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Common Terms


 All canonical inquiries should be addressed to the Director of the Office of Canonical Affairs,

Mr. Mark Raper, JCL, MCL, at 208-344-1344. 


The Office of Canonical Affairs cannot receive e-mail regarding

canonical matters due to issues of confidentiality.




These terms are not precise definitions but are intended to give those interested a basic understanding of terms they may run across in the course of a marriage case before the tribunal.


ACTS OF THE CASE - The Acts of the Case include all of the Testimony, Records, Briefs, and Reports submitted for review by the Court for a particular case.



ADVOCATE - Both the Petitioner and Respondent have the right to have an Advocate. This Advocate will review materials received and provide some direction to the party regarding their case.  All priests and deacons in the Diocese of Boise may act as advocates for marriage cases.  Additionally, many local parishes have lay persons who have been trained by the Tribunal to assist a person presenting a marriage case to the Tribunal by serving as his/her Advocate.



ANNULMENT - The English vernacular word that is used to refer to a Declaration of Invalidity given by a Tribunal as a consequence of a formal, Ecclesiastical trial regarding the bond of marriage.



AUDITOR - The Presiding Judge can designate an auditor from one of the persons approved by the bishop to instruct the case. The Auditor is only to collect the proofs and hand those collected over to the Judge. The Auditor can decide what proofs are to be collected and in what manner (c. 1428).



COMPETENCE - Just as in a Civil Case, there is an issue as to which Tribunal has competence to hear the case (i.e., jurisdiction). The case can always be heard at the forum of contract, i.e., the place of marriage.  If the place of marriage is not within the diocese, the Tribunal has competence if the Respondent lives within the diocese of Boise. If neither of these situations holds, in some cases the Tribunal can claim competence from the domicile of the Petitioner.



COURT EXPERT - The Court Expert is a professional in a specialized field who is appointed by the judge in a case to provide professional review of the Marriage. Generally, the Court Expert is a professional in the field of Psychology.



DECLARATION OF NULLITY - A finding given by a competent Ecclesiastical authority asserting that, while there may have been a marital relationship, there was no canonical bond of marriage. A Formal Case must have two (2) Affirmative Decisions on the same Grounds in order for the two (2) parties of the previous union to be free to marry in the Church. A Declaration of Nullity is only issued after the two (2) Affirmative Decisions have been obtained.



DEFENDER OF THE BOND -  The Defender of the Bond is appointed by the Archbishop. The Defender reads the testimony and proposes everything, which reasonably can be brought forth against invalidity (c1432). The Defender does not pass judgment on the case but provides the judge(s) with an overview as why the marriage appears to be a valid bond.



FIRST INSTANCE COURT - The initial Court hearing the case is considered the Court of First Instance. The Marriage Tribunal for the Diocese of Boise is a First Instance Court.



FIRST INSTANCE DECISION - The Decision reached by a First Instance Court on a Formal Case. If this decision is Affirmative, the decision must be confirmed by a Second Instance Court.



GROUNDS - A Petitioner asks that the Church Court declare his/her previous marriage invalid based on specific grounds under Church Law. The Tribunal will assist the Petitioner in formulating these grounds.  The burden of proof is placed upon the Petitioner to prove these grounds as the presumption of Church law is that the marriage in question is indeed a valid marriage.


JUDGE - The Judicial Vicar appoints a Single or Collegiate Court for each case. A Single Court is made up of a single judge who is a priest or a deacon. A Collegiate Court is made up of three (3) judges, two of whom must be priests and/or deacons.


JUDICIAL VICAR - The Judicial Vicar is the chief judge (after the bishop) of the tribunal and has the responsibility for the proper application of Church Law in the diocese. The Judicial Vicar is appointed to office by the bishop.



LACK OF FORM - An examination of the bond of marriage based on the possible non-observance of the required canonical form or the required sacred ritual for members of the Catholic or Orthodox Churches. Though this examination is a non-judicial procedure, the Tribunal still requires the Petitioner to provide all necessary documentation for the process.



LIGAMEN - A judicial procedure regarding the bond of marriage based on the possible impeding existence of an earlier, prior valid bond on the part the Respondent.



PAULINE PRIVILEGE - Dissolution of a valid, non-sacramental, natural bond of marriage by the bishop as a favor of the faith of the currently non-baptized person who is now seeking Christian baptism and a new marriage in the Church.



PETITION (LIBELLUS) -The formal request made by a Petitioner to the Tribunal to investigate their marriage to determine whether a declaration of nullity may be obtained.  The party’s Advocate will assist the Petitioner in drafting a Petition to the Tribunal.



PETITIONER - The party to a previous marriage ending in divorce that is requesting the Catholic Church to issue a Declaration of Nullity regarding this marriage.



PETRINE PRIVILEGE (Favor of the Faith) - Dissolution of a valid, non-sacramental, natural bond of marriage of a baptized person and a non-baptized person by the Holy Father as a favor of the faith in certain, specified cases.  These cases are initially presented to the local Tribunal who gathers the necessary evidence and then sends the case to Rome for a final decision.



PROHIBITION (VETITUM) – Part of the ministry of the Tribunal is to ensure that if a declaration of nullity is obtained by a party, they are truly ready to enter into a new union in the Catholic Church.  On occasion the Tribunal may identify serious issues that need to be addressed by either one or both parties to the case before they may approach the Church to enter a new union.  These issues are of such a serious nature that they could endanger the success (and possibly the validity) of any future marriage if they are not adequately addressed.  Such issues may include alcohol or drug dependency, a serious misunderstanding of the meaning of marriage, physical or psychological abuse.   If such issues are identified by the Court, the final decree of nullity will provide information and instructions on what is required to occur before the prohibition is lifted.  A priest or deacon is not lawfully able to witness a future marriage until the Prohibition is lifted.



RATIFICATION - Ratification by a Second Instance Court must be made for any First Instance Affirmative Decision in a Formal Case before the parties are free to marry.



RESPONDENT - Once one of the parties to a marriage has submitted a case to the Tribunal, their previous spouse (known as the Respondent) has rights in the process. The Respondent may or may not support the petition. The Tribunal is required by Law to invite the Respondent to participate in the trial. The Respondent is not the "defendant" in the proceedings as the Church seeks always to defend the bond of marriage.



SECOND INSTANCE COURT - The second Court hearing the case is called the Court of Second Instance. This Court is necessary for all Formal Cases receiving an Affirmative Decision by a First Instance Court. The Diocese of Boise is the Court of Second Instance for the Archdiocese of Seattle.  The Archdiocese of Portland is the Second Instance Court for those cases begun in the Diocese of Boise.



SENTENCE (Decision)- The judge(s) in each case write(s) a Sentence describing the situation found in the testimony supporting the decision reached.



WITNESSES - The Petitioner must provide a list of witnesses to furnish testimony regarding the marriage and parties involved. The Respondent is free to have witnesses cited on his/her behalf as well. The Defender of the Bond and/or Judge may also cite witnesses based on testimony received to provide clarification to points raised. These witnesses are to offer testimony regarding the marriage, with special emphasis on their personal knowledge of the person(s) during the courtship and early years of the marriage.



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Judicial Vicar

V. Rev. Henry Carmona, JV, JCL



Mr. Mark L. Raper, JCL, MCL

Case Manager

Ms. Colleen Cunningham

Case Manager

Marisela Baca




Phone:   (208) 344-1344     Fax:  (208) 344-1772 



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