The Marriage Tribunal’s role is to process annulment applications. These are internal procedures of the Catholic Church and have no standing in civil law in the United Kingdom. The granting of a declaration of nullity allows a divorced Catholic to re-marry in the Catholic Church, or for a Catholic to marry a divorced non-Catholic. In some circumstances, it allows for someone to seek reception into the Catholic Church.
The Diocesan Marriage Tribunal was established during the late 1980’s to help those individuals who found themselves in a situation where the experience of a broken marriage had left them feeling estranged from their church community. Whether this was in the context of already having married again but outside the church, or just being a divorcee and ambivalent about any future relationship because it could be complicated by ‘church rules’, the same question arises – where do I stand?
In 1983 the Roman Catholic Church issued a new ‘Code of Canon Law’ which is the fundamental set of norms that regulates all aspects of church life. Part of this is the institution of marriage and the Code sets out how people can approach the Church to ask for the grace of this sacrament. Of necessity, there are some situations where people find that this is not straightforward, particularly if they have been married before. The Church, since the Second Vatican Council, has been dealing more and more with people who have experienced the sadness of a broken marriage and is now in a better situation to respond with understanding and practical advice.
There is a section of Frequently Asked Questions on the site but the main thing for you to know for now is that something might be possible for you, and that, at the very least, you will be able to have a full and detailed discussion with someone who has dealt with many hundreds of cases so that your own particular situation can be assessed and a way forward be suggested.
The Tribunal is staffed by the Judicial Vicar of the Diocese, Fr. Simon Blakesley (currently the Parish Priest of Newmarket) who works for two days a week in the Marriage Tribunal. He is more than ably assisted by Mrs. Sharon Ellis, the Tribunal Administrator who currently works Monday to Friday mornings from 9.00 to 13.00.
You will see the ‘Need Help?’ icon nearby and this will provide you with a ‘First Contact’ form so that you can make yourself known to the Tribunal and we can begin to deal with your own particular situation. There are also some links that will take you to the websites of other organisations who aim to assist people to find out more about the work of Marriage Tribunals and how they might be helped.