Rules of Evidence

Rules of Evidence

(Taken from various pre-1959 Catholic theologians using scholastic principles.)

  1. One is bound to use diligence in keeping with the truth to be investigated according to the importance of the matter and the condition of person or place. Where penalties are concerned, Can. 2218 states: “Punishment should be in just proportion to the offense, due regard being had to the degree of liability and the scandal or damage caused…Attention must be paid not only to the subject matter and gravity of the law, but also to the age, knowledge, education, sex, state of life and mental condition of the delinquent, to the dignity of the person against whom the offense was committed, the purpose intended, the place and time of the offense, whether it was committed in the heat of passion or by reason of grave fear, whether the delinquent repented of his misdeed and tried to prevent its evil effects, and other similar circumstances,” (Revs. Woywod-Smith, “A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law”).
  2. “A penalty is not to be extended from person to person, nor from one case to another, although there is the same or an even greater reason for holding the person guilty…,” (Can. 2219). “If the material facts are doubtful, or if the terms of the law do not cover a certain case, the offender is not liable for the penalty of the law, (Woywod-Smith quoting Sole’s “De Delictis et Poenis”). Canons 2218 and 2219 lay down the principles that govern the application of evidence and determine its value.
  3. When the existence, meaning or extent of the obligation of a law is doubtful, it is called a doubt of law; when the existence of some circumstance relating to a person, his status or his actions or any other fact under consideration is doubtful, it is called a doubt of fact…Laws are necessarily based on facts, and in some cases it is difficult to determine whether the doubt is caused by the uncertainty of the meaning of the law or whether some circumstance or fact of the case is uncertain and causes the doubt. In the doubt of law, the facts of the case are clear and undoubted, but it is doubtful whether a certain law applies to the case. In the doubt of fact, the law is clear, but some facts or circumstances of the case are doubtful… (Woywod-Smith commentary on Can. 15). 
  4. In a doubt of fact, the law still binds (1) where there is question of the necessary means of salvation; (2) where there is question of the validity of the Sacraments and (3) where the certain right of a third person is involved. Rev. Dominic Prummer says this is the unanimous teaching of theologians, hence is infallible, (DZ
  5. “If no serious reasons can be found to prove or directly disprove that a certain law has ceased or been abrogated, the principle to be followed is: ‘In doubt, decide for that which has the presumption.In this case the presumption is for the continuance of the law, since it was certainly made, and there is no probability for its non-continuance,” (St. Alphonsus Liguori as quoted by Revs. McHugh and Callan under the rules of conscience in their Moral Theology: A Complete Course).
  6. A proof based on experience is a proof of facts [if a witness has been proven credible] and so must be supported by concrete instance in experience.
  7. Every judgment must be based on proof.
  8. In doubt, facts cannot be presumed, but must be proved.
  9. When in doubt one must stand by presumption and presumption must yield to truth.
  10. There is no argument against the evidence.
  11. No argument or conclusion contrary to the evident facts is valid, (#s 5-9 taken from Rev. Bernard Wuellner, S. J., “Summary of Scholastic Principles,” 1956).
  12. No inference contrary to the evident facts is true; conjectural opinions are dangerous, (Pope Pius XII; Humani Generis).
  13. Law is an ordinance of reason made for the common good, (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., I-II, Q. 90, A-4).
  14. “Laws made for the purpose of safeguarding the public against a common danger bind, even when there is no danger,” (Can. 21).
  15. The common good demands certitude concerning the validity of acts,” (Rev. Amleto Cicognani, “Canon Law”).
  16. A certainly existing, clear and applicable positive law always binds; a positive law is presumed to be valid. Positive laws are Divine law established by God’s free will in the Old and New Testaments, human laws established by men whether Canon or ecclesiastical, profane or civil laws, strictly civil and laws of nations, (Rev. Cicognani).
  17. Positive law is true only when it is: a) an act of legitimate authority, b) is just, c) is physically and morally possible of observance and d) is properly promulgated. The lawgiver and law enforcer must have jurisdiction over the subjects and over the matter or the content of the law… (Wuellner).
  18. The natural law is prior to any positive law and is the basis and criterion of the justice of all positive laws, (Wuellner).
  19. Things deviating from the law are not to be drawn into precedent, (Rule of Canon Law; Cicognani).
  20. Laws justly declaring an incapacity to act or to receive benefits invalidate the attempted act or reception, even if they are inculpably unknown or facts pertaining to their application in a concrete instance are unknown, (Wuellner).
  21. Unless a law expressly or equivalently declares an act invalid, the act itself, while unlawful is valid, (Can. 11).
  22. Canon 209 does not supply for those things voided by invalidating and incapacitating laws or required by natural or Divine law: The very law of nature demands that power be not entrusted to a person who is not sufficiently competent to make proper use of it…The Church can supply only that power, the disposition of which is entrusted to her; she cannot, therefore, supply what is required by divine or natural law…” (Rev. Raymond Kearney, “Principles of Delegation,” 1929, Catholic Univ. of America).
  23. Silence implies consent to the evil done, (Can. 1325; also one of the methods of cooperation in sin per the moral theology manuals, although in certain cases silence cannot be construed as consent).
  24. Ignorance of the law does not excuse, (Can. 16).
  25. In a doubt of law, the higher law prevails.
  26. One cannot give what he does not possess, (St. Ignatius Loyola).
  27. Necessity knows no law, meaning that no law can bind a subject to do that which is impossible or morally evil, (Wuellner, # 334, 337 c).
  28. If we claim ourselves truly Catholic, even if this is only by desire among those never absolved from censure, we are stating that we are subject to Canon Law. So when we read that “Even infallible laws cease to apply when the subject matter is wanting and the necessary moral conditions are passed away,” (Henry Cardinal Manning, “The Vatican Decrees and Their Bearing on Civil Allegiance,” 1875). We know that the subject matter is not wanting. But have the moral conditions for obeying Canon Law ceased? No, because in his Vacantis Apostolica Sedis, Pope Pius XII taught that no papal jurisdiction could be validly exercised during an interregnum, which still exists. We are not OBLIGED to attend Mass and receive those Sacraments not necessary to salvation in order to save our souls; this is proven from doctrinal teaching and Canon Law.
  29. The laws contained in the 1917 Code are all just acts of legitimate authority, properly promulgated which are physically and morally possible of observance with a few exceptions where ecclesiastical laws are concerned. The lawgiver and law enforcer had the necessary jurisdiction over their subjects and over the matter or the content of the law when it was made and promulgated in 1917. No one today has the jurisdiction necessary to interpret or enforce these laws unless they merely point to past interpretations and decisions of the Holy See.
  30. No evidence suffices to override the higher law of a document signed by the Roman Pontiff, (Cicognani, Can. 1825).
  31. Therefore, as St. Alphonsus states above in #5: “If no serious reasons can be found to prove or directly disprove that a certain law has ceased or been abrogated, the principle to be followed is: ‘In doubt, decide for that which has the presumption.In this case the presumption is for the continuance of the law, since it was certainly made, and there is no probability for its non-continuance.”
  32. 4. Canon 1812 tells us that acts issuing from the Roman Pontiff and the Roman Curia during the exercise of their office and entered as proof in ecclesiastical courts “prove the facts asserted,” (Can. 1816), and force the judge to pronounce in favor of the party producing the document, (commentary by Revs. Woywod-Smith).
  33. Proof to the contrary is not admitted against Letters of the Roman Pontiff bearing his signature,” (Cicognani, ibid. p. 626, ft. note).
  34. Documents entered into the Acta Apostolic Sedis do not need to be submitted in the original or be an authenticated copy, (Can. 1819).
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