Can I attend my son's invalid marriage ceremony?


I was born and raised Methodist. My son was baptized Methodist. After my divorce when he was 5, I stopped going to any religious services. I did not raise my children in any faith, or even with a good knowledge of Christ.

After years away from any faith, I was called back by God and eventually to the Catholic Church. When my son was 12 we converted to Catholicism. We were brought in to a very liberal parish (I didn’t know that at the time). My children were taught the faith, quickly by a married couple who had just moved to the area. According to my children their instruction in the faith was rather pitiful. The priest told us new converts that we did not have to go to confession, since our first Eucharist would absolve us of our sins. I now know that this was wrong, but I didn’t know it then.

Anyway, my son never liked going to confession. This has been a constant sticking point for him. Because we weren’t instructed in it, we didn’t go for years. Eventually, as I learned more about the faith, I realized that we needed to go. Under duress, my son went maybe 2 times. Eventually when he moved out he stopped going to Mass at all.

Prior to meeting his fiancé, he was turning his life around and had told me that he planned to go to confession and return to the Church.

But that all changed, and they have moved in together and plan to marry in a Lutheran service. She is divorced as well. My son has rejected the idea that she should get an annulment. He thinks the Catholic Church holds no authority, and an annulment is just giving "a bunch of old men money so they can say that God says her first marriage was never valid. "

My question is this. Can I attend his wedding. Obviously, I love my son. I pray for him to return to the Church. I don’t want him t be living in sin, but I realize his marriage cannot be valid as long as this situation persists. I just don’t know what to do. At this point he is not open to any discussion. He responds to all Catholic positions with typical anti-Catholic statements.

My concern is that he is already on the road to total denial of the Catholic faith. To reject his wedding ceremony, would be (in his eyes) to reject him and his fiancé. I was hoping to keep the door open for discussion. I pray that eventually he will return and bring his fiancé with him.

I was divorced and remarried in a civil ceremony. I had no idea this was invalid until a priest told me. I received an annulment and then had my marriage blessed.

Thanks for your help.

Go. You want to keep the lines of communication open with him, his wife, and possible grandchildren. Our daughter - a cradle Catholic who has rejected the faith - was recently married in a civil ceremony. We were there for her and her new husband.

Opinions here at CAF will differ, but I’ll go out on a limb and say you may attend his ceremony in good faith. You would attend in order to witness the joining, such as it is, of your son with his chosen.

It appears (you weren’t clear but I’m reading between the lines) that you have discussed his marriage plans with him, or perhaps you have attempted but were rebuffed. If you have been honest with him, and he knows that you do not approve of the circumstances, I think he is unlikely to read too much into the fact of your attendance at his ceremony. He should understand that your love is unconditional, that you want the best for him, and that you will continue to pray and work toward his conversion and ultimately his salvation, and that of his spouse and children as well.

Yes go. Do not reject him…for that’s what it’ll feel like to him. My friend’s mother rejected her, and therefore also her grandchildren, when my friend got divorced. The mother died at 90, never having spoken to her daughter or grandchildren for 30 years. She never saw her great grandchild. So sad. I SO missed my mother when she died - I felt angry that my friend who was 10yrs older than me, still had a mother whom she was never going to see again. I don’t know where the stubbornness eventually lay…my friend wouldn’t talk about it.
Sons are so precious aren’t they?!

I would talk to a priest you can trust. Your gonna get all kind of answers here. If you do go make sure you let your son know you are there because you love him and not because you support him in sinning. I told all my kids as they grew up that if they ever left the faith, married out of the Church etc. I would love them forever but would NOT support them in any sinful action they may take part in. God Bless, Memaw

Thank you everyone.

The thing is you get all sorts of answers from priests too.

A priest I know who is very traditional, which I agree with, said I should not attend. He originally posted a Facebook post about not attending an invalid wedding. I read it and emailed him . He said this:

If your son was baptized Catholic and goes through a “ceremony” at the Lutheran congregation, the only thing that will have change will be his civil legal status. Not only will he still be unmarried before God and the Church, he will also be committing the sins of scandal (ccc 2284-2285) and sacrilege (i.e. simulation of a sacrament). If you attend the wedding the knowing that it is wrong, then you will be committing the sin of scandal. If you attend figuring that you can go to Confession latter, then you are committing the sin of presumption (sinning knowing that God will forgive you anyway). This is a hard teaching. but Jesus says in Matthew 10:37 “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;”

I am so distressed about this. It comes to being completely submissive to Christ and having faith in God, or putting my son first.

While I can go “priest shopping” and find one to give me permission, is that the right thing to do? I love my son, obviously, and want to be at his wedding.

The thing I wonder is if I make sure my son and his fiancé know where the Church stands on their relationship. Why marriage is a sacrament, why theirs will not be one, and that ultimately I love them so much I want nothing less than heaven for them. Would that be enough to allow me to attend?

I think of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son. Am I able to go there?

No matter how carefully you explain doctrine to your son and his fiancé, you will never be able to know how much they comprehend.

I think it is sad that you are willing to possibly sacrifice your relationship with your son and his family. I’ve heard of families split apart for much less. And if the worst happens, you will never again be able to teach the truth to your son, your daughter-in-law, or your grandchildren.

And if you don’t go to the wedding for the reasons mentioned, I don’t see how you could ever invite them into your home or go to theirs. If it is forbidden to attend the ceremony that creates the invalid marriage, then it follows that you would not be able to associate with them while they are in an invalid marriage.

And I think it’s sad when we put sin ahead of God. Jesus said we must put God ahead of father, mother, son, daughter etc. We need to do what’s right and trust God to work out the rest. Talk to them and PRAY for them. God Bless, Memaw

For what it’s worth, and people here will probably say I don’t have the right to say it, but I think that priest is very very wrong.
I was raised Catholic and married an Anglican in an Anglican Church. We were married by BOTH my childhood Catholic priest - who was by now a Monsignor, AND the Anglican priest, working together. I had the utmost respect for both men (who were great friends) and two communities came together for a marriage, in God’s house. I can just imagine the great rule-followers disapproval…
I don’t believe you can think it wrong to support your son. You can set your example for what you think is right and he will see what you believe and respect you for it. He may come round to your way of thinking, but you can be sure he will follow his own conscience. If you don’t support him, he MAY forgive you and understand you, but what is his wife to think? How can you expect her to understand? Not sure I would in her position. There may always be that between you.
You mention ‘priest shopping’…why do you assume that the most cruel and distasteful opinion is the RIGHT opinion??

This is true. He may not be able to comprehend, but they will know how very important it is. Marriage should not be taken lightly. It is a sacrament, and sacraments are about heaven.

It is sad. This entire situation is sad. It hurts me more than I can explain. While it would be a life long wound in my heart, the very worst thing would be for me, and my children, to lose salvation. There is no doubt this marriage is invalid. The question for me is does my attendance cause scandal or would there be value beyond motherly love?

I could go to their home, and they could come to ours. Being in an invalid marriage doesn’t mean I can’t associate with them. Not attending the wedding is saying that I cannot celebrate the appearance of a marriage that is not truly a marriage. The awful part is the hurt that my son would feel and the possible ostracizing of my daughter-in-law. I love her too. I don’t want to hurt them and I’m in a horrible position. I’m hoping, through discussion, to find a way to be able to attend, and remain faithful to God.

I understand what you’re saying. And I honestly want that to be right. However, there I have this nagging sense that we aren’t to always follow our human feelings of sentimentality. In the big picture, God is what matters. I don’t know if I can attend or not. It isn’t against canon law. I need to talk to my son, alone and share with him my dilemma.

I don’t assume anything. I only posted what he sent me. I respect this priest. He is a good priest. Catholicism does have rules, God has rules, for a reason. We can’t be cafeteria Catholics and decide that we will follow the rules that aren’t too difficult as long as they don’t interfere with what we want to do. I agree with this priest on most everything, so now that he’s said something that hurts me to the core, should I go around until I find a priest who says what I want to hear? I didn’t say his opinion was the right one, at this point I don’t know for sure. So I will be seeing my parish priest about this too.

I was planning to attend his wedding, actually thought I could do so without issue, until I read the article this priest posted:

This has caused me to stop in my tracks and consider this aspect. I had not even thought about it. So, I’m gathering information. I appreciate all the input, on both sides. As mom, and a grandma, the idea of the possible loss of a relationship with my son and future family, is beyond painful.

There is one possible solution that would resolve it. IF his fiancé gets an annulment, and my son gets a dispensation from our Bishop to marry outside the Church. I think both of those things are possible, but I’m not sure that they would consider it necessary to do. But I plan to have a serious discussion with my son about it.

The problem is that your son is already living with this woman, correct? In his mind, he is moving from what is objectively a scandalous situation for two Christians and into “doing the right thing.” You are not preventing a scandalous situation by opposing this wedding, because the scandalous situation is already in place.

Ask your son to explain to you why he believes his intended wife’s previous marriage was not valid–that is bluntly speaking: why are the vows she made to her first husband, which were for life, meaningless now? What makes the vows he and she are going make to each other different than the vows that she has already made to someone else? See what he has to say. It may be that she does have grounds for seeing the first marriage as invalid from the start, but as a non-Catholic getting married outside the Catholic Church is not moved to have the Church consulted about whether it agrees with her. That may make your decision easier.

After all, you do want to keep the option open to advocate that your son come back to the Church and that they get their marriage convalidated before everything is through. Try not to do anything to work against that, when you have that option.

That’s a good point.

Yes, they are currently living together. I have felt all along that their move towards marriage was better than their current state. I had hoped that with time and discussion, that he would return to the Church and bring his wife with him.

Ultimately what I want to do is what is right in God’s eyes, not in my eyes. My emotions tell me to go to the wedding, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing.

Thank you for this angle, it’s a perspective I can work with. I’ve made an appointment to see one of our priests.

What is more likely to bring your son and his wife to your church…(which is, I take it, what you want?)
Love? Acceptance and love of the woman he loves and to whom he is pledging his life? Compassion? Understanding? ie: love, hope and charity…
Or rejection…judgment…public disapproval?

I understand your position but I don’t agree with that reasoning. We can love and accept each other all the way to hell. What matters is Christ, first, and salvation of souls. This is what our love and acceptance should be about.

What’s more likely to bring my son and his wife back to Church? God. It isn’t up to me to figure out how to bring my son back to the Church. And I doubt it will be by committing a sin myself or supporting him in his sin. I need to trust in God, live the faith that I believe in. Even when it hurts me so much that I’d rather be physically injured, because I could endure that pain more easily.

I understand that if we approach people who are comfortable and ignorant in their sin, that a cold judgmental attack will drive them away. We should be loving and help bring them in. I agree with that. However, I have to make a stand so that he knows that this marriage, even after the wedding, will not exist. He needs to know that I love him no matter what, that he can count on me always, but most of all that he can count on me to tell him the truth, even when it hurts. I think that matters.

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What a shame that your interpretation of your religion can cause so much grief. You must be supremely confident that you are right…no room for doubt …
No wonder the world finds it impossible to live in harmony.
If you drive them away, they will blame your religion and be moved towards another one if they look to a loving God. Or, this could come between your son and his wife as he feels loyalty to her and to you. Poor man, he is doing what HE feels is right, and you are being judgmental.
Do you not think God is above all these denominational rules?

If you don’t go, you will probably lose your son for good. And honestly…if you can’t accept him and love him for who he is, then maybe his life will be less painful without the constant reminder that his family rejects him. I am sorry for your son. I am sorry he doesn’t have the acceptance that he should have.

Imagine this were a marriage that you thought was clearly wrong–marrying when he already has a wife that he never bothered to divorce or taking payment to marry someone so they could get a green card or marrying just to get her money. Would you still say that you would go and feel good about it as long as HE feels what he is doing is right?

The “denominational rule” in question is whether or not the woman he is marrying is already married to someone else. That’s kind of a “biggy.” The secondary qualm is that he’s not marrying according to the laws he has promised to abide by. Smaller perhaps, especially considering that he may have been poorly catechized before asking to be received into the Church (which he did do), but hardly nothing! The OP has said she would not refuse to associate with the couple, but feels leery about putting a public stamp of approval on what she believes is probably an invalid marriage. Speaking of judgmental, perhaps we’d have more harmony if we really did respect each other’s consciences?

This is something to talk to the couple about. They may totally understand her position, even though they don’t think as she does. After all, would you require someone to eat something you thought totally acceptable, when you knew that eating it would violate their conscience? I would hope not.

This whole idea that we are not accepted until everything we do has total approval is not realistic. We have to accept that being accepted as we are means agreeing to keep as much peace as possible between ourselves even though we are in true and even important disagreement. That is what ecumenism is, not having everyone water down their beliefs until only points of agreement remain.

This is something for this mother to talk to her son about. Of course she can take into account how he views her choices when she makes them, because that is important! She does not have to make his beliefs her only guide as to how to act, however, giving her own beliefs no room at all for expression. She has to discern how to act with both what she believes her actions mean and what meaning she realizes will be put on her actions taken into account, not just one or the other.

Six years ago, my daughter was married by a protestant minister. I don’t know what her reason was; she just said that it was easier. Four years later, at midnight mass on Easter, my son-in-law was baptized into the Catholic Church. They were also remarried.

Of course I went to the wedding. So did my whole family. It was a beautiful wedding.

I didn’t lecture my daughter or remind her that she was a sinner and tell her that she would be an outcast from the family forever. I suggest that you treat your son the same way.
Anyone who says you cannot attend the wedding is being very unchristian.

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