Should I attend a civil marriage between two Catholics?

I asked this in the Moral Theology thread but have not received any responses thus far. Hoping you can help…

A good friend and fellow Catholic whose divorce was finalized last month informed me that she is pregnant. The father (not her ex-husband) is also Catholic. She found out she was pregnant about the same time her divorce was finalized. She and the father had been good friends for many years and had begun dating after the divorce was filed about a year ago.

Despite her mistakes, she can’t change history and I believe she wants to do the right thing going forward. The annulment process has not yet been started. Before this all soaked in, she asked that if they were to get married (a civil marriage obviously) if I would come to their wedding. I said sure. Now I’m having second thoughts as I think about what this means. Assuming they end up continuing with their plan to get married, what’s the proper way to support my friend?

To briefly recap the situation, as I understood it from your report: While your Catholic friend was still legally married, she began a relationship with another Catholic that has resulted in pregnancy. Now that her divorce is finalized, but without an annulment, she is planning a civil wedding to her child’s father. Should you attend this wedding as a sign of support for your friend?

Certainly, you should support your friend’s decision to continue her pregnancy and offer whatever help you can to her and to the father. Should there be a baby shower to provide the couple with needed baby paraphernalia, you could attend and offer a gift. It would also be perfectly fine to attend the child’s baptism.

But supporting your friend during and after her pregnancy is different than giving the appearance of support for a marriage the Church will have to presume to be invalid unless and until your friend receives an annulment for her previous marriage. While the Church does not explicitly forbid Catholics from attending irregular marriages, based on prudential judgment alone, I can only recommend that Catholics do their best to avoid giving the appearance of recognizing as valid a marriage the Church would presume to be invalid.

**Recommended reading:

Should I Attend?** by Catholics United for the Faith (article)
Annulments and the Catholic Church by Edward Peters (book)

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