COURTS, TRIBUNALS AND OTHER ADJUDICATIVE STRUCTURES
In the Roman Catholic Church the terms ‘court’ and ‘tribunal’ are both used for the ecclesiastical judicial courts, although there is also provision made in canon law for administrative tribunals. The term ‘tribunal’ in general covers the whole of the judicial organization for dealing with any case, whereas the term ‘court’ is used to denote the specific set of persons designated to hear an individual judicial case, or the hearing itself.
The ‘grade’ of a tribunal is the position the tribunal holds in the hierarchy. There are four grades of church tribunals: the first is diocesan; the second, metropolitan; the third, regional; and the fourth, the Holy See. The grade of tribunal does not necessarily coincide with the grade of hearing. E.g., a tribunal of second grade could hear a case at First Instance (canon 1417). If, for example, a case is heard on appeal and it becomes clear that whilst the case cannot be proven on the alleged grounds, other grounds are more appropriate, the court can hear the case on new grounds as if at First Instance.
The Roman Catholic Church claims competence to judge cases which refer to matters which are spiritual or linked with the spiritual (canon 1401, 1°) and cases involving violation of ecclesiastical laws to determine guilt and impose penalties (canon 1401, 2°). However, only Roman Catholic is bound by the Code of Canon Law. As marriage is a spiritual matter, the Church claims comprehensive competence over marriages of Catholics, even if only one party is Catholic.
Expert evidence is permitted and in certain circumstances mandated (canon 1574). It is the judge’s function to appoint experts after consultation with the parties, but he may do so at the request of the parties (canon 1575), who may designate their own experts to be approved by the judge (canon 1581). The judge defines the specific issues to be addressed by the expert (canon 1577). Canons 1577-1581 govern the role of the expert and the requirements for expert reports.
CANONICAL NULLITY OF THE MARRIAGE
The canonical nullity implies the invalidation of the marriage concluded in the Catholic Church. The canonical nullity is filed before the Ecclesiastical Tribunal. If after the judicial proceedings, the ecclesiastical authority deems that the reasons for the nullity of the marriage are met, the party will be allowed to enter into a new ecclesiastical marriage, unless the sentence of nullity includes a veto. The legislation and the reasons for the canonical nullity of the marriage are utterly different from those established by civil nullity, it is therefore necessary to have a high degree of knowledge and specialization to be able to perform these proceedings.
INDISSOLUBILITY OF MARRIAGE BY POPE FRANCIS
“The indissolubility of marriage -‘what God has joined together, let no man put asunder’ (Mt 19:6) –should not be viewed as a ‘yoke’ imposed on humanity, but as a ‘gift’ granted to those who are joined in marriage…” (Amoris Laetitia 62).
“Each marriage is a kind of “salvation history”, which from fragile beginnings –thanks to God’s gift and a creative and generous response on our part –grow over time into something precious and enduring.”(Amoris Laetitia 221).
“Only in contemplating Christ does a person come to know the deepest truth about human relationships. ‘Only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light… Christ, the new Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love, fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear’(Gaudium et Spes, 22). It is particularly helpful to understand in a Christocentric key… the good of the spouses (bonum coniugum) which includes unity, openness to life, fidelity, indissolubility and, within Christian marriage, mutual support on the path towards complete friendship with the Lord.”
Catholic Bishop’s House, Thimmavaram, Kancheepuram Road, Chingleput – 603 101
Kanceepuram District, Tamil Nadu, South India.
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Mail – [email protected]
With love and prayers
Diocese of Chingleput