Question

Is there anyway an invalid marriage can be rendered valid?

Answer

Let’s say that there is nothing like a previous, putative marriage that needs to be taken care of first (through a decree of nullity), and maybe you both still have a valid matrimonial consent, your marriage can be rendered valid using a canon law procedure described as radical sanation.

This term comes from the Latin phrase sanatio in radice, meaning “healing in the root.” In line with the Code of Canon Law, “The radical sanation of an invalid marriage is its convalidation without the renewal of consent” (CIC 1161:1). This simply means you do not have to go through a new marriage ceremony.

For a radical sanation to take place, several conditions must apply.

Firstly, “A radical sanation is not to be given unless it is probable that the parties intend to persevere in conjugal life” (CIC 1161:3). If there isĀ evidence the one or both of the parties intends anything less than a permanent marriage, radical sanation is removed.

Secondly, “A marriage cannot be radically sanated if consent is lacking in either or both of the parties” (CIC 1162:1). You and your spouse must have valid agreement relating to your marriage, and this agreement must exist simultaneously in the two of you. At some point, you must have consented freely to the marriage in a way that did not exclude any of the crucial properties of marriage (monogamy, fidelity, permanence, and openness to children). This agreement is presumed to have been given in your marriage ceremony outside the Church unless there is evidence otherwise (CIC 1107), and the agreement is presumed to exist at the present unless one party has proved otherwise.

Thirdly, any hindrance that exists must be treated. Many of these can be resolved as part of the radical sanation itself. In general, “A marriage which is not valid as a result of an impediment or due to the defect of legitimate form can be sanated in as much as the agreement of each party continues to exist” (CIC 1163:1). This would apply in your case because your marriage was invalid as a result of a defect of form (you failed to get a dispensation for a marriage ceremony outside the Church).

Some hindrances cannot be eliminated in this manner: “A marriage which is invalid due to a hindrance of the natural law or of divine positive law can be sanated only after the hindrance has ceased to exist” (CIC 1163:2). Instances of such hindrances include having a previous marriage bond or total, permanent impotence (which is

different from sterility). The first instance can cease to exist if the previous spouse is dead or if one has obtained a decree of nullity to show that there never was a valid marriage in the first place.

If your spouse would have an extremely bad reaction to the sanation method, then, for the sake of domestic peace, he would not need to be told about it: “A sanation can be granted validly even when one or both of the parties are not aware of it, but it is not to be granted except for serious reason” (CIC 1164). The extreme reaction of your spouse could count as the serious reason required for this.

Most times your local bishop would be the one giving the sanation: “In individual cases radical sanation can be given by the diocesan bishop, even if several reasons for nullity exist in the same marriage, providedĀ the conditions mentioned in canon 1125 concerning the sanation of a mixed marriage are accomplished” (CIC 1165:2).

Chief among the latter is the condition that “the Catholic party is to proclaim that he or she is ready to remove dangers of defecting from the faith and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her authority in order that all the children be baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church” (CIC 1125). In other words, you must promise to remain a Catholic and to do what you can to see that your children will be Catholics.

Also, talk to your parish priest or the marriage tribunal at your diocese to find out about obtaining a radical sanation.

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