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Informal or Documentary Cases

and Privilege Cases

 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.


Informal or Documentary Cases and Privilege Cases 


Informal Cases, unlike Formal Cases, are marriage cases that can usually be handled without extensive testimony from witnesses.  This does not mean there is no work by the Petitioner, but the process is not as extensive as the Formal Case.  The two most common types of Informal Cases are described below.


Documentary Cases (canon 1686), are cases that can be shown by documentary evidence that the previous union was not valid.  Privilege Cases are cases that can be resolved by utilizing a "privilege" allowed by Church Law.




A Lack of Form Case can only be invoked when at least one of the parties of the union was Catholic at the time of the marriage.  By Church Law, a Catholic party is required to follow a "form" of marriage (see canon 1108).  This "form" of marriage requires a Catholic to have the marriage witnessed by a Catholic priest or deacon.  Without the proper dispensation, a marriage of a Catholic by a civil official or a non-Catholic minister is considered to be a invalid and is known as a “Lack of Form” case.  If the exchange of vows takes place and is witnessed by a minister of another Church or by some civil authority (e.g., justice of the peace), it must be shown there was no dispensation given for a non-Catholic ceremony to take place. It is the policy in the diocese of Boise that this investigation be conducted by Tribunal personnel.


To submit a Lack of Form case, a Petitioner must complete a Tribunal Petition that can be provided by a local parish based advocate.  When the petition is completed, the Petitioner must also submit a copy of their marriage license and certificate; final divorce decree and a recent copy (issued within six months of submission) of the Catholic party(ies) baptismal certificate(s). 




Ligamen is a process to show the marriage in question was invalid because the ex- spouse was bound by a prior, presumably valid marriage bond.  For the Petitioner, this means the Respondent's previous spouse had been validly married before this subsequent union.  As in the Lack of Form case, marriage license, marriage certificate and final divorce decree for the Petitioner and Respondent must be provided.  In addition, the same documents (i.e. the marriage license and certificate and final divorce decree) for the previous union of the Respondent must be provided.  The Tribunal may subsequently request the testimony of witnesses for the Respondent's previous marriage.  If it is shown this PRIOR marriage is NOT VALID, then the marriage between the Petitioner and the Respondent is presumed to be valid and the Tribunal investigation will need to be a more prolonged formal process.


On the other hand, if the Respondent's PRIOR union can be held to be a VALID marriage, then the marriage between the Petitioner and the Respondent is rendered INVALID because of the previous valid marriage of the Respondent.


In order to pursue a Ligamen case, the marriage must have been the first for the Respondent and a first for the spouse.


Whatever the circumstances, the Advocate and subsequently the Tribunal staff will assist the Petitioner in identifying the specific documentation and testimony required.







Privilege cases have as the primary focus proving that at least one of the parties was not baptized at the time of the union.  Because the timing of baptisms in relation to the marriage and divorce are essential, most of the focus on the investigation is on the baptism of the parties.


There are two types of “privilege cases” – the Pauline Privilege and the Favor of the Faith (also known as Petrine Privilege).


The basic outlines of these cases are as follows.




     a.         Two non-baptized persons marry and divorce;

     b.         After the divorce, one becomes or wants to become Christian;

     c.         The Tribunal is able to verify through witnesses the non-baptism of both parties.

These witnesses must be persons who have known the parties their entire lives and are therefore able to address this issue accurately (e.g., parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, older siblings).


     Favor of the Faith (Petrine)


a. Two non-baptized persons (no baptism is intended) or a baptized and non-baptized person marry and divorce.  One of these parties then makes a petition for a “favor of the faith” dissolution of their former marriage.  This Petitioner, who does not intend to be baptized, wishes to marry a Catholic party and the “favor” is granted for the faith of that Catholic Party.

b. The Tribunal is able to verify through witnesses the non-baptism of one or both parties as necessary.  In addition, the Petitioner may not be the cause of the demise of the marriage in question.

c.  The Boise Tribunal gathers all the pertinent information regarding the marriage, similar to a formal case, and then sends the entire case to Rome who will either grant the favor or deny it.



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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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