My atheist brother is civilly marrying a divorced Catholic woman


No, you’ve added your own personal narrative to my suggestion (and therefore, turned it into an absurdity). I never suggested saying what you suggest to say to the OP’s brother. Simply “I’m really sorry, but I can’t make it at that time. I will be able to get there around 4, though – do you mind if we come to the reception, afterward?”.

The difference between what I’m suggesting and what you’ve turned it into? Oh, yeah… much different than “to-may-to, to-mah-to”! (But hey, nice job twisting what I wrote into something completely different! :rofl: )


Um…but that is the narrative of the whole thread, with the suggestion…skip a sibling’s wedding, but go to the party.

Honestly, you don’t see how strange this is…to say to a sibling? Like I said up thread, a sibling (or sibling in law’s) wedding is something that, I would imagine, kind of takes precedence over most anything else. The whole premise of telling someone I share parents and grew up with that I can’t make their wedding (when I would imagine to be in it) but can make the reception is just foreign to me…bordering on absurd. Maybe that’s just me…:man_shrugging:


But not in the words that you used to frame it up. That was a pretty inflammatory way to say it… don’t you think? :wink:

I think it’s kind of weird to think that our attendance “endorses” a wedding. So, all around… it’s a novel situation.

Well, the OP didn’t say he’d been invited to be in it. So, there’s that. And, if not in it, then we’re already in a different situation than the one that you’re imagining, where not showing up destroys the family bond.

And, the OP also didn’t mention where the wedding was going to be held, or if it was a big tux-and-gown-and-50-attendants wedding or not. So, there’s lots more in play here than you’re giving credit for, it might seem. :man_shrugging:


Nope, I still stand by that. Kinda the same way you’d think it’d be all smooth by saying I’m to busy for your wedding but we can make the party. I’ve seen that play out with a baptism (we’re gonna skip the Mass part but meet you at the house), caused a big “to do” within a family. :wink:

Nope they didn’t…a lot wasn’t said, but I don’t think that matters either. Point being how important it normally is to have your sibling there.

Maybe…my wife was just asked by her brother if she’d be offended if she wasn’t in the wedding party (i don’t remember why exactly, something with the mix I think) and she’s not, but attendance would still be expected.

Even so, with the OP pointing out how they love both the brother and the fiance, I still find it strange to say I can’t make it to your wedding ceremony, but I’m down for the party.

I guess I don’t understand why that would matter. If my or my wife’s siblings were getting married I’d plan on being there.:man_shrugging:


Yep. But, he’s looking for a way to say “this ain’t right” but also “I love you”.

“I’m coming to your wedding” seems to express the latter, but not the former. If he decides that his desire to express the former is important, in the context of an attendance question, then he’ll do what he thinks is right. I’m guessing that he just wants a bit of affirmation of his instinct that it’s important to express his gut feel.

I’m thinking he’s gotten a whole of opinion on the question he’s raised… :+1:


I can tell you all how I handled it. I had a few first string (parents; siblings) relatives who tried to pull that stunt on me. Can’t come to the wedding because we don’t like that you aren’t having it in church, but we will be at the reception. I said “I don’t think so. Don’t bother”.

I didn’t want them at the reception because just even looking at them would fill me with the sadness of their selfish behavior at a time when I should be enjoying the heck out of one of the most important days of my life. In short, having them at our party would be a downer.

That was many years ago. We are all good now but only becsuse I forgave them even though they weren’t sorry. Living well really is the best revenge in these situations. But you still aren’t going to bring that negativity into my party.

Anyhow, I agree with the others (needless to say) who think it is ridiculous to refuse going to the wedding but express willingness to attend the party afterward. And the assumption that one would be welcome at the reception in this situation is most distrubing. So certain they will be wanted. So wrong.


I agree. It would have been a downer. Tell me, then, please… why would it have been troublesome for them? I mean… I get it that ya’ll disagreed at some point, but… what precisely was the point of disagreement?

And, if there was a point of disagreement, regarding a principle, then what was your perspective? That they should abandon their principles, for the sake of your celebration? Or, are you saying that they were only “wanted” if they agreed with your principles, and in doing so, abandoned theirs? :thinking:


The point of disagreement was that they weren’t willing to accept that not everyone believes the things they do. They hold everyone to what THEY believe. It is unkind. We define marriage differently. They chose to let their definition trump showing love and support for their family member.

You see, I can go to any wedding. My friend’s daughter believes in fairies and belongs to a community who believes in fairies. They held a medieval style wedding replete with fairies and fairy dust and magical vows, etc. She and her groom were so happy and so in love with each other and so wanting to commit to each other in there own way. It was beautiful, and I promise you I am not a “fairy-type-of-girl”. But I am open minded and understanding that others don’t believe the same things I believe and it is still OK, even if it seems based in something I don’t understand and don’t really want to understand. They are still married, 20 years later, and happily so. They are doing something right.

So that is the disagreement. They can be who they are. They can believe what they want. I am fine with that. But they can’t ditch the wedding and then show up to the party celebrating the wedding. It doesn’t work that way. Actions have consequences. If you choose actions that are hurtful to others, you have to understand you probably aren’t going to be welcomed with open arms. The person you hurt doesn’t want you around at that time to suck their happiness away from them, which is what seeing you will do.


Exactly. Refusing to attend the ceremony says you disapprove of the marriage. Going to the party celebrating the marriage says the opposite.


Thanks everyone for the dialogue. Obviously there is a wide range of opinions on this subject and some great discussion. After much thought and prayer on this matter, here is my overall take on it:

Even though I may not agree with how they are going about their marriage or with their beliefs, I am not here to hold my relationship with my brother (of all people!) and my SIL-to-be hostage by skipping their wedding in protest! If I, and my family, were to miss their wedding, there is a non-zero chance that we would be estranged by my brother and his wife. And probably for good reason! If your immediate family were to skip your wedding simply because they don’t agree with your beliefs, would you not just feel un-loved, but also disrespected? Even abandoned by your own family? It is one thing to disagree on something, but it is a whole other matter to risk your entire relationship with a close family member due to a disagreement.

I guess the whole point of me asking this question on CAF was an attempt to find some peace-of-mind on the matter (How can I, as a Catholic, come to terms with that fact that my cafeteria Catholic SIL-to-be may not have a previous marriage annulled?). Ultimately, my brother is my brother and his fiance will be my sister-in-law, whether I agree with the manner in which it is happening or not. Frankly, I can’t say that I have totally found any one true “Catholic” way to approach this subject. As far as I can tell, the Catholic church has never issued any guidance on it either. Everyone here would probably do something different and have different thoughts in this particular situation (obviously) and that is totally okay! I can’t say I have totally found that peace-of-mind here, but I need to keep in mind that I am ultimately only accountable for my own actions in this journey called Life. My brother and my SIL-to-be are both adults and they have made their decision. It is up to me to love them the best way I know how, despite disagreement, and that way is to attend their wedding and continue to take an active part in their lives.


The thing is, will mentioning the impediment do anything?
Would the OP rather

  1. Bring up the impediment, thus alienating himself from this part of his family and burning a bridge he could use to attempt to bring them back
  2. Ignore the impediment for now, but continue to reach out to them in love and respect in hopes of eventually converting the two of them and then regularizing the situation


That’s their business (painful as it may be to hear) and we all have varying versions of this in close or extended family we cannot control. Pray for them!


I believe that is the most “Catholic” answer and exactly what Jesus would have done.


You’re still assuming the worst about her (that she didn’t receive an annulment). That may be playing a role in the lack of peace.


Fair enough. But, the OP’s case seems to be different than yours, so you seem to be extrapolating inaccurately.

The OP’s future S-I-L identifies as Catholic. So, this marriage represents a departure from the teachings of the religion that they have in common. It’s not “they define marriage differently” – rather, it’s that they share a common faith tradition, but his brother and S-I-L are departing from the teachings of that faith tradition.

Agreed. And, according to the teachings of the Church, the action is “invalid marriage”. Which, as you remind us, has consequences. :wink:

Yep! That’s what makes this such a difficult situation!

Years ago, the answer would have been “don’t attend.” (I’m assuming that, since your future S-I-L isn’t free to marry in the Church, then the wedding isn’t at a Catholic Church. Maybe another venue? Another denomination? A secular celebrant? That would have led (years ago) to the answer “you shouldn’t attend.” The most recent canon law doesn’t make that assertion, so you’re right – there isn’t a single “Catholic answer.”)

That’s a totally valid approach! And, this ‘pastoral concession’ is something that many Catholics decide to adopt! :+1:

So, Jesus would have said, “go and sin some more”? :thinking:

Good point, but I’m not sure it’s valid in this case. Anyway, you’re ignoring the fact that a Catholic man is, ostensibly, getting married outside the Church. (After all, if the wedding was taking place in a Catholic church, the OP wouldn’t have assumed that she didn’t have an annulment… right? :wink: )


Looking at things through a Catholic lens (a real Catholic lens, not one that has sold out to modern suburban social acceptance)…

Assuming that the bride has no annulment and is not free to marry in the Catholic Church…

According to the Catechism, we share in the sins of another when we approve of their actions. Going to a sinful wedding is an approval of it. The old catechism stated that we were not to attend the weddings of Catholics married by protestant ministers or even give gifts!

“Support your brother”; “afraid of losing brother”. So what? Christ said that whoever was unwilling to turn their backs on family to follow Him was unworthy of Him, and the He came to bring division, and that He would set family members against each other. Turn it around on him and ask why he is putting you in a sticky situation by asking you to sin.

Now, if the bride DOES have an annulment and is free to marry in the Catholic Church, you can ask “if you are free to marry in the Church, why not do so?”.


So, here’s the thing that just about everybody seems to be unaware of: it is possible to get permission to marry outside of the prescribed “form of marriage” that the Church normatively requires. Typically, you see this in the situation of a couple in which one is a Catholic and the other is a non-Catholic Christian. It is absolutely valid to marry in a place other than a Catholic church and celebrated by a person other than a Catholic cleric… as long as you ask for (and receive) permission from the Church in advance.

Typically, this doesn’t apply to a couple who are both Catholic (as in the OP’s case). However, it is possible. Most times, folks presume that this isn’t possible, so they don’t ask for the permission… and therefore, they enter into marriage invalidly.

In this case, (presuming that the marriage isn’t taking place at a Catholic church, by a Catholic cleric), it really is possible that there’s been permission granted by the Church. (On the other hand, given the tenor of the OP’s statements, it seems unlikely that this is the case.)


Correct… (10 chars)


I am sorry to say it, but to attend their ceremony would be an act of false witness. The reason for this is that as Catholics, we believe that “remarriage” after divorce, unless an annulment is granted, is the grave sin of adultery. To be present at the ceremony would be to say that you are okay with their union and that you support their decision. You could definitely attend the after-party and any subsequent family gatherings and even treat them as a married couple, but you cannot voice open support for their civil union and you CANNOT attend the cerimony. I don’t like having to give you this advice, and I wish I didn’t have to, but seeing as almost everyone else on this board has either beaten around the bush or given you false information, I felt the need to present the truth to you.

God bless you.
Glory to Jesus Christ!


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