Non-Catholic brother marrying Catholic outside of the Church



Dear Fellow Catholics,

I think I’m facing a great dilemma and would greatly appreciate the advice of other Catholics here, especially learned priests. I am a convert to Catholicism, having been received into the Church in 2004. None of my family are Catholic (nominally Anglican, but in reality nothing really at all), and I don’t think they really ever could understand why I had to convert.

My brother has decided to marry a woman, who by all accounts is very lovely, and it is a decision I support wholeheartedly. His fiancé is a baptised Catholic, but non-practicing, and most probably received no formation during her childhood, though this is subjective. The dilemma is that they evidently have decided to marry outside of the church. I have suspected that this would be the case, but hoped that it wouldn’t be. Tonight it was confirmed, however.

My poor mother has been dreading this, as well, though for the reason that she fears our entire family will be destroyed if I should not go. She has been through a lot this past year, with the death of her twin sister, and the failing health of my father, who has spent much time in hospital and is now very frail. She is petrified that our whole family is about to be destroyed by her recalcitrant Catholic son.

I want more than almost anything to support them, but based on my understanding of Catholic marriage, theirs would not be a valid one. I don’t believe that I would be helping them to come towards the faith by not attending, but I also think that in the eyes of our Lord and His Church, it wouldn’t be valid. My devotion to the faith comes before all else, though, and I feel torn between my faith and my family.

I encountered a similar situation years ago, when a baptised Catholic cousin of my wife, raised with no or little formation in the faith, married outside of the Church. My wife wanted to go to the wedding, but I didn’t think it would be right. I then sought the counsel of a very holy and very learned priest. I promised my wife that I would do whatever he instructed me to do. I explained the situation matter-of-factly to him.

His reply: “we cannot ever support a sacrilege”. That’s really stuck with me.

Any help and insight you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Your prayers also.

Thank you in advance!


As a starting point, have you talked with your brother and his fiancee? You could explain to them what it means for a baptized Catholic to get married and how important it is to you that they follow the proper protocol. Be open and honest in your dealings with them and see what happens.


It is their dilemma, not yours. I think I would show up for the wedding, and show support through example and wish them well. Your kind, loving example might well go a long way in having the young women return to the church. You don’t have to be teachy-preachy, just show your brother that you love him and his future wife. Of course, I could be wrong, but Christ ate with sinners and attended a wedding, also, where I bet there wasn.t’ a single "Catholic’ in attendance


I have not yet. For reasons that I do not understand, my mother believes that speaking to them about it would be catastrophic. I don’t believe my brother to be unreasonable, though, so I am willing to do so.


Prayers that the Holy Spirit inspires you and the conversation goes well.


I was in the same situation and did not go. I stil have a relationship with my sibling. I sent a text wishing them well on the day. It was not acknowledged but I do think it was appreciated.


I would go. There is always the possibility that with your prayers and example they could seek a convalidation


Your brother, and especially his bride, would be better off with a living Catholic presence in their kives. And your mother has been through way too much already. You have a wonderful opportunity here to show love and support for all three by attending. And an opportunity to create a rupture, and devastate your mother, by not attending.

Which means there is no point in deeply hurting your mother.


I’d talk to them. You and your brother are adults. You should be able to talk to each other like adults. Your mother does not need to be involved in it and shouldn’t have any say over you speaking to your brother.

If they still wish to persist with their plans, consider skipping the wedding but attending the reception.

If you don’t feel you can even do that, at least you’ll have talked to your brother in advance so it won’ t be a big surprise.


You know your brother. Do what will best leave open the door for him and his fiancee to return to the Church.

ETA the only thing I would advise against is being part of the wedding party, best man, having your kids as ring bearers/flower girls, etc.


Be an adult. Talk to your brother like an adult. Then go to the wedding.


My divorced Catholic brother remarried a divorced Lutheran in a Lutheran ceremony. My husband, son and I didn’t attend. I talked to him about why we weren’t attending. I also consulted a priest about what to do. My brother and I still
have a fairly good relationship but his wife doesn’t speak to me. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

Being Catholic isn’t always easy. You have to sometimes do the hard thing. Just because it’s family doesn’t mean you have to go along to get along.

I wish you the best in making a good decision.


You have a choice - either follow the advice of the learned Priest or follow your heart and love for your family. I would attend and be supportive unless there is something we don’t know about. I would also follow the advice of others and have a chat with your brother - but don’t back him into a corner.


While your concern is reasonable based on your observation of the situation, it is the responsibility of the couple to discern their marriage and ensure they take the proper steps. There is no formal prohibition against attending a putative marriage ceremony.

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