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“Ask a Priest: Could Divorced-and-Remarried Friends Spend the Night?”
Q: Today many of us have friends who have been divorced and remarried. If these friends, who may or may not be Catholic, are visiting our home, is it wrong to let them share a bedroom? On the one hand, they would be doing so if they had to go to a hotel or were in their own home. On the other hand, since the marriage is likely not considered valid in the eyes of the Church, wouldn’t it be considered wrong? How do we handle this situation with such friends or even extended family members who may no longer be practicing Catholics and in an invalid marriage? Thanks for your assistance. – S.H.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: This is a common dilemma today: how to be charitable and keep open lines of communication without compromising one’s beliefs.
A few points are worth considering.
First is the idea of cooperation with evil. To accommodate a couple in an irregular marriage might constitute formal cooperation in evil.
By offering them a bedroom you would be providing the material possibility for them to engage in objectively sinful behavior. And the offer could be perceived as implicit approval of their marital arrangement.
A second consideration is one based on love. We want the best for people whom we love. That means witnessing to them the fullness of the Gospel. Our Lord was merciful to the woman caught in adultery, yet he didn’t tell her it was OK to resume her illicit relationship.
It might be good to step back and ask why one of these couples might expect to be accommodated overnight in your home.
Do they understand your misgivings about their marriage? Do they understand that your Catholic faith would preclude you from countenancing their intimate relations?
To approach things from a different perspective, let’s say that you might not face this dilemma about overnight guests if you are upfront about your religious beliefs. That is, if they already know where you stand before they show up on your doorstep, they will understand why you won’t offer them overnight use of a bedroom.
What you want to avoid is, say, having an unexpected storm hit in the middle of dinner, and then having to face your guests’ request to spend the night together under your roof.
In a word, you want to think ahead of time how to prepare for these get-togethers. If your friends or family understand where you stand on marriage, that will help establish healthy boundaries in your interactions with them.
Would a prohibition on overnight guests in dicey marriages cause ill feelings? It could. But witnessing to the Gospel sometimes involves tough love.
Think about finding creative solutions: Offer the bedroom to one of them, and the sofa in the basement to the other. The key is to talk about it, to take advantage of the situation to give witness to Christ’s truth and your love for them.
The Acts of the Apostles shows that early evangelization stirred some bad feelings. It wasn’t easy then, it isn’t easy now.
One of the best preparations for loved ones in irregular marriages is to pray for them. They need a special grace to change their lives.
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