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As they tell their stories, he is looking for grounds for nullity in their stories that would indicate whether they might have a potential case.
“What we’re looking for is: Was everything that is required for a [valid] marriage there from the very beginning? The deacon said he assures many of them that they are not failures for attempting a sacramental union that was not actually valid.
“It’s one of the safeguards the process puts in there to make sure there is adequate argumentation for [the marriage bond],” Nguyen said, adding that, sometimes, both parties want the annulment.
He was once the defender of the bond for the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis., and, at times, the tribunal upheld the validity of the marriage in question because his arguments showed it was truly valid. If the majority of the judges of the case vote in favor of a declaration of nullity, then the presiding judge, called the lays out the issue and cites the applicable canon law and jurisprudence of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota (the Roman appeals court for marriage cases), before giving the judgment. Nguyen said that in the case of an affirmative decision, an appellate tribunal in another diocese does an entire review of the case before voting on it.
[Updated July 24; see editors' note and corrections at article's end.] CHICAGO — Deacon Patrick O’Toole remembered how far away he felt from the Church 17 years ago.
He wasn’t a deacon then — his wife had left, divorced him and took his children.
“The process is just about determining whether a [valid act of marrying] occurred at that moment [when the ceremony took place],” he said.
After the meeting, Deacon O’Toole emails them a questionnaire, asks them to work on it a piece at a time and makes himself available to answer questions.
He knows what information the tribunal needs to make its determination, so if areas are vague or need more explanation, “I’ll prompt you to fill in more details,” he reassures.
Canonical Process for Nullity Once the application is complete, it is sent off to the diocesan tribunal, an ecclesiastical court that includes among its staff a judicial vicar, at least three judges and a canon lawyer known as the defender of the bond.
The tribunal decides whether and on which grounds the petition is accepted, Nguyen said, and then informs both civilly divorced parties once the petition, or , is accepted.
Then, the canon lawyers each make their arguments for why the declaration of nullity should or should not be granted.