Attending a Non-Catholic Wedding
APRIL 2011/JULY 2013
“Not to oppose error is to approve it, and not to defend the truth is to suppress it” – Pope St. Felix III
Can my daughter and her husband, both practicing Catholics, attend the civil marriage ceremony of her husband’s college friend and his fiancée? They do not know the status of those getting married including not knowing if they are Christian. Bill Allen
The Catholic Church has no specific law covering this situation. Generally speaking, Catholics would be able to attend such a civil ceremony as long as there was no impediment to the marriage. For example, if one of those to be married was previously married and there are no grounds for an annulment, the Catholic Church would not recognize the second marriage and would consider it sinful.
Another example would be, for instance, the couple wrote their own vows and included that they had agreed to not have children. The Catholic Church requires those being married to be open to the possibility of having children. So again, generally speaking, if there are no known impediments to a valid marriage taking place, the Catholic Church would not bar a Catholic from attending the ceremony and would hold the marriage as valid until shown otherwise.
This report prepared on September 17, 2006 by Ronald Smith, 11701 Maplewood Road, Chardon, Ohio 44024-8482, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers may copy and distribute this report as desired to anyone as long as the content is not altered and it is copied in its entirety. In this little ministry I do free Catholic and occult related research and answer your questions. Questions are answered in this format with detailed footnotes on all quotes. If you have a question(s), please submit it to this landmail or e-mail address. Answers are usually forthcoming within one week.
Å Let us recover by penance what we have lost by sin Å
What are the rules for attending weddings?
Q: Often I see questions on here pertaining to whether someone can attend this wedding or that based on the religion of the bride and groom. Could you give a general list of when you should and should not support a given wedding? This will help me with all future decisions, although like most, I have a hindsight situation of my own.
My best friend growing up was married a few years ago (before I knew my faith as well as I do now). He has always been a Methodist and asked me to be a groomsman. His wife was a Catholic however. I did not meet her till just before the wedding so I don’t know whether she was practicing or not. He had just told me that she was Catholic but would probably become Methodist after they married. The ceremony was done by a Methodist minister and I don’t believe she had a dispensation but I didn’t ask. Should I have participated in such a wedding? Is this something I need to confess? Farley July 7, 2007
A: In your own particular situation, we don’t know whether or not the wedding was presumptively valid because we don’t know whether the bride had the dispensations necessary to marry a non-Catholic in a non-Catholic ritual. Even presuming the wedding was presumptively invalid though, the Church does not explicitly forbid Catholics from attending invalid marriages and so Catholics must use their own prudential judgment in discerning attendance on a case-by-case basis. From what you’ve told me, it does not appear to me that you need to confess attending this wedding.
As for general rules:
Catholics may attend all presumptively-valid marriages of Catholics, non-Catholics, and non-Christians.
For Catholics marrying other Catholics or marrying a non-Catholic Christian or non-Christian, a wedding is presumptively valid if it is done in accordance with Catholic marital law. Catholics marrying non-Catholic Christians or non-Christians need a dispensation from cult to marry the non-Catholic party and a dispensation from form if they are marrying in a non-Catholic ritual.
For non-Catholics and non-Christians who are marrying other non-Catholics or non-Christians, a wedding can be considered presumptively valid if there are no known impediments to the marriage.
The most common impediments that outsiders are likely to know about would be previous marriage, close blood relationship, or same-sex partners. If none of these impediments are known to exist, a prospective guest may presume that the wedding will be valid.
The Church does not explicitly forbid Catholics from attending presumptively-invalid marriages. Catholics must use their own prudential judgment in making the decision, keeping in mind the need to uphold the Catholic understanding of the sanctity of marriage. One rule of thumb that may be helpful in making such decisions might be to ask yourself if you believe the couple is doing the best that they can to act honorably and according to the truth that they have. So, for example, you might decide to attend the presumptively-invalid wedding of a couple who is expecting a child; but decline to attend the presumptively-invalid wedding of a couple who have engaged in adultery and destroyed previous marriages and families.
While there may be just reason to attend a particular wedding that will be presumptively-invalid, I cannot recommend participating as a member of the wedding party in such weddings. There is a difference between attending as a non-participating observer and actively involving yourself in the wedding as an honor attendant.
If you are not attending the wedding as a matter of principle, then I cannot recommend attending a reception or giving a gift to honor an occasion that you believe in conscience that you cannot celebrate. I do recommend though writing the couple a letter in which you express your love and that you will pray for them. (If prudence suggests it, it is fine to withhold from them what you will be praying to God that they obtain, such as the grace of repentance and conversion.)
In the case of same-sex partners, the Church has spoken so strongly against “same-sex marriage”* that I cannot recommend attending or celebrating “same-sex weddings” under any circumstances. Michelle Arnold, Catholic Answers apologist
CONSIDERATIONS REGARDING PROPOSALS TO GIVE LEGAL RECOGNITION TO UNIONS BETWEEN HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, March 28, 2003
Non-Catholic Brother Planning New Marriage
By Jimmy Akin, July 24, 2006
A reader writes: My brother, who is a baptized Catholic but has not practiced since he was little (my parents left the Church for a Protestant one at that time and have since returned, though my brother is still Protestant) has married outside of the church in a Protestant ceremony is now in the process of divorcing his wife, who is pregnant. He also already has a new girlfriend whom he has expressed the intent to marry.
I have told him that I could not attend this wedding and that I should not have attended his first wedding as it was outside of the Church and he is a baptized Catholic, even though he has rejected Catholicism.
I know that he has not formally (that is written to Rome) left the Church. Have I done the right thing?
This is creating a huge amount of tension and stress in my family, especially because I am trying to inform my now Catholic parents of what the correct position is to take in regards to the potential second wife, whom my brother has asked to be allowed to live at their house (though not in his room…After separating from his first wife, he moved back home).
Though it is not in the planned future, I have also told my family that I cannot attend my other brother’s wedding, when and if he decides to marry, unless it is within the Catholic Church. Is this correct? Please help. Many hearts are hurting over these matters.
This is a really tough situation, and my heart goes out to you.
The Holy See recently released a document on what is required in order to formally defect from the Church, and it took a startlingly restrictive view. One does not have to write to Rome to formally defect, but one does have to go through one’s local bishop.
The question in my mind is whether Rome intends this to apply to previous marital situations or just those from here on out. According to the Code of Canon Law,
Canon 16 §2: An authentic interpretation put forth in the form of law has the same force as the law itself and must be promulgated. If it only declares the words of the law which are certain in themselves, it is retroactive; if it restricts or extends the law, or if it explains a doubtful law, it is not retroactive.
It does not seem to me that the recent document merely declared the plain meaning of the words of the law which were already certain. What constituted formal defection was notoriously uncertain, and the canonical commentators I am aware of universally interpreted it more broadly than how the recent document did. The recent document therefore seems to me to either function as restricting the interpretation of the law or explaining a doubtful one. In either case, it would not be retroactive and thus your brother would not have needed to go through the local bishop in order to formally defect.
Unfortunately, Rome has not yet given us an authoritative statement on whether the new document is to be understood retroactively, though I suspect that is coming since an awful lot of marriage cases have been adjudicated based on the prior understanding of formal defection, and that is bound to lead to confusion.
Even then, it is not clear to me whether your brother formally defected from the Church. One of the reasons that this concept was in need of clarification was that how it applied to situations like your brother’s was unclear. In other words: What about the case of children who are taken to other churches by their parents and made members of them? Does that mean that the child formally defected despite his lack of age and responsibility for doing so? Does he need to reaffirm the defection once he is an adult? Does he need to reaffirm it formally?
We now know the answers to these questions going forward, but at the time your brother was made a member of another church, the answers were unclear.
I thus can’t tell — both because of the unclarity of the law at the time and because it is at least arguable whether the law is retroactive — if your brother has formally defected.
The best way I know to handle the question is thus to split it and ask what would apply if he did formally defect and if he did not.
First, let’s suppose that he did formally defect.
Canon law provides that if a person has formally defected from the Church then he is not bound to observe the Catholic form of marriage. If your brother had formally defected then he would have been free to marry his first spouse. Marriage enjoys the favor of the law so, until the nullity of his first marriage is established, he must be presumed to be married to his first wife and thus not free to marry his current girlfriend. Any union with his current girlfriend must be presumed to be adulterous, per Jesus’ statements in Mark 10.
On this understanding, it would have been permissible for you to attend his first wedding but I could not recommend that you attend his second because your presence would lend credence to an objectively adulterous relationship.
Similarly, I could not recommend allowing two people who must be presumed to have an adulterous relationship to live under my roof, for the same reason: Doing so lends credence to an objectively adulterous relationship, as well as providing scandal (in the technical sense of setting a bad example that may lead others into sin). The same applies even if they are living chastely prior to attempting marriage. Your brother is not presumptively free to have a relationship with this woman, and letting her live there lends credence to the idea that he is.
Now let’s suppose that your brother did not formally defect.
In this case he was still bound to observe the Catholic form of marriage and his first marriage was invalid. He is thus free to marry someone else–however, this marriage too will be invalid unless he either observes the Catholic form of marriage or obtains a dispensation from it. In order to do either, he will for practical purposes need to have his first marriage investigated by an ecclesiastical tribunal and declared null (which is not certain for reasons indicated above, even though at the moment I’m assuming that he did defect and so it was null; that still has to be shown).
Your brother, as a non-Catholic, is presumably not willing to go through the above steps, in which case his new attempt at marriage would be invalid. I thus could not recommend attending it (or the previous one) nor letting him live in my house with his girlfriend (married or unmarried) since their planned future union would be invalid. Thus, while one of the key facts of the case (whether or not he formally defected) is unclear, the practical conclusions are similar: I couldn’t recommend attending the new attempt at marriage nor allowing his girlfriend to live in the house, either before or after the attempt.
It is to be understood that, as a Protestant, your brother may be acting in good conscience in all this (though he would need an awful good reason to be divorcing a pregnant wife), and he cannot be expected to understand or appreciate the reasons outlined above.
Nevertheless, he needs to understand the reality of his situation. It does not do him any favors to confirm him in an adulterous or otherwise invalid union. If he is going to get his marital situation straightened out before God, he needs to be made aware of the truth and to be aware of it as soon as possible. Letting him get confirmed in a new, invalid union will only create a larger mess to be cleaned up later.
The merciful thing–as hard as it is–is to be honest with him now about his proposed union (honest both in word and in deed) and give him all the support and encouragement one can to help him avoid making a terrible mistake.
I would therefore explain to him as charitably as possible, and with as many family members as possible in agreement, why he needs to re-evaluate the situation, which also involves re-evaluating the question of his religious affiliation. If he is unwilling to do so, that is understandable. Nevertheless–as painful as it would be for him–he should respect the fact that as a Catholic you must follow your consciences even as he follows his.
None of this, I would hasten to point out, has anything to do with how much you love him. You still love him and, in fact, it is precisely because of your love for him that you are handling the matter in this manner.
I hope this helps, and I encourage my readers to pray for this situation!
Should I Attend?
Catholics United for the Faith – Faith Facts – The Answers You Need, March 20, 2002
Issue: Does the Catholic Church prohibit Catholics from attending weddings that the Church does not recognize? If a Catholic is invited to such a wedding and can attend, is it permissible for him to be in the wedding party?
Response: The Catholic Church does not explicitly prohibit Catholics from attending weddings whose validity she does not recognize. There are certain moral principles, however, that should be considered before a Catholic decides how to proceed. Most importantly, Catholics must avoid any actions that cause scandal or encourage others to sin.
Discussion: In today’s society, many couples live together before marriage, and divorce and remarriage are common. In addition, many Catholics marry outside the Church. Couples in these situations commit the sins of fornication, adultery, or both. Because of these objectively sinful circumstances, Christians are often left in a quandary when they are invited to weddings the Church does not recognize, particularly when friends or relatives are involved. The way in which one prayerfully responds to these invitations must witness to the truths taught by Christ. Our actions must encourage and promote the salvation of all.
Everything we do must encourage and provide for our salvation and the salvation of others. We must be in the world, but not of the world (cf. John 17:15-19). By our participation in the lives of others, we must be salt of the earth and witness to the truths of Christ and His Church (Matthew 5:13). When we provide for our salvation and the salvation of others, we fulfill the two great commandments: to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul, and to love our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God (cf. Matthew 22:37-40). We must take care, however, not to become “flat salt.” As our Lord says:
You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).
The example given by Christ is noteworthy. He did not hesitate to associate Himself with sinners (Phil. 2:4-8). Though God, He took our human nature upon Himself, becoming like us in all ways except sin. He brought us truth in a way that we can easily understand. In this same way, we must not hesitate to associate ourselves with fellow sinners. However, we must take care to avoid sin and scandal.
If we allow or participate in the sin of another, we share that sin and its consequences.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches,
1868 Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
—by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
—by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
—by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
—by protecting evil-doers.
2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.
2287 Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. ‘Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!’ (Luke 17:1)
Fornication and adultery are mortal sins. Those who persist in these sins endanger their salvation. They violate the Sixth Commandment (CCC, nos. 2331-2400). Living together before marriage is fornication (CCC, no. 2353). Subsequent marriage of the couple does not blot out the sins they already committed, nor does the wedding itself necessarily change their attitudes or habits toward chastity and purity. Divorce and remarriage is an act of adultery, regardless of whether the “spouses” are Catholic or not (cf. Mark 10:10-12; CCC, no. 2384). For a Catholic who marries outside the Church, the Church does not recognize the marriage, and the union is considered adulterous (Code of Canon Law, canon 1108).  No one should promote fornication or adultery.
What to Do?
If a Catholic is asked to attend the wedding of a couple whose marriage is not recognized by the Church, or whose life does not promote purity and chastity, he should ask himself: “What message will I send by my attendance? Will attending such a wedding encourage or hinder the salvation of others? What will not attending accomplish? If I go, will others consider my presence to be affirming of the sin? Will I lead others to scandal? How can I best witness to the truth?”
A Catholic should not affirm fornication or adultery, nor should he give the appearance to others that he condones the acts. Such appearance can cause scandal. If his actions affirm or encourage the sin, he participates in the sin.
There is a real concern that if a person refuses to attend the wedding, a rift in friendship could occur. This division could hinder any witness to the truth, and this concern is especially serious if the wedding involves a close friend or family member. This concern alone must not hinder our witness (cf. Luke 12:51-53), but it can guide our actions as we fulfill our obligation to bring others to Christ. It could be that not attending would destroy any possible chance to witness the truth to the persons involved, especially if no reason is given for not attending. It could also be that not attending, and giving reasons for the absence, will help the couple choose the way of Christ. If a Catholic chooses to attend, he will want to ensure that no one considers his presence to be an affirmation of the sin.
Jesus saw the woman at the well and the Samaritans of her town as ripe for the harvest. Had He not spent two days with them, they would not have received the words of life. While with the Samaritans, Jesus encouraged His apostles to open their eyes and see the opportunity to spread the truth (cf. John 4:1-42). We too must recognize the opportunities for reaping the harvest of faith, and not quench the burning embers among the lukewarm (cf. Isaiah 42:3-4).
The same principles apply whether one is a member of the wedding party, is attending the wedding, or is simply attending the reception. However, participating in the wedding party, however, is more visible and will generally be understood as an affirmation of the union. It would be very difficult for a member of the wedding party to attend without affirming the situation or at least giving the impression to others that he is doing so. At the reception, discussions about the couple and their life together will arise. This may be more difficult for some people to handle without affirming the couple’s situation or bringing scandal to others. If one plans to attend the reception, one should consider what one will say about the couple’s situation when the merriment begins and everyone is talking about how wonderful this it is. Morally speaking, there are many factors to consider before we judge a situation as scandalous. Some situations allow for scandal more readily than others. Before we can witness to the truth, people must be open to what we have to say. In the same way, before our actions cause scandal, people have to consider our actions worthy of notice. What is important to remember is that we must prayerfully consider the situation, our response, and the probable reaction of others to our response.
Anyone invited to the wedding of a couple whose marriage does not promote the truth should prayerfully consider his actions. Using the teachings explained in the Catechism, he should ask ourselves, “How can I avoid participating in their sin, yet encourage their salvation? How can I avoid scandal, yet encourage the salvation of others?” Anyone in this situation should discuss the matter with a spiritual director or in the confessional before making the decision. Whatever one’s decision may be, a Catholic should strive to give a clear and charitable witness to the faith. The Catholic Church does not teach whether we must or must not attend. Christ does say we must witness to the truth in a charitable manner. If loved ones or friends go through with the wedding, a Catholic should look for opportunities to maintain contact and witness to the truth. Above all, our decisions and actions must promote the salvation of souls. In fostering the salvation of souls, the Two Great Commandments are fulfilled.
Questions for Reflection and Group Discussion:
1. Read Catechism, no. 2284. What is the sin of scandal? How does it apply to the decision to attend a wedding?
2. What factors would be relevant in considering whether to attend a wedding not recognized by the Church? What would be the advantages and disadvantages of attending?
3. The reason this is such a significant issue is that premarital cohabitation, fornication, and divorce and remarriage are increasingly common today. What can we do within our own sphere of influence to reverse this trend and promote the Sacrament of Marriage?
 Cf. Code of Canon Law (Washington, DC: Canon Law Society of America, 1983), can. 1108.
Is it a sin to witness a non-Catholic wedding ceremony?
Q: I am engaged to marry a non-Catholic, and because he does not want to convert, we will be married by a Presbyterian minister. My sister is a nun, and has told my parents that it will be a sin if they attend the wedding, because this is not a Catholic Church sanctioned wedding. Or is it true that if they do attend that they are going against any church rules, because their attendance is, in essence, a blessing of this non-Catholic union? Thanks for any advice you can give, as this is causing a family rift. Deborah Daly, April 08, 2003
A: No, a Catholic should not be witnessing the wedding of a Catholic in a non-Catholic ceremony. The Church has certain rules and one of them is that you follow its teachings in regards to marriage. You may be married in a Presbyterian church with the minister present, but you must have a Catholic priest present to make it a valid Catholic marriage. Is there a problem with that? Having the priest there to bless the marriage would make it “kosher” in the eyes of the Church. Christina
Jesus never did anything that would give the impression of approval or support of a sinful situation. A Catholic who goes through the motions of a non-Catholic wedding is entering into a state of overt ongoing fornication. Jesus said that no fornicator would enter His Kingdom. Do you suppose then that He would show up to support, let alone celebrate, such an occasion? I am sure they love each other, and I am sure their intentions are good, but good intentions do not nullify objective evil. Your sister was right, and what she did demonstrated not only personal courage, but a godly commitment to truth. It’s so easy to pin the blame for hard feelings on the one who upsets the apple cart by acting morally. The hard feelings that still linger are the result of sin, not the result of your sister’s refusal to encourage sin. Paul
It is not a sin for a Catholic to attend a non-Catholic wedding ceremony, unless of course their specific intent in doing so was to harm the Church through scandal. The real issue at the heart of your question is scandal.
Scandal is a technical term used by the Church to describe those actions by individuals which when witnessed by other innocent individuals, are reasonably perceived by them in a way that could conceivably influence their choice of good over evil in the future. In other words, could anything your parents do by attending the (invalid) wedding of their daughter reasonably have an influence on others to sufficiently cause them to sin sometime in the future? It would be obvious to anyone in attendance that your parents’ presence is primarily due to their relationship to you and that their intent is to attend out of love for you and not to cause scandal to the Church in any way. Similarly, any Catholic friends and relatives should not be reluctant to attend your wedding and show you their love in doing so. As concerned Catholic parents however, your parents should do everything in their power to convince you to have a valid wedding ceremony.
Any Catholics who attend your wedding ceremony, including your parents, should not actively participate in the service (e.g. receive communion, etc.). Additionally, it is not recommended that Catholics act in any “official” capacity such as bridesmaid or best man at such invalid marriages. Participating as a member of the “official” wedding party at such marriages can only send the message that the participant is indeed supplying his/her tacit approval to the ceremony. Ed
Attending a non-catholic wedding when one is a baptized catholic
Question from SBM on 5/3/2008:
A very good friend has invited me to her son’s wedding. Her son was baptized Catholic but is no longer practicing and is not having a sacramental Catholic wedding; rather, he is being married in a non-catholic church. Honestly, I’m torn. Part of me says I’m advocating sin if I attend. The other part says I may be missing an opportunity for evangelizing in the fashion of St. Francis of Assisi. “Evangelize, evangelize, evangelize!! And when absolutely necessary, use words.” He also “evangelized” by his mere presence by walking through the streets and saying nothing. I’m not sure if it would be the same thing by my “presence” at the wedding. Most of all, I want to bring her son back to the Catholic church, not turn him further away by my actions. I’d also like to add that my friend was also torn. She asked two different priests, whom I feel are both true to the magisterium of the Catholic Church, whether she should go to her son’s wedding. One told her that it would be a mortal sin; the other said he approved of her attending. She has chosen to attend. She said she got married outside the Church and was a baptized Catholic and later returned to the faith. To complicate matters further, this son saved her life. Is there anything stated in Canon Law that might be helpful in resolving this important matter? Thank you and God bless you. SBM
Answer by Rev. Mark J. Gantley, JCL on 5/5/2008:
This question, which I am asked repeatedly, is a moral question, not primarily a matter of canon law.
I would amend your second sentence to say, “Her son was baptized Catholic but is no longer practicing and is not having a valid marriage.” That is a fact of canon law.
To attend an invalid marriage is a source of scandal, as it implies approval of the attempted marriage.
In such situations, I have suggested skipping the wedding ceremony and attending the reception. This will keep the door of communication open between you and the couple so that maybe some day in the future you can encourage them to convalidate the marriage and begin practicing their faith.
Can a catholic attend a non-catholic wedding ceremony?
October 20, 2007
Question: I am a spiritual person who feels very close to God. I pray multiple times a day, thank God for everything in my life, both big and small, and I was raised in a Presbyterian church. I will be marrying my fiancé, who was baptized Catholic, but does not attend church, and has lost his trust in Catholicism through the years, this December. The ceremony will be held at the reception site and will be conducted by an ordained, Presbyterian minister who is also a long-time friend of my family.
My fiancé’s grandmother is a devout catholic. She has informed my fiancé’s father that she will not be able to attend our wedding due to her religious affiliation. My fiancé is heartbroken. His grandmother has always been an important part of his life and he feels as though she is letting him down, particularly because my faith in God is so strong, and although some of our beliefs differ, we are praising the same God.
Would it be at all possible for his grandmother to attend the service and still be acting in accordance with the Catholic Church? Taryn
Answer: It is always difficult to gauge a response based upon something as vague as “spiritual person who feels close to God” and “does not attend church, and has lost his trust in Catholicism through the years.”
In the first case, the description sets up the individuals own subjective experience as the “measure of a thing”; and in the second, there seems to be some implied “blame” of the institutional church for some subjective reason. Such is the times in which we live. The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has called this the “Dictatorship of Relativism.”
Objectively speaking, if your fiancé is in fact a baptized Catholic, then he is objectively bound to “Canonical Form.” This means to get married in a Catholic liturgical ceremony, in a Catholic Church building, by a duly authorized Catholic Priest or Deacon, in the presence of two witnesses.
In the case of marrying a baptized non-Catholic, he would also need a simple “Permission for Mixed Religion.”
In order to get married in some other kind of ceremony and circumstances, he would need to obtain a “Dispensation from Canonical Form”; however, I gather from your description that neither of you thought it important to approach a Catholic Priest about the matter of marriage preparation, who could have easily worked with you on the matter. By implication, this tells me that your fiancé has not bothered to practice his Catholic Faith, probably in a LONG time, if really EVER before.
I am saddened to hear of those who claim to “lose trust” in the Catholic Church; but, I suppose at a subjective level myself, I have many experiences of having lost trust in a lot of individual Catholics. As a convert to the Catholic Faith, it never ceases to amaze me how so many infant baptized Catholics “leave” the Catholic Church without ever really knowing her teachings, doctrines, culture, and discipline.
So, since I do not know all of the particulars, it is hard to say what his grandmother ought or ought not to do. I don’t know whether your “Catholic” fiancé is acting in good faith with good will, or if he has some deep hidden MORAL problem with some aspect of Church teaching that he is consciously and deliberately rejecting (this is common); or if he has just been plain ignorant, lazy, or negligent about his Catholic Faith his whole life, or later in life.
I honestly wish that he would study and experience his objective Catholic Faith to gain a spiritual life perspective. Fr. Timothy Johnson
CATHOLICS & MARRIAGE
The Catholic Church does not explicitly prohibit the faithful from attending weddings she would view as invalid; however, there are moral principles that must be considered. A Catholic has an obligation to avoid attending, and by doing so expressing support, for unions that could be seen as encouraging others to sin (such as a same-sex “marriage”) or unions that could be seen as a source of scandal (such as a Catholic marrying before a justice of the peace, a Catholic marrying in a non-Catholic church without a dispensation from form, and/or marriages celebrated when former spouses are still living and annulments have not been granted). The way in which one responds to these invitations must serve as witness to the truths taught by Christ.
Wedding Ceremony – Roman Catholic
A Catholic Wedding ceremony in a Roman Catholic Church may include the Sacrament of Holy Communion. This could create some confusion for the non-Catholic guests. Perhaps the priest will need to explain clearly to the guests what is expected of them as he proceeds through the Catholic wedding ceremony. Some people may feel a little intimidated or embarrassed if they sit or stand at the wrong times. Also, they do need to know they are not expected to participate in the Sacrament of Holy Communion if they are not Roman Catholics.
In the Catholic Church, receiving Communion is only for any Catholic who has received the sacrament of Eucharist (known as First Holy Communion). At a Catholic wedding ceremony in a Roman Catholic church, usually, the ushers will indicate, row by row, for guests to come forward to receive communion. Simply remain in your seat if you are not Catholic or if you are Catholic and will not be participating.
It is interesting to note that in most other Christian denominations, Communion is not included in the wedding ceremony; but if it is, all are usually welcome to participate (regardless of their religious affiliation or status.)
Catholics usually kneel to pray. You are not required to kneel, and may opt to remain seated during prayer.
If the ceremony is a Nuptial Mass, it may include the priest calling for the “Sign of Peace”, during which the guests turn to those near them, shake hands and say “Peace be with you” or some similar greeting.
More information and background on Catholic Weddings:
One of the first questions that many Catholic brides and grooms have is, “Where can a Catholic wedding take place?” Throughout the years, there have been many different opinions and ideas, and even recently, after the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), in the 1960’s, there were many changes to the laws of the Catholic Church on the matter.
Prior to Vatican II, weddings where a Catholic was involved always had to take place on church property, but not always in the church building itself, unless you had proper dispensations (relaxations of the law). In fact, Catholics were not even permitted to attend the weddings of non-Catholics, as they weren’t supposed to set foot into non-Catholic churches!
After Vatican II, the rules began to “soften” and things began to change, and there were Catholic weddings held everywhere – from on top of bridges to within Cathedrals. The excesses became too extreme and so a new Code of Canon Law came into being in 1983, and the current norms for where marriages take place were established.
Currently, where you can be married depends on the baptismal status of the two people getting married.
1) Catholic marrying a Catholic – if it is the wedding of two Catholics, then the wedding can take place in the territorial parish church (the parish in which they actually physically reside, usually the closest parish church to their place of residence) of the bride or the groom. If the parties are from different Catholic Churches (Roman and Eastern, say), then the wedding usually takes place in the parish of the bride. A wedding between two Catholics can take place nowhere other than in a Catholic parish church. It can also take place in any other Catholic parish as long as permission has been granted by the parish priest of either the bride or the groom.
2) Catholic marrying a baptized person – if the Catholic is marrying someone who is baptized, the wedding can take place in one of two places. The wedding can either take place in the territorial parish church of the Catholic party, or in the church of the non-Catholic party. In order to have the wedding in the church of the non-Catholic party, a dispensation from canonical form must be granted. This dispensation can be requested by the parish priest of the Catholic party. In such a situation, the wedding would be recognized as creating a valid, sacramental marriage, even though it did not take place in a Catholic Church. The non-Catholic minister would preside over the ceremony and the Catholic priest or deacon could be there to say a prayer or a blessing, but he would not officiate at the vows.
3) Catholic marrying a non-baptized person – if the Catholic is marrying someone who is not baptized, the wedding can take place in one of three places. The wedding can take place in the territorial parish church of the Catholic party, in the church/temple of the non-baptized party, or in “another suitable place.” The term “another suitable location” is defined in each diocese by the bishop. It is not consistent around the country or the world. In some dioceses, weddings between a Catholic and a Jewish person, for example, can take place in a hotel or country club, etc. In other dioceses, it can only take place in a temple or Catholic Church.
If you are in this situation, you need to contact the local chancery (diocesan head office) in your diocese to know exactly how they define “another suitable location.” In order to have the wedding in the church/temple of the non-baptized party or in “another suitable location,” a dispensation from canonical form must be granted. This dispensation can be requested by the parish priest of the Catholic party. In such a situation, the wedding would be recognized as creating a valid, good and natural marriage, even though it did not take place in a Catholic Church. The non-Catholic minister/rabbi/justice-of-the-peace would preside over the ceremony and the Catholic priest or deacon could be there to say a prayer or a blessing, but he would not officiate at the vows.
Civilly Married Couples
ROME, October 14, 2008 (Zenit.org) Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara…
Q: Bishop Philip Boyce of Raphoe, Ireland, once said that cohabiting couples must not receive Communion (see ZENIT, January 23, 2006). I have two related questions:
1) Are civilly married couples considered cohabiting if not married in church?
2) If a civilly married couple never married in church divorce, and one or both eventually want to get married in church with a different partner, will they be allowed to? F.N., Coquitlam, British Columbia
A: The answer would depend on several circumstances and on the religious status of the couple.
If at least one member of the couple is Catholic, then the Church would not recognize the civil marriage as valid and the couple’s status would be practically the same as a cohabiting couple.
This is because positive Church law ties the validity of a Catholic wedding to following the proper canonical form. Since this is positive and not divine law the local bishop has the authority to dispense from the canonical form. This is usually granted if for some serious reason a Catholic wishes to marry according to a non-Catholic religious ritual. The dispensation is rarely, if ever, accorded when a Catholic wants to marry according to a civil ceremony.
If a couple of civilly married, baptized non-Catholics were to become Catholic, then their status would depend on whether their former community recognized the validity of civil marriage or not. If their civil marriage was recognized as valid, then, in the eyes of God and the Church, that marriage would also be sacramental. This is because the Church considers that all valid marriages between baptized persons are automatically sacramental even in those cases where the particular religious community does not number matrimony among the sacraments.
If a civilly married couple receive baptism, then the baptism itself transforms their valid civil marriage into a sacramental marriage and this fact is noted on the baptismal register.
In both of the above cases if there is some well-grounded doubt as to the validity of the original bond (for example, if the terms of the civil wedding created a presumption against making a lifelong commitment), then the couple should be wed on entering the Catholic faith.
Addressing the second question, we can say that if a Catholic had entered into an invalid civil wedding, and later divorced, in principle he or she could marry someone else in the Church.
It is possible that the same rule would apply in the second situation mentioned, but each case would have to be examined on its own merits to determine the sacramental validity of the previous Christian marriage. In general the law presumes the validity of such a marriage until the contrary is proven (Canon 1060).
The previous civil bond of someone who divorced before baptism would not usually constitute an obstacle to being married in the Church. If necessary, the previous marriage could be dissolved in virtue of the Pauline privilege (Canon 1143).
It is important to note, however, that marriage in all of the above cases require the permission of the local bishop, especially if the person has civil obligations toward the spouse and children arising from a previous bond (Canon 1071).
Likewise, before any of these weddings can take place, Canon 1085.2 requires that “the nullity or dissolution of the prior marriage is established legitimately and certainly.”
GUIDELINES FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE SACRAMENT OF MARRIAGE
By Bishop Bosco Penha, President, Commission for Word & Worship. Archdiocese of Bombay
The Examiner weeklies of December 5, 2009, December 12, 2009 and January 2, 2010
The Sacrament of Matrimony can be celebrated in the parish church of either the bride or the groom.(In Bombay archdiocese; it is usually celebrated in the bride’s parish church.) It could be celebrated in another church/shrine/chapel after obtaining no objection letters from the respective Parish Priests. The date and time of the Nuptial Mass, is to be fixed in consultation with the Parish Priest, before making other arrangements like hall bookings, caterers, etc. Hence kindly meet your Parish Priest and discuss the matter with him well in advance. We do not book the Mass exclusively for one couple, i.e. if another ‘couple wants to have their nuptials at the same Mass, you should be willing to cooperate and make the necessary adjustments. In case you have a close relative/friend who is a priest and you would like him to be the celebrant and/or bless’ the nuptials, kindly request the priest doing your papers for permission, and do so well in advance. For the preparation and celebration of the liturgy, please note the following points:
1. When you fill in your pre-nuptial papers with the priest concerned, please discuss the liturgy with him. Keep in mind that on the Sundays of Advent, Lent, Eastertide, and other major feasts; the liturgy of the day must be followed.
On a Sunday in Ordinary Time, if the nuptials take place during a scheduled Mass, the liturgy of the day must be followed, but one reading (preferably the Second) may be taken from the selection offered for Nuptial Masses. On weekdays and on Ordinary Sundays, at Masses outside the regular parish schedule, the special nuptial readings and prayers may be used. A nuptial Mass on Saturday evening after 5 p.m. fulfils the Sunday obligations, and the Choice of texts should be determined accordingly.
2. Preparing a booklet ‘for’ the service is not necessary: If you do choose to prepare one, please ensure that it is simple, and that it contains the outline of the service and possibly the hymns and responses that need to be ‘included. Please do, not print the text of the readings, the prayers, etc. in the booklets, as these should be proclaimed from the Lectionary /Missal, and the congregation should listen to them, and not follow the text from a booklet. Discuss the liturgy with the priest concerned before finalising the contents of the booklets.
3. The Readings, Prayers of the Faithful, etc. should be done by trained lectors or people with proven capacity of effectively proclaiming God’s Word. Persons should not be selected merely because they are relatives, or have to be “honoured” with a role. Kindly avoid entrusting this responsibility to children. Please find out the parish policy regarding the proclamation of the Word of God, before selecting lectors for your nuptial Mass.
4. Familiarise yourself with the structure of the rite, rehearse it with the, priest, and memorise the words of the vows, if possible. Remember, these words form the essence of the rite and may not be changed or paraphrased. Please ensure that the two witnesses are at hand and come forward to actually witness the rite. (No proxy allowed!)
5. The Prayer of the Faithful should be prepared with care. The intentions should be brief and follow a standard pattern. They should include petitions for the Universal Church, the nation/’world, the couple and other local needs. It would be advisable to get the help of qualified members of the Parish Liturgy Team or other competent persons to assist in this task. The Prayer of the Faithful should not be combined with the offertory procession.
6. At the Preparation of the Gifts (formerly referred to as the” offertory”), the bread and wine for the celebration of the Eucharist may be brought forward. Other gifts that may be presented should be what is required for
the needs of the Church and the poor, but not token symbolic items that will be retrieved later. The presentation of gifts is not to be accompanied by a commentary or an explanation. A hymn ‘may be song as the gifts are brought up.
7. The role of the choir is to facilitate the congregation’s participation. Please avoid commercial or professional choirs that tend to “perform” on these occasions. A song leader is often much more effective in leading the congregation’s singing. The musicians and choristers should have .received some Liturgical training. The hymns should be chosen from a good liturgical hymnal (such as With Joyful Lips, Celebration or the SNS music sheets). They should reflect the Church’s understanding of the sacrament, and not be merely sentimental, or resemble pop songs. The hymns must be approved before hand by the Parish Priest /Parish Liturgy Team. The text of the parts of the Mass (Gloria, Holy, holy, Memorial acclamation, Lamb of God etc.) should correspond with what is found in the Missal (no interpolations are to be made). If the nuptials take place during a scheduled Mass or during the Great Seasons (Advent, Lent, Christmastide, Eastertide), the hymns should be in keeping with the liturgy of the day, and not merely reflect the marriage theme. The use of secular songs is totally prohibited at the Nuptial Mass. The musical instruments used are to accompany the singing, and should therefore not be loud, rhythmic or overpowering. They should. Be played in a style that is in keeping with the nature of the liturgy.
8. Floral arrangements should be modest and not overdone. They should not impede the approach to the altar, or restrict movement in the sanctuary or obscure the altar, lectern, etc. The flowers placed in the sanctuary may not be taken away after the celebration. Flowers are not permitted during the season of Lent. During Advent, floral arrangements should be restrained and kept to the bare minimum.
9. Photography and video shooting should not spoil the liturgy or cause any distraction or disturbance or mar the sacred ness of the celebration. Only one photographer and one videographer will be permitted. The video shooting will have to be done from a fixed place, even for the entrance procession (It is extremely disrespectful for the videographer/photographer to move up the aisle with his back to the altar and tabernacle.) Photography/videography will be permitted at the following moments a) Entrance; b) the Nuptial Rite; c) the “offertory”; d) reception of Holy. Communion; e) Signing the register. Photographers and videographers who violate these rules may be debarred from rendering this service in our church in future.
10. Please ensure that those participating in the service and especially those who are coming up to the sanctuary for the readings, prayers, hymns etc. are decently attired. Remember, this is a religious ceremony.
11. Please be punctual. If your nuptials are to take place at a scheduled mass, we will begin the liturgy at the proper time, even if the bridal couple or others oft he entourage have not arrived.
If the celebration of the Eucharist has commenced, the couple will have to wait in the porch/near the entrance of the church until after the Gospel proclamation is over. Late comers are to be admitted to the celebration without fanfare, and photography/videography associated with the traditional entrance procession.
12. The signing of the register is not to be done on the altar, but on a table provided for this purpose in the church or in the sacristy. After Mass, please remember that you are still in the House of God, so please ensure that proper decorum and respect is maintained. Do not treat the church as a studio. Keep in mind that there may be another Mass or a service to follow after your nuptial Mass, and so we need to prepare for that celebration. These directives are for your benefit, and are meant to preserve the sanctity and joy of the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage.
Points to be kept in mind (by Priests) for-Inter-faith Marriages (Marriages of Disparity of Cult)
Such a marriage is non-sacramental, but is nonetheless a valid marriage.
The proper procedures should be followed with regard to paperwork and permissions.
The couple should be clearly told that they cannot have a double ceremony, and the reasons for the same should be carefully explained. The Rite of Marriage as found in the Ritual for a Marriage between a Catholic and a non-baptised person must be used (Chapter 3).
Kindly note that there is no mention of the celebration of Mass for this rite, either before or after the nuptials. Instead, we have a complete service, with the Greeting, Liturgy of the Word, ‘Nuptial Rite, Intercessions, Nuptial Blessing and Concluding Rite. The priest is to be vested in a surplice and stole (and cope) for the celebration (not a chasuble!) Since the family of the Catholic partner often want a Mass celebrated in conjunction with a marriage of this type, the following points should be noted:. We should first explain to the parties why the Church does not include the celebration of the Mass for this rite. If they still insist on the Eucharistic celebration, one could consider having it after the entire rite, and distinct from it. The Rite as described in, the Ritual for these marriages should be followed as spelt out there. (Note that the Pocket Ritual (Rituale Parvum) should not be used as the norm.). The Eucharist, if it is to follow, should use the texts of the Mass of the day or of Thanksgiving or Various Needs, but not the texts of the Nuptial Mass. This fact should also be kept in mind by the choir for the choice of hymns. This Mass should not have the Prayer of the Faithful or Nuptial Blessing (as these are already included in the Nuptial Rite). The different roles (lector, etc.) may only be done by Catholics. The non-Catholic party should be clearly instructed about the nature of the celebration. No other items, edible or inedible, should be distributed to the congregation before, during or after the distribution of Holy Communion. The nuptials of two Catholics should not be solemnized at this Mass. The present practice of having only the vows and blessing/exchange of rings before Mass, and including the other items of the Nuptial Rite during the Mass, should be discontinued.
Are you charismatic or Catholic?
By Raymond Taouk EXTRACT
As Bishop Louis LaRavoire Morrow, S.T.D points out, “A Catholic sins against Faith by taking part in non-Catholic worship, because he thus professes belief in a religion he knows to be false.” This is because participation in Non Catholic worship has always been forbidden (See Canon’s 1258,1063,2319,1325 of the 1917 code of Canon Law).
ROME, June 13, 2006 (Zenit.org) EXTRACT
Another reader, a priest from Winnipeg, Manitoba, broached another point: “You mentioned recently that ‘one may attend a relative’s ordination as an Episcopal minister.’ I’ve always appreciated the old practice of not attending an invalid marriage because of the witness value of attending. Since an Episcopal ordination does not produce a valid priest, would the attendance of a Catholic imply an approval of some sort? And if not, perhaps if the person submitting to the rite is a lapsed Catholic, it would be better if the Catholic did not attend.”
I do not believe the two situations are perfectly parallel.
Attending a ceremony involving an invalid marriage can signify approval for a couple entering into an objectively sinful state.
Attending, for a just cause, an Episcopalian ordination or analogous installation ceremonies for Protestant ministers does not imply any recognition of their sacramental validity and is simply a gesture of friendship or family ties. I agree, however, that some particular circumstances, such as the ordination of a lapsed Catholic, would make it inadvisable for a Catholic to attend such a ceremony. No matter how much respect we may have for the sincere faith of other Christians, no Catholic could approve or view positively a person’s publicly abandoning the Catholic faith, which we believe to be the fullness of Christ’s Church, by becoming a minister in another Christian community.
DISCUSSION IN KONKANI CATHOLICS [KC] Edited for grammar, punctuation and relevance
Posted by Austine Crasta, moderator, January 4, 2011:
FROM THE CIRCULAR OF THE BISHOP OF MANGALORE, JANUARY 2011:
“The formation of Youth is of very great importance. You know very well that our Youth are going astray in faith life. This affects the personal life too. At very young age our boys and girls are getting employed and are living out of home and are invariably living among peer groups.
Many of our educated boys and girls get into friendship with non Christian companions and enter into marriage even without any regard to religion. This situation brings about lot of pain to the parents and to us too.
Of late many Youths suffer from mental imbalances due to pressure of work and tension since religious sentiments are not given proper inputs and the Youth are not able to withstand bad influences.
The number of marriage cases of disparity of cult and mixed marriages and the applications for annulments and civil divorce are on an increase.
We are really surprised when our boys and girls just don’t mind marrying in the temple or before the civil registrar without
any regard to church marriages. Due to the pressure of the parents they agree to have the marriage in the church just to please them but invariably go to the temple to temple marriage to please the spouse. This shows that we are failing in guiding the Youth right from their tender age.
This could be due to lack of priorities in our Parish Pastoral ministry. The Parish Pastoral councils are busy with erecting new buildings, raising funds and making use of the associations to amass fund. Today we realize that Youth ministry in the parish is more important than any of our social activities.”
Better late then never. What is mentioned in the circular is right, and we need to act now. The foundations are disturbed, and the culture of “Anything chalta hai” is creeping in. Religion is treated as outdated, modernism is creeping in. What people are forgetting is that God is the creator and has set certain rules (an instruction manual) for us to follow. We keep modifying the manuals, e.g. If you modify the tyres of a car with checking with the manufacturer, your car is bound to meet with accident. The other thing is this wrong interpretation of Ecumenism. An impression is created that all roads lead to heaven, that religions are man-made and that all religions lead to one God… Joseph L R Vaz, Goa
I met a priest at my friends place. In our conversation regarding mixed marriages the priest said its fine for the Catholic party to attend the ceremony in a temple after getting married in the church just to please the other party. He said the Catholic party should understand that the rituals in the temple are a joke and won’t affect our faith. My conscience was deeply disturbed as I felt participating in any rituals of the pagans was against the First Commandment of God which says “You shall not carve idols for yourself in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them.” Exodus 20:4-5, New American Bible. Joannes Rodrigues, Mangalore http://groups.yahoo.com/group/KonkaniCatholics/message/23595
I totally agree with you, Joannes. When the Lord commanded us not to indulge in pagan worship, why should we? Why is the Catholic Church so lax about this? Sometimes I really feel the believers are much better. They just refuse to indulge in such things. Why is our Catholic Church trying to make others happy instead of obeying what Christ wants us to do? Norisha Fernandes-D’Souza, Mumbai http://groups.yahoo.com/group/KonkaniCatholics/message/23596
Dear Joannes and Norisha, Presence and participation (“indulge”) need not always be the same. And the “believers” do not always get this difference. But the point that was completely missed here was this:
In the case of a Mixed Marriage involving a Catholic and non-Christian, it is FORBIDDEN BY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (Canon 1129) to have any duplicate religious ceremony, such as marriage in the temple, EITHER BEFORE OR AFTER the canonical celebration of marriage.
In other words, any duplicate religious marriage ceremony, whether performed in the temple, house, hall, or a club OR even one performed together by the Catholic and non-Catholic officiant is FORBIDDEN BY CANON LAW and should not be encouraged by the presence of friends and relatives!
From the number of such ceremonies that I see happening around me, I do not know whether those entering into mixed marriages with the necessary dispensation, are aware of this. If they are, they ought to show the same courage in standing up for their faith (the dangers of defecting from which, they promised to remove, at the time of seeking a dispensation) as they did when resisting family and society pressure in most cases. Austine Crasta, moderator, Mangalore http://groups.yahoo.com/group/KonkaniCatholics/message/23597
Dear All, As far as mixed marriages are concerned, the Church has always wanted to protect the faithful from lapsing because of a marriage with someone from a different denomination, and more so from a different religion (disparity of cult).
This goes back to St. Paul who when addressing the Corinthians speaks of “do not harness yourselves in an uneven yoke with unbelievers. The temple of God has no common ground with idols” (2 Corinthians 6:16).
Note that when Paul speaks of “temple” in Corinthians, he is referring to the baptised. This is not to be confused with what Paul says when speaking of the spouse of the believer, despite being an unbeliever would be sanctified through the believer (this was in case of some already married who became Christian).
However, the Church did allow marriages with other religions albeit with many conditions and reservations- this can be traced back to the prohibition in the Old Testament for the Jews from marrying the gentiles.
During Vatican Council II, the CDF’s instruction on mixed marriages is very clear about the Church’s stand with regards mixed marriages.
In his Apostolic Letter on mixed marriages Pope Paul VI speaks of the possibility of dispensation “for a just cause” when the Catholic party is willing to remove dangers of falling away from the faith and do all in his/her power to have all the children baptised and brought up in the Catholic Church. The ways of ensuring this was left to Bishops’ conferences. There is also an exhortation to the Bishops and parish priests to see that spiritual assistance is not lacking for the Catholic party.
The emphasis of the Church has been always to protect the faith of the baptised and the fact that to get married with a non-Catholic one needs a dispensation should already set alarm bells ringing, i.e., there is a serious problem here.
Sometimes I think that there is a tendency to mix love with sentiments and this gives rise to all the problems. Believe me, by the grace of God I have been happily ordained and serving as a priest for the last six years and the problem of many priests is that they mix the two up and think that they are “loving” their parishioners by being lenient. As a matter of fact the present Pope has been stressing on the fact that one cannot love without being in the truth.
As Austine was saying the problem with the clergy is not faith but knowledge of the Church’s teachings. This was also what St. Theresa of Avila said, “I prefer a priest who lacks humility to one who is humble but ignorant.” Fr Caesar Rego, Taiwan, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/KonkaniCatholics/message/23604
Withholding Communion at Mass
ROME, September 12, 2006 (Zenit.org) Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: I was at a Catholic wedding where the priest only gave the holy Eucharist to the two newlyweds. Later I found out that he did this because he feared a mixed congregation — some who might not be Catholic or who might be in the state of mortal sin — and didn’t want to risk giving the holy Eucharist to such a person. However, there were many faithful there who felt hurt and offended that we couldn’t receive the Eucharist. Was this an appropriate action on the part of the priest? J.S., St. Louis, Missouri
A: While the priest showed commendable respect and reverence for the Eucharist, I do not believe he acted correctly in this case.
In diverse societies such as the United States, celebrations such as weddings and funerals almost always convene people of many stripes and different faiths. Therefore the danger of someone incorrectly receiving Communion is very real.
But it is not a new problem, and parishes across the country have found many viable solutions.
In some cases the pastor or another person makes an appropriate announcement either before Mass or before Communion. This announcement tactfully explains that, because it is central to our faith, Communion is reserved to Catholics in the state of grace.
Another means is to clearly print the requirements for Communion and distribute it to those present or even include it in the special booklets that are usually prepared on occasion of weddings.
If he has taken appropriate steps to inform those present of the importance of receiving Communion in the state of grace, then responsibility for an unworthy Communion falls exclusively upon the conscience of the person who receives it.
It is not the priest’s task to take pre-emptive action against possible offenses against the Eucharist by limiting the distribution of the sacrament.
Also, the priest should not deprive the faithful who are in the state of grace of the opportunity of fully participating in the Sacrifice of the Mass by receiving Communion. In doing so, he unjustly deprives them of their rights as baptized Catholics.
In conclusion, I offer an excerpt from a sample text to be printed in participation aids. This very useful (document is published by the U.S. bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy.
“Guidelines for the Reception of Communion
“As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.
“For Other Christians
“We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us ‘that they may all be one’ (Jn 17:21).
“Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 § 4). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 § 3).
“For Those Not Receiving Communion
“All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.
“We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.”
Garden weddings… what’s the point?
By Fr. John Flader, March 4, 2009
Q: My daughter, much to my dismay, has just announced that she is to “marry” in a garden with a civil celebrant. Naturally I am very upset about this, but I think I should somehow show her my support, as I have always done. Can I attend the ceremony?
A: Of all the questions we priests are asked, I suspect this one is the most frequent. And the most messy.
I have been considering answering it in this column for a long time, and have finally decided to do so.
It is not an easy question and there is no simple answer.
There are two strong, irreconcilable goods at stake and choosing between them inevitably leaves one of them wounded. The two goods are of course respect for the truth about Christian marriage and love for one’s family and friends.
Over the years I have read articles on this question which take a strong line against attending the wedding in all cases. I am not prepared to accept that position. But let me explain.
Attending the wedding of a Catholic that is not going to be recognised as valid by the Church is an instance of what is called cooperation in evil. I leave aside the question of whether the person getting married actually regards their action as sinful. They may not, but it is still objectively wrong.
According to traditional Catholic moral theology, one should ordinarily not cooperate in the sinful deeds of another, but there are circumstances in which one may do so.
First of all, one can never cooperate formally; that is, agreeing with and accepting the sin. This would be the case of someone who saw nothing wrong with attending an invalid wedding.
In your question you make clear that you do not agree with what your daughter is doing, so your cooperation would not be formal, but rather what is called material.
Secondly, one can cooperate materially only if there is a proportionate reason to do so.
And the more proximate, as distinct from remote, the cooperation is, the stronger the reason one needs to justify cooperating.
For example, in a civil celebration the celebrant, the best man and the maid of honour cooperate more proximately or closely than those who merely attend. Without their cooperation the wedding would not go ahead, because a celebrant and two witnesses are necessary for the validity of the marriage.
Normally, one should never cooperate with this close degree of cooperation.
Those who merely attend the wedding are cooperating more remotely, since even if they do not attend, the wedding will still go ahead.
And they can justify attending if they have a proportionate reason to do so. Such a reason would be their judgment that if they do not attend they will seriously harm their relationship with the person who is getting married.
This is not easy to determine in many cases. Sometimes, only after they have failed to attend do they see how seriously they have harmed the relationship. This very uncertainty can argue in favour of attending, in order not to risk endangering the relationship.
Thus the closer the person considering attending is to the person getting married, the more reason there can be to attend. If one is a close relative or a close friend, there can be more reason to attend than if one is only a distant relative or a casual acquaintance.
If having considered this criterion, someone decides to attend the wedding there are still two more matters to be taken into account.
Firstly, they must make clear to the person getting married that they do not agree with what the person is doing, and explain that they wish the person would change their mind and get married by the Church.
Secondly, they must avoid giving scandal to others by their attendance. For this it is normally sufficient to let others know that they disagree with the wedding but feel obliged to attend in order not to jeopardise their relationship with the person.
Even with this criterion, it can still be very difficult to decide whether or not to attend. Sometimes members of the immediate family are divided on the issue. In this case they can always consult their pastor for help in deciding on the best course of action.
At least, people should know that it is not always sinful to attend.
COMMENTS IN THE CATHNEWS REPRODUCTION OF THE ABOVE STORY
Parents must never, never, absent themselves from their child’s wedding, no matter the reason.
God does not stay away from garden weddings, so why should parents.
Yes, it is sinful for a Catholic to refuse to marry in a Catholic church without the proper permissions, but that does not give anyone, parents or other guests, the moral high ground to justify abandonment of the ‘sinner’, often causing grave consequences to familial relationships.
Have your say, yes, but go the wedding and keep on having your say and praying for the couple and evangelising them until they have the marriage regularised. This can be attended to mostly at the birth of the first child when the couple inevitably want to have the baby Baptised/Christened. ‘God’s cathedral of a garden’ isn’t quite good enough for the baby to be Baptised they will say, so there is the starting point for conversion and reconciliation.-Fr Mick Mac Andrew Bombala-Delegate NSW
I’m tired of the pathetic rhetorical question “What would Jesus do?” with the closely following, incorrect, answer of “what I (me, me, me) say now …” The correct answer is Jesus would do the RIGHT thing, not the “if it feels good it must be right thing”. The apparent operational definition of pastoral seems to flow directly from this, rather than a concern for doing good and avoiding evil. And Fr Mac Andrew, with all due respect, I think maybe you should have more of an eye to preaching the teaching of the Church not denigrating it.-Peter
Catholic parents can attend children’s civil weddings: Flader
March 11, 2009
Opus Dei priest and commentator, Fr John Flader, says there are circumstances in which it may be acceptable for Catholic parents to attend the non-religious civil wedding ceremonies of their children.
Fr Flader says the prohibition should be lifted in extreme cases for Catholics who make it clear they don’t approve of a ceremony outside the Church, the ABC World Today program reports.
“There are parents who themselves aren’t all that strong in the faith and if their children get married civilly it doesn’t make that much difference to them but there are other parents who are in a sense more strong in their faith, more traditional if you like, and when their children get married civilly it’s as if the world were caving in around them. And even for them, they could, as I say, attend that wedding in some circumstances,” Fr Flader told the World Today.
According to traditional Catholic moral theology one shouldn’t cooperate in the sinful deeds of another, Fr Flader says.
But in recent Catholic publication he argues that in cases where relationships are at risk it can be acceptable for Catholics to participate in a civil ceremony, something the Church considers to be wrong.
“If, for example, one is the parent of a child getting married and the child says, ‘Well Mum, if you don’t attend my wedding I will not set foot in this house again.’ Then the parents see that that will really jeopardise the relationship with their daughter, which they want to preserve and so may decide to go.
“If it’s not a matter of a, let’s say a parent and a child, although it could apply there too, it could be simply a friend who asks you to attend their wedding and you know that if you don’t attend the friendship will continue then you don’t need to attend and in principal it’s probably better not to.”
But they do need to make clear to the person getting married that they really wish they weren’t doing this, Fr Flader said. Commentator Paul Collins said that Fr Flader’s comments are significant.
“What I suppose is surprising is that Father Flader, who is the longest serving, at least I think he’s the longest serving Opus Dei priest in Australia, that he who represents I suppose you might say a more conservative element within the Church, has spoken out on this in my view quite correctly, and I must say I was very pleased to hear Father Flader’s comments, which I think are absolutely true.”
Catholic priest opens door on civil ceremonies (ABC, World Today)
As a wise and generous pastor, Fr Flader is apparently envisaging every possible extreme case. But I fear his comments will be taken as a general permission to disregard law and morality every time someone says something such as “if you don’t attend my non-Catholic wedding I will not set foot in this house again”, which if tested turns out to be an empty threat in the vast majority of cases.
The only valid wedding for a Catholic is a Catholic wedding. (Even in those cases where for special reasons dispensation is granted for a ceremony in a non-Catholic church, it is the Catholic priest or deacon who carries out the required Church functions.) To attend and celebrate a Catholic’s non-Catholic “wedding” is, in effect, to celebrate the Catholic’s decision to live in sin.-Ronk
Attending an interfaith wedding
September 7, 2004
Should parents, grand parents, siblings, families go to this marriage? All are strong practicing Catholics.
The daughter, who just graduated this year, is engaged to an anti-Catholic fundamentalist, so is his family. The family has tried to “save” the catholic family by making improper visits. The daughter is blind to all, and will be married outside the Church that she left about six months ago.
Should the girl’s family attend the wedding at all? In the eyes of God, those who are ignorant of the teachings of the Church, can they be held responsible for such a choice? Is the daughter in fault if she doesn’t know that the Catholic Church is the True Church of Christ?
This young girl asked the deacon in the parish, a friend of the family, if she could get married in the Catholic Church. He asked her if she is practicing the faith; she said no, and he told her he cannot help her. The deacon is right.
The family has tried to explain to her that the Church will not recognize her marriage if she is not practicing… and she is deaf to all. Can you please comment? -Anne
I think this girl needs to understand the seriousness of the wrong she is doing. If you indulge or support her in this bad decision then how will she understand this?
If it was me, I would not attend this invalid wedding.
As to the question of Catholic teaching, the future husband cannot be expected to know or understand Catholic teaching on marriage. This woman, on the other hand, has been told directly, according to your post, what the Church thinks about this. Thus she has no excuse. In any event, a Catholic marrying outside of the Church is marrying invalidly. This sin should not be indulged or supported.
The Church teaches that if we see someone sinning, are in a position to say or do something about it, and do not say or do that “something”, then we are an accomplice to that other person’s sin.
In the end this is a matter of your conscience. –Bro. Ignatius Mary OMSM
Mass at an interfaith marriage
February 5, 2005
Because I’m not Catholic, my wife to be is scared about two issues:
1) Our wedding wont be considered a sacrament, though I accept the children to be Catholic and will have a Church wedding
2) Whether we can have a mass at our wedding, being that I am not Catholic, nor baptised in the Christian faith? –Sameer
Since you are not baptized, the marriage will not be celebrated within Mass. The Rite of Marriage has a special rite for this situation. (Rite of Marriage, n.8) If you haven’t already, make an appointment with the pastor of your wife-to-be, since you’ll also need to get permission from the bishop. –Jacob Slavek
Attending the marriage of a lapsed Catholic
December 23, 2004
My brother in law has fallen away from the church. He is engaged and is deciding whether to get married in the Catholic Church or not. We have told him that to not get married in the church is wrong and will separate him from the Church. Please pray for him and those of us trying to help him do the right thing.
My question is this… assuming the worst (he gets married outside the church) is it a sin for me and my family (devoted Catholics) to attend the wedding? And if attending is OK, would it be sinful for me and my wife to allow our 2 year old daughter to be the flower girl?
I have already told my wife that if he gets married outside the church our daughter will not be part of the wedding since I feel it to be more of a sad event than a joyous one since his soul is in danger and having my daughter sprinkling rose pedals seems to be a bit out of place in such a setting.
What are your thoughts? And again, please pray for him (Steve) and us to help him do the right thing. –Ron
It sounds like your brother-in-law is already separated from the Church. For him to get married in the Church with no intention of being a practicing Catholic is somewhat hypocritical.
Nevertheless, for a Catholic to marry outside of the Church makes the marriage invalid — in other words, he will not be married in the eyes of God or the Church, but living the sin of concubinage.
Since the Catholic Church teaches that we are not to be accomplices to sin (see CCC 1868-69) I cannot see a way that, in my opinion, that a Catholic can participate in an invalid wedding. Thus I would say, no, your daughter should not be a flower girl for this wedding.
I would also suggest that even attending the wedding is not wise since that is a tacit approval of the wedding. When the minister says, “Is there anyone who knows of a legal reason why this couple should not be married” I would be tempted to say “Yes, not by civil law, but by Canon Law this marriage is illegal and invalid.”
Mere attendance at the wedding is a question for your conscience, but direct participation I think is clearly inappropriate and even perhaps sinful considering the teaching of the Catechism at paragraphs 1868-69. –Bro. Ignatius Mary OMSM
Attending the civil marriage of a lapsed Catholic
September 8, 2008
My cousin contacted me and requested that I be one of the groomsmen at his wedding. I’m a little bit hesitant and I told him that I’d have to check with my priest because of it being a non-Catholic ceremony.
Not only is it non-Catholic, but there is more. He originally spoke with a Protestant minister about marrying him and the minister told him that he needs to go through 3 months of pre-marital counseling because he hasn’t known the girl that long. Well he refused and simply found an “ordained minister” on the internet who will be marrying him in a restaurant.
He was baptized Catholic, received first Holy Communion, and Confirmation. A few years ago, he moved to Ohio (from Baltimore) and began attending a local Pentecostal church. To my knowledge he has never formally left the Catholic Church, he just started attending this other because he “liked it better.” I don’t believe he ever officially left the Catholic Church by receiving Bishop’s approval.
I told him that I wouldn’t be able to be a groomsman, because I feel uncomfortable doing so because he is still Catholic. I said that I could still attend the ceremony, but felt uncomfortable actually being a groomsman.
Now, my mother and father are extremely upset with me and said that what I did was a slap in the face to my cousin and a disgrace to the family. Ahhhh….the pain of bearing the cross for the sake of staying true to the faith. Have I done the right thing in your opinion? -Matthew
There are several factors that support not even going to the wedding let alone refusing to be a groomsman. His flippancy toward marriage by his actions with the Protestant minister is alone enough to not support the wedding. But, as a Catholic his marriage is invalid if done outside of the Church unless he has a dispensation from the Bishop and the reasons for that are extremely limited. (No bishop can give permission to leave the Church, by the way).
As for being a slap in his face, yes it was, as it should be. One of the reasons to not attend such weddings is to show the errant person that what they are doing is so dysfunctional that you will not support it. Hopefully, it will plant a seed that may grow later.
As for a disgrace to the family, that is nonsense. You were an example of integrity to your family. They ought to follow your leadership. –Bro. Ignatius Mary OMSM
Attending the civil/Protestant marriage of a Catholic
May 6, 2009
If a daughter, baptised Catholic and received all the sacraments, marries a Protestant in a civil ceremony, or even a Protestant ceremony, are the parents (themselves sacramental Catholics) able to attend without fear of sinning?
And how about friends and relatives who are also practicing Catholics? We have friends who are faced with this dilemma and greatly grieved by their wayward daughter. We need to know our moral obligation pertaining to attendance in this type of situation. –Geraldine
I would suggest that a person who chooses to sin by marrying outside the Church, and thus risking their soul, should not be encouraged to marry in this way even tacitly.
The Catechism states:
1868 Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
– By participating directly and voluntarily in them;
– By ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
– By not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
– By protecting evil-doers.
1869 Thus sin makes men accomplices of one another and causes concupiscence, violence, and injustice to reign among them….
If this daughter chooses to sin, she needs to know that she is sinning gravely and one of the ways to let her know that is to not attend her wedding. That tells her just how serious this is that her family and friends will not attend.
At the same time, one loves his daughter. Love demands truth and justice, but also mercy. Not attending the wedding tells the truth and applies Justice by not cooperating in the daughter’s sin and thereby teaching her a consequence for her actions. Attending the reception, however, is mercy. I don’t think there is a problem attending the reception as it is not in itself a sin, but that will be up to the conscience of the parents and friends. To attend the reception can keep the doors of communication open. Hopefully, in the future, the daughter will do the right thing and have her marriage blessed in the Church. –Bro. Ignatius Mary OMSM
Attending the wedding of a Catholic who has abjured his faith
September 23, 2012
I have this young friend of mine who was attending non-catholic services besides attending Mass. One of the last times I met with him, we had a long discussion concerning Church teachings and I point blank asked him if he was still attending Mass and if he considered himself still a Catholic. His reply was, “Well, I guess I’m not Catholic anymore.” I had warned him previously about the danger he was placing his soul if he decided to leave the Catholic Church. […]
I hadn’t heard from him but my son would hear from him on occasions through Facebook. I found out he met another girl a few months ago while doing missionary work for some non-denominational church in Central America and now they are getting married.
I am saddened by his decision to leave the Catholic Church as I have known him since he was nine and he is 27 now. I know that I should not be attending the wedding of a Catholic in a non-catholic ceremony but since he stated that he is no longer Catholic does that make a difference?
It’s going to be at a garden restaurant. Personally I can’t in all honesty tell him I’m happy for him and all I think I could say is that I’m praying for him. You comments please. -Chas
The answer would be easy if this fella still thought of himself as Catholic. The answer would be certainly no if he was still Catholic marrying outside the Catholic Church.
A Protestant baptized man and a Protestant baptized woman who marry have a valid and sacramental marriage. But, if a Catholic marries outside the Church without the bishop’s dispensation, then the marriage is not valid, even if the wife is baptized.
In this case we have a Catholic man who has defected from the true Faith in favor of some non-denominational denomination (an ecclesial community, since this non-denomination and all Protestant groups are not valid “Churches” properly so-called).
More disturbing is that this defected Catholic, now Protestant, is intending a marriage ceremony in a restaurant and not in a “church” building? I am utterly amazed how disrespectfully people treat the holy estate of marriage by getting married in a balloon, underwater, on the beach, while sky-diving, before a justice-of-the-peace, and many other myriad ways, and now in a place of eats (how profane can people be).
Frankly, I would not attend the wedding just because this fella and his intended one have no class and prefer to sully the sanctity of marriage by having the ceremony in a restaurant of all places. How crude and profane.
It is possible to attend a wedding of a defected Catholic if that defection is complete, the person has no intention of going to Mass and receiving the Eucharist ever again, and when there is no reasonable expectation that this foolish soul will ever revert and come home.
This, however, is presuming the defected Catholic, now Protestant, is having a “church” wedding in their denominational “church” building.
I would even say that it may be possible to attend even if the wedding is in some neutral location, like a beach, lakeside, or even in a meeting hall at some hotel, but in a restaurant? A place where people are masticating? Does this couple think a marriage ceremony is just a party? Walk down the aisle while eating a chicken leg? For Pete’s sake.
It is up to your conscience. You need to follow your conscience.
But, in my opinion, even if everything else is okay, I would not attend because of how this couple intends to be married. Their intentions for the ceremony show, I believe, that they are not ready for marriage. They are too immature and have no idea what marriage is about. If I were in this situation I would not attend the marriage because of the mockery they are making of the ceremony and because of the gross immaturity of this couple. But, that is me. –Bro. Ignatius Mary OMSM
Attending the wedding of a Catholic who is entering a sinful third marriage
December 26, 2012
Our son, now 50 years of age, after 17 years of a Catholic marriage that produced a daughter now 16 years of age, agreed to a divorce two years ago. Recently my son has met someone that he now wants to marry.
They plan on being married by a Protestant minister. The lady is also divorced and has an eight-year old son.
Our difficulty rests in the fact this marriage will not be sanctioned by the Catholic Church or God. And, because of the children involved I do not believe that there is any possibility for an annulment.
I believe that my wife and I should refuse to attend the wedding ceremony, because to do so would be to condone what God and Church does condemn. I also believe that we can not visit their home, even just for dinner, because to do so would be to condone an invalid marriage, thus causing us to sin.
Would it be allowed to invite them to our house for dinner without being guilty of condoning their invalid marriage? I do know that we would not be permitted to have them stay overnight, and if perhaps there was an emergency situation, we could allow them to stay as long as they stayed in separate rooms.
My wife, being a mother, and as are all mother’s, is very strongly attached to her son. if not for my insistence, my wife would attend our son’s wedding, perhaps even take part in the ceremony, as well as visit them in their new home… We do not wish to alienate our son even further than he has already alienated himself, not from God, but from the Roman Catholic Church against which he is in disagreement with. –John R.
I am sorry to hear about your son’s planned sin. His marriage will not be valid on two counts: 1) lack of annulment of previous marriage; and 2) lack of canonical form, which means the wedding must be a Catholic one. As such, you son will be living in a state of grave sin.
This can be rectified if he goes ahead with this, by petitioning for an annulment of his previous marriage (and any previous marriages of this intended wife) and having his marriage regularized in the Catholic Church. If he does that, and with Confession, he can be restored to a state of grace and his marriage will be valid.
Having children has no bearing at all on the eligibility for an annulment. Even if he has 25 kids, an annulment is still possible. An annulment is a determination that the marriage was not sacramental at the time of the wedding. The kids are not bastards, as the couple was legally married under state law. The Church considers the children as blessings under all circumstances.
If he insists on going through with the sinful marriage, then you and your wife should not, under any circumstances, participate in any formal way with his marriage. Attendance at the wedding just as spectators should also be avoided. The reason for these two matters is the implicit condoning of a invalid and sinful marriage.
The rest of it, however, such as attending the reception, going to there house, and the like is up to your personal conscience. Certainly, if they came to your house overnight, they would need to sleep in separate bedrooms.
I would be careful in “disowning” them and thus perhaps irreparably severing any relationship with your son, and perhaps grandchildren. You can still have a relationship with him and his family since you would have already made it clear your disapproval of their marriage. The important thing is that your son knows your disapproval and why. As long as he understands your position, then contact with him and his family is still possible. But, what you do here is up to your conscience. Be sure to pray about anything more than avoidance of the wedding, reception, and overnight stays are your house. A complete break in the relationship should be avoided if at all possible. Of course, your sin may break the relationship because of the disapproval of his new marriage. If he does, then that is on him.
Pray hard for him, and pray for how you should respond in the long run. As for the wedding itself and perhaps the reception, it is prudent to not attend. Certainly the overnight stays at your house in separate bedrooms is a given.
Of course, you can remind him, if he goes through with this, that all this can be fixed by petitioning for an annulment, and if approved, then regularizing his marriage in the Church. –Bro. Ignatius Mary OMSM
“What would Jesus do”?
January 26, 2013
Our son is getting married for the third time, your advice, pertaining to my question, “Divorced son re-marrying outside the Church” [see above]
was absolutely correct, but my wife, and mother of our son, now 50 years old, found it difficult to accept.
And so, we presented our problem to two different priests, both were sympathetic to both my wife, and my feelings. Both did suggest that Church teaching, in the Catechism, Vatican Council II, and the Code of Canon Law, were black and white, but life is in somewhat of a gray area. They both suggested that we attend the wedding so as to not alienate our son and thus, cause a separation that could become permanent. I, of course, being in total agreement with your answer, tried to present, what I knew to be absolute in the eyes of God and Church.
The one priest suggested that we both pray about this and then ask and answer this question, “What would Jesus do”? I remember years ago that such a suggestion was being promoted within the Church. I believe that such a question is wrong. First, we are not Jesus, and to presume that we can answer for Him is wrong.
Can you please help us? My wife, although a devout Catholic, is still a mother, and is finding it very difficult to reach a decision to not attend our son’s wedding. –John R.
I have to admit that I get very weary when I hear people say “what would Jesus do.” That phrase, while sounding very innocent and perhaps even profound, comes from a context of the misnomer that Jesus is a 60s hippie flower child. It comes from the false notion that Jesus would never say anything harsh and never step on toes. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Jesus was often harsh and he stepped on a lot of people toes. He even said that because of him families would be ripped apart.
So let’s take a look at what Jesus would do, because we know what he would do, because he says what he will do in the Bible:
(Matt 10:34-38) “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.
He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
God is love and love according to God rejoices in righteousness and truth, and not in error and sin: (1 Cor 13:6) “[Love] does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.”
Jesus says, (John 14:6) “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” and he says (John 8:32) “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
While Jesus did have supper with sinners he never condoned their sin, or participated in sint, or in any way became an accomplice to their sin. He did not rejoice in their sin but called them to repentance and to sin no more.
That is what Jesus would do.
Unfortunately, many priests think that the “pastoral” thing to do is to advise their parishioners to not step on toes, or to advise them in a way that will not offend them or offend others, advise them to not rock the boat. But, this is not a pastoral approach taught by God.
Christ called his bishops to be shepherds. In turn, the priests are associate shepherds. Given the fact that Christ used this image we need to find out what shepherds do, that is, how do they care for their flock?
Well, I shepherd carries his staff. With that staff he gently guides his flock on the road that they should go. But, that is not the only thing he does with that staff. If the sheep strays from the road and refuses to return the shepherd will take that staff and knock the sheep over the head. If that discipline does not work and the sheep continues to disobey and go astray, ultimately the shepherd will break the legs of the sheep. Then, the shepherd will carry the sheep over his shoulders until the legs mend. By doing this, the sheep becomes bonded to the shepherd by the time the legs are healed. The sheep will not likely go astray again.
This is the image that Christ gave his priests. This is what is happening when you see those pictures of the supposedly gentle Jesus with the sheep around his shoulders.
What I have described here is what real shepherds do. This is the image that Christ gave his priests. The Apostles knew exactly what Jesus was talking about because they knew how shepherds guide their flocks.
Jesus was not some namby-pamby flower child. Jesus is God, and God can do nothing other than love and to be Truth. This image of the shepherd is a description of the shepherd who loves his flock. Genuine love does not support error and sin. It is a distorted and evil notion that man has invented that love means never stepping on toes or doing the hard thing. God himself practices “tough love.”
God says several times in the Bible, in both Old and New Testaments, the truth about Himself that is written in the book of Hebrews 12:6-10 ~
For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.
According these biblical scriptures, a parent cannot withhold discipline and say that they love their child. Tough love sometimes has to be administered. God says that if we do not chastise our children, then we treat them as illegitimate children. God forbid that we do that.
You son is about to commit a crime, a felony (grave sin). The Church actually does use the word “crime” to refer to grave sin. To violate the law is to commit a crime. Regardless of whether man’s law considers what your son is about to do as legal, it is illegal in God’s law and God’s law trumps all of man’s law.
Let me make an analogy that might help. Let’s say that your son is about to commit the crime of robbing a bank. Because you and your wife love your son will you condone that crime? Will you do more than that and actually drive the getaway car or otherwise help him in his crime or support him in his crime. If the answer is yes, then you as his parents could go to prison too because you would be accomplices.
The Catechism is clear:
1868 Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
– by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
– by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
– by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
– by protecting evil-doers.
There is absolutely no difference in this scenario of robbing a bank and a scenario of your son getting married illicitly, in violation of God’s law, in committing a crime before God. Both scenarios violate God’s law. Love requires that you and your wife do not attend the wedding. Love requires that your son knows that you disapprove of this wedding because he is doing it by committing a crime against God, by spitting in God’s face. Love requires that you do this for the sake of his soul. He must realize that what he is about to do is so egregious that his own parents will not come to the wedding. This is not a trivial matter. The issue is dead serious.
I understand a mother’s grief. I understand that a mother wishes to always support her child. But as Jesus said, if we love our children more than we love Him then we are not worthy of Christ. And any genuine love will never rejoice in or support, or even seem to support, sin.
St. Paul reminds us that we are not only to avoid sin. We are not only to refrain from being an accomplice to sin or to support sin in any way, but we are to avoid even the appearance of sin: (1 Thess 5:22) “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
From all of this there can be only one conclusion concerning your situation and that is, unfortunately, that you and your wife should not attend the wedding. This is the loving thing to do.
Thus, I must affirm and recommend the answer I gave in the original posting. I hope that perhaps I may have shed some light in this answer to help your wife understand the moral imperatives that this situation requires.
I do feel for her. My own children have done things against God that are far, far worse than what your son is about to do. This pains me a great deal, but I can not waiver in the truth. I have told my children that their souls are in danger while at the same time recognizing that they will make the choices they make and that I can do nothing about it. I still love my children but I will not encourage, support, or in any way allow my children to think that their sinful behavior is okay. They know my position on these matters, and they know what God’s law requires. The rest is up to them. The rest is between them and God. I continue to pray that the eyes of their heart shall be enlightened to the truth, beauty, and purity that come from loving God and following His will and His definitions of love and morality that are revealed in Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and taught by God’s Prime Minister on earth, the Pope. –Bro. Ignatius Mary OMSM
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