Best Man

What’s the rules regarding participation in a wedding of a divorcee? My friend (a protestant) is marrying a woman who is divorced and asked me to be the best man. I don’t know if she’s catholic or protestant. My friend and I used to be very close, but we haven’t kept in good touch at all, so I don’t know much. I’m hoping I don’t have to go probing because that would be painful. But I don’t want to do anything immoral. So should I go probing? If so, what do I need to find out? Or can I just participate w/out asking questions?

The way I see it, if you don’t know, don’t assume the “worst”. Second, it’s not your business if it’s not public knowledge, so don’t go probing. You could drop a hint to your friend that you’re a good Catholic if he already doesn’t know, but beyond that is going into someone else’s business, methinks.

Some may say differently, that you should find out so as not to be making the appearance of tacit approval of adultry if the woman is Catholic and has not had her prior marriage annulled. To me, though, if one is to do such probing, one might as well ask if they’ve slept together before the wedding, and if so did she go to confession. :eek:

When the CA apologists answer questions about attending weddings, they are quite clear as to when you should participate or not. To attend an invalid wedding can cause scandal, which is a sin. It would give the appearance that you agree with the couple getting married. If the woman was validly married the first time, then she is still married and this new wedding would be invalid. It is not appropriate to attend a wedding that is known to be invalid - if you really want to go, you need to ask if she is free to marry.

If she is Catholic, then she needs to have had an annulment, correct?

If she is not Catholic, then what? She obviously wouldn’t have an annulment.

Gods law on marriage applies to every human, not only Catholics.

Gods law on marriage applies to every human, not only Catholics.

yes, obviously, but that really doesn’t help me. I’m wondering what the Catholic church’s teachings is. Is it that all protestant weddings that involve a divorcee are invalid?

Nope. Catholic marriage “rules” only involve Catholics or mixed marriages. Canon Law does not apply to non-Catholics.

There’s a lot of questions to be asked and answered in order to determine whether or not this would be a valid marriage. It’s not your place to be asking them. If you’ve not been told about the previous marital status of the bride, and it’s not common knowledge, there’s no scandal involved if you participate in the wedding.

We assume the first attempt at marriage is VALID until proven otherwise by a competent tribunal.

Until proven otherwise (per Jesus words in the NT), those who are divorced are committing adultery if they remarry.

so I don’t even know what the “common knowledge” is. I live in a different state and don’t talk to any of the same people. I could be that everyone else knows but me. It could be that I won’t find out until the night before. At which point it would be even more awkward - because there are certain circumstances where I would have to pull out and say no, right? For instance if I find out she is a Catholic who was divorced and didn’t have an annulment. If I found that our even just a few minutes before the wedding, then I couldn’t participate, right?

If she’s a protestant, are there no rules then? If she was never Catholic, then I have no worries?

How so? Are you suggesting that the OP see proof of an annullment in writing?:eek:

I would not participate in an re-marriage after divorce ceremony.

are there any church teachings on this? I can come up with opinions on my own - I’m really looking for resources.

Go to the Catechism and look up all the passages on divorce - remember, natural law applies to every human on the planet:

**2384 ***Divorce *is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery:

**If a husband, separated from his wife, approaches another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery, and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another’s husband to herself. **

yes, I understand that. But that doesn’t talk about annulments. It would be totally fine for me to attend a marriage of a divorcee if they had an annulment, right? So - how does this apply to protestants. Since they don’t have a formal process for annulments - do you assume valid or invalid?

If one partner is Catholic, canon law still applies to them. If neither are Catholic, canon law does not apply to either. It would be a tricky matter and rather arbitrary for a person to determine whether or not a couple had a valid protestant marriage. Anullment tribunals have to sift through evidence to determine whether or not a marriage is valid; a single person has no business deciding whether or not a protestant marriage is valid or not.

a single person has no business deciding whether or not a protestant marriage is valid or not.

agreed. I have absolutely no intention of doing so. So do we assume validity or invalidity? Obviously the assumption isn’t always right, but since we’re not making the judgment personally we have to make it so that we have something to make decisions based on.

I’m assuming that I should assume invalidity (of the original marriage that is). So I guess I’ll try to sidestep my way into finding out if she’s Catholic.

I disagree. Under Catholic teaching, a marriage is presumed valid, unless it is proven to be otherwise. This would suggest that her first marriage should be presumed valid. In which case she would not be free to marry your friend.

If one or both of them were Catholic, they could ask a tribunal to investigate whether her original marriage was in fact valid, and therefore determine if she is free to marry. The problem, of course, is that if neither of them is Catholic, they do not have recourse to the tribunal. There may be all kinds of reasons that her first marriage may have been invalid. But in the yes of the Catholic Church neither she, nor your friend, nor you are competent to decide that.

I think you may be confusing Canon law requirements with natural law requirements. Canon law requirements (proper form for marriage, etc.) apply only to Catholics. If a Catholic attempts marriage without following these requirements, it can result in an invalid marriage.

Natural law requirements apply to everyone. The requirement that marriage be a lifetime commitment is a natural law requirement, not a canon law requirement. It applies to everyone. Thus, a person who attempts to marry after divorce is (objectively) violating the vows from their first marriage.

In order for that person to be free to marry, the first marriage would have to be shown to be invalid. You are correct that we are in no position to evaluate the validity of that first marriage. Therefore, we should assume that it is valid, not assume that it is invalid and the person is free to marry.

No, I’m not confusing the two, I understand…maybe I didn’t put it right…

I guess I’m not in agreement that we should automatically assume that it’s valid. For all we know, the previous marriage may have lasted 15 minutes and may not have been consecrated.

Suppose it IS valid. Then we’re guilty of presumption.

Either way, it’s a tough call for the OP. IMHO we should not presume, but on the flip side it’s something that would be good to know.

If either party were Catholic, my guess is that going with the odds one would be on better grounds to assume a previous sacramental marriage.

From a practical perspective, I guess it depends on how good of friends the OP is with the groom, or had been in the past, and how comfortable he is with the odds of it going either way.

Why does it matter if she is Catholic or not? The law against Re-marriage after Divorce is not the Catholic Churches, it’s Christ’s law and applies to all persons Protestant and Catholic!

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit