My atheist brother is civilly marrying a divorced Catholic woman


#1

My brother has fallen away from Catholicism several years ago and is now an Atheist. He has come to the conclusion that that God and religion in general aren’t “logical” and therefore cannot be true. This has been very difficult for our family, especially my parents, but we love him nonetheless and support him however we can.

He has been dating a very nice woman for the last several years and they have been living together for maybe 4-5 years. Now they are engaged to be married. She is Catholic and was once married before in the Catholic Church, but they divorced. I am not sure if her first marriage was annulled or not and this is where I find a moral quandry from my third person and Catholic point-of-view. I am assuming that it wasn’t annulled. She has never spoken of it with us and, frankly, she can be a little distant with our family at times and we aren’t sure why. We are afraid that we would open up a can of worms if we bring up the annulment or lack-thereof. We all love her very much, but we also wish that she would make a more sincere effort to a part of our family.

I love my brother and I am so happy that he found his fiance. I do believe that they are right for each other and compliment each other very well. In the same breath, with her being a Catholic who may or may not be technically married to another man in the eyes of the Church, I find a dilemma in how we, as Catholics, can support such a union. On one hand, I know they are adults and must make their own decisions, but on the other hand I feel like we are supporting a fellow Catholic (my sister-in-law) live a life of sin by marrying my brother. Any thoughts?


#2

you aren’t supporting anything. What other people do isn’t something you have any control over. You are only called to be charitable.


#3

Do you believe that you are performing some act now that shows endorsement of your brother’s impending union? Do you believe there is some act you should be doing, but aren’t, to indicate you are not endorsing your brother’s impending union?


#4

Do you believe that you are performing some act now that shows endorsement of your brother’s impending union? Do you believe there is some act you should be doing, but aren’t, to indicate you are not endorsing your brother’s impending union?

Today? No, but won’t the simple act of attending the ceremony show endorsement of the union? If, in my brother’s case, it is a union of sin, is attending his wedding ceremony any different than, let’s say, attending a wedding ceremony of a homosexual couple?


#5

What is your goal in this situation?

Do you want your brother to know you disapprove of his wife and marriage? Do you want to lead your brother back to the Church? Do you want to have a close relationship with your brother? Something else?

Once you know what you want to achieve you can figure out the best way to accomplish it. If you have multiple goals you’ll have to decide what is most important because they may be in conflict.


#6

In all charity, I don’t think it is your business, is it? I wouldn’t ask about it at all. Support your brother to the extent you can do so comfortably


#7

People here will have all kinds of ideas regarding this situation, I have noticed. Going to the wedding doesn’t have to be endorsing the wedding. It can be endorsing your brother’s (and his fiance’s) honest quest for happiness in this life. You can attend to show your happiness at the true love they have for each other.


#8

What is your goal in this situation?

Do you want your brother to know you disapprove of his wife and marriage? Do you want to lead your brother back to the Church? Do you want to have a close relationship with your brother? Something else?

Once you know what you want to achieve you can figure out the best way to accomplish it. If you have multiple goals you’ll have to decide what is most important because they may be in conflict.

I absolutely do approve of my soon to be sister-in-law and the marriage. She is a great woman and is great for my brother too. But I don’t know if it is “right” of me to do so. The conundrum actually is not that of my brother, he is an Atheist and never married, but of my sister-in-law, who is Catholic and had been married before. If her first marriage was not annulled by the Catholic Church, how can I, in good conscience, endorse her second marriage to my brother?


#9

What happens after the wedding? Will you go to their home? Will you have dinner with them on Thanksgiving or will you avoid them? If you will treat them as a happy married couple after the wedding, then why not attend the ceremony? If you will shun them after the wedding, then don’t attend the ceremony.

I understand the dilemma. I’ve been in the same situation. It’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to have a relationship later if you skip a major event in their lives. You have to decide how far you’re willing to allow them to make their own decisions, however wrong you find them.


#10

Being charitable is to say it as it is - Jesus was/is not about beating about the bush when it comes to sin. When called to speak if ‘you’ know of an ‘impediment’, which line would you take - the secular or the moral truth?


#11

It is my understanding that in Christian charity we are to assume the best. I would give your future sister-in-law the benefit of the doubt in that she sought a decree of nullity.

I can see you love your faith very much! You do not want to dishonor the faith by attending an essentially adulterous celebration for an already married woman. As it would be difficult to verify because of parish records, and she isn’t especially close to you as far as communication; I believe the way to go is to assume she is honest and not a liar and is free to marry. (If I’m wrong please consult with clergy)

The secular wedding ceremony they will be having is not ideal either. Yet, they are moving in the right direction from living together for 5 years to marriage. That’s something to celebrate!

God bless you


#12

I’m assuming - since your brother is a Catholic who’s fallen away - that the wedding isn’t taking place in the Catholic Church? If so, then the issue isn’t your future S-I-L, it’s the irregular marriage itself, right?

So, annulled or not, the marriage won’t be valid in the eyes of the Church. That would seem to be what should get your attention. And anyway, they’ve been living together for a while - that didn’t get your attention?

But, as others have said, you can show your love for them without “endorsing” them. If you want, beg off from the ceremony, but go to the dinner, if it makes you feel less like you’re “endorsing” their marriage.


#13

It’s a terribly difficult situation to be in for you. The best approach I can think of is to gently suggest either to your brother or to you SIL-to-be (whoever seems more amenabe to a “Catholic” talk), that they might consider having a Church marriage. Maybe it’s best to talk to them together, just you and the two of them. Or bring a Catholic-minded family member along but not your mom and dad. If necessary, play the “do-it-for-our-parents” card. The hidden benefit of this is that you will implicitly be forcing your SIL to address the matter of her earlier marriage. And if she and your brother refuse to have a Church wedding, you will still have an opening to bring up the earlier marriage by asking “But why do you not wish to have a Church marriage? It’s not big deal, it’s just a nice ceremony, etc. etc.” Of course there is the possibility that your SIL doesn’t even know about the requirement to get an annulment, but at least you can test her this way without being overly confrontational.


#14

Just don’t support it.


#15

I would say its the following:

This has been very difficult for our family, especially my parents,

and this:

I find a moral quandry

I am assuming that…

we would open up a can of worms

how we, as Catholics, can support such a union

I feel like we are supporting a fellow Catholic (my sister-in-law) live a life of sin

You and your parents are not “supporting a life of sin” by allowing your adult brother to make his own sincere adult life choices. Atheists do not usually marry in a Church.


#16

Not attending will undoubtedly hurt your brother. Any positive feelings of what a living Catholic would look like will be tarnished for the couple.

Your objective should be to support your brother. Show your Catholicism through example. Be happy, positive and show him your good relationships with your own family. You will not change his mind by not attending and in fact most likely damage your bond.

Best of luck.


#17

It’s their life to live as they want…you have no right to judge them or question them…you live your life as you want…support your brother


#18

Showing people that sin is okay is not a good alternative. Don’t support them in a such a away that it looks like you think it is okay.


#19

well, I can’t say I’ve ever heard this question come up in the middle of a wedding ceremony in the last 25 years.

all I was suggesting is that the OP be charitable when dealing with his relatives. You can do this without hitting them over the head with the Catechism.


#20

then ask her the question. Right now you don’t know her status. Even if her previous marriage was annulled she is bound by canon law to be married in the church unless she gets a dispensation.


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