Can I attend the wedding of my divorced friend?

Wedding season is approaching, and with it comes a very common question: Can I attend the wedding? We all know someone who have married outside of the Church, remarried after divorce, or have entered into a same-sex relationships. Often, faithful Catholics wonder if they can, in good conscience, attend such weddings that aren’t in line with Jesus’ teachings on marriage.

Kevin posed such a question to Patrick Madrid. He called from Oregon to ask, “I have a couple of weddings to go to this summer, and one of them is a good friend of mine. He recently was divorced—he’s a Protestant Christian guy—his wife left him a few years ago. He found love again with a Christian gal and he’s getting married. Our whole family is Catholic and we’re just kind of bouncing around the thought of is it acceptable for us to go to the wedding or is it not acceptable?

Madrid spoke about the validity of the marriage in his answer. “Well, even though he’s not Catholic, the fact that he’s a baptized Christian means he is bound by Christ’s teaching where Jesus says repeatedly, if man divorces his wife and marries another, he commits adultery. And in every instance where Jesus speaks to this issue, he’s really clear and there’s a kind of finality about it,” explains Madrid, host of The Patrick Madrid Show on Relevant Radio®.

“In Matthew chapter 19, there’s an added dimension where Jesus says, ‘If a man divorces his wife except in the case of porneia’—and that is kind of a catch-all word; It does refer to fornication, adultery, some kind of sexual unlawfulness—he says, ‘If man divorces his wife, except in the case of porneia, and marries another he commits adultery,’” says Madrid.

“Your friend might say, ‘except in that case then it’s okay to divorce your wife and remarry.’ So be prepared that he might say that that’s what he’s basing this on. Because either his wife committed adultery or he did, so the marriage is, in essence, escapable. That’s not what Jesus means. Jesus is referring to that first ‘marriage’ that is itself not lawful in the eyes of God, and so there’s no real marriage, in any kind of valid sense, presence in that first case so if the two people separate and decide they want to get married, they’re not committing adultery. But outside of that circumstance, if they were in fact validly married they would be committing adultery and it’s an airtight teaching—there’s no exception to this rule.”

Saint Paul also speaks to Jesus’ teaching on divorce in his Epistles. “He talks in several places how, among other sins, adultery, if left unrepented of, will send someone to hell. He says, those who are murderers and thieves and liars and adulterers and drunkards, etc., cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Madrid also encouraged Kevin to use this knowledge to help his friend. “If you have an opportunity to share some of this with your friend, I would do so. Just so he’s not walking in to this without a clear realization that he would be doing something contrary to what Jesus taught.”

In the case of a marriage that is presumed invalid, Canon Law does not prohibit Catholics from attending, but it’s something that you must carefully discern. Put a lot of thought and prayer into your decision and understand that each situation will be different. Factors to consider include maintaining peace between family members, the circumstances of the divorce or reason for marrying outside the Church, and whether or not you are showing approval of an invalid marriage by your presence.