By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Staff Writer | Published December 21, 2006
Nearly 200 case sponsors who work in parishes for the archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal gathered at Holy Cross Church on Dec. 1 and 2 in order to learn about changes being made in how cases are being started for the marriage annulment process. Four canon lawyers from the Tribunal spoke at the event.
Judicial vicar Father William J. King, JCD, said that there about 300 case sponsors in the archdiocese, most of whom are volunteers, who help persons determine what type of case they have and to fill out paperwork to submit to the Tribunal to start a case. He said they have changed their procedures for beginning an annulment case and the forms used to begin the process. The event trained sponsors in the new procedures and forms.
“The whole purpose of the changes was to make the process less intimidating and to help the process be more efficient,” said Father King.
He stressed the importance of the ministry of case sponsors in a process that can appear to be very institutional and noted how they work with many non-Catholics, such as those who were married previously and now want to marry a Catholic.
“The case sponsor is a human face of a process that could otherwise appear to be cold and impersonal. I consider it very important that the person in first contact with the Tribunal be another human being in their parish,” said Father King. “Most of the people we serve are not Catholic, and for many this is the first contact with the Catholic Church and is another reason it’s important to be a person who can help to explain the process of the Tribunal. For many of them, they are un-churched and this can be a ministry of evangelization.”
Unlike a civil divorce proceeding, the annulment process does not aim at dissolving a valid marriage, even if it has failed irreparably, but at verifying the hypothesis that despite a formal celebration it never existed because essential conditions were lacking.
More information about the Metropolitan Tribunal can be found at www.archatl.com/offices/tribunal.