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Catholics are required to marry in the Catholic Church, even if a Catholic is marrying a non-Catholic. If a Catholic gets married outside of the Catholic Church and with no prior dispensation from canonical form, the marriage is juridically inefficacious due to the lack of the required canonical form. That is, the marriage is not recognized as existing in the eyes of the Church.
In order to remedy this situation, the following are ordinarily required:
Bishop Larry Silva celebrating a marriage validation.
What are some reasons to seek a radical sanation?
Example 1: Sally is Protestant and Juan is Catholic. They married in a service in Sally's Protestant community but with no dispensation from Juan's Catholic bishop. Now Juan finds out that he cannot receive Holy Communion when he attends Mass because his marriage is not recognized by the Catholic Church. But Sally sees no reason to go through a new marriage ceremony in a Catholic Church because she believes that she is already married. Juan talks to his priest about the situation and his priest suggests a radical sanation.
Example 2: Malia is not baptized and Joe was baptized as a Catholic but a priest yelled at him once and now he refuses to have anything to do with the Catholic Church. Malia and Joe marry before a judge. Now, however, Malia discovers the joys of the Catholic faith and wants to be baptized. However, the deacon in her parish, who directs the RCIA program, tells her that her marriage is not recognized by the Catholic Church and that she needs to get the marriage validated. Malia is upset because she knows that Joe will never go through a marriage ceremony in the Catholic Church. So the deacon suggests a radical sanation.
(A radical sanation can also be used to correct mistakes, such as when the priest or deacon forgets to secure a needed dispensation from disparity of cult, or when the priest or deacon did not receive proper delegation to assist at the marriage.)
How do I get a radical sanation?
The priest or deacon should send to the Office for Canonical Affairs the following:
Are there situations when it is not possible for the bishop (or his delegate) to grant a radical sanation?
Yes. The most common situation is if one party had a prior valid marriage which overlaps the time of the second marriage.
For example, Paulo marries Jane in 1985, but they divorce in 1990. (Both are Catholic and the marriage took place in the Catholic Church, so the marriage is presumed valid until death.) Then Paulo marries Elizabeth in 1995 in a civil ceremony. (This marriage is not recognized by the Catholic Church because of the lack of canonical form and because of his prior bond to Jane.) Then Jane dies in 2000. At this point, Paulo is free to get his current marriage to Elizabeth validated. However, he cannot get a radical sanation from the bishop because there were five years when the second marriage to Elizabeth overlaped the time when his first spouse, Jane, was still alive.