As always, many of these articles come from questions people ask me. If one person asks, then others must have the same questions too. In fact, I have been asked this one many times, so here it is:
My family member is married out of the Church or is living in sin. Can I go to their birthday party, Christmas party, Thanksgiving dinner…?
Let us go back to the beginning. This is a person whom you are close to and love very much. Because of this love, you want to do what is right for them. You do not want to hurt them physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. This brings us to the question of what is called tough love.
Let us now move to the problem. They are married outside the Church. The fact is, they are not married outside the Church. Marriage means something specific to us. So let us follow our understanding of it rather than that of the secular world. What they have done is obtained a licensee from the state that says they can legally shack up. Because this is an immoral situation for us, we cannot attend, support, contribute to, go to the reception, send a congratulations card, get a gift, go to the bachelor/et party… To do so would give credence to their sin and say that it is fine, don’t worry about the whole Church and God question.
Now that they are legally shacked up or just simply living in sin, what do we do? Can I go to their house that is now a den of iniquity? Here, we want to strike some balance. They are still our loved one, the same as God still loves us when we sin. We still want to be a part of their life the same as God still wants to be a part of ours. When we are in the state of sin, God is still gracing us, and strives to guide us to the sacrament of Confession. To this extent we still need to be a part of our loved ones life too.
For this we look to Scripture and see that Jesus went into the homes of sinners. He was criticizes for it and so he gave us that great teaching and understanding. He said that the healthy do not need a doctor, the sick do. This then tells us the purpose of his visit to the sinner’s home. He went their home to love them, teach them, and hope that they may come around to His ways.
For this reason, I give the following advice.
- Do not go to, support or participate in any way the legal ceremony misnamed a wedding.
- Do not go to the reception or send a congratulations card. What is there to celebrate? We do not celebrate sin.
- Do not celebrate or acknowledge in any way the anniversary of their sin.
- You may go to the house to visit your loved one so that you may continue to have an influence on their life, hopefully a good influence that may eventually lead them to correct their sinful situation.
- As to the other person there, you may acknowledge and even love them to, but not because of the fake marriage, but because they are there and part of your life too. (for better or worse, I know)
- You may celebrate birthdays, graduations, Christmas and Thanksgiving. These are not part of the sinful situation. These are good things and need to be celebrated. YOU MAY NOT CELEBRATE THE ANNIVERSARY.
- As to babies: YES LOVE THEM and celebrate them. We always celebrate life, even when they do not come to us in the best of circumstances. That child is still your grandchild, niece or nephew and deserves your love.
- Above all – Pray for them. Pray for them. Pray for them. Pray that God will touch their heart. Pray that through your legitimate visit to them and your witness and example, God may touch their heart.
- When they will let you, remind them how much you love them and how much this situation they are in hurts you.