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Marriage Tribunal

Metropolitan Tribunal

320 Cathedral Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: 410-547-5533

Very Rev. Gilbert Seitz, J.C.L., Judicial Vicar
Rev. William Graham, OFM. Cap., J.C.L., Adjutant Judicial Vicar
Rev. John B. Ward, J.C.L., J.D., Adjutant Judicial Vicar
Rev. Gonzalo Cadavid-Rivera, Defender of the Bond
Rev. Michael Carrion, Collegiate Judge
Rev. Raymond Harris, J.C.L., Advocate
Rev.Christopher P. Moore, Collegiate Judge
Deacon Anthony Norcio, J.C.L., Collegiate Judge
Rev. Jose Opalda, J.C.L., Defender of the Bond
Teresa Ewen, Notary
Kelsey Schmidt, Notary
Susan A. Smith, Notary

Purpose: To fulfill the canonical responsibilities relative to petitions for declarations of nullity of marriage; other canonical duties as outlined in the Code of Canon Law.

The Mission of this Tribunal Under the guidance of our Archbishop is:

To reflect and experience Christ in the ministry of justice through the compassionate and equitable application of Church law and to protect the rights and dignity of each person without discrimination and to provide an opportunity for healing.

Early in the Church's life, the need was recognized for some sort of structure to adjudicate questions of justice raised by its members. Jesus outlined the order to be followed when one Christian follower had a complaint against another including the need for witnesses and possible punishment (Mt. 18: 15-17). St. Paul chided early Christians for bringing lawsuits against each other in civil courts rather than approaching the Church first. He writes, "As you know it is the saints who are to judge the world; and if the world is to be judged by you, how can you be unfit to judge trifling cases?" (1 Cor. 6:2). Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church continued to build on the foundation set by Jesus and spread by the apostles believing that the Lord had given His Church the power of loosening and binding.

Today, centuries after apostolic times, the Church recognizes the authority of many civil courts in most areas of life. But the Church, as a society of believers, claims the exclusive right to answer questions that involve spiritual matters (e.g. sacraments), members' rights, and violations of Church law. In a more formal way, this is done through the Church's own court or legal system. At its most basic level, this court system exists in every diocese through a tribunal. The Archdiocesan Tribunal of Baltimore is the first level or instance of the multi-tiered court system of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Baltimore Metropolitan Tribunal conducts ecclesiastical trials. An ecclesiastical trial is similar to its civil counterpart in that it is conducted in order to discover the truth, but it is dissimilar in that the dramatics of some civil trials are not present. There are three possible objects of any Church trial, all with an ultimately pastoral purpose: (1) to prosecute or to vindicate the rights of physical or juridic persons; (2) to declare juridic facts; (3) to impose or declare the penalty for offenses against Church law.

Most often, a person (Petitioner) asks the Tribunal to make a declaration concerning the juridic fact of a marriage, that is, the Petitioner wants the Tribunal to answer the question: "Did the binding quality of marriage occur when I exchanged marital vows with my former spouse?" Or, to put it another way, "Was my marriage valid or invalid?" This question is asked by the previously married Petitioner who wants to know whether he or she is now free to enter a future valid marriage in the Catholic Church. If the Tribunal, following a complete investigation of the facts, finds that a previous marriage was invalid, a Decree of Nullity is issued, termed in common speech an "annulment".

Divorce and Remarriage in the Catholic Church

Few topics are more sensitive than ecclesiastical declarations of nullity, or, in common language, "annulments." This declaration is granted by an ecclesiastical tribunal competent in law to answer the question, "Was a particular marriage, now ended in civil divorce, valid or invalid?" That is to say, does the marriage covenant still bind the husband and wife to each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death parts them, despite the decision of a civil divorce court. If the tribunal declares that the civilly ended marriage was not permanently binding (i.e., that it was invalid) from its very beginning, both parties are then free to enter a new and valid marriage. However, at times special counseling may be required as part of the preparation for this new marriage.

While recognizing that with the exchange of marital vows God takes two persons and makes them one flesh, the Church knows that there are times when an element necessary for a valid marriage is missing. If a person claims that something was missing from a marriage to make it invalid, that person has the right to seek the assistance of a tribunal. Most often the person asking for a declaration of nullity will be a Catholic or a person who is now seeking to marry a Catholic. Whether Catholic or not, questions and answers concerning "annulments" are the same; however, because of different needs and understandings, the answers may be slightly nuanced. For more information on the Church's position on divorce and remarriage, you will find several downloadable documents under Quick Links (top right).

Advocates and Procurators: Mr. Stephen Beard; Sr. Katherine Bell, R.S.M.; Deacon Kevin Brown; Sr. Judith Cianfrogna, S.S.J.; Deacon John Comegna; Deacon Paul Cooke; Deacon Michael Currens; Sr. Angela DeFontes, O.S.F.; Sr. Frances DeMarco, R.S.M.; Sr. Susan Engel, M.H.S.H.; Ms. Margaret Gaughan: Deacon Allen Greene; Deacon Sean Keller; Deacon John Manley; Deacon Paul Mann; Deacon Lawrence Matheny; Deacon Fred Mauser; Deacon Joseph McKenna; Deacon William Nairn; Ms. Carolyn Nolan; Rev. Hamilton Okeke; Deacon David Page; Ms. Camilla Rawe; Deacon Stephen Roscher; Deacon Harbey Santiago; Deacon Frank Sarro; Deacon George Sisson; Deacon Robert Smith; Deacon Edward Sullivan; Deacon David Tengwall; Deacon Herman Wilkins; Deacon Willard Witherspoon.