Opus Dei priest and commentator, Fr John Flader, says there are circumstances in which it may be acceptable for Catholic parents to attend the non-religious civil wedding ceremonies of their children.
Fr Flader says the prohibition should be lifted in extreme cases for Catholics who make it clear they don't approve of a ceremony outside the Church, the ABC World Today program reports.
"There are parents who themselves aren't all that strong in the faith and if their children get married civilly it doesn't make that much difference to them but there are other parents who are in a sense more strong in their faith, more traditional if you like, and when their children get married civilly it's as if the world were caving in around them. And even for them, they could, as I say, attend that wedding in some circumstances," Fr Flader told the World Today.
According to traditional Catholic moral theology one shouldn't cooperate in the sinful deeds of another, Fr Flader says.
But in recent Catholic publication he argues that in cases where relationships are at risk it can be acceptable for Catholics to participate in a civil ceremony, something the Church considers to be wrong.
"If, for example, one is the parent of a child getting married and the child says, 'Well Mum, if you don't attend my wedding I will not set foot in this house again.' Then the parents see that that will really jeopardise the relationship with their daughter, which they want to preserve and so may decide to go.
"If it's not a matter of a, let's say a parent and a child, although it could apply there too, it could be simply a friend who asks you to attend their wedding and you know that if you don't attend the friendship will continue then you don't need to attend and in principal it's probably better not to."
But they do need to make clear to the person getting married that they really wish they weren't doing this, Fr Flader said.
Commentator Paul Collins said that Fr Flader's comments are significant.
"What I suppose is surprising is that Father Flader, who is the longest serving, at least I think he's the longest serving Opus Dei priest in Australia, that he who represents I suppose you might say a more conservative element within the Church, has spoken out on this in my view quite correctly, and I must say I was very pleased to hear Father Flader's comments, which I think are absolutely true."
Catholic priest opens door on civil ceremonies (ABC, World Today)