Opinion

How could it be acceptable for Catholics to attend a same-sex ‘wedding’?

The same question applies to invalid heterosexual marriage ceremonies.
Tue Mar 2, 2021 - 8:24 pm EST
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March 2, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) -- Before we address the question posed in the title, another more familiar one comes to mind: May Catholics attend a family member’s heterosexual wedding if it’s known to be invalid? Some theologians argue that if the foreseeable result of not attending the wedding will be a definitive rupture with our loved one, then attendance is acceptable, provided we make our disagreement known to him or her in some way. More traditional theologians argue that even with that proviso, the very fact of attendance inevitably signals a message of “we’re-basically-OK-with-this” to the family member and everyone else present at the ceremony and subsequent festivities.

One of the most respected moral theologians of recent times, the late Germain Grisez, adopted this stricter position unequivocally. In regard to attending a family member’s marriage that cannot be valid because one (or both) of the parties is divorced without a decree of nullity, Grisez argued that any participation at all in such an event is a serious counter-witness to the indissolubility of marriage, which is part of our faith, and will cause scandal by encouraging others to justify and perhaps imitate this gravely sinful decision. He concludes that while family members should make clear their continuing love and respect for their erring child, grandchild or sibling, they “should not cooperate with the wedding ceremony, attend it, or give the couple a wedding gift” (The Way of the Lord Jesus, vol. III, p. 172).

Grisez’s book, subtitled Difficult Moral Questions, does not address Catholics’ attendance at same-sex weddings. This is understandable because it was published in 1997, before such “marriages” existed legally in any jurisdiction on earth. But it is obvious he would have been strongly opposed to Catholic attendance at such events, since his arguments against participating in invalid heterosexual weddings apply equally if not more forcefully to those involving two "gays" or lesbians.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court imposed same-sex “marriage” on the whole nation in 2015, this question of attendance at such ceremonies is becoming increasingly pressing for many American Catholic families. But since the Church’s magisterium has unfortunately not handed down any clear and explicit judgment on this point so far, and since theologians are far from unanimous about it, the faithful are left by default to arrive at their own decision as best they can.

Openly pro-homosexual clerics such as Fr. James Martin, SJ, strongly advocate attendance at these “weddings,” while some other less radical teachers are justifying it if family members fear a definitive rupture with their loved one if they don’t attend. One moral theology professor I know who’s quite conservative in most respects recently commended the following “creative” decision of a Catholic father he knew. Asked by his daughter to attend her upcoming lesbian wedding, the father told her that while he didn’t agree with the step she was taking, he would be there at the wedding to “support” her – but would not walk her down the aisle. 

However, as one who has taught moral theology at seminary level for many years, I would argue that such "middle-of-the-road" compromises (or others, like attending either the wedding ceremony or the reception, but not both) are morally unjustifiable. While we should never reject or vilify a family member who enters such a union, we must always respectfully and lovingly decline the invitation to take part in their public and formal entry into a relationship that is gravely immoral. (It’s also worth noting that angrily breaking off all ties with family members who decline to attend invalid or same-sex weddings is not always something that will last forever. Patience and continuing signs of love will often ease the way to reconciliation after some months or years.) 

As we’ve already noted, mainstream Catholic tradition was always against attendance at invalid heterosexual weddings. And the objections to attendance at same-sex ceremonies are even stronger. 

First, Scripture and Tradition teach us that homosexual relations are more seriously sinful than those established by invalid heterosexual weddings (i.e., fornication or adultery). St. Thomas Aquinas points out that because homosexual acts are unnatural – that is, they manifestly contradict the Creator’s biological purpose in making us male and female – they are more gravely sinful than those which at least remain open to the gift of new life (Summa Theologiae IIa IIae, Q. 154, art. 12). The Catechism of the Catholic Church, too, recalls that this vice of Sodom is one of the biblical “sins that cry to heaven for vengeance” (#1867).

Secondly, a same-sex wedding is far more obviously contrary to the moral law than an invalid heterosexual marriage. Indeed, the invalidity of the latter is usually not at all evident to many or most of those present at the ceremony. But the spectacle of two women, or two men, making solemn vows up front, then kissing and processing out happily hand-in-hand, is self-evidently unnatural. 

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Thirdly, yielding to our loved ones’ demands for attendance will constitute a perilous surrender in the current front lines of the relentless culture war against Christian marriage and family life. At this moment, in education, politics, law, commerce, entertainment and the media, there is a highly organized, vitriolic and increasingly intolerant ‘LGBTQ’ campaign against anyone who dares to criticize the homosexual lifestyle. And if attendance at same-sex weddings becomes accepted within the Catholic Church, those believers who continue speaking truth to power on this issue will only find themselves ever more rigorously marginalized, excluded, and penalized as “haters,” “bigots,” and “homophobes.” 

Finally, even if it can be anticipated that refusal to participate in a same-sex wedding will indeed lead to the permanent estrangement of a loved one, we must remember and observe Jesus’ demanding teaching about religious tensions within families: “Do you suppose I came to establish peace on earth? No indeed, I have come to bring division” (Lk 12:51). The Lord, destined to be a “sign of contradiction” (Lk. 2:34), then goes on to spell out various family relationships that will sometimes be disrupted because of him (vv. 52-53). Again, he teaches us (using Hebraic hyperbole) that unless we are prepared to “hate” our “father and mother, wife and children, brother and sisters” for his sake, we cannot be his disciples (cf. Lk. 14:26). 

In short, now that powerful elites in the giant corporations, the media, federal and state governments, Hollywood and Silicon Valley are becoming ever more hostile to biblical teaching and the natural moral law in matters of the Fifth and Sixth Commandments, this is a time to be courageously counter-cultural by resisting in word and deed the relentless pressure to “make gay OK.”


  catholic, germain grisez, homosexual unions, homosexuality, lgbtq, marriage, same-sex weddings, traditional marriage

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