Sentence of May 18, 1995 (Milan) ("bonum sacramenti" [exclusion by positive act])

[English version: Forum 7 (1996):2, pp. 403-425]

I. The Facts

1.         In Feb. 1987, Pietro Giovanni (aged 30) began an affective relationship with Francisca, who was then 25 years old. They were married in Milan at the end of December of that year. Their conjugal life was serene for six months; then it went into quick decline. Ineffectual efforts were made by both to remedy the situation, but they finally separated in May 1989. In Nov. of the same year, he petitioned the Tribunal of Milan to have the marriage declared null on the grounds of the exclusion of the indissolubility of the bond by the woman. After the instruction of the case with the interrogation of the parties and fourteen witnesses, a Negative sentence was handed down in June 1991. The Genoa Appeal Tribunal reversed this decision in April 1993, after a new instruction in which the parties and one witness gave evidence. The cause was therefore sent to the Roman Rota. After the constitution of the Turnus, the joinder of the issue was made on June 9, 1994. No new instruction was requested by the Advocate. Today, therefore, after the nomination of a new Ponens, we must reply to the doubt as concorded: "Whether the nullity of the marriage in question has been proved".

II. The Law

2.         One notes today a certain tendency to suggest that lack of faith in a baptized person justifies or even creates a presumption of the exclusion of indissolubility from his or her marital consent. According to some, indifference or hostility towards the sacramentality of xtn marriage, or towards the religious rites which normally accompany its celebration, does the same.

            The Advocate "ex officio" [appointed gratuitously] for the Petitioner in the case before us appears to advance elements of these ideas in his Brief: "It would be an error to require a "typical" positive act of the will in a person who considers canonical marriage to be of no importance, for such an act presupposes some [proper] estimation of matrimony in the person simulating. In the present case, the Respondent professed a contrary ideology regarding both marriage itself and the Catholic religion. Therefore the question before you [Judges] cannot be solved according to standards of a believer who simulates matrimony for different reasons. Therefore the Respondent who does not profess to be a Christian evidently has peculiar reasons for simulating... In effect, an erroneous estimation of the object of marriage undermines consent... Matrimonial consent, laboring under such an error, positively invalidates matrimony under c. 1101, when the person knowingly and freely favors that error (Brief 7-8).

3.         The presuppositions behind these words are not altogether clear. They seem to suggest that only a person with (Catholic) faith is likely to have a natural understanding or acceptance of marriage. Again, while the "exclusion of sacramentality" is not the plea put forward in this case, one gets the impression from the general tenor of the Brief and from the particular reference to c. 1101, that the Advocate considers sacramentality as an "essential element" of matrimony. Such suppositions do not correspond to sound anthropology or theology.

4.         The Church works from a presumption that matrimonial consent is given without simulation: "The internal consent of the mind is presumed to be in agreement with the words or signs employed in celebrating matrimony" (c. 1101, § 1). This is based not only on the conviction that on the one hand, despite the weaknesses of human nature, people are generally sincere in approaching such an important personal matter as marriage, but also on the other hand that the self-commitment aspects of marriage correspond deeply to the impulses of human love.

5,         The "conjugal" instinct. The thesis that there is a "conjugal instinct", by which a man and woman really in love are moved to seek a permanent union (cf. decis. of the undersigned Ponens, Apr. 19, 1988, nn. 3-8: R.R.Dec., vol. 80, pp. 251-254), is based on natural anthropology, not on principles drawn from theology. Criticism of that thesis, drawn from modern irreligiosity, miss the mark. One does not need religious faith to have a natural idea of marriage, nor does lack of lack of faith create a presumption of exclusion of marriage in its natural integrity, or even of a tendency to such an exclusion.

            Mutual heterosexual love is the normal motive for marrying. If this motive is present, the presumption that marriage is consented to in its natural integrity is greatly strengthened. This presumption can of course be rebutted; but only by means of clear and quite convincing contrary proof.

            As Plato says, "friends have all things in common" (Dialogues, Phaedon); and an effect of friendship is the wish to do things together. In the words of the Petitioner in today's case, a couple in love want to "costruire qualche cosa di comune" (Acts, 13/2); and in this they go far beyond the desires of mere friendship.

            The common enterprise of marriage springs from the privileged mutual choice of each another by a man and a woman, to form a union for life. People truly in love have always understood marriage so. Even in societies where the legal system countenances divorce, the natural marital tendency to want a permanent bond remains. With much more reason conjugal love applies to itself what St. Jerome says of the affection of friends: "the friendship that can cease has never been real" (Letter to Rufinus: PL 22, 335). It would be anthropological pessimism to think that people commonly anticipate that their marriage will end in failure. They realize of course that this might happen; but for people who sense each other to be really in love it remains a remote possibility, far from their minds and intentions. Therefore when it is clearly established that a couple were in fact in love, the allegation that one or other consciously and deliberately impaired the essential nature of marital consent, must always be considered an unlikely hypothesis.

6.         St. Thomas Aquinas gives the natural reasons why marriage should be indissoluble: "It is therefore against the natural instinct of the human species that wife be separated from husband. So the union of male and female in the human species should be not only lasting but also exclusive. Moreover, the greater friendship is, the stronger and more lasting it should be. The friendship between man and woman is unique, for they are united not only in sexual intercourse, which even among animals creates a closeness of companionship, but also in their life together which covers the whole of their domestic relations. As a sign of this therefore, as we are told in Gen. 2, 24, a man will leave his father and mother for the sake of his wife. Hence it is proper that matrimony be totally indissoluble" (Summa c. Gent. III, c. 123). As can be seen, he presents not a theological but an anthropological argument, based on the particular nature of marital friendship.

7.         It is true that the widespread individualist culture of the modern western world does not favor definitive commitments. Yet a general cultural trend (which a person may have no difficulty in accepting or professing in social conversation or ideological discussion) does not easily overcome the basic dispositions of human nature which tend to assert themselves with more than ordinary force in a choice so particular and personal as that of marriage. In public (social or political) life, not a few persons sustain ideas that they do not fully believe in, and certainly do not apply to what is most intimate or dear to them. Many professed atheists pray in their hearts, want their children to receive a catholic upbringing, and themselves openly seek the sacraments before they die.

8.         This too explains why the Church resists any tendency towards allowing a presumption of "automatic" exclusion of indissolubility from marital consent, based simply on the grounds that a person had voted for a divorce law. Such a fact may certainly favor the proof of a positive act of exclusion applied to the particular marriage contracted; but is not in itself sufficient proof of this positive act. Otherwise it would be but a step to holding that all modern marriages have to be presumed null; and it is non-exclusion that has to be proved. The Appeal Judges in the present case seem in fact to work from this premiss. They affirm: "non emerge la prova che la convenuta nell'accostarsi alle nozze con l'attore abbia mutato la sua volontà divorzista, conformandola a quella richiesta dall'ordinamento canonico" (Acts, 162). This is an inversion of what is required. The Church presumes the conformity of the exterior words of consent and interior acceptance; it is disconformity which, if alleged, has to be proved. And the disconformity has to expressed in a positive, deliberate and conscious act.

9.         Unconscious simulation?. No one simulates unconsciously: "Whoever rejects the indissolubility of marriage with a positive act of the will, cannot be unaware of having done so" (c. Wynen, Feb. 6, 1936: R.R.Dec., vol. 28, p. 102). "A positive exclusion must also be express, if it is to be proved" (c. Sabattani, May 29, 1959: vol. 51, p. 301). "Whoever simulates or excludes is conscious of not having given himself, or likewise of not having accepted the other party, in the way required for marriage" (c. Serrano, Apr. 5, 1973: vol. 65, p. 325). "It will be vain to look for the quality [of being "positive"] unless the intention springs from an awareness of the discrepancy between what is willed and what is declared" (c. Ferraro, Feb. 23, 1982: vol. 74, p. 98). "The exclusion must be made by means of a positive act of the will which... demands a conscious determination of the volitional faculty" (c. Bruno, June 25, 1982: vol. 74, p. 378). "Even in the case of an implicit positive act of the will, this must however be express" (c. Funghini, Nov. 12, 1986: vol. 78, p. 610). "A positive act of the will signifies a clearly defined purpose" (c. Masala, Nov. 10, 1987: vol. 79, p. 634); cf. c. Boccafola, Feb. 15, 1988: vol. 80, p. 88; c. Ragni, Feb. 23, 1988: ib. p. 130; c. Giannecchini, Oct. 25, 1988: ib. p. 550; c. Civili, June 26, 1990: vol. 82, p. 567., etc.

10.       Neither logic nor jurisprudence justify the suggestion at times made that the principle just enuntiated - no one simulates unconsciously - applies to total simulation, but not to partial. This is not so: "A positive act of the will, required by canon law for either form of exclusion, is not such nor has it any power to nullify matrimony, unless it is consciously and deliberately elicited" (c. Ferraro, Nov. 11, 1980: vol. 72, p. 718). Jurisprudence has commonly held that in partial simulation (though not in total), the simulator may be unconscious of the juridic consequence of simulation (cf. c. Wynen, March 7, 1946: vol. 38, p. 131). But no normal person can be unconscious of a positive interior rejection by the will of what he or she externally professes: "Nor does one find in a person of healthy mind any unconscious discrepancy between his internal will and its external manifestation" (c. Mundy, Jan. 24, 1970: in vol. 62, p. 187).

11.       It must also be noted that, while jurisprudence accepts that a positive act of exclusion can be implicit, this neither eliminates the need for its having been positively formulated, nor reduces its proof to the level of conjecture. "Implicit" does not mean less voluntary or less conscious; it refers to what, though not explicitly expressed in moment of consent, is really present. "Everyone knows that a positive act can also be implicit. But it would be mistaken to think that an implicit act means one which is presumed. A presumed act after all is one whose actual existence is in itself unknown, but responds to more or less possible conjecture. It is hence evident that in the case of a presumed act, nothing positive exists. By way of contrast, an implicit act remains in the positive order for, although its substance does not appear directly and immediately in the way a person externally behaves, yet it is unfailingly contained there, really and presumedly, positively and not interpretatively, although so to speak in the as yet unfolded nucleus of its expression. It is therefore not licit so to empty (the concept of) a positive act that it can be discerned in what is simple conjecture" (c. Sabattani, Oct. 29, 1963: vol. 55, p. 706; cf. c. Funghini, Nov. 12, 1986: vol. 78, p. 610; c. Palestro, May 18, 1988: vol. 80, pp. 298-299).

12.       It follows that the transition from a (possible) general mental attitude to an applied positive act always calls for clear proof. "For there to be simulation, what is required is not the mere absence of an act, but an act that is truly positive, i.e. really placed, elicited and prevalent, determined and specific, which relates to a diverse object, and so internally and substantially vitiates what is externally manifested. After all, if matrimony is constituted by consent, a fortiori simulation must consist in a perfect and contrary human act, by which the external expression is destroyed" (c. Giannecchini, March 16, 1979: R.R.Dec., vol. 71, p. 104).

13.       Does "institutional" imply being "non-personalist"? It is a mistake to conceive indissolubility as if the fact of its being an institutional aspect of marriage implied that it is non-personalist. Just the same must be said of procreativity. Both aspects of marriage are at one and the same time institutional and personalist (cf. C. Burke "Personalism and the bona of Marriage": Studia canonica 27 (1993), 401-412). This anthropological synthesis opens the way to understanding that the not infrequent reaction today against formal ceremonies - whether church weddings or civil celebrations - is indeed directed against "forms" or conventions, but not always against marriage itself, i.e. against its natural essence. Due reflection on this is called for in the difficult task of deciding whether certain professed attitudes actually coincide with and explain a positive exclusion of marriage as naturally understood, or are compatible (also because they themselves may in large part be "conventional") with a truly normal approach to a conjugal union. There is truth in the graphic way one well-known canonist puts it: "muchas de la críticas [modernas] contra el matrimonio no son más que críticas contra la «burocracia matrimonial» y, en este sentido, son manifestaciones de una rebeldía que inconscientemente echa de menos la distancia esencial entre el matrimonio, como realidad natural, y la «regulación legal del matrimonio por parte de un concreto sistema jurídico»" (P.-J. Viladrich, La Agonía del Matrimonio Legal, Pamplona 1984, p. 122).

14.       Sacramentality - an "element" of marriage? Some reference should be made here to the rather obscure argument of the Petitioner's Advocate that the Respondent in this case gave invalid consent through the exclusion of the sacramental aspect of matrimony. Sacramentality is not a sort of supernatural superstructure added to the natural reality of marriage. It is a mistake to regard it as an essential "property" or a constitutive "element" of christian marriage. A matrimonial property, such as indissolubility or unity, describes one aspect of the essence, whereas sacramentality transforms the whole essence of marriage. "It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that the sacrament is not an accidental quality added to the contract, but is of the essence of matrimony itself" (Pius IX: Letter to the King of Sardinia, Sept. 9, 1852: in "Acta SS.D.N. Pii PP. IX", Rome, 1865, p. 105). Similarly Leo XII taught that is wrong to hold that "the sacrament is a sort of added honor, or an extrinsically annexed property that can be separated or isolated from the contract at man's will" (Encyc. Arcanum, ASS, XII, p. 394).

            Sacramentality is not a matrimonial property or element, but coincides with marriage itself: matrimonium ipsum, as it exists for those whose souls bear the character of Baptism. It is simply marriage considered from the supernatural point of view. "The sacramental dignity to which... Christ the Lord raised the matrimonial contract is not an element of the institution of marriage that can be considered alongside unity, perpetuity, etc. It is rather the supernatural consideration of matrimony, the point of view from which it is viewed on the supernatural plane" (O. Giacchi: Il Consenso nel Matrimonio Canonico, Milan, 1950, p. 69). "The contract (matrimony) and the sacrament are modes - one natural, the other supernatural - of the very same reality" (c. Boccafola, Feb. 15, 1988: vol. 80, p. 89).

            We can say that sacramentality is the supernatural configuration of marriage. "The sacrament of matrimony is not something added to (and therefore separable from) the institution of marriage; the sacrament is marriage itself celebrated between baptized persons: ipse contractus, ipsa institutio matrimonialis, ipsum coniugium" (J. Hervada: "La inseparabilidad entre contrato y sacramento en el matrimonio" in Vetera et Nova, Pamplona, 1991, vol. I, p. 801). It should be noted that canon 1055, § 2 does not speak of the marriage contract between baptized persons "becoming" a sacrament or "acquiring" the property of sacramentality, but being a sacrament ("quin sit eo ipso sacramentum"). From the doctrinal point of view, therefore, it does not seem correct to treat sacramentality as an essential property of matrimony, or as an essential element, e.g. under c. 1101, § 2.

15.       Sacramentality and faith. The firmly established doctrinal principle that "every true marriage between Christians is in itself and of itself a sacrament" (cf. Leo XIII, Arcanum: Denz. 1854) has been reflected in traditional rotal jurisprudence holding that if christian spouses exchange true marital consent, then their marriage is sacramental, independently of their faith or of their intention regarding sacramentality (cf. E. Bouchet: "Foi et Sacrements dans la Jurisprudence rotale" Année Canonique 24 (1980), p. 112). As we read in a Sentence coram Stankiewicz of Apr. 29, 1982: "It is undeniable that rotal jurisprudence has often stated that for a valid marriage, faith is not necessary, but consent alone" (RRD, vol. 74, p. 247).

            Nevertheless a certain tendency has recently appeared to equiparate sacramentality with an essential property or element of matrimony, and to speak of the exclusion of sacramentality as if it were of the same order as the exclusion of unity or indissolubility; and so it becomes a type of partial simulation. Such a thesis, apart from showing a lack of theological rigor, seems to be based on an inadequate reading of cc. 1099 and 1101, § 2.

            "The fact is that a person can effectively want a "marriage" deprived of exclusivity or indissolubility. He or she simulates consent to a true marriage, but wants a "semi"-matrimony, that is, a "matrimony" bereft of one of its essential properties. It is in his power to "have" such a "marriage", i.e. one deprived of permanence, for instance, or of exclusiveness. In other words, he wants and chooses something possible (even though what he chooses is not a true marriage). Now if a Christian, in marrying another Christian, does choose a true marriage (exclusive, permanent and open-to-life) but bereft of sacramentality, no grounds of (partial) simulation are present in the consent he profers (he does consent to matrimony in its essential properties and elements). The matter has to be analyzed otherwise. The fact is that he is choosing something impossible, two things that cannot go together: a marriage between Christians that is a true marriage, but that is also a marriage bereft of sacramentality. There are two inherently irreconcilable choices here, and one has therefore to determine which is prevalent; the other necessarily remains without effect. If the implicit prevalent will or choice is to enter a true marriage, then the person's will to exclude sacramentality is ineffective (cf. M. Zalba: "Num aliqualis fides sit necessaria ad matrimonium inter baptizatos celebrandum" Periodica 80 (1991), p. 99). But if his implicit prevalent will is: "I will not have a sacramental marriage; and if entering a true marriage necessarily means receiving the sacrament, I will not enter a true marriage at all", then it is matrimony itself - and not simply one of its properties of elements - that he excludes" (C. Burke: "The Sacramentality of Marriage: canonical reflections": Monitor Ecclesiasticus 119 (1994), pp. 555-556; cf. "The sacramentality of marriage: theological reflexions": Annales Theologici 7 (1993), 47-69).

            The effective exclusion of sacramentality therefore is inaccurately dealt with under the heading of partial simulation. A proper analysis shows that we are dealing with total simulation, by reason of the exclusion not of sacramentality but of matrimonium ipsum ("canonical legislation does not regard the exclusion of sacramentality as an autonomous grounds of nullity, along the lines of the exclusion of an essential element or property of matrimony; ecclesiastical jurisprudence customarily assimilates it to the exclusion of 'matrimony itself'": A.M. Abate: "Il Consenso matrimoniale nel nuovo Codice di diritto canonico" Apollinaris, 49 (1986), p. 482). And this in fact is how rotal jurisprudence has habitually handled such cases: c. Pasquazi, July 26, 1960; vol. 52, p. 429; c. Fiore, July 17, 1973; vol. 65, p. 592; c. De Jorio, Apr. 23, 1975; vol. 67, p. 353; c. Stankiewicz, June 26, 1980, no. 4d; c. Serrano, Apr. 18, 1986: vol. 78, pp. 287ss; c. Giannecchini, June 14, 1988: vol. 80, p. 398, etc.

16.       The Advocate in the present case also argues that, since the Respondent "for the sake of love and peace" accepted a religious marriage "celebrated without Mass..., it must be obvious to all that in such an agreement there was a clear rejection of the canonical matrimonial institution" (Brief, 8). This argument not only confuses "canonical matrimony" with the liturgical rites or ceremonies with which it may or may not be celebrated (cf. cc. 1116; 1118, §§ 2 ac 3; c. 1119), but illegitimately proposes that reluctance or aversion to the liturgical celebration constitutes sufficient proof of the exclusion of indissolubility.

III. The Argument

17.       Attitude of the Respondent towards the marital relationship. Whatever the extent of the Respondent's irreligiosity (which we consider below), there is very little indication that it undermined her natural understanding of marriage. "Quanto ai valori naturali del matrimonio, io non solo non ero contraria alla procreazione, ma positivamente desideravo dei figli. Accettavo anche l'impegno alla fedeltà coniugale" (26). Acceptance of these two values does not favor the exclusion of indissolubility, which is no less a natural value of the marital union. The following words of the Petitioner serve to bring this out: "Circa i contenuti del matrimonio posso dire: entrambi avevamo il desiderio della prole; entrambi c'impegnavamo alla reciproca fedeltà: data la positività della nostra relazione non si ponevano allora problemi su questo punto; quanto alla durata del matrimonio si pensava allora che esso avrebbe potuto durare per sempre, fino alla morte" (15/4).

            At any rate, turning to the question of simulation, we must note that we are before a case marked by a contrast between a strong "causa contrahendi" and a weak or unproven "causa simulandi".

18.       Re the "causa contrahendi". All the evidence is that the marriage was contracted: both a) with serene and deep love; and b) without any serious doubts about the future course of this love.

            a) The party who is claimed to have simulated, i.e. the Respondent herself, says: "La relazione affettiva iniziò e proseguì molto positivamente" (24/2). In second instance she confirms this: "E' verisssimo che il nostro fidanzamento è stato sereno e tranquillo senza particolari divergenze, né litigi" (120). At the time of the marriage, "la nostra relazione era allora molto positiva" (26); "Io considerai questa mia accettazione [of the religious celebration] come una testimonianza dell'amore che provavo per Pier Giovanni" (25). Rev. M. B. states: "Sentimentalmente appariva molto carica e presa di lui; per questo probabilmente può avere rinunciato alla sua idea iniziale di convivenza" (67/7); which is confirmed by the other witnesses (cf. 36/5; 40/5; 55/5; 63/5; 71/5; 85/3; 86 in fine; 91/5; 95/5);

            b) It is again the Respondent who states: "non c'erano elementi per prevedere difficoltà" (26); "essendo molto buono il rapporto con Pier Giovanni, pensavo che effettivamente sarebbe anche potuto durare per sempre" (27). In her second deposition: "E' pur vero che io e Gianni sposandoci eravamo abbastanza sicuri di noi stessi" (123). In the same instance she admits that by separating she hoped she might get him to change and start conjugal life again (125). Even R. M., the only new witness in second instance, who stresses her liberal views, says that despite her awareness of Gianni's defects (his family dependence, etc.), "non mi esprimeva dubbi sulla riuscita del suo matrimonio bensì si preoccupava di raccontarmi quanto accadeva con Gianni mettendomi in evidenza anche gli aspetti negativi... che essa sperava e si riprometteva di superare nel matrimonio"; moreover, regarding the religious celebration, "giustificò il tutto con l'amore" (137-138).

            The Petitioner states: "Il nostro rapporto nacque e si sviluppò positivamente sotto il profilo affettivo e del carattere. Andavamo d'accordo, non ci furono interruzioni nella nostra relazione... Al matrimonio si arrivò in questo modo: entrambi avevamo il desiderio di vivere insieme e di costruire qualche cosa di comune: come detto ci vedevamo quasi quotidianamente e trascorrevamo insieme i fine settimana. Per questo Francesca, già all'inizio dell'estate 1987, mi propose la convivenza perchè a lei non interessava nè l'aspetto civile, nè quella ecclesiastico del matrimonio. A me questa proposta sembrava troppo poco in rapporto all'impegno e alla serietà che mettevo in quella relazione: volevo quindi un qualcosa di più stabile" (13/2). The Respondent knew this well; and all things considered, the indications are rather that she gave her consent to this more stable relationsip. As we indicated in our "In Iure" considerations, it natural and in no way artificial for deep human love to want a stable and permanent union.

19.       Re the "causa simulandi". It is rather the absence of a reason for simulating which emerges from the evidence of the Petitioner: "Circa i contenuti del matrimonio posso dire: entrambi avevamo il desiderio della prole; entrambi c'impegnavamo alla reciproca fedeltà: data la positività della nostra relazione non si ponevano allora problemi su questo punto; quanto alla durata del matrimonio si pensava allora che esso avrebbe potuto durare per sempre, fino alla morte" (15/4). "Per quanto concerne la proposta esclusione dell'indissolubilità da parte di Francesca debbo dire che, prima delle nozze, non prevedendosi ragionevolmente delle difficoltà nel nostro rapporto, non si affrontò fra me e Francesca il discorso di un possibile scioglimento o rottura del nostro legame" (16/4). "A me quel discorso [di Francesca a favore del divorzio] era noto come generico ed ero convinto che non ci fossero i presupposti per applicarlo al nostro matrimonio" (17/5).

20.       Evidence of a positive act. The evidence of a positive act on her part applied to the marital consent is almost nil. While the Petitioner did claim in his libellus that "Francesca ha positivamente quanto decisamente rifiutato di accollarsi tale obbligazione [dell'indissolubilità] e ciò non tanto per diffetto d'amore nei miei confronti o per incertezze circa il buon esito del nostro matrimonio quanto per una questione di indole, di principio, di ideologia, di cultura" (3), he expresses himself much more cautiously in his oral evidence: "In linea generale, Francesca possedeva la convinzione che qualsiasi matrimonio sanzionato giuridicamente (religioso o civile) potesse essere sciolto mediante divorzio nel caso venisse meno la comunione e il buon accordo fra i coniugi. Questa convinzione generale io conoscevo già prima delle nozze" (16/4). "Ribadisco a domanda, che, prima delle nozze, non ricordo sia approfondito fra me e Francesca il discorso se ella applicava anche al nostro matrimonio le sue concezioni divorziste di carattere generale. Dopo il matrimonio, Francesca non mi ha mai formalmente detto di aver applicato quelle sue convinzioni anche al nostro matrimonio al momento di contrarlo... Ribadisco che Francesca non fece mai a me (o, meglio, non lo ricordo) discorsi espressi di riserva del vincolo matrimoniale: dai suoi discorsi emergeva però che le sue aspirazioni erano quelle di una comunione coniugale positiva e soddisfacente, nella quale poter avere anche prole. Si comprendeva come implicito che non avrebbe sopportato una comunione per lei insoddisfacente" (15-17/4).

21.       The evidence of practically all the witnesses tends to go against the Petitioner's plea. Her sister: "Quanto ai contenuti del matrimonio cristiano, in particolare alla sua caratteristica di indissolubilità, dico che Francesca si impegnò a farlo durare per sempre, e sperando che tutto potesse andare bene. A me non disse cosa pensava di fare se nella vita coniugale si fossero manifestate difficoltà gravi persino insuperabili" (40/3). His mother: "Mai ho udito parlare Francesca di divorzio, o di rottura di matrimonio, nè in linea generale, nè in riferimento al suo matrimonio con Piergiovanni" (54-55). His father speaks in similar terms (50/3); cf. also her father (35/3; 37) and most of the other witnesses (62 in medio; 66/3 in fine; 71/3; 76/3; 81/3; 85/3; 91/3; 95/3; 138 in fine).

            The evidence of the Respondent herself induces grave doubts as to any sort of positive act of exclusion of indissolubility. In the same breath in which she claims to have applied her general pro-divorce attitude to the particular marital consent being considered, she admits she saw no reason for doing so: "Le mie convinzioni le applicavo anche al mio matrimonio con Pier Giovanni, seppure allora solo eventualmente e senza approfondite riflessioni; infatti la nostra relazione era allora molto positiva, e non c'erano elementi per prevedere difficoltà. Comunque la mia convinzione generale valeva in ipotesi anche nel mio caso" (26). Acknowledging moreover that in the pre-marriage interrogation, she responded affirmatively to the questions about accepting indissolubility, "dico che allora risposi sul piano per così dire del fatto, in quanto, essendo molto buono il rapporto con Pier Giovanni, pensavo che effettivamente sarebbe anche potuto durare per sempre" (27). All of this indicates the absence of any positive act, and appears rather to be confirmed by the words that follow: "In linea di principio non rinunciavo però alle mie concezioni in materia matrimoniale e quindi alla possibilità di sciogliere eventualmente anche il mio matrimonio" (ib.) In other words, it seems that the Respondent, with respect to the marriage then being contracted, thought only of the possibility of freeing herself from the bond, but did not elicit any act of the will to that effect. Later, in her second deposition, she no longer uses terms such as "Le mie convinzioni "la mia convinzione generale", "le mie concezioni", etc., but modifies her expressions: "il concetto che ora ho descritto e i miei propositi" (118), "le mie idee e la mia volontà" (120). In this second interrogation, therefore, she seems to effect a transition from an act of the intellect to an act of the will; a transition that remains somewhat suspect.

22.       All of this tends strongly to weaken the weight (doubtful enough in itself already) of the evidence of the Respondent's mother: "Prima delle nozze, a me che le richiamavo l'impegno del matrimonio, Francesca ebbe a dire che se le cose fossero andate male si sarebbe separata da Piergiovanni... Io ricordo un solo colloquio con lei prima delle nozze... Francesca non mi spiegò dettagliatamente che cose intendesse col termine "separazione; penso l'andare ognuno per la propria strada. Anche in seguito non sono più tornata con lei su questo discorso" (45/3). Therefore she heard her daughter on one occasion talking about separation, but not of divorce, in the case of the marriage working out unhappily.

23.       In second instance the Petitioner states: "In linea di principio, tutto sommato, anch'io condividevo le sue idee [she testified differently in first instance: 16 in medio], quando però si è trattato di affrontare concretamente la nostra situazione, e poiché io ero sicuro di me stesso, ritenni giusto insistere per una forma di matrimonio che avesse una stabilità perché personalmente non intendevo fare un matrimonio per prova" (128). Far from opposing his wish, she accepted the religious celebration (without, it seems, attaching special importance to it) out of love for him, and because she too felt sure of their relationship.

            She explains: "giunse a fare il matrimonio religioso per questa ragione: Pier Giovanni non accettò la mia proposta di convivenza... egli propose il matrimonio religioso, progressivamente irrigidendosi in questa posizione, fino a metterla praticamente come condizione per la prosecuzione della nostra stessa relazione. Per questo io lo assecondai, pur avvertendolo che da parte mia non avrei potuto dare a quel gesto tutto il significato corrispondente alla sua natura... L'aspetto sacramentale del matrimonio rimase praticamente fuori della mia considerazione perché lontano dei miei interessi e valori" (25).

            The appeal judges therefore appear to exaggerate when they speak of "lo scontro tra i due" regarding the mode of celebration (162). The Acts rather indicate that the Respondent accepted the religious celebration without any particular difficulty, a point that she confirms in second instance: "quando mi sono resa conto che Gianni... puntava sul matrimonio religioso, senza problemi ho acconsentito al suo desiderio" (119). Her father says: "Francesca accettò tranquillamente il matrimonio religioso; a me non risulta che fece opposizione a questa idea" (35/3). Her father's cousin: "Credo che Francesca abbia assecondato il desiderio di Pier Giovanni di un matrimonio religioso, soprattutto come manifestazione di amore nei suoi confronti" (75/3). Her rotal advocate therefore asserts without basis that on her part there was "a clear rejection of the canonical matrimonial institution" (Brief, 8). In any case, whether she attached all its significance to the religious celebration is irrelevant to the grounds being pleaded.

24.       The extent of her irreligiosity. As we saw in our legal considerations, lack of faith or the profession of agnosticism does not create a presumption that a person has excluded the natural qualities of marital consent. For what the point is worth nevertheless, and since the judges of second instance insist on presenting her as totally agnostic ("noto era il suo agnosticismo": 158), we must say that the evidence given is so inconsistent that her agnosticism cannot be held as proved.

            The Petitioner had said that at the moment of the marriage "Francesca si definiva atea e non credente" (14/3); her mother says she was "positivamente atea" (44), her sister depicts her as "né credente né praticante" (39). But she herself is more restrained. In her first deposition, she describes herself as a "cattolica non praticante" (23); "La mia posizione in materia religiosa era, all'epoca del matrimonio, di agnosticismo: non possedevo cioè nessuna fede religiosa, me nemmeno facevo professione positiva di ateismo" (25/2). In second instance however she declares, "mi professavo e mi professo agnostica" (117).

            Other witnesses modify this impression. Her father states: "io la definirei credente ma non praticante" (34/3). Alberto M, with whom she had been romantically involved during two earlier years, 1984-85: "la definierei credente in Dio, ma in rifiuto di ogni istituzione ecclesiastica" 61/3). Rev. M. B., a friend of her family who knew her very well: "La posizione religiosa di Francesca, che credo rimanesse immutata all'epoca del matrimonio, era la seguente: genericamente credente in Dio, attratta anche da alcuni aspetti della figura di Gesù, ma per nulla interessata a farsi coinvolgere nella vita ecclesiale. Io la definirei piuttosto indifferente e tollerante; non ho mai colto in lei dichiarazioni di ateismo positivo o di aperta contrarietà alla fede e alla Chiesa" (66). In second instance, the Petitioner admits that, despite her religious "indifference", she "ha voluto essa stessa scegliere un sacerdote che conosceva e che la poteva accontentare" (129). His mother states simply: "in imminenza del matrimonio, Piergiovanni ci avvisò che ci sarebbe stata una forma particolare di celebrazione, dovuta al fatto che Francesca non era molto praticante" (54).

25.       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, May 18, 1995.

            Antoni STANKIEWICZ

            Mario GIANNECCHINI

            Cormac BURKE, Ponens