The Tribunal is the judicial branch of the diocese's implementation of Canon Law.
The Tribunal offers ministry to persons who apply requesting a determination by the Church whether their marriage is a valid and binding union. The office is staffed by specially trained priests and lay persons who study the petitioner's request and determine whether the couple had a valid and binding union.
To Contact the Tribunal Office:
2300 S. 9th St.
Lafayette, IN 47909-2400
In order to protect your privacy, electronic correspondence and/or submission of documents is not available at this time.
Marriage Tribunal Staff
Very Rev. Timothy M. Alkire, JCL
Father Alkire is Judicial Vicar and Presiding Judge of the Court of First Instance. Father Alkire is responsible for the overall operation of the Tribunal.
Rev. Samuel J. Kalu, JCL
Associate Judge, Court of First Instance; Judge Instructor on Informal Cases
Father Kalu is Associate Judge in the Court of First Instance and oversees the Documentary Process for Informal Cases.
Rev. Joachim Culotta, OP, JCD
Defender of the Bond, Court of First Instance
Father Culotta is Defender of the Bond for the Court of First Instance. As Defender, Father holds the position of upholding the bond of marriage (validity) in all cases.
Rev. Andrew R. DeKeyser, JCL
Defender of the Bond, Court of First Instance
Father DeKeyser is Defender of the Bond for the Court of First Instance. As Defender, Father holds the position of upholding the bond of marriage (validity) in all cases.
Rev. Peter J. Vanderkolk
Associate Judge First Instance and Auditor
Father Vanderkolk is Associate Judge and Auditor in the Court of First Instance.
Office Manager; Advocate
As advocate in formal annulment cases, Linda acts on the petitioner's behalf in supporting the petitioner's contention against the validity of a marriage. As Office Manager, she oversees the day-to-day operation of the Tribunal and the processing of each formal case; she coordinates the efforts, schedules, events, and overall works of the Tribunal Office.
As advocate in formal annulment cases, Gwen acts on the petitioner's behalf in supporting the petitioner's contention against the validity of a marriage. As Administrative Assistant, she assists with the day-to-day operation of the Tribunal and the processing of each formal case.
Coordinator for Informal Cases; Advocate
Lou is coordinator for informal cases and deals directly with parties in accumulating documentary evidence. She acts as advocate for contesting respondents in formal annulment cases, assisting a respondent in establishing his or her contention against the claim of nullity of a marriage.
Secretary and Notary
As notary, Niall's signature establishes the authenticity of acts. He is also transcriptionist of testimonies gathered for investigation of the possible invalidity of marriage.
Records and Archives Coordinator
Verna coordinates the secure archiving of cases processed through the Tribunal.
This is addressed to divorced Catholics, to those who have remarried after divorce, and to their families who love and support them. This information also will assist Church members, both professional and volunteer, who serve in ministerial roles.
Our purpose is threefold:
- To state clearly the Catholic Church's teaching on marriage and divorce;
- To describe the pastoral assistance the Church provides to both its married and divorced members;
- To offer information about the status of divorced Catholics, their potential for remarriage in the Church, and some details about the annulment process.
The Church's teaching
Being Catholic and divorced is a painful thing. A person has not only lost a partner and marriage but may also experience feelings of rejection, guilt, and failure.
The sanctity and permanence of marriage has been a constant teaching of the Catholic Church throughout the centuries. When Jesus spoke of marriage and divorce, He reminded His listeners that the Creator had determined from the beginning that marriage is a commitment made between the partners until death. Jesus' words are the foundation of this teaching. Asked if divorce is permissible, He shocked His listeners with His response: "Whatever God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." Jesus called His disciples to commit themselves to following this truth.
In Catholic belief, every valid marriage, whether celebrated in the Catholic Church or not, establishes a spiritual bond which cannot be broken by the couple. All other links or bonds (such as civil obligations, affection, etc.) may end with divorce, but the spiritual bond remains. Thus, when a couple marries validly, we say that this union is "indissoluble."
What is the Church's teaching on marriage?
The Church has consistently taught that marriage is sacred, exclusive, and permanent. For a baptized man and a baptized woman, a valid marriage is also a sacrament. Such a marriage is permanently binding and cannot be dissolved. Catholic belief is that every valid marriage, whether or not celebrated in the Catholic Church, establishes an unbreakable spiritual bond between the couple. This spiritual bond remains, even if the civil obligations and cohabitation end with divorce.
Isn't marriage something that just involves the couple?
No. The Church teaches that marriage also involves God and the community. The Church rejoices with the couple as they commit themselves to be a sign of God's love in the community. A wedding is not a private ceremony, because it is a ceremony for the entire community. It takes place in the Church where the community gathers to worship together.
What do God and the community have to do with "our" marriage?
Couples are asked to reflect seriously upon the meaning of their commitment. Marriage really involves four commitments:
- the couple to each other
- the couple to God
- the couple to the community
- the community to the couple
The community takes on a responsibility to support and sustain couples that have committed themselves to being a sign of God's love in the community.
Why does the Church teach that marriage is permanent?
Marriage is permanent because God's love is permanent. God's love is never taken back. A couple should reflect seriously upon the meaning of their commitment, and take on those responsibilities only if they are prepared to do so and intend to do so; "Whatever God hath joined together, let no man put asunder."
Does the Church accept the results of a civil divorce?
The Church recognizes the State's authority over the civil effects of marriage: the need to protect one's civil rights, and the need to provide adequately for children in a legal forum. One must have obtained a civil divorce prior to applying for an ecclesiastical marriage case.
The Church does not recognize any authority on the part of the State over the Sacramental Bond of Matrimony.
What is the status of a divorced Catholic in the Church?
Those who divorce are still considered members of the Church in good standing. Divorced persons (as long as they have not remarried) can still receive the Eucharist and the other sacraments. Moreover, Pope John Paul II has urged all the faithful to help those who have divorced so that they do not consider themselves separated in any way from the Christian community.
What is the status of a divorced Catholic who married outside the Church?
A divorced Catholic who marries outside the Church is still considered a member of the Catholic Church; there is no excommunication for such an action. However, the universal law of the Church is that a Catholic who marries outside the Church may not receive the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation. This is for two reasons. First, according to Church law, Catholics must marry before a priest and two witnesses in order for the marriage to be recognized by the Catholic Church. Second, but more importantly, the Church teaches that marriage is a sign of the unbreakable bond of love between Christ and His Church. By establishing a new union, the person is living in a way that contradicts the Church's teaching about the sacramentality of marriage.
What about a Catholic who marries a divorced person?
The same answer would apply. The Catholic party is not excommunicated, but the universal law of the Church is that the person cannot receive the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation.
Isn't that the same as an excommunication?
No. Excommunication means that the person cannot participate at all in the life of the Church. Divorced people who have remarried outside the Church must still be ministered to. Pope John Paul II specifically states that they must be encouraged to take part in the Church's life as much as they are able, even if they cannot receive Eucharist or Reconciliation.
How does a person remarry in the Catholic Church?
There are two principal ways that a person may remarry in the Catholic Church: if the previous marriage is dissolved, or if it is declared null from the beginning.
What does it mean to dissolve a marriage?
Marriages in which at least one of the parties was unbaptized during the entire course of the marriage can be dissolved through either the Pauline Privilege or the Privilege of the Faith. While the marriages of the unbaptized are considered valid marriages by the Catholic Church (since both parties gave their consent to be married), the marriages are also considered to be non-sacramental, since both parties must be baptized Christians in order for the marriage to be considered a sacrament.
What is a declaration of nullity?
A declaration of nullity (which is the more precise name for what most people call an "annulment") means that something essential to the marriage was lacking at the time the parties exchanged consent. Thus, while the parties believed they were giving valid consent to their marriage, something was missing which prevented a true marriage bond from being formed.
What could be missing in the parties' consent?
For the members of the Catholic Church it could be that the proper manner of celebrating the marriage was missing; in other words, the parties did not marry according to their own Church laws. In other situations, it could be that the parties' consent itself was lacking in some way. This means that one or both parties might not have had the necessary maturity or the psychological capacity for marriage. In still other situations, it could be that an essential element of marriage was lacking in the person's consent. That is, at the time of the marriage, the person did not intend permanence, fidelity, or openness to children as part of the marital commitment. Finally, it could be that a person's understanding of marriage itself or of the person he or she was marrying was lacking, such that he/she did not have the sufficient knowledge to exchange valid consent. These missing elements are called "grounds" for the case.
How does a person initiate a case?
In the Diocese of Lafayette, the process begins at the parish level. A person (also known as the petitioner) should work with the parish to complete an application which the parish typically forwards. Once the Tribunal receives this application, the staff work on the case to determine what kinds of cases are possible and to assist the petitioner in the next steps.
How does a person apply for a declaration of nullity?
If it has been determined that the petitioner should apply for a declaration of nullity (formal case), the person applying for a declaration of nullity will be asked to submit written testimony regarding the relationship in question and the family backgrounds of each party. The petitioner also will be asked to supply the names of others who would be willing to answer a written questionnaire concerning their knowledge of the marriage in question. The Tribunal also may request any medical or psychological records that might be pertinent to the case.
Does the other party have to know about the case?
Yes. There are no exceptions to this, unless the whereabouts of the other party are unknown. Since a declaration of nullity affects a person's status in the Church, the other party has a right to know about the proceedings and to participate in them.
Does the other party have to participate in the proceedings?
No. The Tribunal must inform the other party of his or her right to participate. This includes the right to submit testimony, the right to name witnesses, and the right to be represented by an advocate. Moreover, both parties have a right to review the material in the case and to read the decision once it is reached. Furthermore, both parties have the right to appeal a decision to the Appellate Court or to the Roma Rota. However, the Tribunal cannot force a person to exercise his or her rights; the exercise of rights in the Church is up to the individual.
If a declaration of nullity is given, does it mean the marriage never existed?
No. The marriage existed in a certain way. A declaration of nullity means that what did exist between the parties was not what the Church means when it speaks of marriage. That is, the relationship that existed fell short of what the Church teaches marriage must be.
If a declaration of nullity is given, does it mean the children are illegitimate?
No. Legitimacy is a creation of the law, so people are legitimate if the law says they are legitimate. Church law specifically provides that even if a marriage is declared null, the children born of that marriage are still considered legitimate.
If a declaration of nullity is given, are both parties free to marry?
Is there a cost involved in initiating and processing a case?
No. There is no cost involved on the part of the petitioner in this Diocese.
Does a previously married non-Catholic have to receive a declaration of nullity before marrying in the Catholic faith?
Yes. The Church teaches that a valid marriage is created by the consent of the two parties. If the parties are baptized Christians, that valid consent is also considered sacramental; that is, it is a sign given to the Christian community of God's faithful, fruitful, enduring love for them. While members of the Catholic Church have certain rules to follow regarding where they marry, the Church recognizes the marriage of all others, regardless of where the parties exchanged their consent.
Are "annulments" granted by other churches recognized by the Catholic Church?
No, because most of these "annulments" do not state that there was something lacking from the beginning which prevented the parties from establishing what the Church means by marriage.
How can I find out more information?
Contact the Diocesan Tribunal Office by phone at 765-474-0506 or in writing at: Tribunal Office, 2300 S. 9th St., Lafayette, IN 47909-2400. In order to protect your privacy, electronic correspondence and/or submission of documents is not available at this time.