I Do: To Go Or Not To Go

Here’s a conundrum for us as the heavy wedding season of Spring approaches. Suppose you have a Catholic friend or family member who is getting married, but without the blessing of the Church? Are you obligated to boycott the proceedings? An interesting discussion on the web page CathNews Australia sparked by this statement by Father John Flader:

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.

Does he overstate the case? Check out the original statement by the priest. He is very careful to cover the territory with grace and nuance. Another priest responded in the thread:

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.

I’ll mention I have been put in this situation a few times in the past.  It has happened with a family member once.  Another time I was asked to play for a wedding for a Catholic friend. About a month or two after I consented, he decided to leave the Catholic Church in favor of his wife’s Protestant denomination. Was I obligated to cancel my involvement for a person who no longer considered himself a Catholic? If so, am I barred from playing at non-Catholic weddings too? Or is the case of a “deserter” special?

Has any reader ever been put in a bind in this way? What did you do? How did you reconcile your strong internal beliefs with the wrong you thought your friend or loved one was committing?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to I Do: To Go Or Not To Go

  1. Rickson says:

    It’s a very sticky predicament. Unfortunately, co-operation in the evil here some how does not come spring in the fullest sense. While, true it is objectively evil, what if the “deserter” does not have as good an understanding of evil as you? He would only look at it as abandonment. He would reason: On the day of my joy, you were not present but looked only at your self-interest: your perception about my wedding. On the other hand, it could show how strongly you believe in teachings of the church. A middle ground could be pursued. You could convey it to your friend that such are the consequences of his act and that you feel bridled to grace his wedding. You go on to tell him that you would still come for it but leave after some time. This way, you can please him that you value relationships. The worst thing you want to do is make Church Teaching an obstacle, something he comes to detest. According to the capacity of his understanding, instead of reflecting on his decisions he could think: the reason my friend did not turn up is Catholic Teachings. He could go on to despise Catholic Teachings. We don’t want to come out as fundamentalists at the same time, show people how strongly we believe in Teachings of the church and how much it moves our lives.

  2. Liam says:

    I think it’s important to consider the issues of capacity when considering the level of cooperation.

    Standing as an officially required witness might rise to the level of gravity that is most concerning.

    Then there are the less official roles that are nevertheless roles: minor attendants, parents of the spouses, etc. In those situations, the couple that has decided on its freedom to act as a matter of conscience is THEREBY bound to honor the freedom of such persons to modulate any role-playing in a way to honor their own consciences. If the couple insists on seeing others as being fundamentalist in not fully cooperating with their dream script for their wedding, then they need to have the mirror placed in front of them – they must see that their insistence on respect being given to their own consciences means they must likewise respect those of others.

    So, for example, brides in this situation: be ready to say to dad, you know, I realize that if you walk me down the aisle, it might be hard on your conscience, so I don’t ask that of you – just as I want my choice respected, so to I am ready to respect your choice in this matter. I love you, and I know you love me, and in the end that is what truly matters. This is a hard junction, and I pledge resist projecting bad intentions on your part.

    This kind of conversation is often badly handled and obscured through emotional baggage.

  3. Jim McK says:

    First of all, marrying is never objectively evil. It is always a sacrament made by the couple. (except in the Eastern Rites)In some cases, like between same-sex couples or becoming the fourth wife of a polygamous person, there obviously is no marriage there in the eyes of the church, so the proper churchy thing to do is stay away.

    I suspect you are asking about more questionable situations. Most of those should probably presume the presence of a sacrament in the free consent of the couple, even if there are defects in form. Individuals cannot be expected to hold tribunals to judge if a marriage will take place. They have faith in the word of their friends.

    And of course, the marriage of two members of the same non-Catholic Church is a true marriage, despite the circumstances leading up to it. (Is it sinful to become a Lutheran?) Catholics should celebrate, not impede the marriage of true minds.

    This is just my opinion. There may be some problems with it, but I think we need to think of true marriage as a sacrament more than as an occasion of sin.

  4. cindy says:

    I know how hard it is to compromise between the couple getting married and their parents, especially where tradition is a key in the argument. What can you do when you have to choose between hurting feelings and your beliefs? One answer is having the ceremony one way and a reception afterwards in a garden. We found a lovely garden on http://www.gatheringguide.com/ec/event_venues_wedding_sites.html that we fell in love with and are having our party afterwards in it.

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