I am writing in response to “Marriage Outside the Church” (TCA Life, May/June 2010). I am appalled and disgusted that you would recommend that “all of his Catholic relatives protest and refuse to attend his wedding, unless he gets married in the Catholic Church.”
You apparently don’t have any idea how stressful weddings are (I’m in the middle of planning a big one right now), and then you want to heap all of this stress on the poor guy. My biggest problem with this scenario is that your family is supposed to be your support and your soft place to fall, and then you go and tell his family to turn against him in what is supposed to be a joyous time in his life. The question doesn’t mention if they are getting married in a church or by a justice of the peace or what, but, nevertheless, you should attend the wedding no matter what.
Instead of using intimidation and ultimatums, why not use mentoring and support, even if it’s after the wedding. He is not going to come asking for advice or guidance from people that decided it wasn’t important to even come to his wedding.
This kind of thinking is what sends Catholics running [and] screaming away from the Catholic Church. My husband and I are Catholic. I was not Catholic when we got married, and we got married in my Protestant church. We are coming up on our 30th wedding anniversary, and if his family refused to attend our wedding that would have been devastating to him, and it probably would have created a failed marriage. We have attended wedding ceremonies in different religions to support our friends. Catholics need to get a grip . . . it’s not your way or the highway. There are other fabulous churches out there, and I think we all need to work together to spread the word of God. If all Catholics were more accepting and open-minded, and worked to get along with other Protestant religions and other religions in general, the world would be a better place to live.
Name withheld, Austin, Texas
Father Francis Hoffman replies: I think you and I agree on the basics and want strong marriages that will last. But some of your bighearted statements raise concerns.
You should “attend the marriage no matter what”? What if one of them is already married? What if both are men? No matter what?
The vehemence of your emotion regarding my answer to the marriage question is something I have learned to weather after 20 years in the priesthood. People don’t like to be told no. I know from personal experience that it can be dangerous business defending the clear teachings of Christ and the Church about marriage. St. John the Baptist learned that too.
I regret that you did not read my answer carefully. What I advised all depends on the word “if.” Such a small word, I know, but it has great meaning. For the record, I wrote: “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.”
I know of cases where a Catholic was going to get married outside of the Church and almost all of his relatives protested. Because of the unanimous reaction of the family members, that young man came to his senses and chose to be sacramentally and validly married in the Church. However, that rarely happens. Usually most of the relatives acquiesce, and we go from confusion to confusion.