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Processes » The Contentious Trial » The Ordinary Contentious Trial » Proofs » Witnesses and testimonies
Canon 1547. Proof by means of witnesses is admitted in all cases, under the direction of the judge.
Canon 1548. §1 Witnesses must tell the truth to a judge who lawfully questions them.

§2 Without prejudice to the provisions of can. 1550 §2, n. 2 the following are exempted from the obligation of replying to questions:

1° clerics, in those matters revealed to them by reason of their sacred ministry; civil officials, doctors, midwives, advocates, notaries and others who are bound by the secret of their office, even on the ground of having offered advice, in respect of matters subject to this secret;

2° those who fear that, as a result of giving evidence, a loss of reputation, dangerous harassment or some other grave evil will arise for themselves, their spouses, or those related to them by consanguinity or affinity.
Processes » The Contentious Trial » The Ordinary Contentious Trial » Proofs » Witnesses and testimonies » Those who can be witnesses
Canon 1549. Everyone can be a witness, unless expressly excluded, whether wholly or in part, by the law.
Canon 1550. §1 Minors under the age of fourteen years and those who are of feeble mind are not admitted to give evidence. They can, however, be heard if the judge declares by a decree that it would be appropriate to do so.

§2 The following are deemed incapable of being witnesses:

1° the parties in the case or those who appear at the trial in the name of the parties; the judge and his assistant; the advocate and those others who in the same case assist or have assisted the parties;

2° priests, in respect of everything which has become known to them in sacramental confession, even if the penitent has asked that these things be made known.

Moreover, anything that may in any way have been heard by anyone on the occasion of confession, cannot be accepted even as an indication of the truth.
Processes » The Contentious Trial » The Ordinary Contentious Trial » Proofs » Witnesses and testimonies » The introduction and exclusion of witnesses
Canon 1551. A party who has introduced a witness may forego the examination of that witness, but the opposing party may ask that the witness nevertheless be examined.
Canon 1552. §1 When proof by means of witnesses is sought, the names and addresses of the witnesses are to be communicated to the tribunal.

§2 The propositions on which the interrogation of the witnesses is requested, are to be submitted within the time-limit determined by the judge; otherwise, the request is to be deemed abandoned.
Canon 1553. It is for the judge to curb an excessive number of witnesses.
Canon 1554. Before witnesses are examined, their names are to be communicated to the parties. If, in the prudent opinion of the judge, this cannot be done without great difficulty, it is to be done at least before the publication of the evidence.
Canon 1555. Without prejudice to the provisions of can. 1550, a party may request that a witness be excluded, provided a just reason for exclusion is established before the witness is examined.
Canon 1556. The summons of a witness is effected by a decree of the judge lawfully notified to the witness.
Canon 1557. A properly summoned witness is to appear, or to make known to the judge the reason for being absent.
Processes » The Contentious Trial » The Ordinary Contentious Trial » Proofs » Witnesses and testimonies » The examination of witnesses
Canon 1558. §1 Witnesses are to be examined at the office of the tribunal unless the judge deems otherwise.

§2 Cardinals, Patriarchs, Bishops, and those who in their own civil law enjoy a similar favour, are to be heard at the place selected by themselves.

§3 Without prejudice to the provisions of cann. 1418 and 1469 §2, the judge is to decide where witnesses are to be heard for whom, by reason of distance, illness or other impediment, it is impossible or difficult to come to the office of the tribunal.
Canon 1559. The parties cannot be present at the examination of the witnesses unless, especially when there is question of a private interest, the judge has determined that
they are to be admitted. Their advocates or procurators, however, may attend, unless by reason of the circumstances of matter and persons, the judge has determined that the proceedings are to be in secret.
Canon 1560. §1 The witnesses are to be examined individually and separately.

§2 If in a grave matter the witnesses disagree either among themselves or with one of the parties, the judge may arrange for those who differ to meet or to confront one another, but must, in so far as possible, eliminate discord and scandal.
Canon 1561. The examination of a witness is conducted by the judge, or by his delegate or an auditor, who is to be attended by a notary. Accordingly, unless particular law provides otherwise, if the parties or the promotor of justice or the defender of the bond or the advocates who are present at the hearing have additional questions to put to the witness, they are to propose these not to the witness, but to the judge, or to the one who is taking the judge’s place, so that he or she may put them.
Canon 1562. §1 The judge is to remind the witness of the grave obligation to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

§2 The judge is to administer an oath to the witness in accordance with can. 1532. If, however, a witness refuses to take an oath, he or she is to be heard unsworn.
Canon 1563. The judge is first of all to establish the identity of the witness. The relationship which the witness has with the parties is to be probed, and when specific questions concerning the case are asked of the witness enquiry is to be made into the sources of his or her knowledge and the precise time the witness came to know the matters which are asserted.
Canon 1564. The questions are to be brief, and appropriate to the understanding of the person being examined. They are not to encompass a number of matters at the same time, nor be captious or deceptive. They are not to be leading questions, nor give any form of offence. They are to be relevant to the case in question.
Canon 1565. §1 The questions are not to be made known in advance to the witnesses.

§2 If, however, the matters about which evidence is to be given are so remote in memory that they cannot be affirmed with certainty unless they are recalled beforehand, the judge may, if he thinks this can safely be done, advise the witness in advance about certain aspects of the matter.
Canon 1566. The witnesses are to give evidence orally. They are not to read from a script, except where there is a question of calculations or accounts; in this case, they may consult notes which they have brought with them.
Canon 1567. §1 The replies are to be written down at once by the notary. The record must show the very words of the evidence given, at least in what concerns those things which bear directly on the matter of the trial.

§2 The use of a tape-recorder is allowed, provided the replies are subsequently committed to writing and, if possible, signed by the deponents.
Canon 1568. The notary is to mention in the acts whether the oath was taken or excused or refused; who were present, parties and others; the questions added ex officio; and in general, everything worthy of record which may have occurred while the witnesses were being examined.
Canon 1569. §1 At the conclusion of the examination, the record of the evidence, either as written down by the notary or as played back from the tape-recording, must be communicated to the witness, who is to be given the opportunity of adding to, omitting from, correcting or varying it.

§2 Finally, the witness, the judge and the notary must sign the record.
Canon 1570. Before the acts or the testimony are published, witnesses, even though already examined, may be called for re-examination, either at the request of a party or ex officio. This may be done if the judge considers it either necessary or useful, provided there is no danger whatever of collusion or of inducement.
Canon 1571. Witnesses must be refunded both the expenses they incurred and the losses they sustained by reason of their giving evidence, in accordance with the equitable assessment of the judge.
Processes » The Contentious Trial » The Ordinary Contentious Trial » Proofs » Witnesses and testimonies » The trustworthiness of testimonies
Canon 1572. In weighing evidence the judge may, if it is necessary, seek testimonial letters, and is to take into account:

1° the condition and uprightness of the witness

2° whether the knowledge was acquired at first hand, particularly ifit was something seen or heard personally, or whether it was opinion, rumour or hearsay;

3° whether the witness is constant and consistent, or varies, is uncertain or vacillating;

4° whether there is corroboration of the testimony, and whether it is confirmed or not by other items of evidence.
Canon 1573. The deposition of one witness cannot amount to full proof, unless the witness is a qualified one who gives evidence on matters carried out in an official capacity, or unless the circumstances of persons and things persuade otherwise.

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