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Help! My divorced family members continue to receive Communion unworthily

George Martell/Archdiocese of Boston CC

Katrina Fernandez - published on 08/18/16

What to do about relatives who refuse to seek annulments and absolution

I got an email recently, too long to republish in its entirety, from a Catholic wife (we’ll call her Gina) dealing with extended family members’ openly “in your face” adultery. Her husband’s sisters are divorced and civilly remarried. Each second marriage was a result of the women’s own marital infidelity within the first marriages. Many families were broken up, not just their own, but the marriages of the men whom they were cheating with. It is really an ugly situation.   

Everyone involved professes to be a Catholic, though the civilly remarried sisters do not practice their faith with any regularity. When they do attend Mass everyone receives Communion. Gina and her husband have talked to the remarried sisters about the annulment process and the necessity of receiving absolution before committing further offenses against the Eucharist, but they were met with hostility and told to be more “loving.”

Gina and her husband would like peace in their family, especially since children are involved, and each child has a relationship with their grandmother (Gina’s mother-in-law). She wants to know where to go from here.   

This past Sunday we heard the Gospel proclamation (Lk 12: 49-53), “…Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

I thought the Gospel fitting to Gina’s particular situation. No one reading this can claim to have a perfect family. We all have family members who lifestyles we might not agree with or run in contradiction to our faith and beliefs. So what do you do? How do you “love” them?

I can tell you, Gina, you do NOT love them by accepting their sin or pretending that everything is OK. You showed your love for them by expressing concern for their spiritual well being. You can continue to show your love for them by earnestly praying for them daily, you and your husband both. What I would suggest you do next is contact your priest and make an appointment to seek his guidance on this matter. I would also suggest limiting contact with your sisters-in-law and their new families as much as possible for the sake of your own family. I think the situation warrants distancing yourself in this instance since all parties involved profess to be Catholic — they cannot claim ignorance. You don’t want to send a message to your family that you condone willful disobedience to Church teaching.

It’s a shame your family-in-law has put the burden on you to accept their sin by suggesting you’re not loving. This shows me the absolute best thing for you to do is to distance yourself and your children from them for awhile. I’m sorry you are going through this and I hope your priest is able to help your family find healing.  

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