The Implications of Refusing Services to a Gay Wedding

Many conservative Catholics have taken the position that devout Christians ought to refuse to provide business services to same-sex weddings and receptions. The types of services include wedding cake, catering, music, photography, flowers, and the venue. They say that providing any such services violates their conscience because they are morally opposed to gay marriage.

I disagree. Providing these types of services is remote material cooperation and is therefore moral under Catholic ethical teaching. It is not a sin to provide these services. No one thinks that the cake baker or the wedding band musician or the caterer are expressing their approval for gay marriage in general, or for this particular union, by providing paid services.

But there is a further implication, which should worry devout Christians.

Suppose that a law is passed stating that businesses and workers cannot be compelled to provide commercial services to any event, group, or person, whose views or activities are contrary to their own firmly held beliefs or ideas. The law would allow Christians to refuse to provide services to same-sex weddings, without reprisal.

But it would also allow the reverse. Persons who disagree with Christian teachings on marriage, family, ethics, society, etc. would be free to refuse to provide commercial services to Christians. And then Christians could be refused service in restaurants and coffee shops, refused the rental of venues for marriage, refused commercial services for their weddings, refused housing, medical care, education, work, and more. All on the basis of the exact same type of reasoning that conservative Catholics propose be applied when they are the ones refusing to provide commercial services.

Catholics who take up this position are sawing the limb on which they are sitting. They are inadvertently arguing that they themselves should be denied commercial services by any person or company which disagrees with their own views. And these views are currently in the minority in society. So this refusal of services would occur much more often against Christians than in their favor. Not smart at all.

{6:31} And exactly as you would want people to treat you, treat them also the same.

Jesus would not approve of Christians refusing services to same-sex weddings. For He Himself spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, and preached to the people of her town. He healed the daughter of the woman of Canaan. He healed the servant of the Roman Centurion. He loved those whose views were very different from His own. He did not only heal and preach to devout Jews, nor only to His own disciples.

We must do the same.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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18 Responses to The Implications of Refusing Services to a Gay Wedding

  1. Matt Z. says:

    You say “It is not a sin to provide these services” (you must mean it is not always a sin) because according to your book on cooperation with evil, remote material cooperation involves the 3rd font of morality, the circumstances. This remote material cooperation can even be applied to an intrinsic evil act such as same sex marriage. So it may be or may not be a sin to provide these services. If the good for seen outcome outweighs the bad then it would not be a sin, but if the bad outweighs the good, then it would be a sin.

  2. Tom Mazanec says:

    I could see a Catholic Church refusing to host a Gay Wedding. But just taking photographs, catering, etc. are a different matter.

  3. Marco says:

    I agree with this topic

  4. deckercw says:

    What is the proportionate reason which would justify the remote material cooperation of providing services to a same-sex “wedding”? Remember, to provide sufficient justification, the foreseen good effect must not result from the foreseen bad effect.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I don’t agree that the good effect must not result from the bad effect. Suppose a physician amputates a limb to save a life. The good effect of saving a life is obtained by means of the bad effect of the amputation. So that commonly stated condition is not correct, except when the bad means to the good effect is morally bad, and not merely a harmful consequence.

      Also, when the cooperation is remote and material, then the cooperative act is generally moral — absent some other factor that would make it a sin, such as a bad intention. Proximate material cooperation with grave sin requires a proportionate justification of grave moral weight. But remote material cooperation with grave sin requires only a limited proportionate reason. The remoteness of the cooperative act implies that the proportionate reason need only be light. For example, a postal worker who delivers mail to an abortion clinic, or a taxi driver to takes a fare to the same clinic.

      But on the topic of wedding services: Your work is inherently good, and done with good intentions. That’s two good fonts. Then the good effects in the font of circumstances are found in the enjoyment of your products and services, such as the cake or the music, and also in that you are treating everyone with love and with respect for their consciences. I don’t think there is a bad effect of scandal, since no one thinks that the persons providing paid services to a wedding approve of the union. Your cooperation is limited and remote. So the aforementioned good effects are sufficient for the circumstances to be good. The fact that you provided services or goods to a same-sex wedding or reception is not really a bad effect of your act. The services provided have no substantial or proximate bad effects.

  5. Matt says:

    What about performing as MC at a gay wedding? What about a receptionist answering the phone and telling a customer when a doctor can provide abortion service? What about a nurse assisting the doctor performing an abortion?

    • Ron Conte says:

      I don’t know what role an “MC” has at a wedding. It would be immoral for a Catholic to perform the wedding ceremony, as Joe Biden did. The receptionist’s act is remote material cooperation. It is like the store clerk who has to sell condoms. A nurse who assists in an abortion procedure is a co-perpetrator, not a cooperator.

  6. turnrod says:

    What many Catholics oppose are laws that compel one to violate his or her own conscience. There is a difference between providing a birthday cake to someone who is ‘gay’ and catering at a ‘gay’ wedding. Do we want to compel by law a vegan caterer, who believes that the killing animals is immoral, to cater at a ‘pig roast’ event? I suspect most would say no even if they do not share the vegan’s worldview. The problem we face concerning the persecution of Catholics or Christians in general is not rational. This why you will find that the vegan will be protected where the Catholic will be prosecuted.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The vegan caterer would only offer vegan foods, so they wouldn’t be catering a pig roast. That’s not an apt example. But, yes, we do want laws that prevent viewpoint discrimination, otherwise Christians will be discriminated against. The caterer at a gay wedding does nothing immoral. Catholic moral teaching in no way prohibits Catholics to provide services to a same-sex wedding. So a well-informed Catholic conscience would not object and would not be violated. And if we then support laws allowing Catholics to refuse services to persons whose views they disagree with, then they could legally discriminate against us.

  7. turnrod says:

    This is not about ‘viewpoint descrimination’ where a business refuses services to those with whom they disagree, whether we are talking about ones’ politics, religion, lifestyle…rather this is about being able to refuse services where it would require oneself to be associated with ‘activities’ that are immoral. The association or cooperation may not be sinful, but discriminating on this basis is justified.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Catholicism has clear teachings on this topic: cooperation with the sins of others. Under those principles, providing services is moral. So this is about Catholics who disagree with Catholic teaching, and who incorrectly think that it would be immoral to provide those services.

      As for the laws of secular society, if those laws permit Catholics to refuse services because they incorrectly think that the clients are doing something immoral, then those laws must also permit others to refuse services to Catholics, when they incorrectly think that we are doing something wrong, such as discriminating by refusing to let women be priests. What if they don’t want to provide flowers or repair services to a church, because they think we are wrong to oppose the “right” to an abortion? They think we are doing something immoral, and they don’t wish to be associated with us.

  8. Tom Mazanec says:

    So someone could work as a janitor at Planned Parenthood, for example?

    • Ron Conte says:

      Each case has to be evaluated based on the three fonts. If that was the only job you could find to support your family, and the job included nothing intrinsically evil, then, yes, a person could be a janitor at PP. A person could be a nurse at a hospital that performs abortions, as long as she did not participate or cooperate directly in the abortions.

  9. King Robert the Bruce says:

    Hi Ron I know this is a different subject but I have just read an article about pope jp the 2 nd on another website interestingly he prophesised the Islamic invasion of Europe many years ago to a young priest while on a skiing holiday in the alps the priest is named monsignor Mauro longhi

    • Ron Conte says:

      Yes, there are other prophecies saying much the same thing, even prophecies from hundreds of years ago. And now it seems that the prophesied invasion is imminent.

  10. Tom Mazanec says:

    Will Great Britain be taken over by the Muslims?

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