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Diocese > About > Marriage Tribunal

 Marriage Tribunal

The primary duty of a diocesan Tribunal (located at 723 East Pittsburgh Street, Greensburg) is to determine, on the basis of information presented to it, whether or not a marriage, which ended in civil divorce, is invalid according to church law. It does not lie within the competence of a church tribunal to determine the moral status of a person since this belongs to God alone.

 

The tribunal is the church’s court in which legal acts and procedures are observed to solve disputes and questions. It is comprised of judicial personnel, i.e. judges, advocates, defenders and others. Judicial trials are undertaken to pursue or vindicate rights, to declare facts or to impose penalties on their findings.

 

The diocesan bishop has chief oversight for the diocesan court. There are various officials at the court. The judicial vicar heads the diocesan court and is assisted by judges of the tribunal. The defender of the bond argues to uphold the bond of marriage that is in question. Procurators represent and act on behalf of parties, while advocates ensure the rights of the parties are upheld. All exercise judicial authority in accord with canon law.

 Seeking An Annulment

The petitioner meets with the parish priest, deacon or designated pastoral minister who assists in completing an initial questionnaire concerning a previous marriage. In the Diocese of Greensburg, the petitioner can contact the tribunal directly at 724-837-9523 to begin the process. 

 

The completed questionnaire is sent to the tribunal. The tribunal examines the data indicating acceptance of the case.  A detailed questionnaire is sent to the petitioner requesting that the marriage be examined. The former spouse (respondent) is invited to complete a similar questionnaire. Names of several witnesses who are aware of the relationship are requested. Then the questionnaires are returned or the allotted time is expired, written testimony from witnesses is also gathered. The tribunal may collect other data that could be helpful in preparing a case, e.g. statements from doctors, psychologists, counselors, etc.

When all data is collected, the tribunal considers the evidence and renders a decision. If a decision is affirmative, it is submitted to a second court for ratification. If a decision is negative, it can be appealed. More evidence or testimony can be presented.

Special guidelines/requirements for cases brought to the diocesan tribunal:

  1. A civil divorce has been obtained.
  2. The marriage took place within the Diocese of Greensburg.
  3. One of the parties resides in the Diocese of Greensburg. 
Download the Preliminary Form. For additional information, please contact us at 724-837-9523. 

 Annulments in the Catholic Church

For centuries the Catholic Church has taught the indissolubility of marriage. However, the church has also recognized the possibility that a marriage for one reason or another may not have been valid at the time of consent. In other words, the church recognizes that a particular marriage should never have come into being in the first place.

BradysBendJesus.JPGWhen requested to examine the quality of a couple’s consent, it is possible for the church to issue a declaration of nullity, which is entirely different from a dissolution of marriage. A dissolution in the church, like a civil divorce, acknowledges that a marriage once did exist, but no longer exists.

A declaration of nullity is a decree officially stating the finding that although a marriage did appear to exist, it actually never did as a sacrament. This can, of course, give rise to a certain amount of confusion. Some find it difficult to understand this distinction. In reaching a decision about the validity or invalidity of a marriage, and issuing a decree of nullity, the church is not annulling anything. It is simply stating and only after thorough investigation, that in a particular case a valid sacramental marriage never existed.

In the United States today, because of the number of failed and divorced marriages, there is a pastoral need to use canon law to provide an opportunity for a journey of faith. The ministry of the matrimonial tribunals in the church provides this opportunity to bring healing to individuals and/or couples in need. Even with tribunals functioning efficiently, it is estimated that no more than 10 percent of the potential petitions for annulments are ever brought to the church tribunal.

On October 3, 1941, Pope Pius XII called for a prudent use of the new discoveries of the behavioral sciences, in particular psychology and psychiatry in examining unfortunate situations of marriage failures.  It became evident that in some cases people were not unwilling to enter into marriage, but rather were incapable of doing so – their thought processes were severely impaired, their judgment seriously affected, or they were unable to assume the essential obligations of marriage. 

With help of the behavioral sciences, it has become somewhat easier to understand not only why marriages failed, but also why some people were not “eligible” (or juridically capable), from the outset, to validly enter into such a sacramental union.

 

 Get Answers about Tribunal process

​All failed marriages, whether Catholic, Christian or non-Christian, which have been a part of an individual's experience, need to be examined. For those which have ended in divorce, a Tribunal process will be necessary before the individual would be free to enter into another marriage. For those who have entered another marriage, this process will be needed before they can participate in the sacramental life of the church.​
  
Answer
expand Question : Are there any special guidelines/requirements for cases brought to the Tribunal within this diocese? ‎(1)
expand Question : Do all marriages need to be annulled before a second marriage within the Catholic Church can take place? ‎(1)
expand Question : Does an annulment affect the legitimacy of the children? ‎(1)
expand Question : How long does it take to get an annulment? ‎(1)
expand Question : If I am legally divorced, why do I need an annulment? ‎(1)
expand Question : If someone receives an annulment, does that automatically free his or her partner? ‎(1)
expand Question : Is the process expensive? ‎(1)
expand Question : Isn't this just semantics; isn't an annulment like getting a divorce under another name? ‎(1)
expand Question : What are some possible reasons for an annulment? ‎(1)
expand Question : What does the church consider necessary elements for a binding union? ‎(1)
expand Question : What is an annulment? ‎(1)
expand Question : What is the difference between an annulment and a divorce? ‎(1)
expand Question : What is the status of a Catholic who has remarried without an annulment (declaration of nullity)? ‎(1)
expand Question : What is the tribunal? ‎(1)
expand Question : When should the convalidation of a marriage occur after an annulment from a previous marriage has been received? ‎(1)
expand Question : Who makes up the tribunal? ‎(1)