Tribunal of the Diocese of Winona
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Cristo Giudice, Bl. Fra Angelico, Chapel of San Brizio, Orvieto (1447)
Our Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed that His mission on earth did not consist of condemning and judging man but of saving him (John 12:47). At the same time, as the Risen Lord of glory, the Father has entrusted all judgment to Him (John 5:4), and the Church proclaims every Sunday and solemnity: Et iterum venturus est cum gloria, iudicare vivos et mortuos ("and He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead"). Christ Jesus, then, is a merciful judge.
The bishops of the Church are vicars of Christ in their dioceses, and as such they have been entrusted with all the power necessary for leading God's people to sanctification and salvation. The diocesan bishop has legislative, executive, and judicial power and exercises it for the good of souls in his diocese (Code of Canon Law, canon 391, §1). His ordinary organ for exercising judicial power is the diocesan tribunal. In imitation of Jesus Christ, it is the goal of the Winona Tribunal to be compassionate and merciful as well as just and faithful to the truth.
Brief Background on Contention in the Church
From the beginning of the life of the Church, there have regrettably been conflicts among members of the household of faith. Christ the Lord Himself alluded to this and provided a procedure for resolution when He said the following:
If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matt 18:15-18).
It is greatly preferred that the faithful resolve all conflicts privately and amicably; but when this is ineffective and a true good is at stake, the intervention of the Church may be needed. On such occasions the faithful have a right to approach their local diocesan tribunal. Most often this is done when one wishes to accuse his marriage of nullity in order to regain the freedom to marry or to clarify his status in the Church.