Question: How does one respectfully turn down an invitation to a wedding involving a same-sex couple?
— Name withheld, via email
Answer: The approach to be taken is like that of an invitation to any marriage that is invalid. As a general norm, Catholics should not attend such ceremonies. Examples of this include wedding ceremonies held in a place other than a Catholic Church without permission when either the groom or bride is Catholic. Likewise, when either the groom or bride has been married before and the Church has not or cannot recognize the nullity of prior unions.
A same-sex wedding is invalid since God in establishing marriage indicates that the suitable partner for a man is a woman (Gn 2:18). God further teaches: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body” (Gn 2:24). To attend a celebration of a wedding we know to be invalid is problematic because attendance indicates approval and celebration of what is taking place.
With all this in mind, I might suggest the following text to decline such an invitation: Thank you for your kind invitation. Since attendance at a wedding indicates support and approval of the union, I must decline to be present. For sincerely held religious reasons I cannot accept or indicate support for the notion that two people of the same sex validly wed one another. I realize we disagree on this but I am bound in conscience to follow scriptural norms through which I believe God has spoken to us with authority.
Unfortunately, we live in times where many are intolerant of sincerely held religious beliefs. We do well to remind such people that our beliefs regarding the nature of marriage and the wrongness of sexual sin, including homosexual acts, stretches back thousands of years and is reiterated at every stage of biblical revelation. We can also remind them that those who seek tolerance should be prepared to offer it as well.
Refusing a funeral
Question: My sister was told by a parish in her area that they would not celebrate the funeral of her husband, who is Catholic, because he is not a registered member. Is this allowed?
— Doris Chapman, Brooklyn, New York
Answer: A Catholic parish should not decline funerals as a general norm. One of the corporal works of mercy is to bury the dead.
Sometimes a parish has to decline a requested day and time due to scheduling problems or availability of clergy, but can still negotiate another time.
Though there can be pastoral encouragement to have a funeral in the parish where the person regularly attended, there may also be legitimate family reasons for holding the funeral at a parish where the person was not registered.
Registration at a parish, though helpful, is not a requirement of Canon Law and is not a precept that binds Catholics. To decline a funeral based on “registration” is not in itself a legitimate reason to refuse funeral services.
Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org.