The Tribunal assists the diocesan bishop in the exercise of judicial power as prescribed by canon law. The Tribunal is also the forum in which persons may vindicate and defend their rights at canon law, especially the right to marry and the right to preserve the marriage bond. The Tribunal assists in this vindication of rights by providing a well-ordered, understandable, and accessible juridical process. It strives for timeliness and pastoral care in handling all cases presented.
Most cases involve investigations of the validity of a marriage, brought by divorced persons who wish to be free to enter new marriages. If the previous marriage was invalid, it is important to restore the parties’ freedom to marry as soon as possible following their civil divorce. However, the Tribunal must also safeguard Holy Matrimony in accordance with the supreme law of the salvation of souls. Thus, the Tribunal is bound by the canonical principle that every marriage must be presumed valid until the contrary is proven. When proof is lacking, the Tribunal has no power to declare a marriage invalid.
Unfortunately, it is not sufficient to demonstrate that the decision of the parties to marry was imprudent. Nor is the breakdown of the marriage, in itself, proof of invalidity. When invalidity cannot be proven, the public good of the salvation of souls demands that the marriage bond be upheld. If the parties cannot be persuaded to reconcile, then the Church must rely on pastoral means to help them live as full a Roman Catholic life as is possible in their situation.