The Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau Ecclesiastical Tribunal is under the direction of the Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau and is administered by his delegate, the Judicial Vicar. He, together with a staff of specially trained priests, religious, and lay persons is responsible for processing cases and assisting persons who formally request a declaration of nullity of their marriage. A judge, or at times three judges, studies the marriage and decides whether in fact the marriage can be declared null. The Tribunal also provides canonical advice to diocesan and parish administrators, and processes judicial penal cases as necessary.
The basis for all ministry in our Ecclesiastical Tribunal is the Code of Canon Law. The Code is an organized collection of laws in canon form. The first Code of Canon Law was promulgated in 1917. The revised Latin Rite Code of Canon Law was approved in 1983, and it contains 1752 canons. The revised Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches was approved in 1990, and it contains 1546 canons. The purpose of canon law in the Church is the same as that of law in any society. Just as all human groups have law, so too does the Church because the Church is fully human. Laws preserve peace, harmony, and unity in the community. Laws are intended to promote the common good and also to protect personal rights. Laws establish structures and procedures which usually operate without our even being conscious of them. The 1983 Latin Rite Code of Canon Law contains seven books: 1)General Norms, 2)The People of God, 3)The Teaching Function of the Church, 4)The Sanctifying Function of the Church, 5)The Temporal Goods of the Church, 6)Sanctions in the Church, and 7)Processes.
Canonical Matrimonial Processes are conducted in accord with canons 1671-1707 of the Code of Canon Law. Canonical Penal Cases are conducted in accord with canons 1717-1731 of the Code of Canon Law. Laws related to the obligations and rights of the Lay Christian Faithful are contained in canons 224-231. Laws related to the Clergy are contained in canons 232-293. Laws related to Religious are contained in canons 573-746.
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 is a true and valid union. Therefore, all previous marriages of Catholics and those who wish to marry Catholics must be examined by the Tribunal before a person may be declared free to marry 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 marital union.
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 names, adoption, child support requirements, or any other stipulation of the divorce settlement.
Our Diocesan Ecclesiastical Tribunal staff is always glad to assist you with any questions you may have related to canon law and canonical processes. You are welcome to contact any of our Tribunal staff at the Catholic Center in Springfield at (417) 866-0841.