Similar to the civil government, the Church has a system of courts to handle cases according to the Canon law of the Church because the Church has the right and duty to protect the dignity of the sacraments and to safeguard the rights of every member of the Church.
In each Diocese the Bishop is the chief Teacher and Shepherd for that portion of God’s people. At times it becomes necessary for the Bishop to decide whether the teaching and sanctifying mission of the Church is being carried out in accordance with the Gospel message, Sacred Traditions, and the magisterium of the Church. In this regard he acts as the Chief Judge concerning the practice of the Christian faith.
Since the Bishop cannot personally act as Judge in all these matters (because of the large number of cases), he delegates certain individuals as members of the Tribunal to act in his name. In the tribunal we have the Judicial Vicar, Judges, Defenders of the bond, Assessors, Advocates and Canonical Consultants.
2598 Forbes Street
Jacksonville, FL 32204
Fax: (904) 800-2647
Rev. Peter Akin-Otiko, Ph.D., J.C.L., J.V.
Moderator of the Tribunal
Sister Ann Kuhn, SSJ
Rev. John R. Reynolds, J.C.L.
Msgr. Daniel B. Logan
Karen Kight, J.D., J.C.L.
Promoter of Justice
Msgr. Keith Brennan, J.C.D., V.G.
Defender of the Bond
Rev. Manuel Puga, J.C.L.
The Tribunal of the Diocese of St. Augustine is the Court designated to investigate marriages (and other cases) that fall within its competence, i.e., the marriage was contracted in the Diocese or either one of the spouses legally resides within the Diocese.
Most of the issues presented to the Tribunal for judgment are those which deal with the validity of the Sacrament of Marriage. Persons who believe that their marriages were not validly celebrated according to the teachings of the Church, and therefore invalid in the eyes of God and the Church, petition the tribunal to declare their marriages null and void. The work of the tribunal, for the most part, involves the process of investigating and discerning the truth of such petitions.
For more information about the Annulment process, click here.
Office of Dispute Resolution
The Tribunal of the Diocese of St. Augustine also manages the Office of Dispute Resolution, which handles the mediation or arbitration process within the Church, depending on the situation. Mediation typically involves a grievance between a person and a parish or the diocese, or between two parishes or diocesan agencies. Arbitration may be used resolve complaints of a civil nature in which a party is seeking compensation for a violation of a contract or for discrimination or harassment.
For more information regarding the Office of Dispute Resolution, click here.
Advocates – Advocates are appointed by the parties or by the presiding judge to each case. They are to help the petitioner and/or respondent in a case to exercise and defend their rights through use of the law and the presented facts. A list of Advocates is available through the Tribunal.
Annulment Companions – Appointed by the parish priest and trained by the Tribunal staff, these individuals meet with those who think they are in need of an annulment. The annulment companion assists the individual in ascertaining what type of annulment they may need and in preparing their opening documents for submission to the Tribunal. To obtain the name of the annulment companion in your parish or a nearby parish, call the Tribunal at (904) 800-2393 or call your parish office.
Dispute Resolution Procedure – The dispute resolution procedures of the Diocese of St. Augustine are based on the presumption that parties in a dispute desire a settlement in an equitable fashion and are willing to work toward an amicable settlement. The process attempts to protect the interests of all parties involved, aiming at the resolution of the grievance. Click here to download policy.
Hearing Officers – Are appointed to assist in resolving disputes of a civil nature that may arise between a person and a parish or diocesan agency or between parishes or diocesan agencies.