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The Church on same-sex marriage; protocol for a wedding

        Q. Bill O'Reilly (a lifelong Catholic) posed the following question on national television: "Since the Catholic Church condemns same-sex marriage, why haven't Catholic clergy publicly addressed the matter?" How would you answer? (Baltimore)

 

        A. The position of the Catholic Church on same-sex marriage is clear and straightforward. In January 2015, while in the Philippines, Pope Francis warned against threats posed "by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage."

        This echoed a statement he had made the previous November at an interreligious conference; there, he spoke in support of preserving marriage as a male-female , since "children have the right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's development and emotional maturity."

        In April 2015, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops filed an amicus brief in four cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that it is "reasonable and just" for states to treat heterosexual marriages as having more value than other kinds of relationships, since homes with a mother and a father are the optimal environment for children.

        These are just a few examples. Church leaders quite often discuss this topic, reiterating the Church's position.

        Your question, though, seems not to be directed at the formal and official statements of the Catholic Church but at what might seem a reluctance on the part of parish priests to address the topic from the pulpit.

        Part of that reluctance may stem from an unwillingness to offend those in the congregation with a homosexual orientation. (It is homosexual activity, not the orientation, that the Church views as morally wrong.)

        But that discomfort should not excuse the priest, who is the chief point of contact between the official Church and the person in the pew. For that reason, the USCCB publishes on its website some helpful "lead messages" that can be used to challenge efforts at redefining marriage.

        Those messages note that despite cultural variations, "every human society in the entire history of the human race has understood that marriage is a sexual of man and woman with the purpose of procreating and educating the next generation, and so marriage has with reason been given a unique status in the law."

        The text goes on to explain that both men and women "bring irreplaceable gifts to the shared task of child-rearing" and that, although single parents often deserve great respect for their heroic work in raising children, the law should not deliberately and intentionally deprive children of both a mother and a father by sanctioning same-sex marriage.

 

        Q. Our oldest daughter is scheduled to be married in our parish church a few months from now. While we look forward to the ceremony with joyful anticipation, she was dismayed to read in the instructional manual provided by our parish that only one piece of music is allowed during the processional.

        Also, instead of arriving at the altar before the bridal procession begins, our parish stipulates that the priest, the groom and groomsmen all be part of the entrance processional along with the bride and her father. I am a "cradle Catholic" and this was not the protocol when I was married 32 years ago. Who has decided this, and is there room for discussion with our priest? (Richmond, Virginia)

 

        A. The Catholic "rite of marriage," which is the Vatican-approved "playbook" for a wedding ceremony, is quite general and allows for a fair measure of cultural adaptation. Nothing is stipulated about the number of musical pieces for the processional, although most dioceses do specify (in their guidelines) that any music chosen for the ceremony should highlight God's presence and not be drawn from the secular world.

        The ritual allows the priest to meet the bride and groom at the altar or to accompany them in a procession; if there is a procession, it may (according to local custom) include the parents of the bride and groom as well as the two witnesses.

        Frequently in the United States the groom is left out of the procession and the bride walks up the aisle with her father who "gives her away." The inclusion of both spouses might highlight more clearly their mutuality and equality.

        The short answer to your question is that the local parish does have some discretion as to the "look" of the ceremony, so you might want to discuss with your pastor which parts are stipulated and which are not. All of this can be done amicably, so as not to detract from the joy that the wedding day is meant to bring.

        Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.

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