Marriage tribunal gets change in leadership

By Frank Flegel

REGINA — Rev. Thomas Nguyen wasn’t expecting to become the new director of the archdiocesan Marriage Tribunal when Regina Archbishop Daniel Bohan asked him to take a couple of years to study Canon Law at St. Paul’s University.

“I was going to take a sabbatical, but decided to go St. Paul’s when the bishop requested,” he said in an interview with the PM. Nguyen suffered detached retinas which prevented him from completing his licentiate so he was appointed director not judicial vicar of the Marriage Tribunal. His eyesite is improving and he expects to complete his licentiate in 2016 when the courses he needs to complete are offered again.

Nguyen describes himself as one of the boat people who escaped from communist Vietnam. He arrived in Canada 33 years ago, attended seminaries in British Columbia and Ontario and was ordained in 1993. He has served in parishes in the Regina archdiocese with his latest posting, pastor at Regina’s Holy Cross Parish when he was asked to attend St. Paul’s University, Ottawa.

Regina’s Marriage Tribunal is regional. Cases from district tribunals in Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and The Pas and Winnipeg are referred here where they are reviewed then sent to the Ottawa Tribunal for a final decision. Nguyen said Regina deals with about 14 cases a year and it takes upward of two years for the process to complete.

“If the appellants aren’t satisfied with Ottawa’s decision they can appeal to Rome,” said Nguyen. But that can stretch the process to 10 years. Appellants to the tribunal must first obtain a civil divorce before their petition can proceed because the civil courts do not recognize tribunal decisions. Nguyen said the record indicates that most petitions for an annulment are granted, but not all. Sometimes the petition is rejected.

It is not a divorce. It is an annulment. To annul is to declare invalid. In other words, if an annulment is granted it recognizes the marriage was not valid in the first place.

Current judicial vicar Rev. Andrei Kachur will retire at the end of October after serving for 20 years. He is a member of the Ukrainian eparchy and will return full time to his parish assignments in Montmartre where he looks after five Ukrainian parishes in the surrounding district. Kachur is mentoring Nguyen as he gets familiar with the staff and the routine of the office.

“I have a lot of work ahead of me,” said Nguyen.

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