Outdoor Weddings: A Social Justice Issue?

Last weekend, I attended my cousin’s wedding down in Illinois. My grandpa traveled with us, and his concern the night before the big day was whether my cousin was marrying another Catholic. He was much relieved when he learned that she was, but I was perplexed. I knew she was having an outdoor wedding, and also that the Catholic Church rarely officially blesses such weddings. At the reception, my parents and I were seated with the priest who performed the ceremony, and we learned that, although he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest, he resigned due to disagreements with the official Church several years ago and now leads a community in the reform or “old Catholic” tradition.

You can read more about my meeting with him here, but one part of the conversation particularly sticks with me. He said that when he stopped practicing within Roman Catholicism, he was excited to serve those in the Catholic tradition who are marginalized by the Church. He said, “I thought, I need to prepare myself to deal with some really hard-hitting, deeply soulful issues. I’ll be blessing unions for couples who have been divorced; I’ll be blessing unions for gay couples. But in my five years of performing marriages in this tradition, I’ve only married one couple that was previously divorced. I haven’t married any gay couples. Nearly everyone who finds me comes to me because they’re Catholic and they want to have an outdoor wedding. And I find myself thinking, this is what’s driving people away from the Church? The desire to get married outdoors?”

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