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Lateran IV

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  • CANON 52
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CANON 52

Summary. In the matter of consanguinity and affinity, hearsay evidence is not to be relied on unless it comes from reputable persons to whom uprightness is a precious asset.

Text. Through some necessity the common mode of procedure in computing the degree of consanguinity and affinity has been re placed by another, namely, hearsay testimony, since on account of the shortness of human life eye-witnesses cannot be had in the matter of reckoning to the seventh degree. But, since we have learned from many instances and from experience that, in consequence of this, legitimate marriages are beset with many dangers, we decree that in this matter hearsay witnesses be not received in the future, since the prohibition now does not extend beyond the fourth degree, unless they be reputable persons to whom uprightness is a precious asset and who before the dispute arose obtained their testimony from those gone immediately before, not from one indeed, since he would not suffice if he were living, but from two at least, who must have been reliable persons, beyond suspicion and of good faith, since it would be absurd to admit them if their informants were worthy only of rejection. Not even if one person has obtained his testimony from many, or if an unreliable person has obtained his from men of good faith, must they be admitted as many and suitable witnesses, since even in the ordinary judicial processes the statement of one witness does not suffice, even though he shine in all the splendor of gubernatorial dignity, and, moreover, legitimate acts are denied to persons of a disreputable character. Witnesses of this kind must declare on oath that in giving their testimony they are not actuated by hatred, fear, love, or self interest; let them designate persons by their names or by a satisfactory description or circumlocution, and distinguish by a clear computation each degree on both sides, and let them include in their oath that they obtained their information from their forefathers and believe it to be so. But neither do such witnesses suffice unless they declare on oath that they have seen persons who belonged to at least one of the aforesaid degrees and who acknowledged themselves blood relatives. For it is more tolerable that some who have been united contrary to the laws of men be separated than that those who have been legitimately united separate in violation of the laws of God.




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