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Can a Catholic Witness at a Gay Marriage?


I’m in a dilemma and need some guidance. I have a friend whom I’ve known practically my whole life. He is more of a brother to me than my actual brothers. He is gay, and I do accept that, even if I don’t necessarily agree with it. Anyway, we live in a state where same sex marriage is legal and he and his partner have decided to go to the court house to “make it legal.” He has asked me (as his best friend) to be his witness at the ceremony. If I support my friend, is it a sin? He really does not have anyone else in his life other than his partner and me. I do want to help him. Thank you.



A sense of brotherhood is a special gift of friendship and this is commendable. But given that the Church does not recognize same-sex unions, it would be difficult for you to take an active part in the ceremony without compromising yourself. The very nature of a witness is to signify that a true marriage did indeed take place. Catholics would struggle with several points of the scenario you mention:

1. While a Catholic could witness to a heterosexual marriage between two non-Catholics (not married before) before a civil magistrate; it would be problematical if there is a prior bond or if one or both are Catholics. (Catholics must be married before a priest or deacon).

2. The Church would not recognize a same-sex marriage as valid. Does it give scandal if a Catholic witnesses something which the Church would judge as invalid and sinful?

I suspect it is point two that brings you to ask the question here. Is there a way to let your friend know that you love him even if you cannot publicly affirm his lifestyle and bond? Would he judge that as a personal renunciation? Could you explain that you have wrestled with the issue and feel that it would call into question certain moral values of your own?

There is probably no good answer.  The best response might be to say, that as much as you would like to do so, you are unable to participate.  Certainly you would not want to be hurtful. But evidently you are a practicing Catholic and this might give public scandal (giving recognition) and/or be interpreted as formal dissent from Church teaching.

One Response

  1. Hi Fr. My Catholic nephew recently married his staunch Hindu girlfriend. She has not converted. Their wedding was conducted in church. This wedding ceremony will soon be followed by a full Hindu temple wedding ceremony. I will not attend this temple wedding as I see it as being against the Catholic faith. This marriage is breaking my heart because my nephew is fine with participating in Hindu wedding rites all for the sake of love. However, as expected, more ‘liberal’ family members are upset with me.

    Fr, in mixed marriages like this one, where there are 2 ceremonies, what is the right response? Thank you.

    FATHER JOE: This pattern of dual ceremonies is not new to me; however, it is forbidden by the Catholic faith. The ministers of the covenant are the couple. The priest witnesses the vows for the Church. If either one of them feels that this is not a true marriage then it threatens the efficacy of the bond and the value of the vows. The presumption with a second ceremony is that the first was for show. The Catholic is forbidden to participate in any Hindu religious ceremony. Since the latter is not a true marriage it makes little sense to attend and give it a false acknowledgment.

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