Diocesan Tribunal moves from east Fort Worth to St. Patrick campus

by Juan Guajardo

North Texas Catholic

February 20, 2020

Sara Paglialunga, at center, with the staff of the diocesan Tribunal at their new office.  (NTC/Juan Guajardo)Sara Paglialunga, at center, with the staff of the diocesan Tribunal at their new office.  (NTC/Juan Guajardo)
Sara Paglialunga, at center, with the staff of the diocesan Tribunal at their new office. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)


FORT WORTH — The staff for the Diocese of Fort Worth’s Tribunal started off 2020 in a new home, a one-story but large open-floor-plan space just across the street from St. Patrick Cathedral’s Religious Formation Building.

The new space was formerly St. Patrick’s annex building. Parking is available on the west and east sides of the building, which was remodeled to offer a more welcoming space for couples applying for a declaration of nullity.

“This place is probably easier to reach for everyone,” Rotal Lawyer and Tribunal Judge Sara Paglialunga said. “It's a central position and, of course, it’s the tribunal of the bishop so we are closer to St. Patrick and the rectory where the bishop lives. We are super happy and grateful being here. [Diocesan officials] moved us here for the good of everybody in the diocese.”

While the building has no signage indicating “Tribunal Offices” due to security reasons, a sign clearly pointing out the address, 229 Texas Street, Fort Worth, 76102, is in the works.

Despite the moving and relocation process, the tribunal has stayed on top of cases and delivering sentences. The staff has completely sifted through a backlog dating back to 2013, concluding all cases older than 2018, and beginning some 2019 cases under the briefer marriage nullity process mandated by Pope Francis in his 2015 document Mitus Iudex Dominus Iesus (“The Lord Jesus, Gentle Judge”).

To qualify for the expedited process, the petitioners must meet certain criteria, namely that both spouses “agree about the declaration of nullity of the marriage, and both say the marriage was invalid from the beginning for the same reasons,” Paglialunga said.

map of new Tribunal office
The new Tribunal office is located at 229 Texas Street, two blocks south of St. Patrick Cathedral.

In those situations, the duration of a case averages only seven months. In 2019, seven such cases were initiated and are almost completed, and the team has already begun two briefer cases this year.

For an average case, the duration is currently 16 months, with a goal of reducing that to 12 months in the near future.

“We need the time from a practical point of view because for the investigation, marriage is a sacrament,” Paglialunga explained. “Every marriage is unique. We need to prove that the marriage was invalid since the beginning and that there was never a sacrament, so that requires time. But if we had the cooperation of the parties and of the witnesses, that's going to make it easier and the process is going to take less time.”

Taking notice of that efficiency, the Vatican sent Bishop Michael Olson a letter last year congratulating him for the good work his Tribunal was doing.

Despite the efficiency of the annulment process in the Diocese of Fort Worth, the team’s emphasis is on being pastoral and helping people going through a very tough time, Paglialunga said.

“We here work on annulment of marriages and people that call us are emotionally wrecked,” she said. “So, we don’t just do the job of judge or notary. We also need to be very compassionate and understanding.”

For more information on the Tribunal Office, please visit fwdioc.org/tribunal-en.

The Tribunal team

FORT WORTH — The staff for the Diocese of Fort Worth’s Tribunal started off 2020 in a new home, a one-story but large open-floor-plan space just across the street from St. Patrick Cathedral’s Religious Formation Building.

Published (until 2/20/2035)