A Tribunal is established in each diocese by the bishop to assist him in carrying out his responsibility as shepherd of the local Christian community which has been entrusted to him (cc. 369, 1419 Code of Canon Law, 1983). As the judicial arm of the bishop, the diocesan tribunal cooperates in his ministry of furthering the supreme law of the Church--the salvation of souls (c.1752).
The diocesan bishop appoints a judicial vicar to oversee the operation of the tribunal (c.1420). This individual must be a priest with a degree in canon law. Other qualified individuals, both cleric and lay, are appointed by the bishop to serve as judges, defenders of the bond, auditors, assessors, advocates and notaries in order to process petitions requesting a declaration of invalidity. The entire judicial process is specified in Book VII of the Code of Canon Law, as are the qualifications for various positions (cc1400-1707).
Church law safeguards the indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage. By law, a marriage is presumed valid until established otherwise by positive proof (c.1060). A declaration of invalidity is rendered when the marriage is determined to be invalid. While the process is judicial, it is the commitment of the tribunal personnel to demonstrate a pastoral attitude and regard for those who submit cases for adjudication.
In this Year of Faith, parishes are encouraged to print the tri-fold, two-sided, Tribunal Information Pamphlet and distribute these freely to all of your faithful who may inquire about the work of the Diocese of Cleveland Tribunal.