. The Code simply requires that the will be free (cf. cc. 219; 1095, 3º; 1099; 1103), with no indication of "how much" freedom is necessary. This suggests that maybe we can clarify our discourse if we center on the concept of (internal) freedom rather than on that of will.

6.         One can speak of degrees of knowledge, and attempt to measure them. Perhaps one can speak of degrees of will, although they tend to escape measurement. But it is not clear that one can speak of degrees of internal freedom. A person is either free interiorly or else he is not. Properly speaking it is never correct to say that a person is "half-free" or "partly" free. People of course do not always express themselves properly, as when someone remarks, "I was free - up to a point". By this however he usually means, "I choose something freely, although I was not totally happy in my choice. I had motives for doing what I did, but also motives against. In the end, I followed the former". It is the "voluntarium secundum quid" of the scholastics (cf. Summa Th., I-II, q. 6, art. 6), which of course is still a voluntary and free act. A conflict of motives cannot be confused with a lack of freedom; it is rather a sign of its existence. Here we need to analyze more particularly how a person makes his way from indifference to choice, from neutrality to commitment.

7.         To be free is to able to say Yes or No, to make one choice rather than another. "The idea of freedom is substantially identified with the capacity man possesses to determine himself in favor of one alternative in preference to others" (R. Zavalloni: La libertà personale. Psicologia della condotta umana, Milan, 1973, p. 358). If a person, even before having an initial contact with a matter requiring a decision, were determined to one eventual choice, he would in fact not be free. The first approach of a free person to any such matter must therefore be one of indetermination.

            On the other hand, if he continues to remain in such a position of indetermination or indifference, it is clear he will never come to a choice in the matter. A choice in fact involves precisely a self-determination, a free commitment of oneself, in a definite direction. A will which is permanently indetermined, is paralysed; it is unable to choose, or it ends up by making haphazard and aimless "choices" that have nothing to do with the true exercise of human freedom. "The indetermination which must be introduced into freedom has nothing in common with that other indetermination characterizing freedom of indifference, i.e. a reasonless choice, a motiveless willing. Freedom of indifference is something non-sensical..." (Zavalloni, ibid. 237).

8.         It is through a process of discovering motives that a person abandons his position of indifference, and is enabled to come to a choice for or against a particular action, so exercising his freedom. It is an elementary mistake therefore to think that because a choice is motivated, it is less free. And yet some people do entertain "the false supposition that freedom implies the exclusion of all motivation" (ibid. 66). No one makes a true human choice without a motive. Actions without motives would not be free; they would be irrational. "Freedom is not in fact something anarchical or irrational; it does not consist in the absence of causality or of motivation" (ibid. 231).

            "Daily experience teaches us, even more effectively than scientific discourse, that we are all prompted by countless urges, whether rational or irrational in nature, and by so many circumstances that move us to act. But no clear-thinking person concludes that man is therefore determined by these impulses in his actions, or that they deprive him of his freedom. It is by his discernment that man exercises control over them, accepting some, and rejecting or overcoming others" (c. Agustoni, May 27, 1980: RRD, vol. 72, p. 402).

            A motive can indeed be described as an interior stimulus or psychological pressure urging a person to a particular choice. But internal motives in themselves, unlike certain pressures coming from outside, do not take away freedom. If one holds that freedom means unmotivated decisions, one easily comes to regard the presence of motives as "proof" of some form of internal coercion which, just as external coercion (cf. c. 1103), would involve a violation of human dignity and freedom. This is not sound psychology. Gaudium et Spes teaches very clearly: "Man's dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraint" (no. 17).

9.         Man has a series of natural needs, inclinations and instincts, given to him for his good. While he can use these well or badly, they stimulate his will and it cannot be indifferent to them. On the contrary, it is normal for the will to be influenced or conditioned internally by these factors; and, in the absence of a serious psychic anomaly coming from other sources, such a conditioned or influenced will must be considered "sufficient" and "mature" for free human choices. "One must therefore say that these internal conditionings render the exercise of free will more or less difficult, but do not of themselves take freedom away" (c. Fiore, May 30, 1987: RRD, vol. 79, p. 340). To demand that man have "absolute" or "perfect" freedom, unconditioned by the fact of his humanity and marked by no difficulty in its exercise, is to ask for a will such as only God possesses.

            "Willing is not something that begins in itself; freedom does not imply the absence of presuppositions: every decision or voluntary choice presupposes in fact the existence of motives. Such motives properly speaking do not determine human conduct, they simply condition it. All of these factors, such as suggestions, unconscious needs, heredity and environment, including the physiological constitution and the pathological condition of a person, can be regarded as the components of his 'motivation' in the broad sense of the word; and to the extent that they influence man's activity, without attaining the level of consciousness, they constitute what can be termed the 'conditionism' or the limitations of human freedom" (Zavalloni, op. cit. p. 257).

10.       Modern christian psychology accepts the presence of unconscious forces in the human psyche (cf. VanderVelt-Odenwald: Psychiatry and Catholicism, New York, 1952, pp. 150-152; L.M. Rulla: Antropologia della Vocazione Cristiana, 1985, pp. 56ss). Such forces affect people's decisions, bringing about, as Pope John Paul II remarks, "a reduction, but not a privation, of people's effective freedom to tend toward the good chosen" (Address to the Roman Rota, 1987, AAS, vol. 79, 1456). These unconscious elements, however difficult to scrutinise, are not to be considered pathological. They form part of normal psychic life, and their presence is no proof of invalidating lack of freedom. Only a grave psychic pathology, that is medically demonstrated, can justify a declaration of consensual incapacity. The Pope insists: "An argument for real incapacity can be entertained only in the presence of a serious form of anomaly which, however one chooses to define it, must substantially undermine the capacity of understanding and/or of willing of the contracting party" (ibid. 1457).

11.       "Serious difficulties can arise from the application of the conclusions of natural sciences, which are largely based on psychological determinism, to canon law which rests on the metaphysical principle of free will" (c. Stankiewicz, May 31, 1979: RRD, vol. 71, p. 309). In effect, "[modern] psychology... knows so many limitations upon freedom that it inclines to assume that in the last analysis all conduct is determined and no act is free" (G.W. Allport: Pattern and Growth in Personality, New York, 1961, p. 561). The assessment that our freedom is subject to many limitations and influences - also from within - is correct; that is the present human condition. But Christianity not only rejects the assumption that all conduct is therefore determined; it goes on to hold that our natural tendencies, acting according to right order, favor the proper exercise of freedom (cf. Servais Pinckaers: Les Sources de la morale chrétienne, Fribourg, 1985, Ch. 17).

12.       It is to be expected that strong motives should influence the choice of a matter as important as marriage. The most common and most natural motive is the simple fact of being "in love" with another person; a motive that is not easily made the object of a rational explanation or analysis. Desire for children, for a home, for security, for companionship, are further frequent and powerful motives for marrying. Given the complementary and supportive nature of marriage, such motives can also correspond to an awareness of personal insufficiency or weakness, and therefore include an expectation of help.

13.       These considerations lend support to the point suggested earlier: that in practice there seems to be no way in which one can establish degrees of will or of freedom adequate for valid consent. Under natural law, it is only when the self-determination of the will has been rendered impossible from within that a person becomes consensually incapable, because only then must his consent be said to be unfree.

            One can therefore question the principle suggested in a decision coram Anné of March 29, 1966: "Matrimonial consent is nullified from within not only if freedom is altogether lacking, but also if it undergoes grave internal impairment" (RRD: vol. 58, p. 187). For this criterion - reduced internal freedom can nullify - to be judicially useful, one would have to assign some minimum level of will (as c. 1096 does for intellectual knowledge), below which consent is certainly invalid, and above which there is a presumption of validity. Neither juridically nor psychologically can one see any scientific basis on which such a level could be established and measured.

14.       Mainstream rotal jurisprudence has rather held that, to cause an invalidating defect of consent, the pathological lesion of the will, coming from interior impulses, must be so grave that the natural capacity of self-determination, in which lies the essence of freedom, has been lost. In other words, in the case in question, the will is no longer operative as a human faculty, and the person's apparent choices - e.g. matrimonial consent - are not free personal choices at all; they are determined from within by a pathological condition affecting the will.

            "If, because of some illness affecting the area of the will, a person in apparent enjoyment of due discretion of judgment, is deprived of the capacity of freely determining himself to contract matrimony, his consent is to be held invalid" (c. Davino, Apr. 28, 1977: vol. 69, p. 233). "Freedom after all does not exclude even grave impulses, but simply requires that these urges should not be such that they necessarily determine the will" (c. Ewers, Jan. 19, 1980: vol. 72, p. 49). "So that one can speak of a defect of internal freedom, the influence swaying the will towards a particular choice must be irresistible; in other words, it is necessary that the higher faculties be unable to master this influence" (c. Agustoni, Dec. 4, 1984: vol. 76, p. 582). "When we speak about freedom we necessarily imply a certain lack of determination and at the same time a capacity to determine oneself. But this does not exclude the presence of urges, even of a grave nature, which make deliberation more or less difficult, but do not destroy freedom. It is enough that the impulses should not be so powerful as to determine the will (c. Pompedda, March 23, 1987: vol. 79, p. 135).

15.       To uphold a claim of consensual incapacity, then, it must be shown that freedom was not just affected, but really taken away. If a person could have said No, even if this required an effort, then he was not unfree. Motivated freedom is still freedom; influenced freedom is still freedom. Freedom diminished from within is still freedom - unless it is reduced to the point of being determined: that is the critical point, for once one gets there, freedom disappears completely. A will that is motivated is free; a will that is determined is not. The extinction of free will is precisely what is implied in the concept of determination.

            The first instance affirmative decision in the present case was based on the judges' conviction that the Petitioner's matrimonial consent had been annihilated: "nous estimons avec l'Expert, que la conjonction d'une sévère névrose d'angoisse avec une grande immaturité affective a été suffisamment oppressante pour annihiler la liberté (scil. actoris) par rapport à l'importance de l'engagement qu'il devait prendre. Son consentement en a été rendu inexistant et, pourtant, son mariage est nul" (Acts, 144). While "annihilation" may not be the best word for juridic use, pathological determination of the will really means its reduction "ad nihilum" as a faculty expressing and safeguarding the dignity and freedom of the person.

16.       "Whatever be the definition given by psychological and psychiatric sciences, it must always be verified in the light of the concepts of christian anthropology which underlie canonical science" (John Paul II, Address to the Roman Rota, Jan. 25, 1988: AAS, vol. 80, 1180). Some psychological assessments of human personality seem to work from a standard of self-sufficiency and total autonomy as the ideal. Within such a framework, to feel the need to find support in others is a sign of an unintegrated personality. A peritus in the present case held that the psychic difficulties undergone by the Petitioner arose from "une certaine prolongation du conflit oedipien, aggravé par une mauvaise élaboration de la phrase dépressive. Il faut savoir que la phase dépressive bien intégrée confère au Moi toute sa stabilité et sa capacité d'assumer son autonomie et sa solitude. Mal intégrée, elle entraîne une dépendance à l'autre, un besoin de s'appuyer sur lui" (Acts, 220). According to this analysis (which seems to have been accepted in the Sentence of first instance: cf. p. 143), a stable or mature personality is shown in acceptance of one's solitude and establishing one's autonomy from others; while the need to rely on others is a sign of lack of personal integration. Such an analysis does not correspond to a christian view of man.

17.       Man is in fact made for others. The principal personalist text of Vatican II is Gaudium et Spes, no. 24: "man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself". Hence derives, along with the importance and naturalness of the marital relationship, the contemporary analysis of conjugal consent as mutual self-gift (cf. c. 1057, §2). There is a deep contrast between the idea of "self-sufficiency" presented by much of modern psychology, and the christian ideal of realization through self-giving. "Only by transcending themselves and living a life of self-giving and openness to truth and love can individuals reach fulfilment" (John Paul II: Address to members of the American Psychiatric Association, Jan. 4, 1993: Osservatore Romano, Engl. Edition, Jan. 13, 1993, p. 4). Self-sufficiency is rather in the nature of a temptation for man; one that he needs to overcome if he is to give himself and realize himself. Marriage presents itself, in the plan of nature, as a safeguard against the trap of self-sufficiency. "This partnership of man and woman constitutes the first form of communion between persons. For by his innermost nature man is a social being; and if he does into enter into relations with others he can neither live nor develop his gifts" (Gaudium et Spes, no. 12). Man is especially made for conjugal dependance. One of the witnesses in the present case expresses this in relation to the Petitioner who, she says, "avait besoin de points d'appui solides. Pour lui le mariage était un de ces cadres essentiels à la vie" (Acts, 59/11). Such an understanding of marriage is a sign of normality.

III. The Argument



18.       The Petitioner's argument is that the two years he spent living together with the Respondent before the wedding gradually seeped away his will: "A partir du moment où s'est instaurée la vie commune, j'ai constaté un processus de dégradation de ma personnalité surtout au niveau de la volonté" (20/11). As a result he came to the wedding without any will (the first Sentence speaks of his will being annihilated: 144); his consent was therefore inexistent and the marriage invalid.

            Invalid consent because of absence of internal freedom is not an easy thesis to prove. In the present case, convincing evidence is required of the fact of the pre-marital decline of will (with some reasonable indication of its cause), of the gravity of the alleged condition (such that the Petitioner was in fact deprived of his freedom). Since the couple had already been living together for two years, the argument would have to be completed by showing some "causa contrahendi", i.e. some explanation why the marriage took place, in the absence of any will on the Petitioner's part to choose it.

19.       The pre-marital deterioration of will on the part of the Petitioner



            There is proof enough that the Petitioner went through a grave depression early in 1980; and it seems probable that he was a constitutionally neurotic-depressive type, though the evidence which his own side gives on this point is not coherent.

            PE, his father and a doctor, says his son had no predisposition to depression: "Jean-François est de tempérament impulsif et super sensible. Il est très réfléchi et volontaire. Cette hyper-sensibilité ne présente aucun caractère pathologique, en sorte que rien ne le prédisposait à une dépression réactionelle" (69/8). This opinion contrasts with both what the Petitioner says of himself - "il y'a en moi une certaine propension à la dépression" (25/23) - and the diagnosis of Rev. D: "une mauvaise élaboration de la phase dépressive" (220).

            The Petitioner's mother states: "La cohabitation avec Claire va détruire sa capacité intellectuelle" (212). We notice that the mother speaks here of intellectual, not volitional, deterioration.

            As against this, the Respondent contends that while the Petitioner had a nervous temperament, he showed no pathological symptoms before the marriage. She knows nothing about psychic difficulties in his earlier life: "Je signalerais tout au plus que ses soeurs m'avaient dit qu'il n'était pas facile à vivre, ce qui est vrai, mais n'implique aucunement un état pathologique" (34/19).

            She insists that it was after the wedding that the Petitioner went through his crisis. Only after nine months did his nervous character show first signs of seriousness. "Jusqu'à Noël [1979], la vie conjugale a été heureuse..." (32). "J'ai vu un Jean-François transformé à partir de Noël" (165). "C'était là une crise provisoire. Je répète que cette crise se situe à ce moment-là et non pas à l'époque précédent notre mariage; il est évident que je n'aurais pas épousé un garçon qui ne m'aurait pas paru normal" (33).

20.       Cause of his alleged pathological condition



            In third instance his father again insists on the Petitioner's healthy background, and says his pathological depression began with his cohabitation with the Respondent: "Je puis affirmer, à nouveau, catégoriquement, que jusqu'à sa "cohabitation" avec Claire, son comportement ne m'a jamais paru ressortir d'une quelconque pathologie" (205).

            On the Petitioner's side, the claim that his psychic perturbation was due to her influence is confusedly presented and weakly corroborated. His mother speaks in first instance of "Les pressions exercées par Claire sur lui (convento) pour le décider au mariage"; but she knows of this only from what he had told her (61-62). In third instance, having begun her evidence by saying, "Je pense que Jean-François est une personne tout à fait normale" (208), she continues: "La vie commune que J. François et Claire ont menée avant le mariage aboutit à une destructuration et à une dépersonnalisation de J. François, en raison de la personnalité de Claire". But she relates this "destructuration" principally to his studies: "J. François va se trouver confronter avec Claire à une personnalité dont la seule loi n'était que le plaisir... J. François a donc perdu, au contact de Claire, ses exigences de dépassement et il ne savait plus où il en était" (211-212). The Acts however show that his examination results during the period of cohabitation were not bad (181).

            The Petitioner's father, saying that at the time of the marriage their relations with their son were reduced to a minimum, simply affirms that he then "commençait un état dépressif anxieux, qui lui enlevait son libre arbitre" (68). In his libellus, the Petitioner spoke of how "l'insistance que mettait Claire à parler de mariage sapait mon ambition" (6). Yet in his later testimony, he presented her as desiring either marriage or separation: she showed "un désir de sortir de la situation instable dans laquelle nous nous trouvions, soit par le mariage, et parfois elle le demandait positivement, soit en nous séparant, ce qui pratiquement n'était guère facile. Cette situation a duré environ deux ans et demi" (20).

21.       The Acts seem rather to lend credence to the suggestion from the Respondent's side, that the nervous crisis grew out of the Petitioner's post-marriage decision to prepare the examination for his internship. Thus the Respondent claims his crisis originated not in their cohabitation, but in overwork on his part after this decision (30), the depression coming on when he realised his poor prospects for the exams. At Christmas, says the Respondent, "il a réalisé en en parlant avec son père qu'il n'était pas en mesure d'avoir son internat (de fait, il ne s'y est pas présenté). De tout cela il apparaissait pleinement paniqué. Son père, et peut-être d'autres médecins lui prescrivirent des anti-dépresseurs qui finirent par le rendre paranoïaque. A partir de ce moment, je n'ai plus jamais eu d'échanges ni de conversations vraies avec mon mari" (32). The Petitioner's mother seems to offer a certain confirmation of this: "Les cérémonies du mariage se sont passés normalement. Jean-François avait une pauvre petite figure, ce qu'on pouvait attribuer aux fatigues de la préparation de son internat" (64).

22.       In this context the evidence given by Dr. PD, the only psychiatrist to treat the Petitioner professionally at the time (a year after the wedding), is very interesting: "il a fait des études... brillantes. Lorsque j'ai rencontré Jean-François en juin 1980 il n'y a pas de doute qu'il était très mal sur le plan psychique" (99). He relates the roots of the crisis completely to post-marriage factors: "Je me trouve en présence d'un homme jeune, en désarroi existentiel, et vivant une crise marquée du sceau de l'échec; échec partiel sur le plan professionnel (concours d'internat), échec psycho-affectif (conjugal), et aussi difficulté d'assumer une paternité prochaine" (ibid.).

            Other witnesses too confirm the basic pre-marriage normality of the Petitioner. Special importance attaches to the evidence of Rev. HA, a friend of the Petitioner from childhood, who celebrated the marriage rite, and MCC, a friend of both parties. Rev. A declares: "Je connais Jean-François depuis sa naissance. C'est un garçon loyal et objectif. Il me semble assez équilibré" (42/3). Asked, "Avez-vous remarqué une dégradation dans l'état psychique de Jean-François et à quelle époque - avant ou après le mariage?", he replies: "Je n'ai rien constaté de ce genre" (45/12). MCC saw no psychic deterioration in the Petitioner, "du moins jusqu'à son mariage"; though she did afterwards (58/8). PH, a friend of the Respondent: "Jamais, à aucun moment, je n'ai constaté une dégradation psychique chez Jean-François. Pas trace de dépression" (54/8).

23.       Gravity of alleged condition



            A neurotic-depressive condition is not a grave condition in itself. As the second Sentence says: "il convient d'observer que dépression et névrose d'angoisse ne limitent pas automatiquement le jugement" (183). The Acts bear out that the Petitioner had no medical history of psychic troubles (24/23; 34/19; 45/13; 58/8; 69; 92/9; 217/4). We find nothing in the Acts to indicate that his psychic condition was grave at the moment of consent; or that it incapacitated him from understanding or choosing any of the essential obligations of marriage (a question, we might note, not addressed at all by the first Sentence).

24.       The cause of the marriage



            JE, the Petitioner's mother, says: "ce qui faisait l'idéal de vie de J. François, c'était d'arriver à passer son internat. La cohabitation avec Claire va détruire sa capacité intellectuelle. Le seul moyen de se raccrocher au but qu'il s'était fixé était d'accepter le mariage et ainsi, pensait-il à tort, avoir la paix pour travailler" (212). The logic of this escapes us.

25.       Given the fact that his family were intensely opposed to both cohabitation and marriage, he could have broken his relations with Claire at any moment, as the second sentence points out (183). His parents allege that, though opposed, they could not voice their opposition out of fear of the effects on him (63/6; 68/6; 204); but he says his decision to marry was taken precisely as result of a "violent débat" with his parents (a major point to which we return below). The parents' evidence does not seem to merit great credibility.

26.       The question is did he want marriage, and did he have the freedom of will to make a valid matrimonial choice? The indications are that he did. When they married, he was 24, she was 26; and they had spent two and a half years living together. There was no reason to marry, unless both wanted it. There is strong evidence that this was so. When Rev. A. is asked, "Savez-vous s'ils ont désiré ce mariage - qui des deux en aurait pris l'initiative - qu'en pensaient chacune des familles?", he replies: "La famille Esquerre me demanda, à l'instance même des jeunes, de venir à Bordeaux pour parler avec les fiancés. Il résulta de cette rencontre que les jeunes me parurent décidés à se marier" (43/6). PH: "Ils ont désiré l'un et l'autre ce mariage" (53). MCC: "Ils ont désiré ce mariage l'un et l'autre... Peu de temps avant le mariage... Jean-François est venu nous voir à Bordeaux et nous a redit combien il était ferme dans son intention d'épouser Claire: elle sera ma femme pour ma vie, nous dit-il" (57/3). CD, a friend of the Petitioner, says that at the wedding, "Jean-François paraissait heureux" (96(9). JM, a cousin of his mother, states: "J'ai assisté au mariage. Ce fut un jour de réjouissance..."; asked, "Au moment du mariage, Jean François vous a-t-il paru jouir de sa pleine liberté de décision", he replies: "Je pense que oui" (106/9-10). JR, the Respondent's god-mother, says the same (51/9-10).

            It is true that the Petitioner's mother says that during the wedding, "Jean-François donnait l'impression d'un être absent et anestésié" (65), but his sister, Bernadette, does not confirm this: "J'ai assisté au mariage, mais je n'ai rien remarqué ce jour-là" (86/9).

27.       The First Court, considering the contrast between the personality of the Petitioner and that of the Respondent, concludes that "la confrontation de ces deux personnalités a abouti à l'écrasement du libre arbitre du jeune homme" (144). No doubt the Respondent had a stronger character; and very possibly the Petitioner was influenced and even attracted by this. In other words, he probably sought support there. In our Law considerations, we recalled the evidence of MCC: "Jean-François avait besoin de points d'appui solides. Pour lui le mariage était un de ces cadres essentiels à la vie" (59/11). We find in this no sign of abnormality.

28.       The substance of the Petitioner's claim, accepted by the First Court, is that it was her insistence which "forced" him to marriage, in a moment when his will was "annihilated". But in his libellus he says it was he who proposed, and is very explicit as to the circumstances in which he did so: "La cause déterminante de cette démission [accepting marriage] fut... un violent débat avec mes parents [in '78] auquel je mis fin en leur déclarant par bravade que, puisqu'il en était ainsi, j'épouserai Claire" (7; cf. 22/15). His mother confirms this, adding that he made his declaration not only before them but also before his sister: "L'ayant ainsi annoncé devant un tiers, il ne lui était plus possible de revenir en arrière" (62-63). In third instance, his sister, Catherine, gives full confirmation of what she had already indicated in first instance (90): that it was he, not she, who proposed: "J'ai été témoin de la manière dont J. François a décidé de se marier. Je me trouvais dans leur appartement avec Claire, lorsque J. François est arrivé comme une furie en demandant à Claire si elle voulait se marier avec lui. Claire a été fort surprise. Puis elle a pris sur elle et a déclaré qu'elle était bien d'accord. J'ai appris plus tard que J. François venait d'avoir une discussion très vive avec ses parents et que c'est sous l'effet de la colère qu'il est allé avertir Claire qu'ils allaient se marier" (216).

            What is the argument here: that he had no will to say "I will not marry" to her, or that he had the will to say, "I will marry", to his parents? After all, to decide for marriage, against the will of his parents (61/4; 63/6), shows a strong exercise of freedom. We think that this is thoroughly borne out by the Acts.

29.       As Dr. G. says: "du moment que Jean-François, malgré les réticences de son père, s'est obstiné à vouloir ce mariage, il semble bien qu'il ait souhaité cette union" (81/5). Dr. D., who treated the Petitioner in 1980, suggests he wanted the marriage "par opposition à la volonté paternelle" (99/5): the Petitioner's cousin, FA, thinks the same (108/5). There is no sign of that "annihilation" of will to which the first Sentence concludes. Unless one accepts the (unproved) deterministic interpretation offered by Rev. D's report: "Par la suite, il datera sa décision de ce jour de colère, mais il va s'y enfermer de plus en plus, à cause de l'asthénie de la dépression obéissant contre sa volonté au mécanisme répétitif de la névrose qui le mène à un échec irrémediable" (230).

30.       Periti



            Of the expert opinions before us, we have already considered Dr. D's, which is the only one based on direct medical treatment of the Petitioner shortly after his marriage. As to the other opinions (made two and eight years after the breakdown), the first is certainly inconclusive and not sufficiently based on the Acts. The second works from unacceptable premises, and is also unsupported by the Acts.

31.       Dr. JPM, who interviewed the Petitioner in 1984, notes some signs of adolescent immaturity (which we can readily admit, although it is not really proven from the Acts); "Après une amélioration, il se décompense de nouveau quelques mois après son mariage..." (122), Asked to define the illness, he answers: "on peut parler d'une névrose d'angoisse en rapport avec une grande immaturité affective" (124). He states that the decision to marry "était gravement atteinte" (ibid.); but, as the Judges of Second Instance note: "il ne donne aucune indication de symptômes antérieures au mariage justifiant cette conclusion" (181). In short we do not find this opinion sufficiently borne out by the Acts.

32.       Another expert opinion was elaborated in 1990, not "ex officio", but on the initiative of the Judicial Vicar of first instance (189). We must say that this opinion of the psychologist, Rev. BD, based exclusively on what the Petitioner told him, is of little utility. It gives the impression in fact of being a sort of artificial "construction", rooted in freudian psychology.

            Rev. D. notes that the Petitioner in early years, "était paralysé devant ses parents"... The Acts give no evidence to back this. He considers the Petitioner now normal, remarking that there is no "angoisse de castration" (219), although the oedipus complex which he had at 20 was "pas encore suffisamment résolu" at that age (223).

33.       One cannot avoid the impression that the expert opinions in this case have been formed rather lightly. Rev. D. says: "Le cas de Jean-François est un cas de dépression névrotique grave... En 1982 tout était rentré dans l'ordre" (221). Dr. M. however says that "L'exemption du service militare confirme le caractère sérieux de ces troubles" (123); but that exemption was precisely in 1982. Both seem eager to insist that now, when they have met the Petitioner for the first time, they find him perfectly normal (as he repeatedly maintains), although they are quite certain - on his word - that he was seriously abnormal in a period when they did not know him. One wonders how scientific is the basis to these opinions.

34.       Rev. D. moves with surprising confidence from an analysis of the Petitioner to that of the Respondent. "Il est important pour comprendre la façon dont Jean-François va se décider au mariage, de se fixer un instant sur Claire et de saisir sa personnalité. Elle m'a été décrite par Jean-François comme une personnalité très hystéroïde. C'est, à coup sûr, une structure hystérique..." (225). It is hard to understand this certainty about the Respondent's personality, without his ever having seen her and relying simply on the version he has heard from the Petitioner.

35.       We agree with the opinion of the Second Sentence: "La structure psychique de Jean-François est fragile et l'incline à la dépression, avant même d'avoir connu Claire. Cependant la fatigue due à la préparation de l'Internat, les conséquences de l'échec aux concours, expliquent très largement la grave dépression au retour du voyage aux Antilles, en mars-avril 1980, sans nécessiter l'influence d'une angoisse à l'approche du mariage" (183).

36.       Having therefore considered all the aspects of the law and the facts, we Auditors of this Turnus [...] answer the proposed doubt:

            "In the Negative"

            that is, the nullity of the marriage has not been proved, in the case before the Court.


            Given in the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, November 5, 1992

            Cormac BURKE, Ponens

            Thomas G. DORAN

            Kenneth E. BOCCAFOLA