P.O. Box 7417
Alexandria, LA 71306-0714
Fax: (318) 767-0872
Email: tribunal [at] diocesealex [dot] org
If you are not yet divorced or have just been divorced and have not yet read: WHEN MARRIAGE BREAKS, please do so first.
The Ministry of the TRIBUNAL explained by Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI had the following to say on February 22, 2007:
"If the Eucharist expresses the irrevocable nature of God's love in Christ for his Church, we can then understand why it implies, with regard to the sacrament of Matrimony, that indissolubility to which all true love necessarily aspires. There was good reason for the pastoral attention that the Synod gave to the painful situations experienced by some of the faithful who, having celebrated the sacrament of Matrimony, then divorced and remarried. This represents a complex and troubling pastoral problem, a real scourge for contemporary society, and one which increasingly affects the Catholic community as well. The Church's pastors, out of love for the truth, are obliged to discern different situations carefully, in order to be able to offer appropriate spiritual guidance to the faithful involved. The Synod of Bishops confirmed the Church's practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk 10:2- 12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments, since their state and their condition of life objectively contradict the loving union of Christ and the Church signified and made present in the Eucharist. Yet the divorced and remarried continue to belong to the Church, which accompanies them with special concern and encourages them to live as fully as possible the Christian life through regular participation at Mass, albeit without receiving communion, listening to the word of God, eucharistic adoration, prayer, participation in the life of the community, honest dialogue with a priest or spiritual director, dedication to the life of charity, works of penance, and commitment to the education of their children.
"When legitimate doubts exist about the validity of the prior sacramental marriage, the necessary investigation must be carried out to establish if these are well-founded. Consequently there is a need to ensure, in full respect for canon law, the presence of local ecclesiastical tribunals, their pastoral character, and their correct and prompt functioning. Each Diocese should have a sufficient number of persons with the necessary preparation, so that the ecclesiastical tribunals can operate in an expeditious manner. I repeat that "it is a grave obligation to bring the Church's institutional activity in her tribunals ever closer to the faithful". At the same time, pastoral care must not be understood as if it were somehow in conflict with the law. Rather, one should begin by assuming that the fundamental point of encounter between the law and pastoral care is love for the truth: truth is never something purely abstract, but "a real part of the human and Christian journey of every member of the faithful". Finally, where the nullity of the marriage bond is not declared and objective circumstances make it impossible to cease cohabitation, the Church encourages these members of the faithful to commit themselves to living their relationship in fidelity to the demands of God's law, as friends, as brother and sister; in this way they will be able to return to the table of the Eucharist, taking care to observe the Church's established and approved practice in this regard. This path, if it is to be possible and fruitful, must be supported by pastors and by adequate ecclesial initiatives, nor can it ever involve the blessing of these relations, lest confusion arise among the faithful concerning the value of marriage" Sacramentum Caritatis #29.
Tribunal -- A Ministry of Compassion in a Legal Setting
In the Gospel Jesus said: "What God has joined together, let no one put asunder." (Matthew 19:6) Because of these words of Jesus, Catholics do not believe that a divorce decree ends a marriage. From the perspective of the Catholic Church, a divorce decree means only the end of the legal effects of marriage according to the law of the state. A divorce decree does not make a person free to marry in the Catholic Church. Therefore, the Diocesan Tribunal ministers to those who wish to attempt to vindicate their rights to marry in the church. Through a Judicial process the Tribunal is asked to determine whether the previous marriage rose to the level of a whole and complete Christian marriage as presumed of all marriages. If not, persons who were in marriages which never rose to this level are free to marry in the Church.
A declaration that the marriage was contracted invalidly is not the denial of an historical fact. Children cannot lose their legitimacy! The times of love and joy that existed before and during the marriage are also not destroyed. A declaration recognizes that a marriage was not a whole and complete Christian marriage as defined by the Church. Of course, some marriages which suffer divorce were whole and complete and cannot be declared null.
The Tribunal is fully funded by the Diocese. To help with the costs, a petitioner is asked to make a donation of not more than $600. No one is refused the complete services of the Tribunal because of an inability to pay.
Persons wishing to participate in this ministry may assist others in vindicating their rights. Individuals with a good background in journalism or English can be of great help in case preparation. There is also an on-going need for caring people to serve as advocates and auditors. Please contact the Diocesan Tribunal of Alexandria for more details about how you can become involved in this vital ministry.