In the May/June 2010 issue a question was asked by Carol Kirsch about “Marriage Outside the Church” (TCA Life). She wanted to know if Catholic relatives could attend the marriage of a Catholic nephew — who had not been a practicing Catholic for years — when the nephew was marrying outside the Church. The question was never answered if she could attend or not, but suggestions were given about getting the boy to return to his faith.
I have asked this question myself, and the answer is always skirted around and never directly answered. If the answer is no, where is this addressed in Catholic doctrine, the Catechism, etc. Is it a mortal sin? Is it OK to go if scandal is not given? Thank you for your time in addressing this.
Jo Anne Kidd, Mableton, Ga.
Father Hoffman replies: For those readers who may not recall the answer, the question was:
“My nephew is marrying outside the church; although baptized, he hasn’t been to church in years. Should his Catholic relatives attend? Of course, it would cause bad feelings if we don’t. Please answer ASAP! P.S. He and his girlfriend attend family religious (Catholic) weddings.”
I wrote in response…
“Your nephew should get married in the Church, and you should tell him that. If all of his Catholic relatives protest and refuse to attend his wedding unless he gets married in the Catholic Church after having received adequate preparation, I’ll bet THAT will get his attention. More likely, his Catholic relatives are split on the issue, and so the confusion just continues.
“If your nephew wants to improve his chances for a successful and durable marriage, let him know that churchgoers have more stable marriages, and that those who follow the teachings of the Church with respect to procreation have both better and stronger marriages.
“It sounds to me that you have an opportunity to speak with him and engage him in conversation and give witness to the benefits of marriage in the Church. As Pope John Paul II said, ‘Do not be afraid!’
“If the parties are otherwise free to marry, then attend the wedding and work with them afterward to bring them into the fullness of the practice of the faith. If the parties are not free — for example, one or both are divorced without an annulment — you cannot attend. I hope this helps.”
I think my original answer is very clear and very pastoral, but it bears close reading and rereading.
The editor replies: To be continued. In the next issue, we will see a reader who has a rather different take on this question.
Thank you for Father Dwight Longenecker’s Q and A about Anglicanorum Coetibus (“From Canterbury to Rome,” March/April 2010). I found the information very helpful, and I am excited about the possibilities raised by Pope Benedict XVI’s initiative. I am hoping (perhaps against reason) that the number of Anglicans who accept the Church’s offer is closer to the upper end of the range than the bottom end. I also hope the “new” Anglo-Catholic parishes will be numerous enough so a person could be reasonably sure of finding one, at least in most of our larger cities.
As a former Episcopalian, I believe I would be eligible to join such a parish. I certainly would join one if it were available “within striking distance” of where I live. One thing I’ve always lamented about my conversion to the Catholic Church is the loss of the beautiful Book of Common Prayer language and the distinctive Anglican ritual and ethos I enjoyed in earlier years.
I believe this is the most positive thing I have seen in Anglican-Catholic relations since I left the Episcopal Church over the rebellious and bogus “ordination” of women in the 1970s. I have high hopes that many of my former co-religionists will jump at the chance to return to the fold where we always knew we belonged.
Scott Havens, Clermont, Fla.