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Reviewed by:
  • L’istruttoria nel processo di nullità matrimoniale ed. by Maria Cristina Bresciani, Francesco Catozzella, Alessia Gullo
  • Andrea Ponzone
L’istruttoria nel processo di nullità matrimoniale, ed. Maria Cristina Bresciani, Francesco Catozzella and Alessia Gullo. Studi giuridici, 108. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2014. Pp. 7–306.

The volume, edited by the Arcisodalizio of the Roman Curia, is inserted at number 108 of the prestigious Studi giuridici series of the Libreria Editrice Vaticana. The text offers an agile close examination, although scientifically deep and complete, of the instructional phase of the canonical process of matrimonial nullity, through the contribution of thirteen different authors.

The proposed studies are divided into four main themes: general topics, subjects, development and conclusion, psychology of the testimony. [End Page 299]

In the general topics, Stankiewicz (Dean Emeritus at the Roman Rota) offers an historical-juridical overview of the general principles of the instructional phase, focusing in a particular way on the concept of the “burden of proof.” Bianchi (Judicial Vicar of the Regional Ecclesiastical Tribunal in Lombardy) presents some of the problems, from a practical point of view, which can arise during the instructional phase, especially in relation to the dynamics between the judge and the parties concerned during the gathering of the proofs. Cito (Professor of Penal Canon Law at the Pontifical University of Santa Croce) offers some reflections on the possible implications and consequences in the case in which a notitia criminis may emerge during the instructional phase.

In the section dedicated to the subjects of the instructional phase, Jaeger (Rotal Judge) offers some practical reflections on the figure and activity of the instructing judge, starting from his experience, first as ecclesiastical judge in the U.S.A., and then as Rotal judge. Gepponi (Judicial Vicar of the Appeal Court of the Vicariate of Rome) analyzes the functions and the role of the defender of the bond and of the promotor of justice; Colombo (Rotal Advocate) explains the rights and duties of the advocates.

Following are essays relative to the development and conclusion of the instructional phase: Vanzetto (Judicial Vicar of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal in Triveneto), empowered by his long experience as a judge, offers some practical advice on how a judge should conduct the hearing; Sanchez-Gil (Professor at the Pontifical University of Santa Croce) elaborates an in-depth analysis of the institute of presumption; Arroba Conde (Professor of Processual Canon Law at the Pontifical Lateran University) comments on the importance of the expertise in the instructional phase; Mingardi (Judicial Vicar of the Flaminio Ecclesiastical Tribunal) closes this third theme expounding upon the conclusion of the instructional phase and on the eventual necessity to reopen it.

Three contributions deepen the psychology of the testimony: Janiri (Psychiatrist) tries to explain the clinical aspect of the interview between the court expert and the client; Barbieri (Diagnostic Medical Doctor) offers his observations regarding the evaluation of the court expert medical-canonical reports; finally, Caberletti (Rotal Judge) explains what the “psychology of the judge” should be, that is, how the judge should behave towards the parties during the instructional phase. [End Page 300]

The volume ends with an appendix, edited by F. Catozzella, in which are published seven recent Rotal decrees describing the relationship between some of the most severe violations during the instructional phase and the consequences derived from it on the right of defense of the parties, amongst which the nullity of the sentence being foremost.

The volume is directed to all the operators of ecclesiastical tribunals and it is of high scientific quality. Surely, the alternation between practical and theoretical contributions make it a complete instrument; unfortunately, the limited experience (except for the contribution of Jaeger) of the authors based only on the reality of Italian Tribunals and the Roman Rota, is translated into a vision and understanding of the instructional phase which differs considerably from other national realities, making the volume less useful outside of the Italian context. [End Page 301]

Andrea Ponzone
Archdiocese of Boston
Braintree, MA


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