Can This Civil Marriage Be Convalidated?

I just read an article by Jimmy Akin “Impotence As Impediment” and I have a question. Two of my friends were married by a justice of the peace about 15 years ago. Both had not been practicing Catholics until recently. Unfortunately, due to various severe health problems, he is now permanently impotent. They both would now like to receive the Sacrament of Marriage, but given Canon Law, can their marriage be convalidated at all?

There are two ways to validate a civil marriage.

  1. The couple exchanges marital vows in front of the proper clergy and witnesses. This makes the marriage valid from the point of these vows.

  2. The couple can apply to the bishop for a radical sanation. A radical sanation means that the bishop will accept the original civil vows as valid. This makes the marriage retroactively valid from the point of the original vows.

In the case you describe, it would seem that option #1 is not available since impotence would invalidate the current vows. If the individual was not impotent at the time of the original civil vows, then the Bishop should be able to accept them and validate the marriage from that point.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit