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Arkansas Catholic
Little Rock, Arkansas
August 19, 1990     Arkansas Catholic
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August 19, 1990

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PAGE 10 ARKANSAS CATHOLIC AUGUST 19, "Tribunal," from page 9 Church's interests in the matter, and whose job it is to ensure that the per- manence of marriage has been ad- equately protected. This official is charged with the task of upholding the validity of the marriage, and he or she literally defends the bond of marriage. In fulfilling this obligation, the defender assures that all the requirements of Church law are met and that efforts are made to hear all sides of the story. This person may request more information before offering an opinion whether a favorable decision should be granted. What happens when a Case is Acti- vated? In fairness, cases are reviewed in the order in which they have completed the investgation stage. When the petitioner's turn comes up, the case is evaluated. If the judge finds that some information was unclear or insufficient to continue the case it may be necessary for the Tribunal to request further in- formation or clarifications. During the judgment phase, the judge consults with other members of the Tribunal, particularly the defender of the bond, and possibly various ex- perts. Then the judge will issue a sen- tence or decree which either declares the marriage to be null or states that the invalidity has not been proven, and the parties will be notified. Are negative decisions given? Yes. Please note that not every case is granted an affirmative decision. The most notable of the Church's dis- gruntled petitioners is Henry VIII of England. Recently, Princess Caroline of Monacco was given a negative decision. Not all failed marriages are invalid. Some marriages which begin as good ones simply fail due to human weakness. It would be contrary to the teachings of Christ to annul a marriage which is valid by all indications. All cases are carefully screened be- forehand, and many Tribunals hesitate before placing a case in trial unless it has definite merit and solid proof. Therefore, many cases are informally turned down. Sometimes, the petitioner is urged to withdraw the case because of the predicted negative outcome. Other cases are eventually abandoned by the petitioner, and are placed in an inactive file, pending renewed interest of the parties. Many of these will never be officially resolved. Is the Tr unal's decision final? No. As a further safeguard of the sanctity and indissolubility of the mar- riage bond there is an appeal phase. Church law requires that every affir- mative decision of nullity be automati- cally sent for a mandatory review by another Tribunal. The annulments from our diocese are reviewed by the Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Okla- homa City, consisting of a Tribunal of three judges. This confirmation process normally takes an additional amount of time but usually does not require fur- ther participation from the parties. If confirmation of the decision is received from that Tribunal, the affir- mative judicial sentence becomes final, and testimony from the parties. Others are quite complicated and involved, especially when the parties are uncoop- erative. While it is possible that a decision could be rendered within a year, pres- ently it requires a couple of years. De- pending on certain factors, some cases can require a longer period of time. When action is taken in any case, the petitioner is notified of the progress, therefore there is no need to continu- ally request a status update at this point of the process. Because of the con- sumption of time involved in answering requests for such information, the Tribunal has a policy which discourages phone calls. Letters of inquiry for sta- res updates are preferred because they conserve time and also provide a record of the exchange of information. Can exceptions ever be made for certain cases? The Tribunal tries conscientiously to If you have further questions, contact, Marriage Tribunal, Diocese of Little Rock, 2415 North Tyler Street, P.O. Box 7239, Little Rock, AR 72217-7239. until any precautions restricting a futUre marriage have been removed. If in spirt of this caution, a date is set, regardle of who suggested it, the Tribunal accept no responsibility for completing the case by that date. If the marriage B finally declared null and there are # restrictions concerning remarriage, tht usual procedure of preparing for mac[ riage in the Catholic Church may be I: initiated with the local parish priest 0t[ deacon. ]' IS tl'lere a fee? [~'~ I In deference to the people of Diocese who subsidize the major co#| of operating the Tribunal, it is fair tl tl . those who avail themselves of the set' and at that time the parties will receive process cases in the order in which they vices of this office assist in defrayi a document notifying them of the de- are received. Most dioceses in the U.S. part of this financial burden. Present ' cision. Many petitioners experienceare understaffed and overburdened in our diocese, an offering of $150 healing when a favorable decision is with the number of petitions received be asked of the person who introduCe reached. If everythingi h ii :: i! order, each year. While the volume of workthe request. A non-refundable fding fe of $25 is reqmred when the pre th: ili ii! hurc iii:::::: i!ili !iiii!iii!i!i ...... i:!ii::ii::::::;i":i::::i:i:ii::::ii::iii!'::i ....... ii::iiiiii!!i nu iiy bein to S amiine localnary questionnaire" is submitted, i ithere $ first :::i c iiiipr du e . this amount is applicable toward :t: , d ion, ::i:a rieved: ii : ar feel e; !i tle to total amount. In some dioceses | ani ii peal i::::;Thisiiiimust be: gone average cost incurred by the TribtW, ing thin three weeks of notification cessions'dueto certain circums nces, amounts to as much as $300-$800 a[ of the first decision. This appeal would While such conditions are often un-more per case. also be heard by the Tribunal of fortunate, the internal workings of the Please note, however, that if for Oklahoma City. When its work is Tribunal are strictly governed by de- serious reason one cannot afford completed, the parties are notified of the final decision. What is the time element? Because the length of time varies according to the circumstances of each case, the Tribunal cannot promise that a case will be completed within a spe- cific period of time. Each case is unique and many different factors may either facilitate or hinder its conclusion. This includes the ability to expeditiously secure the adequate testimony of wit- nesses and documents, as well as the increasing work load of the Tribunal and personnel constraints. Some cases are well-prepared and are submitted with all the necessary documentation Pastoral Care Director CATHOLIC DIRECTOR OF PASTORAL ERVICF_,S sought for progre ive 188-bed acute compre- hensive care medical center. Prefer degree in theology or related disciplines, four units of CPE, two units being advanced units, advanced chap- lain status with NACC, or be a fellow within COC. Pastoral Service and management experience preferred. 5end resume to: Sister Cheryl Syivester, Mt. Carmel Medical Center Centennial & Rouse Pi! KS 66762 tailed laws which apply throughout the amount, the Tribunal will make oth ] universal Church. Everyone must be arrangements. At no time should treated equally. The entire process is nancial considerations discourage regulated by procedural laws and not person from exercising the right. [ even a diocesan bishop has the power receive a just hearing from the Tribe] to dispense from them. nal. One's ability or inability to pay The canonical procedure of the no way affects the progress or outco ] Tribunal assures that justice prevails and of a decision. | that all people are treated fairly. I IS the procem worth it? | Is remarriage in the Catholic Church The Church has had similar eccle | automatically allowed? astical procedures for centuries, Sometimes the Tribunal will place apresently, this is still the only systtedl temporary restriction on a person s right which the Church can offer. The e#| to remarry because of facts that were ing of any marriage that endured presented in the annulment case. If a enough for the spouses to invest marriage is declared null due to a lives, emotions, and dreams is a crifi [ possibly ongoing serious cause, a second and painful experience. The person marriage obviously cannot be permitted of the Tribunal are conscientious until it has been demonstrated that the sensitive to the human realities of cause which invalidated the first mar- feting and pain which come froW,,1'| riage has been removed, so to insure, vorce. While they realize that the as far as possible, the success of a fu- nulment process can at times beffwT' ture union, trating, they also know the experie It may also be necessary to provideof healing which results when assurance that any children from the parties, after being challenged to first union are adequately being pro= the reasons for the failed union, vided for in justice, before a second finally able to be reconciled, and l marriage is permitted, begin a new life. Since not every one can be guaran- The author wishes to specifica teed a declaration of nullity, no 'one the use o.f materials from the .Canon Law| There of Amertca and from the Dioceses of Hartfl should presume this outcome. - . Chica , Milwaukee, Sioux ~ , and Orla fore, those peUt oners who are enrolled go in the catechumenate (RCIA) can not be given any assurance when they may f _ be received into the Church In addi ( Pass this section aloll] | tion, no new marriage may be sched- ItO someone after yoO| uled in any Catholic parish until the k flnlsh readln it. - procedure has been completed and "x.. ,~,