The Tribunal is the judicial branch of the Salina Diocese. Under the authority of the diocesan bishop, the Tribunal has the responsibility of hearing and deciding those legal matters which are assigned to it by the universal/general law of the Church (the CODE OF CANON LAW) or delegated to it by the Bishop. In the United States, the Tribunal deals almost exclusively with cases involving the bond of marriage. It receives and investigates the petitions for declaration of invalidity of marriages, according to the norms found in book VII, “Processes” of the 1983 revision of the CODE OF CANON LAW.
Marriage breakdown is unique among life's experiences. There is nothing which can prepare or equip a person for the trauma or grief which is involved. The breakdown of marriage is a process which spans years of one's life and is not just restricted to when the parties actually separate. Separation and divorce are preceded by a history at least as long as the marriage itself. The causes often reach back to the wedding day, to the time of courting, or to the childhood environment of one or both parties. The ending of a marriage is a critical time for all concerned. Both parties may have invested a major part of their lives, their resources, their hopes, their dreams in the relationship.
The Church is aware of the stresses in our modern world associated with marriage breakdown and divorce. The Church endeavors to reach out to the pain and hurt of a divorced person, while upholding the permanence of a valid marriage. By declaring invalid those marriages which fall below the minimum standards set by canon law, the Church protects the dignity of marriage for those couples who have a valid marriage.
The Tribunal is a Church court which makes these declarations. Such a declaration can often help the divorced person who has remarried or is intending another marriage in the Catholic Church. It may also assist a divorced Catholic who is seeking clarification of his/her position for peace of conscience, or for reassurance in developing relationships in the future.
An annulment (decree of nullity) is a declaration by the Church that a marriage was not valid. This does not mean that the parties are free of the continuing obligations of the union such as the welfare of children. An annulment does not deny that there was a wedding ceremony or that a relationship existed. Nor does it comment on any moral fault in the parties. Rather, a decree of nullity is a declaration by the Church that, at the time the couple attempted to exchange wedding vows, an essential element was lacking in the consent of at least one of them and thus the union which followed such a consent was not valid according to the Catholic Church's understanding of marriage.
How to begin the process:
To initiate a petition for the Tribunal to begin an investigation into the invalidity of a previous marriage, a "Preliminary Questionnaire and Petition" and a "Narrative Outline" must be signed and submitted to the Tribunal Office. These can be obtained from your local parish office or directly from the Tribunal Office. Additional documents include:
- Copies of the civil marriage license.
- The divorce decree.
- Current Certificate of Baptism with notations from the Church of Baptism, if either party was ever baptized Catholic.
Rev. Msgr. Barry E. Brinkman, J.C.L., J.V. - Judicial Vicar
Rev. Peter O'Donnell, J.C.L., - Judge
Rev. Msgr. James E. Hake, J.C.L., - Defender of the Bond
Rev. Randall D. Weber, J.C.L., - Procurator - Advocate
Rev. Daniel L. Scheetz, J.C.L., - Promoter of Justice
Mr. Corey Lyon, J.C.L., - Tribunal Services
Sr. Carolyn Juenemann, C.S.J., - Tribunal Notary and Secretary
In addition to these officials, the Tribunal has trained religious and lay men and women from many parishes of the Diocese, who are available to assist people in presenting petitions to the Tribunal.
If you are interested in further information about seeking a decree of nullity, you may contact the Tribunal Office at (785) 827-8746, Ext. 22. The contact information for the Advocates in your area will be made available to you.
Salina Diocese Tribunal Office
103 North Ninth Street
P.O. Box 980
Salina KS 67402-0980.