In the E-mail: Should a Deacon Attend a Gay Wedding?—UPDATED

This arrived in my mailbox yesterday. A woman writes:

I would love your opinion on a Catholic deacon attending a gay wedding. I feel this would be seriously wrong, especially since he is a deacon and is called to live by the Catholic teachings.

I replied:

Speaking for myself: I wouldn’t do it, even if it was a close family member, for all the obvious reasons.

Sometimes there are personal and pastoral considerations that come into play with things like this. Every circumstance is different.  But the presence of Catholic clergy at an event like that implies tacit approval of something the Church cannot condone.

In a related issue, a couple years ago Eric Sammons in OSV weighed in on the problem of Catholics attending invalid weddings:

There is no canon law that forbids a Catholic to attend a non-valid wedding. However, that does not mean that one always should attend such a wedding, or that it would always be prudent and wise to do so.

In deciding on whether to attend these events, one has to weigh between a legitimate desire to avoid harm to a relationship and an equally legitimate desire to avoid supporting a sinful situation…

…But what about a same-sex marriage? This situation seems more clear-cut, as the “marriage” doesn’t even have the appearance of a true marriage. Not only is it not a valid marriage, but it is a mockery of the essential nature of marriage, which is a union between a man and woman for the purposes of unity and procreation. An invalid marriage between a man and a woman at least has the potential to eventually be recognized by the Church (if and when any impediments are overcome), but this is not the case with a homosexual marriage.

Thus, it is hard to conceive of a compelling argument for a Catholic to attend such an event. One’s presence publicly lends support to the very idea of same-sex marriage, thus undermining the foundations of one of the Church’s seven sacraments.

Obviously, in this situation too, one must show charity toward the participants, ensuring them of your love for them, while refusing to support their actions. There is no question that this is a difficult situation that demands much prayer and penance.

More recently, one bishop has weighed in:

The Catholic Church has respect, love and pastoral concern for our brothers and sisters who have same-sex attraction. I sincerely pray for God’s blessings upon them, that they will enjoy much health, happiness and peace. We also offer our prayerful support to families, especially parents, who often struggle with this issue when it occurs in their own homes.

Our respect and pastoral care, however, does not mean that we are free to endorse or ignore immoral or destructive behavior, whenever or however it occurs. Indeed, as St. Paul urges us, we are required to “speak the truth in love.” (Eph 4:15)

…Because “same-sex marriages” are clearly contrary to God’s plan for the human family, and therefore objectively sinful, Catholics should examine their consciences very carefully before deciding whether or not to endorse same-sex relationships or attend same-sex ceremonies, realizing that to do so might harm their relationship with God and cause significant scandal to others.

UPDATE:  Another perspective, from Catholic Sensibility: 

If a close family member of mine (daughter or sibling) were gay or lesbian, I would probably avoid scandal in the domestic Church and attend. My attendance signifies my approval of same-sex unions to the degree that my American citizenship and tax payments indicate I support adventurism in southwest Asia, Guantanamo not-closing, or welfare CEO’s.

I might not take an official role in the proceedings. But then again, at my daughter’s wedding, I’ve already mentioned to her I don’t believe in the father “giving away” the bride. She will be an adult woman–she gives her own consent when she marries some guy.

I think that if one is going to take a moral stand by non-involvement, one has to be thorough in the degree of immorality that has entered into the world. If Catholics, or anyone else, was so focused on not “supporting gay marriage” that they only boycotted lesbians and gays, that person might have genuinely moral heft behind their view. But they would also be prejudiced against SSA persons, to the degree they did not boycott people involved with other grave sins against common decency.

Most people realize that the Catholic Church does not move in lockstep. My presence says nothing about Catholic approval or disapproval of something, and most adults know it. But my presence is also a Catholic one in the sense that I’m always open (or trying to be) to share my faith and encourage others to explore the Catholic faith. I have had many sparkling conversations with non-Catholics, inactive Christians, and even non-believers in the most interesting of settings in which a deacon or priest would perhaps decline to be caught dead.

I try to be on the lookout for ways the Holy Spirit inspires me to engage with people. So while I’m not representing the institution in a mistaken gesture of approval, I am going as a sinner among sinners. Or, if you prefer, as a disciple among potential seekers.

It’s complicated. And there are no easy answers.