The Holy See
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Norms for the procedure
for the dissolution of marriage in favor of the faith


Art. 1

The process to be observed for granting an indult for the dissolution of a legitimate marriage is to be instructed by the competent local Ordinary according to the norms of the Apostolic Letter Causas Matrimoniales IV, §1, either personally or through another cleric delegated by him. This delegation or commission must be recorded in the acts to be transmitted to the Holy See.

Art. 2

The facts presented must not simply be alleged but also proven, according to the prescriptions of canon law, whether through documents or through the testimony of credible witnesses.

Art. 3

The documents presented, whether they are original or certified copies, must be reviewed by the Ordinary himself or by the delegated Judge.

Art. 4

§1. In preparing the questions to be posed to the parties and the witnesses, it is necessary to have the collaboration of the Defender of the Bond or another person delegated in individual cases for this task. This delegation must be documented in the acts.

§2. The witnesses must swear to tell the truth before they are examined.

§3. The Ordinary or his Delegate is to pose the questions previously prepared, but he should also add other questions that he judges opportune to better know the facts or that may be suggested from the responses given.

When the parties or the witnesses are deposed regarding facts concerning other persons, the Judge is also to ask how and from whom they have this knowledge.

§4. The judge must diligently see that the questions and the responses given are put into writing with the assistance of a Notary and that they are signed by the witness.

Art. 5

§1. If a non-Catholic witness refuses to appear to be deposed, a written deposition of the witness on this subject, signed before a public notary or a trustworthy person, may be accepted.  This fact is to be expressly recorded in the acts.

§2. In order to determine if this written deposition is credible, the ordinary or delegated Judge is to call sworn witnesses, especially Catholics, who know the non-Catholic witness, and who are disposed and qualified to testify about the truthfulness of the witness.

§3. Even the Judge himself may express his own opinion about the credibility to be given to this deposition.

Art. 6

§1. The absence of baptism of one of the spouses is to be proven such that every prudent doubt may be overcome.

§2. The spouse who claims to be non-baptized is to be questioned under oath, if possible.

§3. Furthermore, witnesses are to be heard, particularly the parents and relatives, as well as others, especially those who lived with the person in childhood and those who knew the person throughout the course of his or her life.

§4. The witnesses must be questioned not only regarding the absence of baptism per se, but also regarding the circumstances that demonstrate that it is both credible and likely that baptism was not conferred.

§5. Evidence must be presented that the baptismal registers were examined in the places where the alleged non-baptized party spent his or her childhood, especially in the churches where the person received religious instruction or in the church where the person was married.

Art. 7

§1. If the non-baptized spouse receives baptism during the period in which the indult of dissolution is requested, an instruction must be carried out with the intervention of the Defender of the Bond, using at least a summary process, regarding the withdrawal from the married life after the baptism was received.

§2. The spouse must be asked under oath if, after the separation of the spouses, he or she had any interaction with the other party and of what type, and above all if after baptism there had been marital relations with the party.

§3. The other party must also be questioned under oath, if possible, regarding the non-consummation of the marriage.

§4. In addition, other witnesses should be chosen from the relatives and friends who must be heard under oath, not only about the events that occurred after the separation of the parties and especially after the baptism, but also regarding the honesty and truthfulness of the spouses, whether their depositions should be regarded as credible.

Art. 8

If the petitioner was converted and was baptized, this person should be asked when this took place, about his or her state of mind, and who led the person to receive baptism or to be converted.

Art. 9

§1. In this case, the judge is to question the pastor and the other priests who assist in passing on the doctrine of the faith and in preparing for conversion, regarding the motivation by which the petitioner was led to receive baptism.

§2. The Ordinary is never to send requests to the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before any reasonable suspicion about the sincerity of the conversion is dispelled.

Art. 10

§1.  The ordinary or delegated Judge is to question the petitioner and the witnesses about the cause of the separation or the divorce and naturally if it was requested by the petitioner or not.

§2.  The judge is to attach the authentic copy of the decree of divorce.

Art. 11

The Judge or the Ordinary is to determine if any children were born of the marriage or the union, and how the petitioner has provided or intends to provide for their religious education.

Art. 12

The Judge or the Ordinary is likewise to describe how the petitioner has provided or intends to provide equitably for the former spouse and any offspring according to the laws of justice.

Art. 13

The Ordinary or the delegated Judge is to gather information about the non-Catholic spouse, from which it may be possible to deduce if it is possible to hope for a restoration of conjugal life; while not omitting to report if the non-Catholic party has attempted to contract a new marriage after the divorce.

Art. 14

The Ordinary is to report explicitly if, should the indult be granted, there would be any danger of scandal, astonishment, or a slanderous interpretation, either among Catholics or non-Catholics, that the Church might appear to encourage the use of divorce through this praxis.  The circumstances by which this danger might be aggravated or avoided in that specific case are to be expressed.

Art. 15

The Ordinary is to explain in each case the reasons that favor granting the indult, taking care always to note whether the petitioner has already attempted to contract a new marriage in some way, or whether the petitioner lives in an illicit union.  The Ordinary is also to give a detailed report about the fulfillment of the conditions for granting the indult and if any of the guarantees mentioned in n. I, c [1] have been given.  If so, a certified document is to be included.

Art. 16

The Ordinary is to transmit to the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the petitions, the acts, and all the information gathered.  All that is required must be submitted in triplicate.


[1] “That the person who is not-baptized or baptized outside the Catholic Church allows the Catholic party the freedom and the right to profess his or her own religion and also to baptize and educate the children as Catholics:  this condition is to be guaranteed, as a precautionary measure.”