Reflections

Reflection on “Problems of Simple Convalidation and Sanatio in Radice”


Ganter’s article contrasting simple convalidations with radical convalidations or sanations is a very helpful article.  The issue of convalidation is a very pertinent issue especially today.  Since so many Catholics are raised in, or willingly enter into, a secular mindset on marriage, many Catholics get married invalidly.  Through God’s grace, some do come back into the life of the Church especially through Sacraments like Baptism or a search for the Truth.  Those raised Catholics who then married invalidly and wish to remain with their spouse while being in full communion with the Church, their marriage must be convalidated to fully return to the life of the Church.

It seems fair to say that many, if not most of the convalidations alluded to are a result of a diriment impediment, often being a lack of canonical form (Canon…).  Again, these are fairly common since, as was previously stated, many do not understand that to which they are obliged to do being baptized Catholics.  Of course, a lack of catechesis is only part of the story; the individual’s themselves are culpable in most cases as well.  (Barring, perhaps, those who are invincibly ignorant in regards to their obligations and the Church in general.)

Simple Convalidation

A simple convalidation is the more common of the two types of convalidations.  As Ganter states, it “is effected by renewal of consent, and, if needed, a dispensation from an existing impediment.”[1]  A dispensation, of course, is no longer needed if it no longer presents an obstacle Perhaps, for example, a couple married outside of the canonical form due to their informal departure from the Church, but is now willing to be married with the proper form. Since in this case, the couple is not requesting a dispensation of canonical form, no specific dispensation would be required, but a convalidation would still be necessary.

For a simple validation, the couple must renew their consent or, in other words, there must be a new act of the will consenting to the marriage.  As Ganter states, “There is required a new act of the will distinct from the first giving of consent, that is, a new consent is necessary, so that it never suffices merely to confirm the words or signs of the prior consent.”[2]  This is contrary to the misguided and commonly misconstrued view that the Church can “bless” an invalid marriage.

For example, a couple wishes to get married on the beach, but without a dispensation to do so.  A local priest might say, “The Church can bless your marriage at a later date.” This is, of course, most likely well-intentioned, but is still erroneous.  Again, Ganter makes the teaching very clear when he states, “The renewal of consent must be given with knowledge of the nullity of the marriage, otherwise there can be no new consent distinct from the original.”[3]  A “blessing” gives the erroneous view that a marriage existed and that the Church is just now acknowledging that reality and giving it her blessing.

Since knowledge of nullity is required, the consent given in a convalidation is truly the consent to marry.  It cannot be consent to merely remain in the same state as previously, but must be a true consent to marry.  This is why a convalidation takes effect ex nunc or from now on as Ganter points out.[4]

 

Sanation

In contrast to a simple convalidation, a radical convalidation or sanation takes effect ex tunc or from the beginning.  As such, it does not require a new consent of the will.  One could perhaps say that this is the biggest distinction between the two; that one relies on a new consent of the will and the other does not require a new consent of the will (as long as the original consent was true.)  Other distinctions include that a sanation can only be given by the Holy See[5] (though there seem to be cases when this is not directly attained, but is delegated to the local ordinary.  cf. Ganter, p.70).

From examining the sanation versus the simple convalidation, another significant factor seems to be the willingness of the party (especially the non-Catholic party) to make a new consent of the will in regards to their marriage.  See, for example, one of Ganter’s conditions for santation as “there is great inconvenience in requiring a renewal of consent from the party who is ignorant of the nullity of the marriage.”[6] To this student, it seemed that part of the criteria a pastor must consider in regards to a simple or radical convalidation, is whether the couple can easily/is willing to make a new act of consent.  If that is the case, a simple convalidation will almost always be pursued.  That was, at least, the impression given in Ganter’s article.[7]

Conclusion

Overall, Ganter’s article shed some important light on the issue of convalidations.  They are not, for example, a mere “blessing” of an already existing marriage.  In the case of a simple convalidation, the marriage actually begins when the couple makes a new act of consent.  Ganter also explored important considerations on what consent would mean in the case of a natural marriage becoming a sacramental marriage.  He states, “Their contract of marriage becomes ipso facto a sacrament when baptism is received by both parties.”[8]  These marriages then do not require convalidation because they are and were valid; however they did, through God’s grace become sacramental and being such open the couple to many more graces.


[1] Ganter, Bernard. “Problems of Simple Convalidation and Sanatio in Radice.” Cases and Studies. p. 57

[2] Ganter, Bernard. “Problems of Simple Convalidation and Sanatio in Radice.” Cases and Studies. p. 58

[3] Ganter, Bernard. “Problems of Simple Convalidation and Sanatio in Radice.” Cases and Studies. p. 58

[4] Ganter, Bernard. “Problems of Simple Convalidation and Sanatio in Radice.” Cases and Studies. p. 57

[5] Ganter, Bernard. “Problems of Simple Convalidation and Sanatio in Radice.” Cases and Studies. p. 69

[6] Ganter, Bernard. “Problems of Simple Convalidation and Sanatio in Radice.” Cases and Studies. p. 70

[7] cf. Ganter, Bernard. “Problems of Simple Convalidation and Sanatio in Radice.” Cases and Studies. p. 72

[8] Ganter, Bernard. “Problems of Simple Convalidation and Sanatio in Radice.” Cases and Studies. p. 59

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