Thursday, June 27, 2013

May I Attend the Wedding?

Recently it was asked if a Catholic may attend the wedding of another Catholic who is divorced and without an annulment.  The short answer is, no.  Why?  Because the "wedding" is invalid in the eyes of the Church.  

In the eyes of the Church, until an annulment is adjudicated, the divorced party is still married and thus has an  impediment preventing a valid wedding.  Regardless of relationship one might have to the person(s) getting married - to be in attendance at such implies support for the non-sacramental celebration.  It is also, in the eyes of the Church and Divine Law, an adulterous relationship which you would be consenting to.

Do you "cut off" this person completely?  No!  You cannot show support for the non-sacramental union, but visiting them and/or them visiting you and/or a family get together does not necessarily imply support for their decision to "get married" outside the Church.  

One would hope too that the person(s) getting married would understand why faithful Catholics cannot attend such a ceremony.  It is not because they do not care, quite the opposite!  They do not show because they DO care about not only the souls of those participating in the ceremony, but also those who of weaker faith which might be also in attendance and believe that your "showing up" is a sign of support.

We must pray for those caught up in such a situation which is, unfortunately, becoming all the more prevalent in today's society.  Pray that they reconcile themselves before God and the Church. 

To show this is not just "me" talking, here's some more references/reading for you too:

Luke16:18 (Divine Law):
“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery."
This same question is answered on the website of Our Sunday Visitor:

outdoor wedding
“Remarriage of a divorced person without annulment.” Invalid. Potentially remediable through annulment and sanatio (from the Latin for “healing”), which cannot be presumed. For purposes of clarity, an annulment invalidates a marriage, while sanatio validates a marriage. Practicing Catholics should not attend. Possibly against natural law; certainly does not fulfill canon law. 
 Because of the strong words of Jesus cited above (see Mt 19:9), I don’t see how a practicing Catholic in good conscience can attend a wedding ceremony that he knows will be an invalid marriage. His/her attendance seems to condone what is going on. Rather, he should explain to the individauls that he loves them and prays for them and wants the very best for them, but that he will not be helping them at all if he ignores the clear teachings of Jesus Christ. These can be very hard conversations. But remember what Jesus said: “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father” (Mt 10:32). That should be some consolation.

Here is what Jimmy Akin says in his article Can You Attend the Wedding?:
"I take a strict line on attending weddings that are presumptively invalid. I never advise people to go to those because of the signal it will send to the participants–and others."

More from Jimmy Akin:
A reader writes:
What are our responsibilities as parents.  I know that we cannot "celebrate" the wedding in any way so as not to lend our presence to the ceremony and thereby indicate that it is "OK", but surely if we visit the couple at any time during their invalid marriage we would be implying that it is ok?  Does this mean we must no longer see our son?
The question of how to navigate social relationships without endorsing an invalid union is a very difficult question that many find themselves in. It is particularly painful and complex and depends in significant measures on how the parties are related to each other and how they would "read" different actions as messages saying things about the union.
Attending the wedding, celebrating anniversaries, letting two people share the same bed under your roof, etc., would all be actions that in our culture would be taken as an endorsement of the union. (And it is hard to see how they might be anything other than that, even in other cultures.)
However, social interactions not directly related to marriage may not be taken this way. For example, inviting people (who know that you don’t think that they are married) over to your house or going over to their house is often not read as an endorsement of a union in our culture. The act is remote enough from the marriage itself that in the opinion of many it is not necessary to refrain from these social interactions.
It most definitely is not necessary that you cut off all contact with your son. Indeed, maintaining contact with him may be essential to the future rectification of his situation. The difficult and painful thing is figuring out how to maintain contact in a way that does not send him false messages. Ultimately, one just has to do the best one can to muddle through that.
 On Catholic Answers:
Am I right to refrain from attending the Episcopalian wedding of a divorced Catholic whose first marriage has not been annulled?
You are correct. To enter into an invalid marriage simply to have a fancy church wedding because of reasons of convenience is sinful and betrays a lack of good judgment. It can also give scandal to those who are not knowledgeable in their Catholic faith.

Answered by:  Fr. Vincent Serpa O.P.
From "All Experts" website:
Expert: Fr. Timothy Johnson - 2/17/2010
Question:  Hello, Father.  I am trying to decide if I may attend a wedding of a divorced Catholic relative.  The wedding will be officiated by a Protestant minister in a residence and followed by a reception. 
Answer:  Hi, John:It seems to me that your presence at this wedding would be an outward sign of approval that a Catholic can just dissolve a marriage, without regard for looking at the matter of whether or not it was ever truly a sacramental marriage.  It saddens me how so many Protestant ministers promote the idea that adultery and forgiveness for that adultery can dissolve a marriage bond.  I have always thought that there idea of divorce and remarriage is a lot like: Find the new person who you want for your spouse, then break off with the first spouse, ask God to forgive you of your sins, and this will dissolve the marriage bond, and then you can go on to marry whomever you wish.  If there is truly something more to the matter, then no Protestant has ever clearly presented to me.  Personally I would not attend the wedding, but I am not you; and I can't very well force you one way or other over the internet.
Fr. Timothy Johnson

Canon Law:
Canon 1059 The marriage of Catholics, even if only one party is baptized is governed not only by Divine Law but also by Canon Law, without prejudice to the competence of the civil authority in respect of the merely civil effects of the marriage.
Canon 1066 Before a marriage takes place, it must be established that nothing stands in the way of its valid and lawful celebration.
Canon 1069 Before the celebration of a marriage, all the faithful are bound to reveal to the parish priest or the local Ordinary such impediments as they may know about.
Canon 1070 If someone other than the parish priest whose function it is to assist at the marriage has made the investigations, he is by an authentic document to inform that parish priest of the outcome of these enquiries as soon as possible.


  1. Some applicable info from the CCC:
    1642 Christ is the source of this grace. "Just as of old God encountered his people with a covenant of love and fidelity, so our Savior, the spouse of the Church, now encounters Christian spouses through the sacrament of Matrimony." Christ dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so
    follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another's burdens, to "be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ," and to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love. In the joys of their love and family life he gives them here on earth a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb:

    How can I ever express the happiness of a marriage joined by the Church, strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blessing, announced by angels, and ratified by the Father? . . . How wonderful the bond between two believers, now one in hope, one in desire, one in discipline, one in the same service! They are both children of one Father and servants of the same Master, undivided in spirit and flesh, truly two in one flesh. Where the flesh is one, one also is the spirit.

    1643 "Conjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the person enter - appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility. In a word it is a question of the normal characteristics of all natural conjugal love, but with a new significance which not only purifies and strengthens them, but raises them to the extent of making them the expression of specifically Christian values."

    1644 The love of the spouses requires, of its very nature, the unity and indissolubility of the spouses' community of persons, which embraces their entire life: "so they are no longer two, but one flesh." They "are called to grow continually in their communion through day-to-day fidelity to their marriage promise of total mutual self-giving." This human communion is confirmed, purified, and completed by communion in Jesus Christ, given through the sacrament of Matrimony. It is deepened by lives of the common faith and by the Eucharist received together.

    1645 "The unity of marriage, distinctly recognized by our Lord, is made clear in the equal personal dignity which must be accorded to man and wife in mutual and unreserved affection." Polygamy is contrary to conjugal love which is undivided and exclusive.

    1646 By its very nature conjugal love requires the inviolable fidelity of the spouses. This is the consequence of the gift of themselves which they make to each other. Love seeks to be definitive; it cannot be an arrangement "until further notice." The "intimate union of marriage, as a mutual giving of two persons, and the good of the children, demand total fidelity from the spouses and require an unbreakable union between them."

  2. 1649 Yet there are some situations in which living together becomes practically impossible for a variety of reasons. In such cases the Church permits the physical separation of the couple and their living apart. The spouses do not cease to be husband and wife before God and so are not free to contract a new union. In this difficult situation, the best solution would be, if possible, reconciliation. The Christian community is called to help these persons live out their situation in a Christian manner and in fidelity to their marriage bond which remains indissoluble.

    1650 Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ - "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery" the Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence.

    1651 Toward Christians who live in this situation, and who often keep the faith and desire to bring up their children in a Christian manner, priests and the whole community must manifest an attentive solicitude, so that they do not consider themselves separated from the Church, in whose life they can and must participate as baptized persons:

    They should be encouraged to listen to the Word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts for justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God's grace.

    1660 The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman form with each other an intimate communion of life and love, has been founded and endowed with its own special laws by the Creator. By its very nature it is ordered to the good of the couple, as well as to the generation and education of children. Christ the Lord raised marriage between the baptized to the dignity of a sacrament (cf. CIC, can. 1055 § 1; cf. GS 48 § 1).

    1661 The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1799).

    1662 Marriage is based on the consent of the contracting parties, that is, on their will to give themselves, each to the other, mutually and definitively, in order to live a covenant of faithful and fruitful love.

    1663 Since marriage establishes the couple in a public state of life in the Church, it is fitting that its celebration be public, in the framework of a liturgical celebration, before the priest (or a witness authorized by the Church), the witnesses, and the assembly of the faithful.

    1664 Unity, indissolubility, and openness to fertility are essential to marriage. Polygamy is incompatible with the unity of marriage; divorce separates what God has joined together; the refusal of fertility turns married life away from its "supreme gift," the child (GS 50 § 1).

    1665 The remarriage of persons divorced from a living, lawful spouse contravenes the plan and law of God as taught by Christ. They are not separated from the Church, but they cannot receive Eucharistic communion. They will lead Christian lives especially by educating their children in the faith.

  3. 2386 It can happen that one of the spouses is the innocent victim of a divorce decreed by civil law; this spouse therefore has not contravened the moral law. There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried to be faithful to the sacrament of marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage.


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