Asking Church’s Supreme Court to Protect Marriage from Trigger-happy Tribunals
- Posted by Mary's Advocates
- On February 8, 2024
- 0 Comments
Two aggrieved defendants in Catholic annulment of marriage cases are jointly petitioning to the public defender (Promoter of Justice) at the Supreme court of the Catholic Church (i.e., Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura). They are reporting abuses by the same priest (who we’ll call Fr. John Doe) who directs the tribunals managing both defendants’ cases. If the Promoter of Justice at the Supreme Signatura supports their position, he has the power to submit a complaint to the judges of the Signatura asking for Fr. John Doe to be censored, corrected, or investigated.
I imagine that Fr. John Doe was taught annulments are the Church’s pastoral care, after divorce, for those in failed marriages. He looks like he’s been cutting corners for so long, disregarding the actual canon law, that he doesn’t even know it. The problem is that Fr. John Doe’s tribunals grant annulments even though nobody submitted a proper petition asking for an annulment. His tribunals only have a spouse answer a lengthy questionnaire (mini-autobiography and mini-biography of other spouse). The Tribunal notary or coordinator takes care of everything else to get the case started.
The records appear to show that a notary/coordinator arranged for an accusation to be investigated alleging the petitioner has a “grave lack of discretion of judgement” (canon 1095, 2°). However, this assertion is only supposed to apply to someone who was suffering from a “severe forms of psychopathology” at the time of the wedding, according to Saint Pope John Paul II (See 1988 Rota Address). The defendants saw no clue that the petitioner alleged anything like that, at all.
Prior to the judge accepting a petition, the petitioner is required to provide the judge with several things – otherwise there is no actual petitioner/judge relationship. Simply put, among other things, the petitioner must do the following:
- specify (even in non-technical terms) the grounds for annulment that he alleges apply to his marriage;
- identify which party is alleged to be the cause of invalidity;
- provide a written description of the facts and proofs, in a general way, upon which he is relying to support his assertion,
- sign the petition (or sign a mandate designating another person to be his alter-ego procurator who signs).
The tribunal is required to mail a copy of the petition to the defendant. The first defendant received a copy of an improper petition in the summer of 2019; the second received one in the fall of 2023. Both improper petitions were signed by no one, and the second improper petition gave no description, whatsoever, of the facts and proofs, in a general way, supporting the allegation. In the defendants’ report to the Supreme Tribunal, they say, “With no signature, there is no certitude about who wrote the libellus [a.k.a. petition], whether the Petitioner agrees with it, or knows what it contains or means.”
Each defendant expressed their concerns and asked the Signatura to appoint Professor William Daniel of Catholic University of America as consulter in their case, because his writings support their complaint:
Furthermore, there is no certainty about whether the Judicial Vicar Fr. Joseph Waters decides to accept any so-called libellus because the signature on the decrees are not actual signed signatures. The image of the signature appears to be either an ink stamper or inserted with computer software. The images are visibly inauthentic signatures because everyone is identical.
I request that Prof. William Daniel, J.C.D. be a consulter in this matter, because Signatura referendaries can offer an opinion (votum) about a proposed question in accord with their knowledge (cf. L.p. art. 9). Prof. Daniel has published a paper about the “Nature and Challenge of the Decree of Admission of a Libellus” and he was appointed as a referenday on 6 June 2021.
SEE redacted version of defendant’s letter to the Promoter of Justice and their Supporting Reasons. Mary’s Advocates helps show separated faithful spouses how to uphold their rights in the canon law forum.