Radical Sanation (Sanatio in Radice) or Blessing?


My query involves an interpretation CIC 1161-1163:1) and concerns the issue of whether a person who has invalid marriage must obtain a radical sanation or merely a blessing from the pastor to validate the union. The facts are as follows: one spouse was baptized Catholic but her parents failed to bring her up in the faith and she was never confirmed, such that she never knew anything about canon law rules on marriage. The other was not Catholic and was, in fact, anti-Catholic at times since he was religiously Protestant. Those two marry each other civilly at a relative’s home. Many years later (over 10), the anti-Catholic converts and is received into the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil–with the spouse being formally confirmed that same night after both went to RCIA. An issue arises many years after the the conversion and confirmation of the spouses and it concerns the validity of the marriage.

(1) Is it not true that the one who would be compelled to seek radical sanation (if applicable at all since the spouse was never confirmed prior to marriage) would be the one baptized Catholic, not the the-then Protestant spouse who years later converted?

(2) Could it ever be said in the future that the spouse who married outside the Catholic Church (the then non-Catholic) is impeded from holy orders because he participated in a civil ceremony at some point years ago when he was not a Catholic and, presumably, would not be under the canon law applicable to Catholics and the Church?


Not really clear on what you’re asking.

With the scenario you describe, there are two options.

*]A simple convalidation where the two exchange consent before the priest/deacon in the presence of two witnesses or, if one does not want to repeat the vows because he/she feels that the marriage is already valid,
*]a radical sanation which is an administrative process. The radical sanation is usually a last resort with simple convalidation the preferred method.
Not sure where Holy Orders comes into the picture. Are you asking if, should the man become a widower, he would be prevented from being ordained based on the previous invalid marriage?


Correct. At least in my diocese they won’t even consider a radical sanation unless for valid reasons a convalidation is impossible. I was in a similar situation, I married an unbaptized woman in a civil ceremony when I was a lapsed Catholic. Neither of us had any impediments (i.e. previous marriages). Eventually I came back and my wife became a baptized Anglican.

I thought a radical sanation would be simpler but was told “nyet” by the diocese: convalidate your marriage, which is what, in the end, we did. Fortunately my wife was very supportive.

I too don’t understand the holy orders question. Perhaps the husband is thinking of the permanent diaconate (which ordination is part of the sacrament of holy orders)? I would think what matters is that one is a Catholic in good standing, with some demonstrated years of stability behind you.


Yes, gentlemen, the issue is whether the man who’s thinking of entering the seminary to be ordained to the diaconate (permanent) is permanently impeded from doing so because he has taken part in a civil ceremony of marriage even though it was long ago and he was not a catholic when it transpired. In other words, he would not have married civilly were he a catholic when he met his wife, but is he, in essence, viewed as having participated in violating catholic canon law even though not a catholic (at the time of the “offense”) since he has never done anything about his marital status (which was never discussed during his time in RCIA)?


I’ll skip responding to the earlier part, in light of what you just wrote.

The answer is that no, he is not impeded from seeking ordination. That does not mean that there aren’t other issues.

The only impediments to ordination are mentioned in Article 3, found here
Can. 1040 Those affected by any impediment, whether perpetual, which is called an irregularity, or simple, are prevented from receiving orders. The only impediments incurred, however, are those contained in the following canons.

Technically, the situation you describe is not an impediment.

However, since he is now in an irregular marriage, that in itself would prevent him from being ordained (although it is not technically an “impediment” as such). In this case, canon 1029 would apply, though it does not define an impediment.

Can. 1029 Only those are to be promoted to orders who, in the prudent judgment of their own bishop or of the competent major superior, all things considered, have integral faith, are moved by the right intention, have the requisite knowledge, possess a good reputation, and are endowed with integral morals and proven virtues and the other physical and psychic qualities in keeping with the order to be received.

Although there is no mention in canon law that a man in an irregular marriage situation (ie, an invalid attempt at marriage) is impeded from ordination (oddly enough), it’s hard to reconcile that situation with canon 1029.

If he does go through with a convalidation, and would thereby be in a valid, sacramental marriage, there would be no canonical reason why he could not be ordained. Keeping in mind, of course, that the bishop would have to determine if he is an appropriate candidate (as he does with every candidate).


Thank you for that information, Father. The convert spouse is talking about doing a convalidation/blessing with the local priest soon before he has to turn in the application. I imagine the marriage would be viewed as valid going back the twenty years or whatever it is.


A convalidation makes the situation a valid marriage from the moment of the convalidation–it’s not retroactive.

A radical sanation (healing at the root) however, is retroactive (unless there’s a very specific provision to the contrary).

By all means, he should certainly have the situation resolved before applying for the diaconate. Even though it’s not a canonical impediment as such (since impediments are very strictly defined), it would still prevent him from being ordained, or even admitted to the program.

Please keep in mind that what I’m posting here is for discussion purposes. Your friend should not ask for a sanation instead of a convalidation based on what you’re reading here. He should talk to his pastor and work with him. It might sound better (here on the internet) to go the route of a sanation because it’s retroactive, but remember we’re just having a discussion. He needs to trust his own pastor and the vocation director on which route to take.


Thank you, Father.


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