ASK FATHER: Can I go to same-sex ceremony or reception?

From a reader…


I am invited to my Aunt’s wedding ceremony to her same-sex partner. My family has in the past received conflicting advice from parish priest’s on the issue. One said skip the ceremony and go to the reception; another said to go because you can support the person if not what they are doing. I understand that the Church does not forbid attending invalid weddings, but those responses don’t seem totally satisfactory. What’s your view?

My view… my view….


I think you must not attend either the ceremony or the reception.

This is not like a Catholic and non-Catholic “mixed” marriage situation. Nor it is like a “second marriage” scenario between a man and a woman.

We can’t participate in these situations.

In some cases, as mentioned above, which at least don’t violate natural law and basic common sense, some level of participation could involve attending a reception.  But not this, even at the risk of splits in the family.

Moderation queue is ON.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. rocksplash says:

    My (protestant) mother just found out that a woman she knows slightly (and her entire family) left the Church for protestantism just last year because her priest forbade her from attending her sister’s “gay wedding” in New York. As I got this third hand, I have no idea what the priest said or how “catholic” she had been beforehand, but it’s a very sensitive pastoral issue, and some of our weaker and/or more poorly catechized brothers and sisters are leaving the Church over this issue.

    I got in a huge argument with my mother over whether the priest was right, and I explained it to her from the Catholic perspective, and eventually she saw that the priest was correct in his advice, although he might have handled the situation a little more delicately. Our culture’s idea about what constitutes a marriage is getting further and further away from the sacrament of matrimony, and this kind of situation is likely to occur with increasing frequency, so being able to explain the church’s teaching simply should be a goal of every priest.

  2. Nancy D. says:

    “…conflicting advice from parish priests”; who can deny many are being led astray?

  3. excalibur says:

    You said all that needs be said Father.

    We were told of this by Our Lord:

    Matthew 10:34-36

    New International Version (NIV)

    34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.

  4. Del says:

    I put this question in the same category as “Can I drive my friend to the abortion clinic, even if I don’t support abortion? I mean, she’s going to go anyway and maybe I can talk her out of it at the last minute….”

    No. Whatever we do, we cannot drive a woman to the vicinity of an abortion clinic. That’s a latae sententiae excommunication, Can. 1398.

    Likewise, suppose a brother wants to us cover for him as he trysts with his adulterous lover. Or our sister-in-law invites us to be IVF donors due to our brother’s infertility.

    There are many loving courses we can take when a loved one is about to do something that is terribly disordered against the natural law. But participating in a way that suggests that we are tolerating the disorder — We will have to answer for that at our own Judgment.

  5. MrTipsNZ says:

    For the benefit of the questioner, I can share my own experience on this issue.

    Here in New Zealand, people come from all over the world to get “married” in our same sex ceremony allowing country. My homosexual brother in law from Australia decided this would be a good idea too.

    I refused to attend and did not allow our children to go either. My wife went because she was genuinely of the belief that her brother would never talk to her again, but she did not agree with it and knew it was wrong. I was extremely disappointed by this but continue to pray about this.

    Anyhoo, life has gone on, people still talk to us and my wife’s family and brother KNOW our position. Standing up for what is right is the only thing you can do – what are they going to do?
    The answer is nothing. IMHO, the “fallout” threat is illusory, it always is.

    Pray much and offer more in voluntary penance for those actively co-operating in this sin. My 2c anyway.

  6. Sonshine135 says:

    Assuming your Aunt knew about you religious views, one wonders why she would have invited you in the first place. In all charity, it is likely she wanted to be nice and invite you. I certainly see nothing wrong with a polite decline to that RSVP. I doubt that much of a fuss will be made. If it does, create a fuss, calmly explain the Catholic view of SSM. If your Aunt loves you, she should understand. If she doesn’t, pray hard and offer it up to the Lord.

    Whatever happens, do not become hostile or wound up yourself. Stay calm, keep your peace, and soldier on.

  7. LarryW2LJ says:

    My wife’s cousin, who lives in NY, left the Church and joined the Lutheran denomination, and subsequently married his “boyfriend”. There was no issue, as we weren’t invited, but we had both previously decided that if asked, we would not attend.

    Beyond knowing that these unions are against Church teaching, they just don’t “feel natural”. It’s definitely deeply innate in all of us to know what is right and what is wrong, despite what our secular society would have us otherwise believe.

    That being said, he’s our relative. We still love him, we just don’t agree with his choices and won’t pretend that we do.

  8. Joe in Canada says:

    As a Catholic priest, I agree entirely with Fr Z.

    As far as “forbidding” attendance, I don’t know if a priest has the authority to do that. But he should certainly be clear about the scandal involved, by a baptized Catholic publicly witnessing (which is what attendance would amount to) to this wedding.

  9. disco says:

    As for the “poorly-catechized” — there’s going to come a time of reckoning for them one way or the other. Better they hear the hard truth and leave the church now than hear silence and become ever more entrenched in error. The prodigal son had to leave his father’s house to appreciate what he had been so generously given, so it is with these.

  10. Deus Vult says:

    Entering a sex same union is an objectively immoral act, and participating would be a form of condoning. It may be proper to offer the the Church’s teaching on this issue to prevent the aunt from falling into grave sin.

    Depending on the reader’s relationship with the aunt, it may be better to hold his or tongue, but not going would still be proper.

  11. BLB Oregon says:

    I have relatives whom I know would not speak to me again, if I were to give them offense in this way or that. Certainly, if one of their children contracts a same-sex marriage, I will become persona non grata if I do not show up. If so, it cannot be helped. I won’t go.

    I decided some time ago that my decisions on what is or is not charitable behavior are not going to be held hostage to threats of “relational aggression,” as they call shunning, rumor-mongering, and the like. If something is wrong, I ought not do it, not even if the victim welcomes the offense. If something is a duty, I ought to do it even if the beneficiaries were to spite me for it. Under no circumstances can a sham approximation of either marriage or Holy Orders be given any approval whatsoever, including tacit approval.

  12. We cannot give (or appear to give) our approval to something that is clearly wrong.

  13. I agree with our genial host.

    That said, I would also counsel this. If you take this stance, you may be hit with the charge of hypocrisy, or else a charge of being hateful.

    You may want to think and pray about that now; both to seek wisdom and grace in how you respond. But, also, to examine yourself to be sure there isn’t any truth to either charge.

    In my view, some of us Christians who are seeking to be faithful to the Church’s constant teaching on the subject of chastity and marriage, particularly as it applies to same-sex relationships, have not always been so winsome in how we approach these matters.

  14. Matthias1 says:

    Fr. Z,
    Thanks for the advice. I am afraid, as one commenter remarked, that Matthew 10:34 does come to mind.
    And I shouldn’t have to say anything except that I won’t be able to make it. It may be harder for other closer family members to get away with saying that little.

  15. sprachmeister says:

    Wow, it is a grace from God that your reader asked this today as literally five minutes ago I received an invitation to a “gay marriage” reception of two acquaintances. I knew I shouldn’t go but I needed assurance that this was the right approach and here I have been given it.
    One question – in the RSVP, is it ok if I just decline the invitation without stating the reason, or am I obliged or encouraged to give reasons for not going?

  16. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    1. Re attending receptions but not ceremonies. Hmmm, that’s a very, very, very fine line. In fact, I’m not sure it exists.

    2. Del wrote: “Whatever we do, we cannot drive a woman to the vicinity of an abortion clinic. That’s a latae sententiae excommunication, Can. 1398.” Oh?

  17. OrthodoxChick says:


    It’s not generally expected to state the reason for non-attendance on an RSVP to a heterosexual wedding, so I wouldn’t think it would be required for any other sort of “wedding” either. I don’t know the tradition in your family, on my Italian side, the tradition is to send money to the couple if you can’t attend. As in, don’t be a cheapskate and short-change them a gift. In the case of a gay “wedding”, you might consider having a Mass said and returning the RSVP with one of those Mass donation cards provided by religious orders for Mass intentions. I can’t think of a more beautiful gift and who wouldn’t want to know they’re being remembered in prayer – gay, straight, or otherwise.

  18. eiggam says:

    You don’t need a reason on the RSVP card. It is a courtesy so they know many people are coming. The cards might even be handled by other persons besides the parties involved in the ceremony.

  19. BLB Oregon says:

    “If you take this stance, you may be hit with the charge of hypocrisy, or else a charge of being hateful.”

    If you dare so much as to hold that same-sex couples are not the exact equivalent of opposite-sex couples or that the sexual acts that take place between any two people, married to each other or not, are all the same, you’ll be liable to the same charge. There are even those within the Church who pretend that sexual sin is impossible or at the very most venial, provided that legal consent is exchanged without coercion or deception. (Of course, that is provided that all those admitting to the concept of imputable sin in the first place are not given blanket condemnation as judgmental legalists.)

    As for the RSVP, I think it is sufficient to send regrets. Admonishment of a sinner and instruction of the ignorant about moral law is better done in person, when questions can be raised, misunderstandings addressed, and charity towards the persons involved made obvious. We do know there are those out there who do not merely hate the sin, but have an irrational hatred towards those who may be so much as tempted into this kind of transgression. The work of teaching the truth requires that we separate ourselves from both errors, and not just the one, since both offenses gravely offend against God.

  20. jhayes says:

    Bishop Tobin said to examine your conscience carefully before deciding.

    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.


  21. Bea says:

    It seems that not only the relatives, but their parish priests need instruction here.

    Going to the ceremony gives approval to the non-marriage.
    Going to the reception only, would mean that you might be disapproving of the event, but you are ready to celebrate this travesty.
    I would prefer to upset relatives, rather than God, and not betray my own conscience.
    We become desensitized to sin every time we give in for the sake of “human respect”
    I can’t remember which pope it was, that said the sin of this generation is the “loss of the sense of sin”.

    It is a dilemma.
    For a second time, I’ve been invited to a baby shower for an expectant mom, in which the couples were co-habitating. It is heart-breaking to hurt a friend’s feelings, but I felt it was a teaching moment and explained that it was against my conscience to go.
    I could not go to celebrate a sinful action (fornication).
    If I lost a friend, so be it, but I could not go.
    It’s not about the friend.
    It’s not about the couple
    It’s not about the baby (in your case, the “marriage”).
    It’s about me and God.
    Not saying anything or making up an excuse means we don’t stand up for the Truth.
    These times call for great courage. It is no time to remain silent.
    I was fortunate that my friends understood.
    When the babies were born, I gave gifts to the babies (who had no fault in this situation).
    I would think that while it may not be wrong to not state the reason you’re not going, nonetheless, a teaching moment may be lost that there is a higher authority that we must answer to.

  22. Phil Steinacker says:


    The convention governing RSVPs is to simply check off the option which applies. I’ve never seen a request to RSVP providing space to write an excuse, and would ignore it – especially if included in a situation as you describe.

    When and if you eventually anticipate encountering those who might take offense for your being a no-show, you might prepare with a short, concise “elevator speech” to explain your position politely.

    Or not.

    Remember, the apostles were told not to worry what to say when they came to trial, and to rely on the Holy Spirit to put into their mouths the words they were to say. We can do no better than that.

  23. Chon says:


    Most wedding RSVP cards I have seen just have a place to check yes or no. If they want to know why you checked no, they can ask you. The desert fathers often taught that we should not correct others unless our opinion is asked (unless it is our responsibility to supervise the person, of course). I think that is sound advice, especially in this case.

  24. Fatherof7 says:

    Father Simon gave a great answer to this question a short time ago on his Relevant Radio call-in show. If you can, find it and listen to it. If not, I will summarize his answer. No, you can’t go. By their own logic, they have made invalid the normal rules of society, so therefore, one is not obligated to follow the traditional rules of society. They don’t want our permission, they want our participation, and we can’t give in to it.

  25. Where does the accommodation end? What do we believe and stand for? Are we Catholic or some sort of non-denominational going to what ever church that has a preacher that I agree with? I agree with Fr. Z, and think this where we just pick up the cross and follow Christ. We are in Passion Week, not passions week. We are walking spiritually with Christ to the Cross, experiencing the sorrow and pain before the joy. Jesus taught in Luke 12:49-53; “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” How we are living those eternal words today. My prayers are with you as you discern the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

  26. donato2 says:

    I lost a close friend over this issue. Notwithstanding our political and value differences, we had been good friends for over 25 years. He had no problem, it seemed, with having a friend who was a pro-life Catholic. We enjoyed debating issues. But then he announced he was “marrying” his male companion. I declined to attend. He had a meltdown about it and I don’t expect he will ever speak to me again.

    I gave the issue quite a bit of thought and the decisive factor in my estimation is that the very purpose of a wedding ceremony is to give public approval to the sexual union of the couple. This I could not participate in.

    This whole thing is snowballing at an incredible pace.

  27. Cincinnati Priest says:

    I think BLB is right on the mark here, as is Fr. Z.

    We do have to be very, very careful about not giving in to emotional blackmail, or indulging in false guilt.

    It is not rational to reason along the lines of, “I must do this, even if I am uncomfortable with it, because if I don’t, I will be responsible for [choose one] (a) them leaving the Church; (b) a rift in my family; (c) them not speaking to me in the future; etc.

    If any of those consequences occur, it is because of a free decision on the part of the homosexual wedding “partner” or their sympathizers, not because of your own willingness to stand for what is right.

    In other words, be careful of the fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc. Because it happened after you made your decision to stand your ground doesn’t mean that you were the cause of it. In all likelihood, their disdain for the Church, tension in the family, etc. existed before your courageous decision not to attend, and that decision simply served as a catalyst to reveal the already-existing, if unfortunate, reality.

  28. Montenegro says:

    Here’s how I handled a similar situation last year. A same-sex attracted friend living in the gay lifestyle asked me for my mailing address so that he could send me a “save the date” card for his faux “wedding” to his same-sex partner. I took this opportunity to ring him up and ask him to go for coffee. I talked about my approach w/a priest friend and several good Catholic friends before going to meet him. There was never any question in my mind: I would not be attending the faux “wedding” but what I needed counsel on was how to tell him and try to remain friends.

    We met in the cafe and did the usual small talk. Then he said “I know why you wanted to meet me.” I told him I could not attend under any circumstances due to my faith. He did not protest, but did tell me that of the prospective guests who do object to SSM, I was the only one who actually called him and wanted to meet w/ him to talk about it. He said others had emailed him about their objections, or wanted to read the vows, etc. (Oh dear – like reading the vows would make a difference?!) Anyway, there was no fanfare – he understood that I am a practicing Catholic. I told him I did not even want him to labor under any misconception that I would be attending, so I wanted him to save the trouble of following up the save the date card with an actual invitation.

    We’ve been friends for over 15 years, and I would be lying if I said that my refusal to attend his faux “wedding” has not had a chilling effect on our friendship. There’s really very little to talk about, and I don’t get invited round his place anymore. When we’re invited to the same parties, there’s little we can talk about, really. Once a same-sex attracted family member or friend who lives the gay lifestyle knows your point of view, expect to be shut out in the cold. But that’s sort of the point of living the Christian lifestyle: we must love, but we cannot expect to be popular. God bless.

  29. scribbly says:

    In the reverse of MrTipsNZ’s experience, we were invited to NZ to whatever they called the homosexual union before marriage was legal there.

    The cousin is a nice fellow, and we’d discussed his homosexuality a number of times previously, so declined with a longish letter explaining the reasons that we couldn’t (or wouldn’t). These actions have not had a negative effect at all. They still visit us, we still set them up in single beds… I think they’d be confused if it was any other way.

  30. av8er says:

    It seems like we have to all be apologists if we want to combat the onslaught of secularism and anti-Catholicism.

  31. av8er says: we have to all be apologists

    1 Peter 3:15-17 (Douay-Rheims):

    But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you. But with modesty and fear, having a good conscience: that whereas they speak evil of you, they may be ashamed who falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better doing well (if such be the will of God) to suffer, than doing ill.

  32. Kathleen10 says:

    I offer this disturbing recent event. It disturbed me, anyway.
    My husband and I were last weekend walking our dog, and were in the vicinity of our nearby park. A group of adolescent skaters, all male, were gathered, about six or seven, the kind of group you may see anywhere. One may expect to hear any number of comments from boys, but I was unprepared for this. One boy, about 13, was loudly asking another of the boys to “come and give me a hug”. All the boys seemed interested in this. No protests were heard. A few minutes later, this boy was embracing and literally hanging on to another of the boys in an overtly physical display. In my day, this would have surely been met with some negative reaction, but now, nothing.
    Homosexuality has moved into the arena of children. At my public school, we have fifth graders who are asking out children of the same sex. People probably often embrace homosexuality in theory, but I do wonder if that reaction will change when it is little Junior who is flouting his homosexuality, or little Jennifer. Right now, homosexuality is cool, it has cache, it is the “underdog” and many are all for it. Statistically, it’s likely there are more children and young people acting the part of homosexuals for the sake of experimentation and attention, than is likely among the population, because the estimate of actual homosexuality in the population is very small, something like, 2% I believe. So here are all these kids who are at a very young age, pushed into homosexual experimentation. Where this will lead kids who are not actually homosexual, who can say, but, we may hazard a guess. Children with adolescent hormones raging now have twice as many prospects for sexual outlets than they did only a few short years ago. God help our children and us.

  33. MichaelBoston says:

    In the 80’s before “gay marriage” appeared on the radar screen I had an experience with homosexual co-workers that illustrates the reaction when one does not extol this sin. I was working as a law school intern in a public agency. There were several other law students on staff. The most prominent intern was a professed homosexual activist. I worked closely with him and got along with him just fine. Several months later he placed his male “lover” in a job at the agency. The two became social organizers at the office. I never confronted either one on their “relationship” and was always friendly and respectful. This “live and let live” approach was not satisfactory as far as the homosexual activist was concerned. One evening after drinks with co-workers I found myself alone with the two homosexuals at a snall bar. They both began praising me for my “cosmopolitan” aura and then asked me if I was aware of their relationship.I said I was and they then began closely questioning me concerning my acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle. I very respectully told them I considered them friends and would assist them as friends in any way possible except by publicly standing up and approving of homosexuality. The two were aghast and the evening was quickly adjourned. Neither spoke to me again for the remainder of my internship. Luckily I did not have to work long term with either. Since then the demand to proclaim homosexuality as a virtue has increased a hundred fold. It is becoming a litmus test in the workplace and socially. We must remain steadfast in our refusal to approve of sin.

  34. MarkJ says:

    “More souls go to Hell because of the sins of the flesh than for any other reason.”
    – Our Lady of Fatima

  35. Del says:

    Dr. Edward Peters says:
    14 April 2014 at 5:19 pm
    2. Del wrote: “Whatever we do, we cannot drive a woman to the vicinity of an abortion clinic. That’s a latae sententiae excommunication, Can. 1398.” Oh?


    Can 1398 applies to whomever “procures a completed abortion.” As a reg’lar schmoe with a book of Code, I reckon that the procurers would be 1) the mother, 2) the person who pays for the abortion, and 3) the escort who drives the two in and the one home.

    You can correct my error in a few weeks, when I come to pick up my son from that school in Detroit.

  36. Bea says:

    Cincinnati Priest says:
    15 April 2014 at 2:09 am
    I think BLB is right on the mark here, as is Fr. Z.

    We Do Have To Be Very, Very Careful About Not Giving In To Emotional Blackmail, Or Indulging In False Guilt.

    Thanks, Cincinnati Priest. The above is a great quote to remember and share with others who suffer when doing and saying what is right and going against the “flow” of “nice”

  37. yatzer says:

    Those who make up their own “values” give themselves a pass because they have no absolutes to live up to. Those of us who do have difficult (for us anyway) requirements for behavior that originate outside ourselves are derided as hypocrites because we don’t (even though we do try) always live up to them. If we did, we would still be in the wrong because God’s standards are outdated or irrelevant now. There is no way to win here except by capitulating. So, if we don’t go to the “wedding”, every real or imagined fault we have ever committed will be flung back as us as a way of demonstrating how judgmental and hypocritical we are. What they may or may not have done is OK because they make no claim to an objective morality anyhow.

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