My husband and I teach RCIA at my local parish, which is a wonderful and difficult ministry. Obviously, we deal quite a bit with divorce and annulments and have read rather extensively on the subjects. Over the course of the year, our priest convalidates several marriages of all types, for example: a Catholic and an RCIA candidate (former Protestant, baptized Christian) who were married outside the Church, or two RCIA candidates (former Protestants, baptized Christians) who were married in their Protestant Church. He convalidates every marriage that falls into these categories as a matter of course.
My question is this: what exactly is the purpose of a convalidation? Is it to validate the marriage? If so, then how can any NonCatholic Christian marriage (between two baptized Christians, outside the Catholic Church) that has not been convalidated ever be found valid, that is non-annulable?
Is there a difference between a valid and a Sacramental marriage? Is our priest actually performing a “Sacramentation” so to speak instead of a “Convalidation?”
And finally, if there is a difference between valid and Sacramental, are only marriages that occur in the Catholic Church (or have been convalidated) Sacramental marriages?
Thank you for your time and effort!