The tribunal offers this information to the faithful of the Diocese of Portland and to other persons whose marriages have ended in civil divorce and who are now considering remarriage in the Catholic Church.
It is our hope and prayer that the reconciling presence of the Lord can be offered to those who feel alienated because of a broken marriage and that this page will be informative concerning Church annulments and Tribunal procedures.
The Portland Tribunal, a staff of specially trained and experienced priests, religious and lay persons, offers assistance to people who request that the Church examine a marriage in view of a possible annulment. The Tribunal examines the marriage and proceeds to a conclusion of the question: "Has the marriage been proven invalid?"
Annulment of a Marriage
The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is, by God's plan, an enduring and exclusive partnership between a man and a woman for the giving and receiving of love and the procreation and education of children.
The Church presumes that every marriage (Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, non-believer, etc.) is a true and valid union. Therefore, all previous marriages must be examined by the Tribunal before a person may be declared free to remarry in the Catholic Church.
A Church annulment is a declaration by the Catholic Church in a particular diocese that a specific union, presumably begun in good faith, and thought by all to be a marriage, was in fact an invalid union according to the Catholic Church's most recent teachings of sacramental theology and Canon Law.
An annulment does not deny that a real relationship existed, but it is a statement by the Church that the relationship fell short of at least one of the elements considered essential for a binding martial union.
Portland Tribunal Procedures for Formal Cases
The process is begun by a person petitioning the Tribunal by completing a General Preliminary Questionnaire. This questionnaire can be obtained either from a parish priest or directly from the Tribunal. (Click here for a copy.) Upon receipt of the completed form, the Tribunal promptly extends an acknowledgment that a possible annulment has been received.
The Petitioner is required to provide a copy of the final divorce decree. It is our policy not to process any request for a marriage annulment until the civil divorce decree is on file in the Tribunal.
The next phase is the formal examination of the marriage in question. Upon request of the Tribunal, Petitioners are asked to give detailed testimony of their perspective of their marriage.
Respondent (other spouses) are informed of this process and offered the same opportunity.
Witnesses, named by either party, are invited to furnish substantiating facts concerning the parties and the marriage.
The Tribunal often uses the services of regional auditors to conduct this examination. A psychological expert, a member of the Tribunal staff, is asked to review the testimonies and give professional opinion. Sometimes this requires a personal interview with the staff psychologist.
All of the information gathered in the course of this examination is considered confidential. This information is never made available except as required by Church Law for inspection by the Petitioner, the Respondent and the Officers of the Tribunal.
Once the examination is completed, the case is submitted to a judge for a decision. However, before the decision goes into effect, a panel of three additional judges must review it.
A notice of the final decision is promptly sent to the Petitioner and to the Respondent.
LENGTH OF TIME
Requests, once accepted, are heard on a first come, first served basis. The length of time to process a formal case depends on several factors: accuracy of information, promptness of responses to requests from the Tribunal, number of cases pending, etc.
Permission to remarry in the Catholic Church can in no way be guaranteed before the entire process of examination is completed and an affirmative decision is given. Diocesan policy forbids arrangements for future marriages before this time. The Tribunal cannot be responsible for arbitrary promises and/or speculation made by any priest, religious or lay person.
In deference to the people of the Diocese of Portland who subsidize the Tribunal, we ask Petitioners who avail themselves of this service to pay a fee. The present fee of $450.00 (formal case) is a small portion of the actual cost of Tribunal services.
The fee may be paid at any time during the process in full or by installments adjusted to the financial situation of the Petitioner. Inability to pay all or part of the fee will in no way influence the decision of the Tribunal.
Civil Effects of Church Annulments
There are absolutely no civil effects to a Church annulment in the United States. It does not affect in any manner the legitimacy of children, property rights, inheritance rights, change of name, adoption, child support requirements or any other stipulation of the divorce settlement.
The Tribunal staff does not pass judgment on people. Our sole aim is to ascertain the validity or invalidity of a marriage. We are, however, concerned that individuals who approach us obtain peace of mind and reconciliation with the Church. It is our prayer that in our compassionate probing for the truth, we may prove to be worthy instruments of the Holy Spirit's Love.