Have You Been Harassed, Bullied, Intimidated, or Abused by Tribunal Personnel?
Does "#METOO/ WHAT NOW" have parallels to Respondent’s experience with tribunals?
In this current cultural climate of "#METOO/ WHAT NOW", Respondents are asking those same questions about tribunal personnel and the annulment process across the U.S. In our SOS-work with Respondents for the past twenty years we have spoken with many hundreds of women who have experienced intimidation, harassment, bullying, and emotional abuse by tribunal priests. Those priests are the very people expected by Canon Law to "advocate" for the marriage bond (and therefore the Respondent).
Tribunal Abuse of Respondents, Ten Examples
1. A well known 'secret' within the Catholic Church is that almost all U.S. marriage tribunals intentionally work to annul (declare invalid) the marriage sacrament. Case records shared with us from former Respondents contain incriminating information that, in U.S. civil law, can prove to be the next "scandal" costing the RCChurch another millions of $. In nearly a thousand Respondent's reports, we have clear evidence that documents the majority of marriage tribunal personnel, including Psychologists who write the reports used against Respondents, see their position as one of power over and against Respondents, rather than offering any real information or help about how to defend the sacrament.
2. Tribunal outcomes clearly favor the petitioner. For example, the current "Briefer Process" newly recommended by the Vatican focuses only on an outcome of nullity (see the article by a Catholic priest “The New Annulment Briefer Process Must Be Scrapped", under our "First Things..." menu on this website).
3. Tribunals go to extremes to abuse Respondents. As an example, we have worked with Respondents who are eighty (80) years old with married children, who were incredulous that the local tribunal accepted their also 80 y. o. husbands' petition.
4. Respondents who have been married for 25+ years with young adult children have been made to take time off from necessary work, leave the bedside of a sick child (and in two cases we worked with, a dying child) or their sacrament would be declared null for "lack of Respondent involvement with the annulment process".
5. An egregious situation is that Canon Law specifies that "two conforming decisions" will end the annulment process. Yet the current reality is that all a petitioner needs to do is to state phony "new evidence" and the Respondent is made to endure further repetitions of what has been fully documented as truth of the validity of the sacrament in the prior two cases.
6. A national organization that keeps track of pedophile priests has indicated that many of those perverts were transferred into tribunal offices for decades prior to that scandal, in order to keep them away from children. Those mentally unstable priests continue to aim their inner angers at vulnerable women Respondents who are expected to meet with them in a distant tribunal building.
7. A scandalous and shameful aspect of the annulment process is that tribunals even annul non-Catholic Respondent’s marriages! We have guided many Respondents who never were exposed to Catholic processes and who have absolutely no knowledge of or experience with attitudes and judgments of the RCChurch. And they certainly have no comprehension of Canon Law. These Respondents feel trapped in the marriage tribunal labyrinth, which is specifically designed to create confusion in Respondents.
8. Catholic marriage tribunals in the U.S., representing the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican,
force the petitioner, most often the father, to write a fabricated document (the petition) in order to
justify a statement that the sacramental marriage NEVER happened. In other words, the petitioner
must lie in order to be "a good Catholic". Otherwise if the petitioner remarries, the Church states
that he would be a pariah in the eyes of the entire Church.
Then tribunal priests attempt to intimidate the Respondent into submitting to this lie. This is abuse on many levels.
9. Research shows that the numbers of Catholic marriages are declining rapidly. One primary reason is that most Respondents have children, many who are now teens or young adults. These children have had to watch their fathers abandon the sacramental marriage in a petition to ‘the Church’, while their mother is in anguish about her cherished belief in the validity of the sacrament. These children are hurt and humiliated by having to endure this process and its consequences from a distance, silenced by the Church. Children who have watched the annulment process destroy any connection between their parents most usually choose to leave the Church with finality (see our two SOS webpages "Children Hurt by the Annulment Process" and "A Daughter's Reflection").
10. The most insidious aspect of the annulment process on Respondents is the unacknowledged PTSD that this process brings out in women who have experienced abuse earlier in their life. The annulment process reenacts the abuse cycle, and leaves many women in desperation, too vulnerable to effectively counter the onslaught of tribunal priests and nuns using Canon Law as a weapon against them.
11. Canon Law information is NEVER offered to Respondents; it is only used against Respondents.
Change is Needed
During the 2015 Synod, Pope Francis apparently tried to make a few compassionate changes in the annulment process. (Example: allowing the divorced and remarried to receive communion. But conservative bishops and members of the Curia, knowing that this step would eliminate the majority of annulment petitions, voted against these compassionate changes. Bishops and the Curia are the individuals who are models for tribunal priests. (See our letter to the Pope under the "Our Messages to the Pope and Tribunals" menu on this website).
If you are a Respondent who has been harassed or intimidated by tribunal personnel, please
let us know. We are gathering data for a collective class action.
The first guiding commitment of our SOS organization is to offer Respondents an experience of Christ-compassionate guidance. A second primary purpose is to educate both Respondents and the public about the scandal of annulment, as well as to counter and expose tribunal abuse of Respondents.
Only when public media light is focused on the annulment trauma for Respondents will healing truly happen. From our perspective, unless the annulment process is radically changed to a far more compassionate process, or completely eliminated, not only will the decline in Catholic marriages continue to increase but the numbers of those leaving the Church certainly will increase.
We urge Respondents who have completed the annulment process, to contact us and consider making public their experiences with priests, nuns, and lay tribunal personnel. SOS is currently writing a book about the annulment process. All sources will be confidential.