Frequently Asked Questions
A Decree of Invalidity (what Catholics commonly call an “annulment”) is an official declaration by a Church tribunal that a couple’s valid civil marriage was not actually a sacramental marriage as understood by the Catholic Church. A Decree of Invalidity is different from a legal divorce, which in civil law dissolves a valid civil marriage. As a result of a Decree of Invalidity, a person is free to marry in the Catholic Church.
When an individual petitions for a Decree of Invalidity, the diocese’s Marriage Tribunal investigates the couple’s marriage in order to determine if one or both partners were willing and able to enter into a sacramental covenant at the time they were married. The Tribunal does not determine who is to blame for the failure of the marriage, but determines the intention of the partners at the time of the marriage.
To obtain a Decree of Invalidity, an individual must petition the Marriage Tribunal and provide information about the marriage. This process begins when an individual contacts the pastor or a parish staff member who is trained to guide an individual through the petition process. Individuals must be legally divorced before filing a petition for a Decree of Invalidity.
The process of obtaining a Decree of Invalidity may take several months or several years. The process relies on the written testimony of witnesses and the former spouse, if he or she agrees to participate in the Tribunal’s investigation. There is a suggested fee for a Decree of Invalidity which covers part of the costs of the Tribunal’s work, but an individual is never denied a Decree of Invalidity if they are unable to pay.
A Decree of Invalidity, like a legal divorce, does not affect the legitimacy of children born to a couple during the civil marriage.
• To petition for a Decree of Invalidity, contact the parish office in the parish where you participate or another local parish.
There are a variety of reasons why Catholics decide to attend another church on a regular basis. Some do so because they are in a relationship with or are married to a person who attends that church. Others do so because they have been alienated from or feel unwelcome in the Catholic Church, or because they disagree with what the Church teaches. Some do so because they have spiritual needs which are not being adequately met in a Catholic parish.
Whatever your reason, you may find that attending another church seems like the right thing to do and is an important part of your spiritual life at a particular stage in your faith journey. Over time, however, you may begin to feel like something important is missing in your spiritual life. Many Catholics who regularly attended another church say that they eventually came back to the Catholic church because they missed its deep sense of sacramentality, particularly the Eucharist; the church’s long heritage; or its definitive moral and doctrinal teaching.
Many Catholics who attend another church still consider themselves Catholics, even though they do not participate regularly in the worship or sacramental life of the Catholic faith community. Generally, membership in the Catholic Church presumes active participation in the sacramental and spiritual life of the Church, but in fact persons who are baptized Catholic remain members of the Catholic Church unless they have formally and publicly renounced their membership.
The Catholic Parishes in Waterloo welcome the opportunity to talk more with Catholics who regularly attend another church even if you do not plan to resume active participation in the Catholic Church at the present time.
• If you are a Catholic who regularly attends another church, you are always welcome to visit with a pastor, a parish staff person or a spiritual guide about your spiritual life and your past, present or future relationship to the Catholic church.
he Catholic parishes in Waterloo welcome individuals and families who are interested in joining the Catholic faith community or are interested in learning more about the Catholic faith.
For individuals who have never been baptized or catechized in the Christian faith, the parishes provide the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Individuals may enter the RCIA at any time during the year. A period of formal preparation and study usually begins in September and continues for about 12 months. This process usually includes the celebration of the sacraments of Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation at the Easter Vigil.
For individuals who have been baptized, catechized, and participating regularly in another mainline Christian tradition, the parishes offer the Rite of Christian Reception of Adults. This period of formal preparation and study begins at regular intervals throughout the year and lasts for about eight weeks. It usually culminates in a Profession of Faith and celebration of the sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation at a Sunday liturgy.
Both Rites offer a combination of personal preparation and spiritual discernment in a small group format, private consultation with the parish’s Director of Initiation, and public liturgical ceremonies which celebrate the individual’s gradual incorporation into the Catholic faith community.
Divorce is a devastating personal and spiritual experience under the best of circumstances. The Catholic parishes in Waterloo are eager to support our sisters and brothers who are separated, divorced and remarried.
If you are a divorced Catholic, the most important thing you should know is that divorced persons are not excommunicated from the Church.
A Catholic who is divorced and not remarried is a Catholic in good standing, and is entitled to participate fully in all aspects of the spiritual and sacramental life of the Church. So is a Catholic who is divorced, has obtained a Decree of Invalidity (an “annulment”), and has validly remarried in the Church.
A Catholic who is divorced and remarried without a Decree of Invalidity is still a member of the Church and may participate in a limited way in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Church.
For example, a Catholic who is divorced and remarried without a Decree of Invalidity may attend Mass; participate in communal celebrations of Reconciliation; be anointed when in danger of death; have a Catholic funeral and be buried in a Catholic cemetery; have their children baptized and enrolled in a Catholic school or religious education program. They may not receive Holy Communion at Mass; be absolved in confession; serve as a catechist, teacher, Godparent or Confirmation sponsor; or serve in other public ministries or leadership positions.
• If you are a Catholic who is divorced and remarried or planning to remarry outside the Church, visit with a pastor, a parish staff person or a confessor about your status in the parish community and/or the possibility of obtaining an annulment.
The Catholic parishes in Waterloo welcome the opportunity to support and encourage Catholic families who are celebrating the life and mourning the death of a loved one.
When a family member dies, you may contact the parish directly. However, it is also possible to wait until you have met with the funeral director, who will consult with the parish about the time of the vigil service and funeral Mass. The funeral director may also schedule a time for family members to meet with the pastor or a member of the parish staff.
When family members meet with the pastor or parish staff they will have an opportunity to select the scripture readings, music and other arrangements they wish to incorporate into the vigil service or the funeral Mass. Family members will have an opportunity to talk about the loved one’s life, so that important aspects about the person can be incorporated into the homily at the vigil or funeral Mass.
Special arrangements can be made in cases where the deceased has donated their organs or body to medical research. Funeral and burial services can also be arranged for Catholics who wish to be cremated.
Parish facilities are usually available after the funeral if the family wishes to make arrangements for a luncheon.
In some parishes the vigil is conducted by a deacon or the pastoral associate. A deacon or parish staff member may also preside at the funeral service and burial if the family decides not to have a funeral Mass.
• For more information about arranging for a funeral, contact the parish office in the parish where you participate.