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What Every Respondent Needs to Know About the Annulment Process

The following is a trimmed down step-by-step description of the annulment process for the Respondent. It is based on the experience of those of us in SOS who have worked with Respondents, from our cumulative experience of nearly thirty years.

SOS Support Network

We are a group, a community, of individuals from across the U.S. and Canada, who have formed a Board of Directors and Advisors. We work with and support Respondents as they deal with, and ‘translate’, the foreign process of annulment. Our mission and purpose is to share with Respondents what we have learned the hard way without help from the tribunal system, and by doing the research now found in these pages and the SOS Respondent's Guide to the Annulment Process, by Carole R. Bishop.

Our purpose then is to empower Respondents to progress more easily through the annulment labyrinth as they protect their marriage sacrament from the manipulative practices of U.S. tribunals, in order to successfully “save their sacrament”.

Connect with SOS

The annulment process, by design, is based on secrecy and is deliberately confusing, which can lead to ‘built-in’ mistrust especially by the tribunal personnel, but also both parties in the annulment process. The emotionally unnerving effect of the annulment process on you, children, and other family members necessitates that you gather supportive friendships you can trust as you deal with this issue.

Before you meet with any tribunal personnel

After reading the following books you will have a solid foundation for understanding the annulment process, and you will also have more specific questions. These questions can be discussed directly with one of the SOS staff (see the links on the SOS Home Page and the Contact page). There is no charge for our service.

Two books recommended by SOS where the annulment process is detailed in more depth:

  1. Sheila Rauch Kennedy’s insightful book Shattered Faith, and
  2. the SOS Respondent’s Guide to Catholic Annulments by Carole R. Bishop

(See our 'Shattered Faith' webpage and the Resources Page of this SOS website for accessing both books.)

Be not afraid. [Psalm 27:1 ]

Contents of this SOS Webpage

I. Important Definitions

II. Basic Steps of the Annulment Process

1. First Notice
2. The Advocate
3. The Questionnaire
4. Selection of Your Witnesses
5. Reading the Petition & Witness Statements
6. Your Rebuttal to the Petition
7. If You Experience Incompetence or Mistreatment by Tribunal Personnel
8. The Appeal to the Roman Rota
9. References for Letters You May Need to Write

III. What the Tribunals Won’t Tell You

A. The Vatican and Canon Law
B. Tribunal Judges Are Biased Against Respondents, Children, and Non-Catholics
C. Tribunal Judges Desecrate the Marriage Sacrament

IV. Be Empowered

A. Reasons to Pursue a Defense of Your Marriage
B. Points to Think About
C. Questions to Consider Before Beginning this Process
D. SOS is Ready With Help



Respondent The person in an annulment proceeding against whom a petition for annulment has been issued, who then chooses to defend the sacramental validity of the marriage

Petitioner The Respondent’s ‘spouse’ who petitions the marriage tribunal to declare the marriage sacrament “null” (invalid /never existed)

Advocate A tribunal official appointed to direct and speak for either the petitioner or the Respondent during the First Instance Court process (ref. Canon Law #1483)
According to Canon Law 1603, advocates must share their briefs with both parties before submitting the findings to a tribunal judge, but SOS has not seen that right carried out in fact.
In ways foreign to the U.S. court system, an advocate is not like a civil lawyer:

1) There is no guarantee of confidentiality when talking to your advocate
2) Anything your advocate learns, especially if it is negative about you and the marriage, becomes material that is communicated to others in the tribunal in order to annul the marriage

Procurator (not the same as an Advocate) A tribunal agent with power of attorney, who is supposed to be neutral but is paid by the tribunal. (The procurator is not obligated to communicate with the Respondent.) The tribunal usually urges you to designate that your advocate also serve as your procurator. By agreeing to have an Advocate-Procurator, you will relinquish all rights of decision making during the annulment process.
If you wish to retain your rights regarding decision-making, SOS recommends that you put in writing your intention to have only an advocate, so that the advocate will be required to keep you informed of all the proceedings. But you must hold him to that right. [See Reference #1 in Section 9 below.]

Libellus (different from the petitioner’s Questionnaire responses) the petitioner‘s ‘allegations’ usually about 3 - 5 sentences long, which is later attached to the petition. Canon Law states that the Libellus sentences are supposed to be included with the ‘First Notice’ to the Respondent in order for you to read the reasons stated against the marriage. This document is rarely, if ever, included with that first letter to a Respondent; most tribunal judges will tenaciously deny your access to a copy of the Libellus. You can write a request to see the allegations, and when you receive the tribunal’s first refusal, make certain that refusal is sent to you in writing. But unless you want to spend years fighting them in their ‘court’ to accord you this right (we know of cases where this is happening), simply plan to document this “procedural error” by including their letter of refusal later in your Appeal. (see Reference #2 in Section 9 below.)

Tribunal Competency (Canon #1673) the locale or “venue” of the tribunal where your annulment case will take place: either a) where the petitioner lives, or b) where you live, or c) where the marriage took place, or d) where the majority of the evidence is located (i.e. where most of the witnesses live)

First Instance Court is the diocesan, or ‘local’, tribunal; this lower-court tribunal decides the first phase of an annulment

Second Instance Court Respondents are told by the diocesan /local court to send their Appeal to this Regional Court which is usually located in the same state as the First Instance Court. Instead, if your marriage has been annulled by the First Instance Court, SOS strongly recommends that you mail your Appeal directly to the Vatican Rota in Rome, as the Second Instance Court.

[A comprehensive list of annulment-related definitions is contained in the Appendix of the SOS Guide for Respondents.]

II. Basic Steps of the Annulment Process

(in chronological order)

1. FIRST NOTICE (the “Summons”)

Very often, Respondents have no warning that the annulment ‘inquisition’ is about to begin. Often, the Respondent’s first contact about this process is a stark letter from the Diocesan tribunal. This Summons letter asks if you wish to participate in the case either by interview at the tribunal or a written questionnaire. You must decide now whether or not to contest the annulment. The process will take place even if the Respondent does not agree to take part.

Tribunal competency At this point you have a right to change the venue where the case will be heard.
(See the SOS Guide for more information.)

2. AN ADVOCATE tribunal personnel assigned to the Respondent and petitioner

While the advocate may state that s/he is “only interested in the truth”, it is likely that the advocate has been trained to have a pro-annulment bias. Bear in mind that the Advocate’s primary obligation and responsibility is to the tribunal which pays their salary (with money gained from annulling marriages).
Women-advocates (usually nuns) are just as likely, as the men to be authoritative, rather than understanding.

Research the Advocate You can take some control of the annulment process. We recommend that you Google your diocesan tribunal website in order to access information about their advocates. Make an appointment to meet with individuals you’d like to consider. Then write or phone your request to the tribunal judge for the advocate with whom you wish to work.
We do know of one tribunal that has changed an assigned advocate to one requested by the Respondent.

Can you trust the Advocate to be YOUR Advocate? We were told by an honest advocate that they do not offer information (for example, what your rights are) unless you ASK! SOS was founded so that you have a place to turn for answers without having to guess the right question to ask.

Can you ‘fire’ the Advocate? Respondents have done so for just cause. One of the SOS founders did, with a very positive result.

Become Your Own Best Advocate You must educate yourself in order to successfully find your way through the annulment morass.


In order to establish the “Grounds” for an annulment, the tribunal uses the Petition and the two responses to the Questionnaires. “Grave Lack of Due Discretion” (Canon 1095.2) is the usual basis on which tribunal judges annul marriages. This ‘allegation’ is applied to either, or both, the Respondent and petitioner. SOS recommends that you read Canon Law 1095.2 before you begin your responses to the Questionnaire, and then include a copy of this Canon somewhere clearly in your responses to the Questionnaire. This serves as a reminder to the tribunal judges that they must find grave lack of due discretion in the marriage. (See the Guide for the exact wording of this Canon.)

Writing Your Questionnaire Responses
Some diocesan tribunals offer a choice between an 1:1 interview with your Advocate or a written questionnaire. We recommend writing your responses to the questionnaire, which gives you better control over your material. Do not limit your answers to the small space on the Questionnaire pages and instead use as many separate pages as you need.

Make the tribunal’s Questionnaire work for you. You do not have to answer all the questions; many of the questions seem designed to ‘prove’ the marriage was faulty. Instead write the facts that are helpful in supporting the validity of your marriage sacrament.
The questionnaire is where you prove that there were no GRAVE negative aspects present during the courtship and at the “moment of the vows”. This is the most important focus of your responses to the questionnaire, because an annulment is based on the couple’s intention / state of mind on the day of the marriage. Spend most of your writing time focusing on just before, and at the time, you spoke your vows. From the Rota’s perspective, anything that happened in the marriage after that ‘moment’ is secondary to determining validity of your marriage. (This may seem contradictory, but remember- annulment is a ‘foreign’ process.)

Focus your answers in such a way that demonstrates both of you were mature, responsible individuals who understood the marriage commitment. Be sure to give specific examples. A key factor to demonstrate ‘sacramental validity’ is if, during the courtship, you both had talked about wanting children and at the moment of your vows planned to have children during the marriage.

Keep your material positive. Anything negative could be used against you and the marriage, including venting anger at the tribunal and its ‘policies’. Write your narrative in a way that reflects only the positives (the ‘grace’) of your marriage. (‘Sacrament’ is simply another word for God’s Grace.) Maintain a professional attitude; be concise, don't ramble or add extraneous information.

Refer to making an Appeal in your Questionnaire response pages. In a cover letter or toward the end of your written material, you can include your intent to file an Appeal to the Roman Rota, if that becomes necessary. As the number of Respondent-challenges to the tribunal’s decisions increase, via an Appeal to Rome and letters to the Nuncio (see section 7 below), U.S. diocesan tribunal judges are beginning to stop granting unwarranted annulments. (Refer to the Appeal section (8) below.)

Psychological / Medical Records

Never allow tribunal judges to have any material that could possibly be interpreted negatively against you and the marriage.

A question typically contained in the Questionnaire states: ‘I am willing to make all of my medical and psychological records available to the tribunal.’ There is no other reason for this question to be asked, except to use this information against you and the marriage. One of the SOS founders has a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and has seen psychological records written ambiguously, and are open to interpretation.
Third parties such as tribunal judges have NO RIGHT to confidential material about your life. And you are under no moral obligation to release information that could used against you and the marriage.

Lawsuit Against the Lower Court tribunal? Do notify any psychologist whom you may have seen, to not release any records, even if the petitioner gives permission to do so.
Release of counseling information for couples, requires BOTH signatures. If the petitioner supplies the tribunal with records that you have not given permission to be released, this can be key evidence for a civil lawsuit in U.S. court against therapist-members of a tribunal, especially lay therapists.
(See the SOS Lawsuit page about the possibility of lawsuits.)

Keep A Timeline for efficient documentation of your facts, in a notebook designated for your annulment material. This includes a chronological account of every phone call and communication written to you and by you, in the order as sent or received. The notebook material will be especially helpful if you later choose to pursue an Appeal to the Rota.

Deadlines The tribunal will state you have “30 days” to complete the Questionnaire. Do not feel pressured to meet their deadlines; a simple letter explaining why you want an extension of time will be sufficient.

[See Reference #3 in Section 9 below.]

Whenever you send documents to the tribunal, number each page (ex: page 1 of __ (total number of pages)__. Important: send correspondence to the tribunal and Rota by registered or certified mail.

[For more information on writing your Questionnaire responses, see the SOS Respondent’s Guide.]


You have a right to have your truth verified by others who know you. Try to choose individuals who have been friends at the time of your wedding. Let them know that the most important information that the tribunal judge must consider is the timeframe during the courtship including the “moment of your vows”.

Tell your witnesses that their purpose is to help you defend your marriage by providing examples from their observations that highlight the validity of your marriage sacrament. Tell them the Grounds for the annulment.

As they write their testimony in their own words, remind them to keep it positive, focusing on the best aspects (the ‘grace’) of the sacrament that they experienced in your marriage.

Let your witnesses know the importance of describing specific facts about BOTH you and the petitioner as mature, honest, capable people who knew what marriage entailed, and if both of you spoke about and planned to have children.

Before Your Witnesses send in their letters to the tribunal, we recommend that you let your witnesses know that you welcome reading of their letter first. Tribunal personnel do not encourage this, but in reality, tribunal judges have no power to enforce any pressure on your friends. Remember, the power of tribunals and tribunal judges is an ‘assumed’ power, unlike that of civil authority, and therefore nonexistent if an individual has no intention to give them that power.


You will not be allowed to read the petitioner’s questionnaire responses until after you have submitted your own. The length of time between submitting your questionnaire and reading the petitioner’s Questionnaire responses could be months, unless the tribunal personnel are competent and efficient.

Under Duress” Before you read the Petition, it is likely you will be told that you must sign a statement promising to keep all annulment materials “confidential”, including the Petition, or you would not be allowed to read the Petition. We signed that statement, adding the words “under duress”.

Any policy of secrecy enables abuse; you have a moral right to not ‘obey’ this manipulative demand.

Respondent’s family of origin The many Respondents we have worked with, have expressed shock and dismay by what they read in the petitioner’s Questionnaire material. They have read outrageously misconstrued ‘facts’ and blatant lies about themselves, their marriage, the circumstances of their lives together, and the Respondent’s parents and family. If there is any chance that the petitioner would do the latter, it is a good idea to include in your Appeal packet, a happy photo of your parents together. This will go a long way to disputing anything the petitioner writes negatively about your parents.

But expect him/her to do so. Because this happens so often, one could surmise that it is encouraged by U.S. tribunals.

As you read the Petition, you have a right to take notes. It is important to keep a record of anything you disagree with, and want to include in your rebuttal. Note also, anything in the petitioner’s material that supports your case.

Reading the Petitioner’s Witnesses Statements At the same time that you read the Petition, you should be given the opportunity to read the petitioner’s witness statements, unless they checked the box that says you can’t. Here too, it is likely that you will read mistruth. Individuals you once considered friends and family (in-laws) are likely to be seen in these statements as people you never really knew.

6. YOUR REBUTTAL to the Petition & the petitioner’s Witness Statements

During and after you read the petitioner’s Questionnaire material is your best opportunity to supply new information to the Advocate. Very likely your advocate will be in the room with you as you read the Petition. The Advocate’s assigned task here, is to write your objections to what you are reading.

Bring your own writing material, and tape recorder in case you can read the material aloud.

If you disagree with anything either the petitioner or his witnesses have written, make certain to verbally address and challenge each statement to your Advocate so he can include this ‘correction-of-the-lies-information’ in your Rebuttal Statement (ex. “Mary Smith did not meet us until five years after our wedding. She has no personal knowledge about the courtship and the moment of the vows, and therefore is not a valid witness.”)

Be specific to your advocate as you point out every inconsistency and lie in the petitioner’s material. Whenever you can, use the Petitioner's own words to show discrepancies or contradictions in the petition material.

Most tribunals only allow you to verbally state your disagreements with what the petitioner has written. But some tribunal judges have allowed the Respondent to write their own letter of rebuttal, which is then included with what your Advocate has written and will present to the First Instance Court.

Canon Law allows you to introduce new witnesses at this time.

Reading through many pages of "testimony" can be time consuming and may require intense concentration. While you are reading, make every effort to remain calm. Be positive in your responses. Anything said in anger will not be effective at this time. Speak slowly and clearly in order to make certain your advocate writes your rebuttal completely into the material he is collecting at this time.

You could ask to read over what he wrote before you leave the room.

Examples of taking your own Control could be in requesting a copy of the Petition AND a copy of their briefs and the resulting “First Instance Court” decision. It is unlikely that you will receive either, but you can ask.

We know of one rare advocate who did give a copy of the Petition to the Respondent, but that was in Canada.

If you are not given a copy of the decision, one might well wonder if the tribunal judges actually wrote any decision, or did they in fact simply dismiss your defense of the sacrament as not important?

The more often you put yourself in a position of self-control during this process, the sooner U.S. tribunals will learn to respect Respondents, if begrudgingly. You are not trying to control them, but you must consider your own integrity and dignity.


The Nuncio is the Vatican’s “ambassador” between the U.S. and the Rota. At any point during the annulment proceedings, you can write a letter to the Papal Nuncio in Washington DC regarding any incompetence (“procedural errors”) or mistreatment during the annulment process. Successful Appeals have been granted just on the basis of procedural errors by diocesan tribunal courts.

The Nuncio can review your letter and note your concerns. Several SOS Respondents have found that the Nuncio did send a copy of their letter along with his own letter to the Bishop-Moderator of the diocesan tribunal, although it took a few months. You can reference this in your Appeal to the Rota. (The Apostolic Nuncio’s address is listed in Reference #4 in Section 9 below.)

Conclusion of the First Instance phase

Hopefully, with this new material, the advocate will ‘argue your case’ effectively to the First Instance Court. But if one were to judge by the stats on the number of marriages annulled in the U.S. each year, it is the rare U.S. advocate who does so. Once the Advocate has presented his collected material to the First Instance Court, and the petitioner’s advocate has done the same, this First Instance phase has ended.

You will receive a letter from the tribunal judge stating either that your marriage has remained valid, and you need go no further. Or what is more likely, they annulled the marriage at this lower court level; the next step is to appeal that judgment to Rome.

8. THE APPEAL to the ROMAN ROTA to challenge the decision by the First Instance Court

If your diocesan tribunal has decided that your marriage is “null” / invalid, you are entitled to submit a challenge against this ‘First Instance’ decision. We highly recommend that you do challenge the lower court annulment decision with an Appeal to the Rota as the Court of Second Instance. In her book, Sheila R. Kennedy makes clear that it would not help your case to appeal to your regional U.S. Appellate tribunal ('Second Instance Court').

Sending Rome enough Appeals which challenge those ludicrous decisions, is the way to make U.S. diocesan tribunals eventually stop declaring unwarranted annulments. Lately, in cases of Respondents helped by SOS, we are finding that a few tribunal judges are beginning to tell petitioners to withdraw their petition, because the material is irrelevant and not applicable to the annulment process.

Mail Your Appeal to the Roman Rota (do NOT send your appeal to a U.S. tribunal Regional Court)

From our experience with many Respondents, SOS learned that it is unlikely a Respondent will receive a fair hearing of their Appeal in most U.S. Regional tribunals. It would appear that the men in the regional court simply rubber-stamp the decision by their comrades in the lower court. We have heard time and time again that U.S. tribunal judges ignore Canon Law in order to annul a marriage.

Perhaps more importantly, if you appealed to the regional tribunal in your area, the Rota (on a second appeal) would have a more difficult time later to overturn TWO decisions against your marriage.

After the Appeal was decided in our favor, and working with other Respondents who have had successful Appeals, we believe that it is likely that you will receive a fair and unbiased Appeal-hearing in Rome. The Appeal will take time (years possibly), but you will not receive the negative attitude that is usually experienced by Respondents in U.S. tribunals. diocesan tribunal.

Writing Your Appeal to the Roman Rota The SOS Guide offers helpful suggestions to state your best possible case in the written documents that you send to the Rota.

Two letters are necessary regarding the Appeal:

1. The first is a letter to your diocesan tribunal judge letting him know that you will be sending your Appeal directly to the Rota, in accord with Canon Law 1634 and C. 1682. Be sure to include in this letter that your material is not to be sent to the regional tribunal. This is to insure that they do not ‘take it upon themselves’ to instead send your material to the U.S. Regional Court (which happened to one of our Respondents after she told them on the phone to send the lower court ‘Judgment’ directly to Rome).

You usually have fifteen days to write this short note.

2. The second letter, or packet if you have more material, will be your actual Appeal to the Rota. Most tribunals say you have thirty days to mail your Appeal. Here too, an extension of time is possible if needed.

This Appeal letter is to include a) the date, your current address, case number, & tribunal name; b) your reason(s) for making the Appeal, and most importantly c) new material you wish to submit. Bear in mind that the Rota takes very seriously any “procedural errors” against you by the tribunal. If you do have specific complaints, detail them in writing, clearly and unemotionally. This is where your notebook of the entire process will be an important reference for you.

It is sufficient that the Rota receive just your original questionnaire responses. A copy of the lower court decision (or “Judgment”) will be sent by that court directly to the Rota, so it is not likely that you will ever see it.

Rotal Advocate Once your case leaves the First Instance Court, your former advocate no longer works with you or the Appeal to the Rota. The Rota will either appoint a new advocate, or give you a list of advocates working at the Rota, to whom you can then send your letter of acceptance of the rotal advocate’s services. It is unlikely that you will have any contact from that Rotal Advocate. (Remember, this is a ‘foreign’ process.)

Any letters From Rome regarding your Appeal, including their notice about the advocate, are likely to be in ‘Latinized’ Italian. The diocesan tribunal is supposed to translate for you any letters from Rome. If they refuse, a translator may be found at your nearest Catholic University or a language school. We worked with a Respondent who obtained a translation at her local Italian bakery.

Costs to Defend your Marriage Sacrament Pursuing a defense of your marriage will not only will take an investment of time and energy, but also can be somewhat financially expensive. The petitioner pays about $300. to ask that the marriage be declared “null”/ never existed. Respondents, who did not want the annulment in the first place, find that defending their marriage sacrament via an Appeal to the Roman Rota, can cost more than $1000. Canon Law 1649.1.1 states that only the Bishop governing the tribunal that heard this case, has the authority to ask for money.

Note: The Vatican has stated that an Appeal cannot be denied for lack of affordability. We have worked with two Respondents who could not afford the full cost of an Appeal and their case was not rejected by the Roman Rota.

Send Your Appeal Material to the Roman Rota (not the U.S. diocesan tribunal) They may try to convince you that your Appeal to Rome will not be sent unless you pay them the $1000 or more, so they can mail your material and your check to the Rota. Ask yourself if it might be possible that someone in the diocesan tribunal would remove papers from your Appeal that they believe could be read as negative to them? And could it be possible that they would lose a check? Rather, send your Appeal material and any fee directly to the Rota in Rome. (See Reference #5 for the Rota address in Section 9 below.)

SOS Can Help If you choose to Appeal to the Roman Rota, be assured that SOS is ready to work with any questions you may have. As noted above, there is no charge for this service. Our SOS purpose and mission is to empower Respondents to move more easily through the annulment maze, to successfully ‘save their sacrament’.

When Your Appeal has been Decided in Your Favor

The Rota will send their decision directly to the diocesan tribunal. The U.S. tribunals are supposed to notify you immediately. But one of the SOS founders NEVER received this notification by the diocesan Boston tribunal. Instead, after ten years (when she heard from Sheila Kennedy that her Appeal was successful), she called to find out why no word had been received… to learn that the Boston tribunal had received Rome’s decision in her favor but sat on it for three years, until her phone call.

When you hear that your Appeal resulted in a 'valid' decision on behalf of your sacrament of marriage, the wording in the letter will be that ”the finding was negative”. That is, the original petition was rejected by the Rota.

You have a right to read the Rota’s decision.

Make an appointment with the judicial vicar at your diocesan tribunal. Bring writing material and a tape recorder in case you can read the decision aloud.

Usually the first six or seven pages of the successful Appeal document are ‘boiler plate’ and of little interest to the Respondent. Do not waste time carefully reading these pages. But do focus on the actual reasons why the Rota judges made their decision in your favor. We think you will find this well worth your trip to the tribunal.

You could request a printed copy of the Rota’s decision, although to our knowledge this has not been made available to a Respondent, yet. So that you have solid ‘proof’ of validity, we recommend that you request a letter directly from the diocesan tribunal judge stating that your sacrament was validated by the Rota. We can email you a draft of a letter in this regard.

9. REFERENCES for Letters You May Need to Write

It will be to your benefit that you write letters as professionally as possible. Because one elicits more ‘positives’ with honey than with vinegar, SOS recommends when writing letters to tribunal-related offices, you put aside any anger or indignation.

Reminder: send all correspondence by registered or certified mail.

1. Letter declining that your advocate also serve as procurator: Write to the tribunal judge that you wish to retain all rights of decision-making and that you decline to have your advocate also serve as the procurator.

2. Letter requesting the Libellus: Most Respondents choose not to complicate their case by carrying this too far. If you decide to request the Libellus, do so in just a few sentences, asking for a copy of the petitioner’s allegations written in his or her own words, and refer to Canon 1508.2 which states: “The Libellus … is to be attached to the citation unless for grave causes the judge determines that the Libellus must not be made known to the party before that party makes a deposition in the trial.”

Be sure to include that you want their response to your request in writing.

3. Letter requesting an extension of time: (usually for completion of your Questionnaire, but also for the Appeal) Write your request briefly (about three sentences), explaining why you need more time. You could thank them ‘in advance’ for the extension.

4. Mailing Address of the Nuncio: Apostolic Nunciature, 3339 Massachusetts Ave NW Washington, DC 20008-3610
Google this title for the name of the current Nuncio, and to make certain the Nuncio has not moved to another address.

5. Mailing Address of the Roman Rota, Palaszo della Cancelleria 1, 00186 Roma, , Piazza della Cancelleria, 1 ITALY • Telephone: • Fax:
Google Roman Rota for the name of the current Dean, and to make certain the Rota has not moved to another address.

III. What the Tribunals Won’t Tell You

A. The Vatican & Canon Law

Recent Popes have published their displeasure publicly. regarding the annulment of far too many marriages without reasonable cause by U.S. Tribunals. (See Papal quotes and references in the last section of the SOS Facts page on this SOS website.)

Under Canon Law, your marriage is supposed to be presumed valid at the beginning of an annulment process (Canon Law c.1060 & Canon 1585). Under these Roman Rota’s rules, the validity of your marriage is to be upheld until it is proven otherwise. You, the Respondent, do not have to prove anything. By Roman Catholic Church law, it is the petitioner who must prove (‘bears the burden of proof’) what is contained in the Petition

The Code of Canon Law is the ‘law-book’ of the Roman Catholic Church, and as such, contains the rules by which the annulment process is defined. There is a (loose) parallel between the Canon Law Code and the U.S. Constitution. The Roman Rota is an office of the Vatican; a parallel may be made between the Roman Rota and the U.S. Supreme Court.

The most common reason in Canon Law for declaring an annulment is for a “GRAVE lack of due discretion”. Most U.S. annulments are NOT based on any such “grave lack”. They are based on a common ordinary ‘lack’, which is experienced in EVERY marriage throughout the world (and every priest’s ordination).

B. Tribunal Judges Are Biased Against Respondents, Children, and Non-Catholics

1) Tribunal Judges do not honor their own / the Vatican’s rules

2) Instead of preserving the sacrament, U.S. tribunal judges tend to look for reasons to annul the marriage

3) Diocesan tribunal judges expect the Respondent to prove their marriage sacrament is valid

4) Annulment states that the children are not products of a sanctified, sacramental marriage; the tribunal judges appear to have no concern for the impact of this devastating pronouncement on the children.

5) U.S. Catholic Church marriage tribunal judges (the ‘Court of First Instance”) feel entitled to annul almost any marriage, even a marriage lasting twenty-five years or more, with grown children (as was the experience of one of the founders of SOS. Her Appeal proved them dead wrong).

6) Protestant Marriages Tribunal judges ‘annul’ not just Catholic marriages but also Protestant marriages. Protestant couples who were married by a Protestant minister in a Protestant Church are told that their marriage is to be annulled by the R. Catholic Church!

When Catholic tribunal judges feel entitled to annul marriages of people who are not even members of the RCChurch, one can be certain that the marriage sacrament is quite vulnerable to attack by tribunal judges.

C. Tribunal Judges Desecrate the Marriage Sacrament

In the experience of SOS members who have worked for fifteen years with hundreds of Respondents, it has become clear that U.S. diocesan Catholic tribunal judges believe that their ideas and “law” are more important than the marriage sacrament and humane treatment of Respondents and children.

Tribunal judges are biased:

a) Against Respondents as demonstrated in the above pages;

b) Against Women-Respondents: Intimidation and emotional abuse by tribunal advocates, judges, and staff

have been U.S. tribunal system from primitive to decent.


A. Reasons to Pursue a Defense of Your Marriage

1) To uphold your own dignity, the dignity of children in annulment cases, and the dignity of the sacrament

2) To teach your children how to confront injustice with dignity, fortitude, and strength

3) To experience the positive result of challenging, and winning against, an unjust, misogynist system

4) To increase fair treatment of Respondents

Each time Rome receives cases of unwarranted declarations of nullity by U.S. tribunal judges, that tribunal will then experience Rome’s displeasure for wasting the Rota’s time (and money). That tribunal will then think twice about even considering unwarranted annulments against Respondents.

In fact, several U.S. tribunal judges are telling petitioners to withdraw the petition, because that material is based on unwarranted allegations that lack any validity against the marriage.

There are many more U.S. tribunal judges to be educated.

B. Points to Think About

The ‘Power’ of a tribunal and tribunal judges is an ‘assumed’ or perceived power, far different from that of legitimate civil authority.

If an individual has no intention to give them that power, it is therefore nonexistent; this is basic common sense.

Defending yourself, the children, your marriage, and others can be a “Call”.
The word ‘sacrament’ is simply another word for God’s Grace; do you really think God’s Grace can be annulled by an institution?

C. Questions to Consider Before Beginning this Process

Can I spend the necessary time that is demanded by this process? Do I have the energy for the work this will take? Do I have the patience to “translate” a foreign (Roman) perspective on marriage? Can I write only positive aspects? Can I deal with the possibility that reading the petitioner’s witness statements may result in the loss of friends? What impact will this proceeding have on my children? Will taking on this challenge be a benefit to my children? If I do not take on this challenge, will my children lose an opportunity to learn to confront injustice with dignity, fortitude, and strength? What impact will this process have on my children?

D. SOS is Ready With Help

To contact us, please refer to our Contact Us page on this Website. Let us know any questions you may have.

The above material is based on the SOS Respondent’s Guide to the Annulment Process, written and updated by SOS’s Carole Bishop. You will find this Guide comprehensive and helpful in many respects, including explanations of important canon law references. The Guide material is copyrighted. For ordering information, see the SOS Resources Page of this website.


Allow Yourself to Be Empowered by challenging experiences.

We Believe the Holy Spirit is on OUR side.

Be not afraid. [Psalm 27:1]


Once your case has been settled, we welcome you to join SOS as an active member.

There is much more work to be done!

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