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Elaine McNutt wrote:

Hi, guys —

My niece will be getting married soon. She was baptized a Catholic but was the product of two addicted parents who were divorced early in the marriage then remarried several times. She did make her First Holy Communion and Confirmation in the second grade when she attended a Catholic school for a short time.

Around the third grade she began attending a non-denominational Christian summer camp. She went there every summer through High School then worked on staff through college. She met her fiancé there (who is from an extremely spiritual Protestant family with no divorce).

She is getting married outside at the camp by the Camp Director who has his license. She has remained chaste with her fiancé and have been counseled with two married couples previous to the marriage. She has made no secret that she attended the Catholic Church only a few times during college and that she and her future husband are not interested in learning more about the faith; that's not where she is right now.

  • As a dedicated Catholic and loving aunt should we attend the wedding?

I am very proud of her lifestyle, especially with the non-existent parental guidance.


  { Seeing she no longer has an interest in the Church or faith, should we attend her wedding? }

Mary Ann replied:

Elaine —

By all means attend the wedding.

There is no reason not to attend.

Mary Ann

Elaine replied:

My father is really making a big deal about this and insists that in the eyes of the Catholic Church they are not married.

What is the Catholic standing on this?


Mary Ann replied:

By choice and conviction, she is not a Catholic.

The Church respects her conscience and would most likely regard her marriage as the valid marriage of two non-Catholics.

Unless her return to the Church in college was something more than curiosity, it appears that she has not considered herself Catholic since the age of 8 or 9, and therefore cannot be considered to be bound to observe a Catholic form in her wedding.

Mary Ann

Eric replied:

Hi, Elaine —

The situation is somewhat ambiguous. If she left the Catholic Church by a formal act, then she would be considered non-Catholic and her marriage would be valid.

In general, however, the Church tends to assume people are Catholic even if they drift away, unless they break in a very specific way with the Church.

Recently, in fact, the Church ruled that henceforth to be considered non-Catholic, for purposes of marital law, one had to write one's bishop a letter renouncing the faith, so an argument can be made that this marriage is invalid.

My recommendation, however, if she is attending another church consistently and considers herself a member of that church and has broken all ties with Catholicism, is not to worry about attending the wedding; it's not worth worrying about.

The chances of you committing scandal (the true danger) are minimal compared with the damage you could do by protesting. The situation would be different if she were merely a lapsed Catholic.


Mary Ann replied:

Elaine —

To follow-up on Eric's point, because she was last Catholic when she was 8 years old, there was probably no formal act of leaving the faith that would or could be involved.

Hope this helps,

Mary Ann

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