Persuasive effect of canonical decree

Published 2 June 2023, The Daily Tribune

In the previous article, we discussed the Supreme Court’s 2022 Resolution in the consolidated cases of Republic v. Spouses Romero (GR No. 209180 and GR No. 209254), where the SC en banc found sufficient cause to grant Mr. Romero’s Second Motion for Reconsideration, and consequently reversed and set aside the High Court’s previous decision.

In its previous decision, the SC cited Republic v. CA and Molina in holding that the three essential elements of psychological incapacity, namely, gravity, incurability, and juridical antecedence were not established.

However, in its Resolution, the SC en banc reconsidered its previous decision, in light of the recent ruling in Tan-Andal v. Andal (GR 196359, 11 May 2021), where the Court clarified the interpretation of “psychological incapacity” as a ground to nullify a marriage.

The SC enumerated the guidelines clarified in Tan-Andal which are:

  1. The quantum of proof required in Article 36 cases is clear and convincing evidence;
  2. Psychological incapacity need not necessarily be proven through expert opinion as it is neither a mental incapacity nor a personality disorder;
  3. Proof of juridical antecedence of psychological incapacity may consist of testimonies describing the environment where the incapacitated spouse lived which may have led to a particular behavior;
  4. The element of incurability must be understood in the legal and not medical sense. It must be taken to contemplate situations where the incapacity is so enduring and persistent concerning a particular partner and gives rise to a situation where the parties’ personality structures are so incompatible and antagonistic that the only result of the union would be the inevitable and irreparable breakdown of the marriage;
  5. The element of gravity means that the incapacity must be rooted in a genuinely serious psychic cause;
  6. The essential marital obligations that the incapacitated spouse is unable to perform are those embraced by Articles 68 to 71 of the Family Code as regards the husband and wife, as well as Articles 220, 221, and 225 of the same statute which contemplate the obligations of the parents to their children. It must be clearly shown that the alleged failure is of such grievous nature that it reflects on the capacity of one of the spouses for marriage; and
  7. The decisions of the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal of the Catholic Church shall continue to have a persuasive effect, particularly in cases where the Catholic Church had already declared the canonical marriage void. Nevertheless, canonical decisions, being persuasive in nature, only serve as evidence of the nullity of secular marriage. Ultimately, the courts must still make their own assessment of the totality of evidence on record and, on such basis, determine the concurrence of the elements of nullity under Article 36.

The SC found that the Conclusion of Canonical Judgment (Conclusion) sufficiently states that the canonical marriage of spouses Romero was declared null and void on the ground of grave lack of due discretion on judgment.

The SC also found that the Conclusion serves as evidence of juridical antecedence. The declaration of nullity under Canon 1095 is premised on the absence of matrimonial consent, which absence exists at the point where the marriage is contracted. A declaration of nullity under Canon 1095 thus entails that the ground for nullity, which in this case is lack of due discretion, existed “at the moment of marriage which is the moment of consent.”

The SC further held that the Conclusion also serves as evidence that the psychological incapacity is grave and incurable in the legal sense (that is, persistent and enduring), considering that the nullity of canonical marriage under Canon 1095 is similarly premised on incapacity, and not a mere difficulty, to give marital consent and to fulfill one’s marital obligations.

In sum, applying the new Tan-Andal guidelines, the Court found that the nullity of canonical marriage, taken with the totality of evidence on record, justifies the declaration of nullity of the marriage.

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