CONGREGATION FOR THE
DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
REGARDING DOCUMENTARY AND PROCEDURAL ASPECTS
OF FAVOUR OF THE FAITH CASES
1) The diocesan Bishop
The persons competent to instruct favour of the faith cases are “the diocesan
Bishop and those equivalent to him in law, or the eparchial Bishop” (art. 3);
where the term Episcopus is used elsewhere in the Norms, it is to be
understood in light of article three.
It is the intention of the Norms that those matters which are attributed by name
to the diocesan Bishop pertain only to him and to the others equivalent to him,
excluding the vicar general and episcopal vicar, “except by special mandate”
(cf. can. 134 § 3). If the diocesan Bishop has given a special mandate to the
vicar general or an episcopal vicar, a copy of the mandate signed by the
diocesan Bishop, duly dated and notarized in conformity with can. 474, should
always be included among the documents.
2) Initiation of the Process
The commission or nomination of the Instructor, Defender of the Bond and Notary
is to be given in writing, signed by the diocesan Bishop, dated and notarized.
It may be given on a permanent basis or case by case. Since it marks the
initiation of the process at the diocesan level, the commission is to be
established before any testimony is received or research takes place.
3) The Votum
The votum of the Bishop is likewise to be signed by the diocesan Bishop. This
document, given on his pastoral authority, is to set forth his opinion of the
case and the reasons which recommend it. Precise reference is to be made whether
the conditions for granting this favour have been met, along with any positive
doubt which may have arisen about the validity of the marriage (cf. artt. 10,
24). The Bishop should always give clear indications about the present condition
of the parties and whether the petitioner has attempted a new marriage in any
form or may be cohabiting with the third party (artt. 1, 4-5, 24). Fear of
scandal arising from the concession of the favour, or any doubt about the
sincerity of conversion of the petitioner or intended spouse, or any particular
difficulties regarding the manner in which the petitioner is fulfilling
obligations arising from the former marriage should be settled before the case
is submitted (cf. artt. 7 § 3, 9, 20).
4) Report of the Instructor
The report of the Instructor which is to accompany the completed process when it
is sent to the Defender of the Bond is distinct from the Bishop’s votum (art.
23). It should make reference to the quality of the testimony obtained, to the
reasons why certain witnesses cited by the petitioner may not have given formal
testimony or why the required searches of baptismal records may have been
omitted; in short, it is to be the first hand commentary on the development of
the process. In this way, the report is also a valuable means of anticipating
requests which the Congregation would be expected to make for additional
testimony or some other completion of the acts.
5) Certificates and decrees
Where applicable, certificates of baptism or profession of faith or both are to
be included in the process with regard to the petitioner and/or the interested
party (art. 22 § 2). Baptismal certificates should also be provided in the case
of any children born to the first marriage who are still minors. A copy of the
pre-nuptial investigation and dispensation D.C. (in the case of a Catholic
marriage), the marriage certificate and a copy of the civil divorce decree or
sentence of civil nullity for the marriage presented for dissolution are also to
Certificates of divorce or sentences of civil nullity, along with the
dispositive part of the canonical sentence of nullity, must be included for each
marriage attempted either by the petitioner or the interested party (art. 19).
In the case of marriages attempted outside the canonical form, even though the
documentary process is not employed, an administrative declaration of the
nullity issued by competent authority must always be included for any union of
The cautiones are an essential element in any marriage to be contracted
with a non-Catholic and the favour of a dissolution will not be granted unless
these guarantees regarding Catholic practice and the formation of the children
are made in writing and signed by both parties (art. 5). Even though it may be
prudently foreseen that the couple is beyond childbearing years, the Catholic
party must still promise to maintain and practice the faith and the non-Catholic
must always give assurance “to permit my spouse to practice the Catholic
Both spouses are to be heard as part of the instruction. If the former spouse is
absent from the process, this must be declared ad normam iuris (artt. 12,
15 § 2). This means that the Instructor is to contact the other party in a way
that may ensure their co-operation, inviting them to give testimony. If the
other party has neither appeared nor given a reason for being absent, the
Instructor is then to place a document in the acts which notes this fact and
explains the situation. Before doing so, however, the Instructor should be
certain that some form of notification has indeed reached the other party (cf.
The third party is always to be included among the witnesses. Although
not normally qualified to comment on the baptismal status of the parties to the
former marriage, the third party can testify about any obligations the
petitioner may have with regard to the former marriage, about the causes for its
breakdown and about his own religious practice as well as that of the
7) Written declarations and interviews by telephone
The Norms indicate that the matters asserted in the case must be proven
according to the norms of law (art. 12 § 1), that the record of each testimony
is to be signed by the witness, the Instructor and the Notary, and that mention
is to be made whether the oath was taken or excused or refused (cf. artt. 14,
In the case that a witness may be far away or for some other reason cannot or
will not come to the office of the Instructor, they may be heard in another
place by a Notary or in any other legitimate manner (art. 15; cf. can. 1528).
Depositions and testimonies by letter or telephone are open to abuse and have a
very uncertain probative value. In the first place, there is no guarantee of the
identity of the person who composes written responses or of the person who
answers a telephone. Responses given by letter are often vague or imprecise.
They provide no opportunity to ask for clarifications or support for a
particular answer and the danger is always present that they may have been
dictated by another person. If some exceptional circumstance seems to justify
this type of interrogation, statements of this kind should at least be taken to
a notary or legitimated in some way to ensure their genuineness and authenticity
and to ensure that such witnesses take seriously the evidence they have given.
8) Summary and Index
In addition to the Observations of the Defender of the Bond, the case must
include an Index and a Summary of the case. The Summary is an overview of the
essential information regarding the petitioner, the former spouse and the future
spouse. The Index is the table of contents or list of all documents, testimonies
and other acts and the pages where they are found. For this reason, every page
of the acts must always be clearly numbered.
While there is no prescribed order for the acts in the completed process, the
following arrangement always expedites the examination of a case:
4. testimonies of the petitioner and former spouse
5. related documents and baptismal searches
7. testimony of the third party and related
8. letters regarding the religious practice of the
9. report of the Instructor
10. observations of the Defender of the Bond
11. votum of the Bishop
12. authentication of the acts
9) Three copies of the acts
The Norms refer to original documents and to authentic copies of documents (tum originalia tum in authentico exemplari: art. 13 § 1). Documents do not have probative force unless they are originals
or copies prepared by ecclesiastical or civil notaries and are certified by them
as concordant with the originals (cf. can. 1544). The instructor should always
insist upon original documents or certificate copies.
The acts sent to the Congregation must contain all the documents which belong to
the process. A statement that the documents are “on file in the Chancery” is not
sufficient. Any document which is not in a language commonly used by the Roman
Curia should be accompanied by a translation (art. 25 § 1; cf. Ap. Const.
Pastor Bonus art. 16).
Where the Norms indicate that the Bishop is to transmit “tria exemplaria
actorum omnium” to the Congregation (art. 25), it is to be understood that
one set of the acts will contain, where possible, all the original documents or
certified copies and that there will be in addition two photocopied sets, for a
total of “three copies”. The Notary, however, is to authenticate each set of the
acts (art. 13 § 2).