Sacramental Marriage/annulment question


Annulment being the official recognition that a marriage was never valid and has been mistakenly lived as if it were valid, usually in order to permit one of the parties to marry another person validly.

What happens if a couple who are happy and holy discover that their marriage was not validly entered into? Would they be obliged then to marry validly, what would such a process look like?


They clear any invalidating factors (e.g., get nullity declarations taken care of for prior marriages), then have their marriage convalidated.

Now, on the other hand, there could be some issues that cannot be ordinarily resolved; for example, consanguinity problems, and, for those, they might have to request some sort of special dispensation. But that would be a complication, not a change in the process.


If a couple would discover that they are not validly married for some reason, and there is no current impediment, they can have their marriage convalidated, or blessed by the Church.


Convalidation. Mystery solved. Thanks!



I’ve known someone get an annulment after their spouse cheated and left.



Or Radical Sanation


But that would not fit the description in the OP of a couple who were happy and holy.


However, unless you read their petition or the decree of nullity, you have no idea whatsoever as to why the tribunal decided a decree of nullity. Adultery is not grounds for a decree, but it could possibly be evidence of other issues.


I believe radical sanation is only available when one of the parties will not cooperate in a convalidation.


It sounds as if there’s a lack of understanding here about what constitutes a valid vs. invalid marriage, and WHY one would determine that the marriage was not valid. First, let’s talk about what constitutes a valid and invalid marriage.

A valid marriage is one that was contracted free from impediments, AND (if one or both parties was Catholic at the time of the marriage) according to canon law. IF it can be proven on paper that the marriage is not valid (e.g. things like marriage outside the Church without dispensation, prior bond of marriage, being too closely related) the marriage is de facto invalid. Now, if it’s something relatively simple, like just not having had a Catholic wedding or not getting dispensation, a simple convalidation (or radical sanation) will make the marriage valid. Problem solved. If there’s a problem such as a prior bond of marriage, a declaration of nullity for any previous marriage(s) can be sought, and if and when that declaration is given, a simple convalidation or a radical sanation will make the marriage valid. If there’s a permanent impediment you can prove on paper (e.g. pre-existing, permanent impotence or being too closely related) a valid marriage is NEVER possible between these two people.

If it CANNOT be proven on paper that the marriage is invalid, it’s considered valid until proven otherwise. Marriage always enjoys the “favour of the law” meaning it’s considered valid until proven otherwise (similar to the “innocent until proven guilty” in a court of law). This means that factors that are more nebulous, such as coercion, intent not to have children, lack of understanding of the nature of marriage, etc. (things for which you need witnesses and evidence) require testimony from the petitioner, witnesses, and possibly the respondent (if the respondent chooses to participate) in order for the marriage to be declared invalid. In our area (Alberta) one is required to be legally divorced prior to seeking a declaration of nullity. (You have to provide a divorce certificate as part of the required paperwork.) Consequently, if there’s no tangible reason (i.e. one that can be proven on paper) for a marriage to be invalid, it’s valid until proven otherwise. Happily married couples without any visible impediments may consider themselves validly married.


Sometimes it happens that the priest does not have faculties, in which case, the marriage is made valid with a retroactive convalidation (radical sanation), which is possible even without notifying the couple. It can also be done for other impediments, where the consent is good and perdues. It can be granted without participation of one of the two, bride or groom. If it is a matter of invalid consent, and it it occult, then no external forum validation is required, it becomes valid when the consent is privately made good.


Radical sanation is a decree by a bishop that he accepts the marriage as valid; it is due to the application of one of the parties, usually when the other party will not cooperate in a convalidation ceremony.


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