“If God is going to show up, then I’ll show up,” said Jimmy Akin, Catholic apologist and friend of Cale Clarke. Darwin, a caller from San Diego called in to The Cale Clarke Show to ask if it was alright for him to attend his daughter’s wedding which will be held not in a church but on a beach. While ultimately a tough spot and an unquestionable majority of people would just go even if they knew it wasn’t a valid marriage, it’s a very real concern. Because Darwin’s daughter is Catholic, she knows about marriage validity.
When Akin says “If God is going to show up, then I’ll show up,” he is referring to the concept of a “valid, natural marriages” which the Church recognizes as a genuine union of man and wife, even if neither of the participants are Catholic or Christian. If two Buddhists or atheists or Hindus got married, they are still known as valid, natural marriages.
Cale said that marriage is what’s known as a “creation ordinance”, an institution of union that existed even before the Church did. It wasn’t until Jesus’ ministry that it was raised to the level of a sacrament. If two married atheists were to come into the Church, their marriage which was already valid is then “sacramentalized” and they receive the graces of their union.
In Darwin’s daughter’s case, she is Catholic and typically, it is required to get married inside a church. However, as Cale pointed out, special exceptions can be made. If a Catholic person’s fiancée refuses to get married in a Catholic church, the Catholic can request a special dispensation from a bishop to hold their ceremony elsewhere. The problem arises when Catholics “go rogue” and without asking permission, hold their weddings outside, in a reception hall, or another secular venue.
Cale recalled several personal instances in which he encountered situations similar to Darwin’s. The first one was a friend of his named Rob. Rob was a devout Catholic who had raised his son in the Faith, but his son chose to get married outside of the Church. Heartbreaking though it was, Rob decided not to attend his son’s wedding because it was knowingly and openly made invalid. Cale made a similar call in choosing not to attend his cousin’s wedding. When he asked Cale if he was going to attend, Cale explained why he couldn’t come and he extended an open invitation to his cousin to return to the Church in the future and have his wedding validated.
“When it came to my sister, my sister was in the same boat. She got married on a golf course. [She] didn’t get married in the Church. She wasn’t practicing her faith at the time,” said Cale. However, he confesses that he broke the “Akin rule” this one time and he attended his sister’s wedding. He said he believes that his sister might never have spoken to him again and that he did it in the hopes that she would one day return to the Faith.
In conclusion, there are several guidelines we should follow when determining whether to attend a wedding or not. Firstly, if there are non-Catholics getting married, their marriage is recognized as a valid, natural marriage. Secondly, if a Catholic or Catholics are getting married, they are required to get married in the Church unless otherwise granted special permission from the bishop. Thirdly, you are generally not called to recognize a marriage outside of the Church through your attendance unless it will cause a rift or dissension as determined by your bishop.
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