The papal exhortation “The Joy of Love” encourages us to facilitate the return of Catholics to the full practice of the faith. Many parishioners would like to receive the sacraments but may not be able to do so because they had a previous marriage and are now living with someone but not married in the Church.
To help our people with the annulment process, the Office of Canonical Services will offer a workshop for the training of new advocates for our diocesan tribunal. An advocate is the personal legal representative of a party to a case brought before the tribunal.
Ordinarily pastors and other clergy fill this assignment. However, the constraints of time and the growing number of cases make it essential to include other capable individuals in this ministry. The Code of Canon Law requires that lay persons who devote themselves to a special service in the Church must acquire the appropriate formation needed to fulfill the function properly (c. 231, §1). With reference to advocates this means training to make them expert in representing the interests of the Petitioner and also for assisting the tribunal in the pursuit of the truth concerning the matter in dispute – the validity of a marriage.
An advocate should be a person able to devote sufficient time to accompany a Petitioner thorough the long and painful process of presenting a petition for a declaration of nullity. They must be willing and able to ask people direct, difficult questions which are confidential in nature but which answers are needed to determine the motivation of the parties for entering marriage. Moreover, it is of utmost importance that you have confidence in the ability of the person you nominate to work with you, the Petitioner, and the tribunal. Legal matters are never simple. An ability to appreciate difficult concepts and to work with people will benefit anyone attempting to fulfill this ministry.