The Tribunal is the judicial branch of the Diocese of Brownsville. In general, the Tribunal assists the Bishop, clergy and laity with Canonical (legal) advice and is responsible for hearing and deciding legal matters according to Code of Canon Law, the law of the Church.
In particular, the judicial department processes all petitions presented to it and within the frame of its competence, on behalf of the bishop, concerning questions or investigations about rights and obligations that have been violated, need to be determined or are to be defined among the members of the Church. For example, Restoration of Personal Rights, Laicization, Sacramental Validity or Legality, Clerical Misconduct, Removal of Pastors, etc.
San Juan Pastoral Center/ Fitzpatrick Building
700 N. Virgen de San Juan Blvd.
San Juan, Texas 78589
The majority of the department's work is resolving questions of marital invalidity, especially Matrimonial cases that are processed in the Ecclesiastical Court of First Instance. These cases are presented to our Ecclesiastical Court to be investigated and defined by Decree, in accordance with Church law, concerning their sacramental validity or invalidity. The Diocesan Tribunal is an official Ecclesiastical Court for marriage cases presented in First Instance. The Court of Appeals in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is the Court of Second Instance for the dioceses of Texas, including the Diocese of Brownsville.
Required Documents for Annulment Process
- Certificate of Baptism for the Petitioner and the Respondent if baptized Catholic/Christian. Baptismal Certificates must be issued within the last six months. If applicable, a Certificate of entry into the Catholic Church by Profession of Faith. If the Petitioner cannot provide the Respondent’s Baptismal Certificate, the priest or deacon may request it from the church of baptism. The priest or deacon, can also request a copy of the marriage file from the church where the marriage took place.
- Certificate of Marriage from the church where the marriage took place.
- Original or certified copy of the marriage license.
- Original or certified copy of the divorce decree.
PLEASE NOTE: You will need a current address and phone number for the Respondent. If you cannot locate the Respondent, you must do a People Search and provide the pastor with a copy of the search conducted. See Resources for Locating the Respondent.
How to Begin the Annulment Process
- First and foremost, the Annulment Process begins at your parish!
- Before making an appointment with the pastor, gather all the documents required. See the Filing for Annulment Checklist for more information.
- After all documents have been gathered, the Petitioner must make an appointment with the pastor at their parish.
- The day of the appointment, the Petitioner must give all required documents to the pastor for his review.
- Thereafter, the pastor will give the Petitioner a Preliminary Questionnaire to complete.
- After the Preliminary Questionnaire has been completed with the Petitioner and the Respondent's demographic information, the pastor will then submit the Preliminary Questionnaire Online to our office.
- Once the Preliminary Questionnaire and the legal documents are submitted to our office, the Judicial Vicar will review the Preliminary Questionnaire for approval.
- If your Preliminary Questionnaire is approved, we will be mailing the Petitioner a Formal Questionnaire to the address provided.
- For a step by step Overview of the Annulment Process, please see the Overview of the Annulment Process.
- For additional information, please see the Documents section below.
How long does an Annulment case take?
- After we receive the Preliminary Questionnaire and legal documents from the pastor, most annulments take a minimum of two years.
- Working, in communion, with other Ecclesiastical Tribunals around the world, especially granting competence to process some particular cases for some of our people, and helping our people present their petitions or requests to other Ecclesiastical Tribunals, walking them through Tribunal processes.
- Processing petitions for Matrimonial Permissions or Dispensations for our people.
- Processing petitions for Clerical Dispensations concerning their status in the Church.
- Training others to better serve at the diocesan or parochial level.
- Instructing our people and others about our diocesan and parochial services and how to utilize them.
Tribunal and Diocesan Assistance
- Very Rev. Oliver Ángel, JCL, Judicial Vicar
- Rev. Luis Fernando Sanchez, JCL, Adjutant Judicial Vicar
- Rev. Jose Rene Ángel, JCL, Collegiate Judge
- Rev. Msgr. Luis Javier Garcia, JCL, Defender of the Bond
- Rev. Msgr. Gustavo Barrera, Defender of the Bond