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Now, Deacon O’Toole helps prepare people to go through the annulment process as part of his special ministry to divorced Catholics in the Diocese of Springfield, Ill.“Generally, I begin the process with our theology of marriage: why we believe what we believe and why the Catholic Church recognizes marriage between two Christians — just like baptism — as a sacrament, whether their denomination would call it that or not,” he said.We have to distinguish between a capacity-consent issue and just simple moral failing.” The Parish Phase The parish is the first point of contact in the annulment process, and it’s where many involved in ministry to divorced persons say a parish advocate can be crucial to preparing the facts for the application.In the last five years of his diaconate, Deacon O’Toole has helped 25 people who have come through his office obtain a declaration of nullity from the Church.

The tribunal makes the evidence available for review by both parties and their canon lawyers, who can submit their rebuttals.

[Updated July 24; see editors' note and corrections at article's end.] CHICAGO — Deacon Patrick O’Toole remembered how far away he felt from the Church 17 years ago.

He wasn’t a deacon then — his wife had left, divorced him and took his children.

“In these cases, all you need are the documents to show that’s the case,” he said, explaining these were among the most clear-cut declarations of nullity for the Church to grant.

However, the third category of grounds for annulment — and the most involved processes for tribunals — are marriages involving consent, where one or both of the spouses did not intend to embrace all the goods of marriage: permanence, exclusivity or openness to children, for example.

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