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Jan Schubert wrote:

Hi, guys —

Please explain the Church teaching for attending a wedding of a relative when they are not being married in a Catholic Church.

One party is a Baptist and one is a Catholic who is not practicing her faith at this time.

Jan

  { What is the teaching on attending a wedding of a relative not getting married in the Church? }

Mike replied:

Hi Jan,

Thanks for the very good question!

Fr. Jonathan sent me this reply:

The correct answer comes down to three things:

  1. Your status
  2. Your own personal conscience.
  3. Sending the best message by your presence (or lack thereof).

What I mean by “your status” is what relationship you have with the Catholic.

For me and my family, my status is both family member and priest. As a priest, I publicly represent the Church and therefore I would not go to this wedding. Your status is listed as “relative”. This also varies. Relatives could be immediate family or distant cousin. Clearly an immediate family member not attending sends a different message than a distant cousin.

  • Also, do you have a faith relationship with the person?

A Godmother, for example, is supposed to be representative of the faith. Also, whether the person looks up to you as a person of faith is significant. So the first step is to weigh all of this.

If your personal conscience is telling you not to go then you should not go. Some people choose to go to the reception and not the ceremony. Some feel that their gut is telling them to go. Someone like me can inform your conscience but this is something to pray about and do what God is calling you to do.

Your going either sends a message to the Catholic or it doesn't. If the message is neutral, such that the Catholic won't care, I personally would not go as the Catholic is clearly not doing what his faith requires.

  • Exactly what will your presence, or lack thereof, mean to the relative?

You want to send a message that faith is important to you and you hope the relative will remain in the Church and get the marriage validated. At the same, time you do not want your absence to be something that drives the person further away from the practice of the faith. Parents need to be very careful about this. We don't always approve of what children do but we love them and pray for them.

Mike, I know in our intermediate discussions that you were looking for a firm answer from the Church.

It would be easier that way if the Church simply said you are forbidden to go. Then you can just cite that rule and be free, however, not everything is so black and white and you need to weigh all aspects — pray about it — and do what God is calling you to do, which will ultimately be what is best for the salvation of your relative's soul.

Fr. Jonathan

Mike

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