top of page

Recent Work


The work of the Catholic Tribunal

Tribunal of the Catholic Church for New Zealand

The Tribunal of the Catholic Church is the official ecclesiastical court of the Church. In every Diocese, it is usually established by the bishop to assist him in carrying out his responsibilities as the shepherd of his local Christian community which has been entrusted to him.[1] By the authority of the local Bishop, the court administers justice, vindicates rights and assists in the pastoral care of the people of the diocese.


The Tribunal is regulated by the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law 1983 or more commonly referred to as Church Law. Its decisions only have effect in the Catholic church and have no civil law effects. It is supervised by the Judicial Vicar and staffed by other qualified personnel, in particular canon lawyers.


In 1987, the New Zealand Bishops Conference agreed to have the Tribunal of the Catholic Church established nationally for all cases including penal trials, declarations of nullity and cases of vindication of rights provided in canon law. Penal trials are conducted in accordance with church law for example, especially when crimes have been committed by clergy, religious and lay members.


A major function of the Tribunal is to process declaration of nullity cases, meaning inquiring as to whether the marriage is binding for life or not according to the laws of the Catholic Church. Whenever Catholics or non-Catholics have been previously married, this process must be done to establish whether they may enter into a new marriage in the Catholic Church or not. Thus, it assists the person by finding if a declaration of nullity might be possible. The Tribunal uses both the administrative and judicial procedures outlined in the Code of Canon Law to determine the nullity of a marriage.

The Tribunal strives to “care for the dignity of marriage and to work for the good of persons”[2], it seeks to administer justice and contribute to the Church’s ministry in “the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law of the Church”.[3]

[1] Code of Canon Law 1983, Canon 369, 1419

[2] Pope Pius XI

[3] Canon 1752

bottom of page