Convalidation Ceremony Question - sorry long post


I have recently spoken to our Pastor and he said that we should (& could) have our marriage Convalidated. My husband was a fallen-away Catholic and I was nothing (we attended several protestant churches as I was growing up, but I had never been baptized) when we got married. My mother was having a stroke about us getting married in the Church and since my husband was not attending it was not an issue to us at the time (though we did not get married in a Methodist church as she wanted either; my husband did not know he needed permission to do this either). We found a non-denominational church and brought in our own minister.

Let me explain what went on and why I thought we were ok.

Almost 25 years ago we were married by a minister that was a friend of my uncle in a ceremony from the 1800’s (we wanted a traditional ceremony, and it even had the dreaded “Obey” in it, which I said). Before the marriage we discussed that no matter what, divorce was never a possibility, and while we used birth control at the beginning of our marriage it was clear that God was not behind it so we stopped (we eventually had 2 babies and 4 miscarriges in all).

When I was pregnant with our first child (had already had two miscarriages and stopped using birth control), I decided that I wanted to become Catholic. Our 1st son was actually baptized a few months before I was. The priest that ran the RCIA program at the parish we lived next door to at the time and basically said that we did not need to get remarried in the church and that once I was baptized we were good to go.

After falling away for a while, I have been regularly attending Mass for the past 4+ years. In that time I have learned that some of the things that priest told me were not quite accurate, like the no needing to get our marriage convalidated, that he felt priests would be able to be married in his lifetime (he was in his 60’s and he retired shortly after I became Catholic), basically said that it was ok to be a cafeteria Catholic (but not in those words) and that he believed that we all worship the same God, it is just how people are comfortable worshiping (including Muslims, Buddists…). This was over 20 years ago, in the early 90’s.

After hearing about the validation of marriages on Catholic Answers, I started wondering if we really were good to go. I spoke to our Pastor and he said the priest was incorrect, and we should have the convalidation ceremony, most people do it around their anniversary, it can be big or small… Personally I would be happy with just our two boys and our two grandchildren present, so the actual ceremony is not the issue.

This brings me to my question. My husband really feels we are married in the eyes of God but if it will make me happy he will do the convalidation ceremony. Our “25th” Anniversary is this year in October. My husband wants to wait until our anniversary to do the convalidation. We both know what it entails to wait, but are we being silly in waiting? I was trying to decide to either have our marriage blessed for our anniversary, or go away for a couple of weeks to celebrate our 25th. If we wait, then we can’t go away when we planned, which is not a big deal, we could just change our plans. We waited 2.5 years to get “married,” so waiting 9 months to be married in the Church is not that long to us.

The real question is waiting for 9 months to do it on our anniversary right? I would love some advice on this. Bless you and thank you for your responses!



If your husband feels that you are married in the eyes of God, you could also talk to your Pastor about a Radical Sanation. It would validate your original marriage, as if your Husband received a dispensation to get married outside the Church.

God Bless


If it were me and as you said you don’t desire a big ceremony I would do it right away. Either way it is you and your husbands call. I am just happy you are doing it.


I’d also talk to the pastor about radical sanation.


I read through the paperwork for the radical sanction and it said that both parties needed to be baptized. I was not at the time if the marriage, so would we be able to do that?


I am not sure what you are looking at, there is no requirement that both parties be baptized.


If it was me, I would do the convalidation as soon as it could be arranged, and not wait for the anniversary. If I were opting for a larger ceremony, then I’d consider waiting, especially if there was travel necessary for family/relatives that would be invited.

But it’s really up to you and your husband. :thumbsup:


Sorry, I was reading it on my phone regarding both parties being baptized. It was reffering to the children being legitimate if both parents were baptized. (, under Note, #2 C.)

A radical sanction is retroactive to the time the civil marriage took place. Is the Convalidation also? I would like to have it validated back to when we got married, or at least until I was baptized. :slight_smile:

I would also like to thank everyone that has commented thus far! I really appreciate your help and suggestions.


A convalidation is not retroactive. It is valid as of the date it is done.

We both know what it entails to wait, but are we being silly in waiting?

Nine months is a long time but I don’t think it’s “silly” to want the dates to line up. If you were only recently married civilly, it would be one thing but you have two generations of family members who know one anniversary date. That’s not a trivial reason.


Ok, now I am freaking out. Because of information from the priest that conducted my RCIA, I thought our marriage was valid from the beginning. I specifically asked him if we needed to get remarried (I did not know about the convalidation or the radical sanction, and I do not remember either of those terms mentioned, and since I had been concerned about our marriage I think I would have if he had mentioned them) and he told me no, that once I was baptized our marriage would be valid in the eyes of the church. Now we will be “married” for 25 years and not be valid until we do the convalidation, and only valid moving forward from that date.

Is there any provision for having it the radical sanction in a case where the parties were misinformed?

My husband tells people that I learned more in RCIA than he did his catechism classes as a child, but apparently half of it was wrong.

I guess I will have to wait for our Pastor to get back from his vacation and ask him about the radical sanction. I am seriously frustrated. :mad:

And I know that this is not the Church’s fault, it is a mistake on one person’s part. I know some people freak out when things don’t go as planned and blame the Church as a whole, but it is not the Church’s mistake.

Thank you all again for your help with this.


Could the priest have thought that your husband was not a Catholic back then? No mater, since he was Catholic, there was no marriage.

In both simple convalidation and retroactive convalidation, the mariage is valid from the moment of the grant (i.e., a new marriage). With retroactive convalidation new consent is not given, because the original consent, that perdues, is used, and there is a dispensation from form, and no celebration. The simple convalidation has new consent and celebration. There may be other dispensations added also, as needed, for both kinds.


You don’t need any “provision” to exercise radical sanation. You are overthinking this, I think, and getting freaked out by your own research.

Let’s take it from the top:

When you entered the Church, you asked if you needed to “remarry” (which would be a convalidation) and the priest mistakenly told you “no”. You now know that was incorrect.

You have two paths to convalidation:

  1. Simple convalidation in which you and your spouse exchange new consent before a priest or deacon and (at least) two witnesses, and the marriage becomes valid at that point.

  2. Radical sanation, which is a type of convalidation that does not involve the new exchange of consent. The bishop grants the sanation and accepts the original consent.

Either way, I see no reason to be freaked out.


The priest that did the RCIA did know that my husband was Catholic. (My husband did not know that he needed a dispensation at the time we married).

Since my cradle Catholic husband does not really think it is necessary (because he thinks we are married in the eyes of God - he said he would do it for me, but…I am slowly trying to get him to back to the Church, and would not want anything to push him further away) I think I will ask our Pastor about the radical sanction. To find out 23 years after you tried to fix the situation that you are not really sacramentally married is quite a shock.

Thank you all for your answers and suggestions! I truly appreciate them!


How is the OP’s situation not a natural marriage?


Because the husband is a baptized Catholic at the time of the attempt, he is bound to be married with approval of the Catholic Church, and failing that, it is neither a natural marriage nor a sacramental marriage.


So only the retroactive would work, because for simple convalidation both must acknowledge it was null from the beginning, and he could not.

CIC Canon 1157 (for simple convalidation)
******The renewal of consent must be a new act of the will concerning a marriage which the renewing party knows or thinks was null from the beginning.



If we want to get really technical, this couple would not have a “convalidation” as the term is used in cc. 1156-1160. (This was made clear in by the Apostolic Signatura in 2005 and 2007). What they can do is either marry in the Church according to canonical form or ask for the sanation. If they exchange consent, they don’t need to know or accept that the marriage is invalid. Their consent only has to be in accord with cc. 1095-1103.



That is true that there is more than one way to proceed, as you said. The original poster specifically asked about convalidation, so I limited it.

Regarding terminology, both simple and sanation convalidate, as can be seen in the canon law (CIC 1983).[LEFT]CAPUT X
Art. 1

[LEFT]Can. 1156 — § 1. Ad convalidandum matrimonium irritum ob impedimentum dirimens, requiritur ut cesset impedimentum vel ab eodem dispensetur, et consensum renovet saltem pars impedimenti conscia.

[LEFT]Art. 2

[LEFT]Can. 1161 — § 1. Matrimonii irriti sanatio in radice est eiusdem, sine renovatione consensus, convalidatio, a competenti auctoritate concessa, secumferens dispensationem ab impedimento, si adsit, atque a forma canonica, si servata non fuerit, necnon retrotractionem effectuum canonicorum ad praeteritum.

§ 2. Convalidatio fit a momento concessionis gratiae; retrotractio vero intellegitur facta ad momentum celebrationis matrimonii, nisi aliud expresse caveatur.

§ 3. Sanatio in radice ne concedatur, nisi probabile sit partes in vita coniugali perseverare velle.[/LEFT]



Yes, there are two forms of convalidation. The bottom line is that I agree with you, although my reasoning is different–“simple convalidation” is not possible in this case. That’s a technicality that isn’t worth getting into any further because the chances are about 99.99998% that if this couple goes ahead with exchanging consent in canonical form, it will be called a “convalidation” by everyone involved.

Anyway, to the OP: don’t think you are in a unique situation. I hope and pray your pastor can suggest the proper course of action.


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