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Arkansas Catholic
Litlte Rock, Arkansas
August 19, 1990     Arkansas Catholic
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August 19, 1990

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PAGE 7 ARKANSAS CATHOLIC AUGUST 19, 1990 By Rev. Scott L. Marczuk, JCL Offieialis, Marriage Tribunal 1 The process of an ecclesiastical Dec- aration of Nullity, or an "annulment" as it COmmonly called, is often perceived mysterious and confusing process rnany people. The following infor- ation is provided as a brief overview 0fthe process in order to help foster a proper understanding of the canonical PrOCedures involved in. a Church Dec- laration of Nullity. t~ 'vnat is marriage? q| t-]~he Catholic Church believes and ,~[ ~aChes that marriage is, by God's plan, ~[ ~J enduring and exclusive interpersonal Sharl ~[ ~ ng of marital life and love between C q Ula t glvi n and a woman for the mutual . ng and receiving t1 teach Other and for ~[ the procreation and ~ ' [ education of children. |~::- .|A Valid marriage [::: :tWeen two baptized is considered Church to be a " When !- a marital union s been consum- it is regarded permanently covenant Cannot be dis- by any human either civil .ecclesiastical. This with the of Jesus in writings of St. Paul and throughout centuries of tradition in the teachings of and ecumenical councils. It re- the continued and uncompro- doctrine of the Church that a sacramental marriage broke"ngn covenant which can- by any authority, not parties themselves. also recognizes the va- .race of the marriage persons, regardless of their wedding was religious or every marriage, in- g those between two non- Is regarded by the Church to ~ Ks a divorce affect one's status in " "~Ureh? liter g Separated or divorced does not l~htlrr~e's status in the Catholic there is no excommunication erson who receive a |h~e~ d" Orce, but Catholics who have i~tse%:laVrced and who then enter into i~r'~ l~tu marriage "outside the Church" I~e~ts lffree to approach the sacra- [ ~ista" possible, they should seek the |r~eti~.~ce of the Tribunal in order to |%~'/their situation After a divorce, ' rqaY desire a clarification of his or her marital status, regarding a future marriage in the Church. After a pre- liminary investigation, it is determined whether a case can be accepted, and what kind of procedure will be used. Who is eligible to apply? If there still is a possibility for mari- tal reconciliation, or if the civil divorce is not yet final, no petition for a Church Declaration of Nullity will be considered by the Tribunal. If the parties were only recently divorced it may bepreferable to delay such an application until such a time that the persons have gained a proper perspective and deeper insight into the failed relationship. All divorced persons, regardless of religious affliafion or the length of a marriage, have the right to apply for a possible annulment of their former marriage. This service would be sought by divorced Catholics for per- sonal reasons of peace of con- science, such as the clarification of order that they might marry in the Church, or to be reconciled with the Church by having their present mar- riage officially "convalidated" so that they might re- turn to full sacramental participation. Persons who are not members of the Catholic Church usually pursue such a declaration in order to establish their freedom to marry a Catholic, or in some cases in order to be received into full communion with the Church. The Tri- bunal accepts these cases because it has the right to determine who is able to be married in a Catholic wedding. two Catholics was defined, and these requirements are still in effect today. In order for a Catholic person to marry, the couple must exchange vows before a priest and two witnesses. This "ca- nonical form" of marriage became universal Church law in the 1917 Code of Canon Law. Since nonX;atholics were "dispensed" from this law, their mar- riages were considered as valid, no matter how their vows were exchanged. Since Vatican Council II, the local Bishop can dispense a Catholic party from this form of marriage in special cases, usually involving the weddings of inter-faith couples. If a Catholic party marries another person in a non-Catholic ceremony and the local Bishop has not granted a dispensation for this wedding to take place, that Catholic would be in an ir- regular status as a member of the Church. While those who are married "outside the Church" are not ex- communicated, nev- ertheless they are unable to receive the sacraments. Many couples in such a situation will later seek the Church's blessing on this marriage, and have it "convalidated" or "blessed" before the priest or deacon, so that the Catholic party may return to full sacramental participation. A marriage contracted "outside the Church" is called a "defect of form" or "lack of form" case. If such a marriage was never "convalidated" in the Church, the annulment case would be handled in an administrative process. With proof through documentation and affidavits, these cases are usually quickly resolved. What is the Marriage Tribunal? The Church is aware of the stress, suffering and other feelings experienced by those who are sepa- rated, divorced, and even remarried, and it expresses its pastoral concern espe- cially through the ministry offered by the Marriage Tribunal. In order to clarify a doubt raised about the validity of a marriage, Church law requires that every diocese have a Tri- bunal composed of a staff of trained and experienced personnel. Its purpose is to offer pastoral assistance to persons who request that the Church study a former marriage in order to de- termine whether or not there is a possibility of a Declaration of Nullity. The Tribunal investigates the marriage and declares whether or not nullity has been proven. Its balancing role involves safeguarding the sacred institution of marriage and the family, while at the same time be- ing sensitive to human re- alities by protecting the personal right to marry in the Church. What if the other party was prevb ously married? Sometimes an individual will marry a person who has been previously married and divorced. Because of the Christian belief in the permanence of marriage, a person who has been married before is still bound by that See "Tribunal, next page What about Catholics who marry outside the Church? Because of our Biblical teachings, the Catholic Faith understands marriage to be a sacramenL a sign of Christ's own love for His Church (Eph 5:21-33). Since the ministers of marriage are the couples themselves, they must be properly disposed to celebrate this sacramenL In the first centuries of the Church, marriage took place according to local tradition, usually a domestic celebra- tion. The clergy were involved with the pastoral care of the couple. Gradually, with the emphasis of the ecclesial di- mension, a Church marriage ceremony evolved. The first nuptial Mass seems to have been celebrated between the fourth and fifth centuries. At the Council of Trent (1563) the mandatory form of marriage between r APARTMENTS 2401Lakeview Rd., North Little Rock ( Near McCain Mall ) _=a Convenient Location -'I Washer / Dryer Connections i:. :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Z] Spacious 1 & 2 Bedroom Garden Apartment _=] Exercise Room, Swimming & Tennis -=] Beautiful Community Center ' -'q Bay Windows & Private Patios Managed by GENERAL PROPERTIES J