Ask a Priest

Attending a Same-Sex “Wedding”

Jan 05, 2016

I’m a newly married man, and my wife an I are both devout Catholics. Unfortunately, my wife’s brother is living with his same-sex partner. They are both great guys and we enjoy hanging out with them. My wife and I both frequently pray for him to sort his life out.

Thankfully, the law in Australia currently doesn’t currently recognise same-sex marriage, however, my brother-in-law has let it be known that, should the law change, he intends to “marry” his partner. I’ve made it clear to my wife that I don’t intend to attend should we be invited. However, she is torn.

It doesn’t help that my brother-in-law is emotionally immature and is likely to take it personally should either of us not attend. It is also possible he may cut my wife out of his life as much as he can. As his mother (my mother-in-law) and grandmother (her mother) both support his life choices unquestioned and induldges him a little, it is likely they may behave similarly. While they may not cut us off, it is likely to put a lot of strain on our relationship. As my wife is very close to her brother and mother, and especially close to her grandmother, she desperately wants to avoid a confrontation. Also, should she not attend, they will almost certainly blame it on my influence (not unjustly).

My question is: how should I best prepare my wife and I for this possibility? What steps can we take to minimise the damage to relationships should we need to make an unpopular decision?

Asked at 09:10 pm on January 05th 2016

Hi Raymond, your question reminded me of Jesus’ tough saying: ‘I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For henceforth there will be division. In one house there will be five divided, two against three and three against two. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’ (Lk. 12, 49-53).

We have to distinguish the aggressive policies of the gay movement from the situation of individual gay persons. The gay movement seems to wish to force everyone who disagrees with gay marriage to agree with them, as if somehow our moral approval has to be granted for them to be able to accept that what they’re doing is right. For me, it’s a bit like King Henry VIII wanting Thomas More’s approval of his marriage, since it was generally agreed that More was one of the most honest men in England – the King’s conscience would be at rest if More’s conscience could accept his adulterous relationship with Anne Boleyn.

I can’t say if that’s what individual people with same-sex attraction want when they seem to require our acceptance of what they’re doing. But surely they’ll have to accept that others conscientiously object to publicly acknowledging that what they’re doing is good. As President Reagan famously said, we don’t care what they do as long as they don’t scare the horses – we don’t lose any sleep over what for us is objectively moral behaviour. It’s another thing if they want our explicit approval.

I think you have to allow your wife to make up her own mind on whether or not to attend her brother’s ‘wedding’ (if it’s ever legalized in Australia). She could surely make it clear to her brother that her attendance is out of respect for himself as an individual, and does not include acceptance of his ‘marriage.’ To come back to what Jesus said, some division may be unavoidable here, or else the brother can claim to others (and even to his own perhaps not untroubled conscience) that what he’s planning to do is right because all these practising Catholics have agreed with him in this matter. And while you yourself will rightly refrain from attending, you could also let him know your love for him as a person, while your non-attendance more than anything conveys your disapproval of what he’s doing. Hope that’s a help in a difficult situation.

Very best, Fr Brendan Purcell

Replied at 12:59 am on January 11th 2016

Yes it is a tough one. I’m wondering if its possible to attend, but only on condition that the brother at the reception, admit and thank you both “for attending, despite their disaproval of our’union’ on moral grounds yet not wanting to abandon my partner or I, out of genuinely wanting the best for us.”

The issue seems to come down to causing scandal as you could otherwise state your position to your brother and his partner, ie. if others were not involved.

If he/ they didn’t agree, I don’t think I could go, with apologies ..

I’m expecting to be in a difficult similar situation work wise at some point and will have to resign ..

God Bless

Replied at 09:07 am on April 26th 2016

This is a difficult situation for many who uphold the true meaning of marriage. Language is important here instead of “gay marriage” we should always say the “re-definition of marriage” especially in this current debate. Language may not seem important to many but it has been the propaganda of many anti social campaigns that has resulted in many evils. In Rwanda an example where genocide of a culture resulted when neighbor killed neighbor because the victims of the genocide were continually referred to as “cockroaches” is one example. In fact in every genocide the use of propaganda to de- humanise the victims is always a feature. Therefore be aware of the powerful propaganda that has infiltrated this whole debate and name things for what they are. As Catholics we must always recognize the dignity of the human person and the catechism recognizes the difficult cross that many same sex attracted people experience but places emphasis that the church can never condone sinful acts. Perhaps if you haven’t already read the Catechism’s view on this whole area. Hope this helps.

Replied at 07:51 am on May 30th 2016