Source documents regarding mixed marriage becoming sacramental

During the Nov. 23 Catholic Answers podcast with Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, a caller (9m40s) asked about the requirement for convalidation of a marriage. As I understand it, a Catholic married a non-baptized person in a ceremony outside the Catholic church. The non-baptized person was subsequently baptized in the Catholic church. The bishop said that in that case, the marriage immediately became sacremental when the baptism took place and so convalidation is not required. Can someone please confirm that I am correctly understanding the situation and, if possible, point me to the canon law (or other Vatican document) on this subject? I am researching this for a related situation. Thanks in advance for your help and thanks to Catholic Answers for providing this forum.

I don’t see how an invalid marriage(the marriage of a Catholic outside the Church) suddenly becomes valid and sacramental. Now if they were married in the Church, then yes, once the non-baptized spouse received the sacrament of Baptism the marriage became sacramental.

Could it be that the couple originally married outside of Mass (the usual practice when marrying a non-baptized) and thought that once the baptism occurred they had to remarry with a Nuptial Mass?

As I understand it, this would only apply if neither spouse is Catholic.

If one or both people are unbaptized and neither Catholic, they have a valid natural marriage, which is a perfectly fine thing. THey cannot have a sacramental marriage as any two baptized people, (even non-Catholics,) may, because baptism is the sacrament that opens the way for all the other sacraments.

But when the unbaptized spouse gets baptized, all deficiencies are made up, including in the marriage. So automatically, the natural marriage would become a sacramental marriage. All this assumes there are no other impediments to a sacramental marriage.

Yes that is correct. It simply stems from the fact that a valid but non-Sacramental Mixed Marriage is not Sacramental because one of the persons is not Baptized. A valid Marriage between two Baptized persons is always Sacramental.

I listened to the program. There was no mention of the marriage being out of the church.

So yes as soon as the unbaptized spouse becomes baptized the natural marriage becomes sacramental because baptism is the gateway to the other sacraments.

Convalidation makes an invalid marriage valid by the giving and receiving of consent in the Catholic form.

A marriage that is already valid, but natural marriage, by virtue of one spouse being unbaptized, becomes a sacrament when the one who is unbaptized receives baptism.

Can. 1055 §1. The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.

§2. For this reason, a valid matrimonial contract cannot exist between the baptized without it being by that fact a sacrament.

I listened to the segment you refer to and nowhere does the caller state the marriage took place “outside the Church.” He only asks whether a marriage between a Catholic and a non-baptized person becomes a sacrament upon baptism. The answer to the question he asked was answered correctly by the Bishop on the show. The bishop presumed that the discussion was centered around a valid natural marriage.

You introduced another element in your question-- regarding convalidation of an invalid marriage. In the case where a Catholic marries “outside the Church” (meaning more precisely they marry without a dispensation from form or any dispensations needed to marry a non-baptized person) then they are in an invalid marriage. They would need to convalidate the marriage to make it valid. If their spouse is unbaptized, they can convalidate and will be in a valid natural marriage. If their spouse subsequently becomes baptized a Catholic or in another Christian denomination then the marriage would become a sacrament. A non-baptized person in an invalid marriage would not be admitted to the sacrament of baptism until they had first convalidated their marriage.

Thank you Seatuck and 1ke for pointing out that the caller does not state that the marriage was outside the church. I understood it that way because that is the case in the situation I’m attempting to figure out. The husband was baptized Catholic but his family left the Catholic church to attend a protestant church when he was a child. The wife was baptized in a Pentecostal church (non-Trinitarian baptism). The couple were faithful protestants and married in their church. Seventeen years later they were reconciled with the Catholic Church (wife was baptized). Is their marriage considered a valid natural marriage and therefore now sacramental? From Br. Rich SFO’s response, and the following references, I would conclude yes.

CCC 1631: “This is the reason why the Church normally requires that the faithful contract marriage according to the ecclesiastical form.” (In this case, the husband was a practicing protestant, and so not a faithful Catholic, and not expected to adhere to Catholic ecclesiastical form.)

Wikipedia entry on natural marriage:

“Do I Need and Annulment?” article written by two licentiates of canon law
"By the very fact that both the husband and the wife are baptized, their marriage becomes a sacrament. It is not a matter of where the wedding takes place or who officiates at the ceremony. Whether marriage is a sacrament is completely based upon the baptismal status of the parties."

However, the above article also contains the following paragraph, which may apply if the church is not concerned that he was a practicing protestant. It is not clear to me that even if the following paragraph applies, that the marriage would not be considered natural, and so automatically sacramental upon the baptism of the spouse.
“For Catholics, as a faith community, when at least one of the parties is Catholic, the Church requires the parties to express their desire to give themselves in marriage before a priest, deacon, or designated minister, with two witnesses. We call this the canonical form of marriage. If a Catholic desires to enter marriage with a non-Catholic, a dispensation (relaxation of the law) may be granted, allowing the parties to exchange their consent in another manner. Nevertheless, this kind of dispensation is the exception.”

This is not something that you will be able to definitively determine on this forum. This is a situation that needs to involve investigation by the competent Church authorities.

The man is considered Catholic regarding Canon Law marriage requirements. Formal defection can release someone from the requirement for the Catholic form of marriage, but merely leaving the Church is NOT formal defection. It has definite criteria that must be met. On its face, this is a case of a Catholic in an invalid marriage by reason of defect of form.

Now, that said, this should have all been sorted out BEFORE the wife was baptized. You say they were ‘reconciled’ with the Catholic Church. Perhaps the priest did all the necessary paperwork to correct the defect of form and you are simply not aware of it.

This is something that the couple in question must discuss with their priest. I’m not sure why you are involved in this. Truly, this is a matter for the two of them. You do not have all the facts of what may have occurred during the process of preparing the wife for baptism.

From what you posted above, the husband was a Baptized Catholic practicing a Protestant faith. It’s likely that the Marriage was not a valild marriage because no dispensation was granted and therefore when the non-Baptized person received Baptism the Marriage would also have to be convalidated. Whoever the situation needs vary careful investigation of the details to determine of the Baptized Catholic actually formally left the Catholic faith?

A bit OT, but in what way is a child considered responsible for the kind of thing described here? On the face of it, yes, the child was baptized in the Catholic Church. OTOH, he likely had no say in moving to a Protestant church, and it would be very difficult to say whether there was any chance for hm to actually have any instruction. I also recall an example of a child who was baptized a Catholic and later adopted and raised in a different Church. I believe in that instance the person was not considered to be under any kind of discipline of the CC. OTOH, even a pseron who’s parents never defected may well not actually know the “rules” he is supposed to follow. Is there some kind of guideline about such things? It seems in some ways it is making a child responsible for things outside of his control.

Yes. That is why the Church cares so much as to whether or not there is a well founded hope that a child will be raised Catholic before he is baptized. The child becomes subject to the laws of the Church by virtue of his baptism even though he did not chose to be baptized. It’s up to the parents to see that the child gains the advantages of a Catholic baptism.

We all bear the responsibility to have a right relationship with God by virtue of our creation even though we had no control over our creation.

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