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A Journal on Forensic Medicine

Frequency: Quarterly

ISSN 0026-4849

Online ISSN 1827-1677


Minerva Medicolegale 2012 March;132(1):21-30


Alcoholism as cause of nullity of canonical marriage: legal-medical analisys of the social phenomenon and discussion of the cases

Veglia O.

Istituto di Medicina Legale, Università degli Studi di Torino, Torino, Italia

Aim. The following study concerns the alcoholism as cause of nullity of canonical marriage. Catholic Church considers the canonical marriage as indissoluble. The marriage vow can be dissolved only for the death of spouses, unless it was already null ab origine for impediments, formal or consent defects. Acute alcoholism or chronic intoxication can be cause of the annulment of marriage if they affect the ability of understanding the essence of the marriage vow, taking charge of marriage duties or limiting the free self-determination of the contractors.
Methods. This study analyzed 185 judgments of the Roman Rota Court from 1935 to 1997; 30 of them regarded alcoholism and drug addiction. These judgments had been compared each other in order to identify the addiction common core, the legal methods and the experts’ role.
Results. In 17 judgments the Roman Rota Court established the nullity of marriage; while, in the remaining 13 judgments, the Roma Rota Court did not accept the instance of nullity. The most frequent cause of nullity was a defect of judgment. In five cases the marriage was annulled because of the inability of taking charge of marriage duties, in particular related to psychic affections. The drug addiction concerned alcohol, drugs or both of them.
Conclusion. From the 1930s to the Second Vatican Council, the most frequent causes of marriage nullity were drunkenness or acute intoxication. After the Second Vatican Council marriages were essentially annulled for defects of judgment or inability of taking charge of marriage duties. Only in 20 of the 30 analyzed cases, the judges required a judicial examination, where judges and experts’ roles were clearly separate.

language: Italian


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