From a reader…
Thank you Father for your great blog! Are there situations where it would be appropriate to get a marriage regularised as a natural marriage even though there is a possibility it could be sacramental? I ask this as I have returned to the Catholic faith after a long absence. During that absence I married without proper dispensation in a protestant church (I had no idea nor would have cared at the time).
My wife has been less than enthusiastic about my return, but tolerates it and is open to the idea of a radical sanation. Trouble is that it is proving very difficult to source evidence for her baptism overseas and neither she nor her family have much interest in uncovering it.
This has been the situation for over a year now.
Congratulations on your return to the Faith, and your desire to get your situation squared away.
It sounds as though you have been speaking with your parish priest, which is a good thing.
Whether a marriage is sacramental or natural is not an option for us to choose between. It is sacramental if it is a valid marriage between two baptized persons. It is natural if it is either between two unbaptized persons or a baptized person and an unbaptized person.
A sanation of your marriage could be done regardless of your wife’s baptismal status. If there is no way of obtaining proof of her baptism then the sanation would include a dispensation “ad cautelam“, basically a conditional dispensation. The sanation would regularize your marital status.
If her baptismal status remains doubtful, don’t worry. Your marriage would still be made valid. Whether that sanated marriage is sacramental or merely natural would remain an unanswered question, but that’s okay. It would not impact your ability to return to the sacraments and regular practice of your Catholic Faith.
Perhaps, at some point in the future, your wife will be inspired by how much more kind, caring, and devoted you are now that you are practicing your Catholic Faith, and she will be inspired to join you at Holy Mass.