By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK
Many of our Catholics will find themselves on the horns of a dilemma as we approach another “wedding season” with the coming of spring. Invitations, some of them to public celebrations of invalid marriages, whether a same-sex simulation ceremony or a Catholic remarrying outside the Church after divorce, force a decision upon the faithful Catholic.
Honored as we rightfully are when our company is sought by friends at an important celebration of life and love, the invited must seek to please other human beings without betraying love for God.
Catholics live what they believe: What we say in the Creed must have an effect through faith on what we do. Jesus Christ taught that “not everyone who says, Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of my heavenly Father.” Christ Himself set the example by doing the Father’s will and going to His death on the cross for our sake, for our salvation.
For many the decision as to how to respond to a wedding invitation will be easy. The basic guideline for Catholics is to not attend any ceremony that celebrates a wedding when one in fact does not exist, that is, an invalid ceremony. This is clearly the case for a divorced Catholic who is remarrying without benefit of a declaration of nullity or in all cases of a “marriage” of two persons of the same sex. A Catholic who seeks the salvation of others witnesses for their sake by withholding the approval that would be declared by their presence at the ceremony.
A compromise is arguably possible by attending the reception only if invited to an invalid ceremony for a Catholic relative or friend. If neither has married before, one holds out hope that it is possible for sake of Catholic party to have the union convalidated in the future, if the Catholic at some point decides to return to practice of the faith. Making a gesture of friendship such as attending the reception keeps the friendship alive and gives an opening to non-practicing Catholics to reach out and ask questions or seek help.
Some of our Catholics wonder if they should write down their reasons for not attending the wedding ceremony in the context of gift-giving. When we decide not to attend, we fear may hurt others and damage friendships if the serious reasons for our decision are not explained carefully and lovingly, thus doing more harm than good. I do not recommend evangelizing or preaching in the context of wedding attendance or gift giving.
In cases where one decides that he or she cannot celebrate the reasons for the event to which they are invited, it may be the best witness to be honest about that and honest with the host as to why — perhaps with a loving letter or visit.
Unfortunately, today there are some events which are such an affront to God in a basic way, such as same-sex simulation ceremonies, that presence at the reception as well as the ceremony will conflict in a serious way with witness to the faith. Presence is celebration, and celebration is approval. In such cases a polite and firm, as well as a loving, explanation may be the best and most honest recourse.
To honor the humanity of others while remaining faithful to God one must simply respond, whether by letter or in person, with the plain truth. The text might read long the following lines: “I am a Catholic Christian and, as much as I love you and am honored by your invitation, God requires that I put Him first and your decision to invite me has forced my decision to avoid the presence and approval of your actions that my acceptance might signify. Thank you very much for thinking of me. Please know that I love you no less and make this decision out of love for you which is never in conflict with my love for God who loves you just as much as He loves me.”
We always proceed with knowledge that the salvation of souls is the highest law of the Church and that this should be our primary concern both for ourselves and the others in our lives who love us enough to desire our presence in celebration of the significant moments in their lives.
May God and His saving love guide us!
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(Follow Father Cusick on Facebook at Reverendo Padre-Kevin Michael Cusick and on Twitter @MCITLFrAphorism. E-mail Fr. Cusick at firstname.lastname@example.org.)