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Man antar at et ekteskap er gyldig, og i alle fall én av ektefellene er sikker på at alt er i orden, men så kan det vise seg – ut fra katolsk kirkerett eller også sivil rett – at det likevel ikke er gyldig. Etter sivil rett erklæres ekteskap ugyldige nokså sjelden, men etter katolsk kirkerett kan dette skje noe oftere – og det er Tribunalene som avgjør slike spørsmål.

Kirkerettseksperten Edward Peters skriver om dette i et innlegg, der han uttrykker svært stor forbauselse over at en kjent katolsk kardinal (Kasper) ikke ser ut til å forstå disse tingene:

Misunderstanding – sometimes seasoned with plain ignorance – about canon law, annulments, and tribunal work is common among Catholics and pervasive among non-Catholics. What is unnerving to see, however, in the wake of Cdl. Kasper’s call for holy Communion to be administered to those living in “public and permanent adultery” (CCC 2384), is how high up in Church life such problems apparently reach.

In his latest remarks on annulments, Kasper says: “There are situations in which annulments are possible. But take the case of a couple with ten years of marriage, with kids, which in the first years [was] a happy marriage, but for different reasons fails. This marriage was a reality and to say that it was canonically null makes no sense.”

Taking the cardinal’s words at face value, he flatly rejects (for it “makes no sense”) declaring null any putative (a term Kasper does not use, but which I will discuss below) marriage if it seemed happy for a time, produced children, and lasted ten years. Let’s look at these factors.

Though some these days are put off when canon law is quoted in correction of canonical errors, nevertheless, a legal principle from the thirteenth century is important here: Non firmatur tractu temporis quod de iure ab initio non subsistit, or, “What is null at the start does not become valid with the passage of time.” Regula Iuris XVIII (1298). …

Om “putavive marriage” (et antatt gyldig ekteskap) sier engelsk Wikipedia:

A putative marriage is an apparently valid marriage, entered into in good faith on the part of at least one of the partners, but that is legally invalid due to a technical impediment, such as a preexistent marriage on the part of one of the partners. Unlike someone in a common-law, statutory, or ceremonial marriage, a putative spouse is not legally married. Instead, a putative spouse believes himself or herself to be married in good faith and is given legal rights as a result of this person’s reliance upon this good-faith belief.

Putative marriages exist in both Catholic canon law and in various civil laws, though the rules may vary. In some jurisdictions, putative marriages are a matter of case law rather than legislation. …

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