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A tribunal is the court established by the bishop in each diocese 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 person must be a priest with a degree in canon law. Other qualified individuals, both clergy and laity, are appointed by the bishop to serve as judges, defenders of the bond, auditors, assessors, advocates and notaries in order to adjudicate 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 (cc. 1400-1707).
After July 2022, petitions (except Lack of Form cases) must be submitted via a Case Specialist approved by the bishop. Priests, deacons and lay ministers who have not been approved as Case Specialists will need to refer petitioners to a Case Specialist. If you have questions, please call the Tribunal.
The next Case Specialist formation program will take place in Spring 2023: on Tuesdays April 25-May 30, 1pm-4pm, and/or Wednesdays April 26-May 31, 6-9pm. Click here to register.
You can find a Case Specialist to help you begin a case here.
Currently, most cases heard by the Tribunal of the Diocese of Cleveland are petitions for declarations of marital invalidity. The tribunal adjudicates these petitions according to the Church’s procedural law and understanding of marriage. Church law protects the bond of marriage. By law, a marriage is presumed valid until established otherwise by positive proof (c. 1060). A declaration of invalidity is given only if and when the marriage is proven to be invalid. The process takes a judicial form, and tribunal personnel are committed to working in a pastoral manner with those we serve.
Some requests related to marriages are not heard as formal petitions in judicial trials; to provide simpler service to petitioners and parish staff, these cases are still dealt with by the Secretariat for Canonical Services which shares resources with the Tribunal.
Parishes are encouraged to reference double sided tri-fold brochure located on the Publications page. Please download, print and distribute these freely to all of the faithful who may inquire about the work of the Diocese of Cleveland Tribunal.
Clergy and staff who wish to read the latest (April 2014) guides for marriage preparation and sacramental records may also visit the Publications page.
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