Statement Regarding New Marriage Nullity Process

11 Sept 2015

PISCATAWAY, NJ – The Diocese of Metuchen has announced that Cardinal McCarrick/St. Mary’s High School in South Amboy will not reopen in the fall. Current and incoming students will have the option to attend the Bishop Ahr High School in Edison, also a diocesan school.
Once an academic institution with close to 500 students at its full capacity, according to the diocese, only 210 students are registered for the 2015-16 academic year, and that is not enough to keep the high school open.
The closing of Cardinal McCarrick will not impact Sacred Heart Elementary School, part of the Raritan Bay Catholic Prep campus, which currently has enrollment of 220 students in pre-k through grade eight.
The decision to close Cardinal McCarrick/St. Mary’s High School was made by the diocesan Office of Schools, in consultation with the diocesan Department of Temporal Affairs and the Diocesan Catholic Schools Commission, and was accepted by Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski.
The Diocese of Metuchen, which oversees the administration of the school, cited a number of factors that influenced the closing including diminishing enrollment, ongoing need for capital improvements, and changing demographics, resulting in fewer area families who are choosing to send their children to the high school. There also is a growing need for new technology and other academic advances.
All of these factors have resulted in a continually growing subsidy – amounting to about $1.8 million annually – that the diocese is unable to sustain. According to diocesan officials, over the past five years alone, the diocese has invested over $7.3 million in operating Cardinal McCarrick High School.
“This is a very difficult and emotional decision and was not taken lightly by anyone involved,” said Ellen Ayoub, diocesan Superintendent of Schools. “It was not just one factor that led to the decision. The accumulated weight of so many issues indicated that there was no option but to close the school.”
Ayoub emphasized that, “The Schools Office is committed to helping ensure a smooth transition as possible for all those affected.” She said, Cardinal McCarrick students who choose to attend Bishop Ahr this Fall are guaranteed that their agreed upon tuition for the 2015-16 academic year will remain the same.
The superintendent noted that because of a larger enrollment – currently around 750 students – Bishop Ahr can offer more educational opportunities and extracurricular activities for students including a larger campus; updated facilities; onsite athletic fields; more advanced technologies used in instruction; and expanded academic programs. Bishop Ahr’s campus ministry program is well regarded, she said. The school’s more than 50 afterschool activities, “give the students more opportunities to serve in leadership roles and to explore their interests.”
Ayoub said Cardinal McCarrick/St. Mary’s High School administration and the diocese have worked closely together over the past eight years, at least, to find ways to help the school to grow and prosper. About five years ago, a task force made up of diocesan personnel, school administrators, faculty and staff, was formed to focus on key areas including student enrollment and retention, curriculum development, finance management, facilities management, fundraising, marketing and advertising, and college placement.
“It was a true partnership between the school and the diocese. Everyone was fully committed and wanted to see it work,” said Ayoub. “Despite our best attempt, our collective efforts have not yielded the results we all had hoped for given the long history of the school and its significance in the surrounding community.”
Bishop Ahr will hold open house information sessions for Cardinal McCarrick students and their parents on May 28, June 3 and June 8. Parents can call 732-549-1108 for more information.
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As reported in various media outlets, on September 8, 2015, His Holiness Pope Francis issued two major documents reforming the judicial system of the Catholic Church in the area of the marriage law. One of the documents, Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (“The Lord Jesus, Clement Judge”) applies to tribunals of the Latin Rite, and so affects the Diocese of Metuchen.

Among the reforms introduced by Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus are four changes that address the desire of the Pope and many bishops to accelerate the process in processing cases involving an allegation of marriage nullity:

1. The removal of the requirement of two affirmative decisions before the parties can enter a new marriage in the Church.  Under the new norms, an affirmative decision rendered by our Tribunal is sufficient.  Only if an appeal is made by the responding party will a decision be examined by our appeals tribunal, the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Newark.

2. All diocesan tribunals in the Church can now utilize a single judge in marriage cases.  (This permission has been in effect in United States since 1984 and our tribunal uses a single judge on many cases.)  The new norms also allow for two of the three collegiate judges on a marriage case to be non-clerics.  Formerly, only one lay judge could serve on a college of three judges.  

3. Certain cases can now be decided directly by the diocesan bishop through an expedited process (processus brevior). The evidence of nullity in such cases must be abundant and both parties firmly convinced their union was null. This expedited process reflects Pope Francis’s commitment to sharing responsibility with the diocesan Bishops around the world.

4. Under the new norms, the tribunal of a petitioner is fully competent to accept his or her petition.  Previously, respondent’s judicial vicar had to give consent and the parties had to live in the same episcopal conference if the marriage did not take place in the petitioner’s diocese.

These reforms instituted by Pope Francis take effect on December 8, 2015, the beginning of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.  However, parishioners are encouraged not to wait until December 8 to submit a petition.

The ministry of our diocesan Tribunal is sensitive to the fact that each petition for nullity it receives is unique and represents the pain and anguish experienced by individuals whose marriage unfortunately resulted in a civil divorce. 

Please feel free to contact the Tribunal (732.562.1990, extension 1200) if you have any questions or wish to submit a petition to the Tribunal for consideration.

Download the Statement Regarding New Marriage Nullity Process (PDF)