- Phone: (804) 355-9155
- Fax: (804) 359-2810
- 7800 Carousel Lane
Richmond, VA 23294
- Judicial Vicar: Rev. Msgr. Raymond Francis Muench J.C.L.
- Adjutant Judicial Vicar: Rev. Michael M. Duffy J.C.L.
- Judge: Rev. Kevin J. O'Brien Ph.D.
- Judge: Jeffrey M. Staab J.C.D.
- Judge: Rev. Msgr. J. Kenneth Rush D.Min.
- Judge: Rev. Wayne L. Ball J.C.L.
- Judge: Rev. Mr. Joseph Michael Fitzgerald, Jr. J.D., J.C.L.
- Instructor: Rev. David L. Nott
- Notary and Auditor: Rev. Brian W. Capuano
- Administrative Assistant/Chancellor of the Tribunal: Mrs. Denise Y. Ryan
- Administrative Assistant/Ecclesiastical Notary : Mrs. Kathleen M. McIntosh
- Administrative Assistant/Ecclesiastical Notary : Mrs. Cheryl L. Gambardella
Purpose: The Church has a right to judge cases which refer to spiritual matters or which are linked with spiritual matters, or where a violation of ecclesiastical law has occurred. These are settled through trials at various levels of ecclesiastical courts. Church courts are called “tribunals,” and all tribunals are governed by the same ecclesiastical laws (1983 Code of Canon Law, canons 1400-1402). Usually, every Catholic diocese has a tribunal which is staffed by laity and clergy versed in ecclesiastical law.
Tribunals And Marriage
Catholics believe that, in principle, marriage is open to every man and woman. It is the vocation of the majority of the human race, and it is of the divine, created order (Genesis 2: 18-24). Because marriage is of the divine order, we believe Christ’s Church has the right to adjudicate questions regarding the validity of any marriage when asked to do so. Because marriage is also a human act which pertains to the public order, the Church has evolved a process through which those seeking nullity may have the matter resolved in a way which preserves the public good and private need. Because marriage is brought into being by the expressed consent of the parties, the Catholic Church presumes the vows spoken retain their force until death; therefore, every marriage—whether it involves a Catholic or not, a religious rite or not—is considered valid until the contrary is proven (canon 1060). This presumption is not changed by the separation of a couple or by a civil divorce (Mark 10: 2-9).
The presumption of validity can be challenged before a competent tribunal by one or both of the parties of the marriage (canon 1674). This challenge is not a denial that there was a wedding ceremony; it is simply an assertion that something essential was missing from the consent of the parties at the time of that ceremony. A declaration of invalidity by a tribunal of the Catholic Church is strictly an ecclesiastical matter and should not be confused with an "annulment" given by a civil court. A claim of the invalidity of a marriage is made in the form of a petition that states the reason for invalidity and the proofs of invalidity that can be gathered, e.g., documents and the statements of the parties and of witnesses (canon 1504).
~All marriages are presumed valid until proven otherwise by an ecclesiastical tribunal, whether or not there is a civil divorce or civil annulment (canon 1060).
~Because the validity of a first marriage is presumed, no further wedding may be scheduled in any Catholic church anywhere until invalidity is proven by a tribunal of the Catholic Church (canons 1066 and 1085).
~Marriage comes into being through the consent of the parties in the presence of God; because consent is exchanged in God’s presence, nullity is not proven on the word of the parties alone (canon 1057 §2).
~Children of a marriage declared null by an ecclesiastical tribunal are regarded by the Church as legitimate (canon 1137).
For further information, please contact the office of your local Catholic parish. Parish contact information may be obtained at www.richmonddiocese.org.