This article discusses a ground of nullity which has been appearing with greater frequency in recent years in cases submitted to Tribunals, especially in the English speaking world, that is, the ground of invalid convalidation of a merely civil marriage entered into by a Catholic party who was bound to the canonical form. Its intent is to determine whether or not, when used in the context of rectifying a merely civil union celebrated by a Catholic party, invalid or defective convalidation constitutes a legitimate autonomous ground of marriage nullity, i.e. distinct from simulation or other grounds because its source of nullity derives uniquely from the canons dealing with the institute of simple convalidation, i.e. canons 1156–1160 CIC/83 (canons 1133–1137 CIC/17). The discussion centers first on what is meant by the term and why it is proposed as an autonomous ground of nullity. At the same time the strict limits of the inquiry are clearly delineated.
The thesis that this ground is a legitimate and autonomous caput nullitatis seems to be based on two presuppositions, which this writer evaluates as either erroneous or at least dubious. The first is that the canonical ceremony rectifying a Catholic’s merely civil union can be considered as coming under the canonical institute of simple convalidation. The second is that the requirement for renewed consent contained in canons 1156 and 1157 is also necessarily applicable in the case of the ceremony rectifying the civil union of a Catholic.
The article then concludes that invalid convalidation is not an autonomous ground of nullity and should not be accepted as a legitimate ground by Tribunals. The proper ground of nullity for the circumstances envisioned is simulation. Recent jurisprudence would seem to be in accord with this view.