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Faith/Spirituality Forum: respect for parents

by Catherine Frakas 17 Mar 2001

respect for parents QUESTION from Lynne Stiles on January 16, 2003 My husband's parents have been participating in questionable spiritual rituals. They are not and have never been Catholic. They watch televangelists nonstop and attend Benny Hind healings when possible. My mother in law is studying exorcism so she can rid people of the devil. She claims to know lots of possessed people.
While I am glad they are thinking about Christ, what they believe is diametrically opposed to Church teaching. (Most mainstream Protestants wouldn't buy this stuff either!) We pray for them daily.
We've attempted gentle apologetics work, but they have many negative beliefs about Catholics. My problem is this; we have young children who love Gramdma and Grandpa but are hearing and being taught things of which my husband and I don't approve. Things I know to be against Church teaching. Our wishes are not being respected when we ask them to not discuss these matters with our children present, yet it seems not right either to sever our relationship with my in-laws. Our being present with them and the kids hasn't helped much either; they want to free all of us from our satanic Catholic beliefs!!!
As a parent it is my responsibility to guide my children in our faith and I fear for my in-laws, they are messing with things not to be taken lightly. What should we do?
P.S. Their minister won't be of help, as they have shopped until they found a church that supports their beliefs.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on January 23, 2003 Dear Mrs. Stiles:
Respecting our parents is what the commendment to honor parents is about. But that does not mean we must tolerate abuse from our parents or our parents threating the spiritual health and faith of our children.
You have an absolute moral obligation to raise your children in the Catholic faith and to protect them from those things or people who would contaminate their faith or harm it in any way.
If you have firmly and respectly explained your concern to the in-laws and they arrogantly and sinfully (for that is what it is) refuse to respect your wishes in regards to your children, then I believe you have a moral obligation to keep your children away from them.
The Bible gives us a similar example in terms of brother and sister Christians who are sinning and refusing to repent. They are excommunicated.
In a sense, you may need to excommunicate (cease communion) your in-laws from your immediate family for the protection of the faith of your children.
It is you and your husband who will stand before God to account for the raising of your children, not the in-laws.
As for the in-laws abherent behavior, you can respectfully talk to them about it, but they are thier own person. They must decide how they will believe. All we can do in such a case is to pray for them.
But as to the situation with your children, I would CALMLY and RESPECTFULLY explain to them that you will no longer bring the kids around for visits, or allow them to visit, because they refuse to respect your concerns and you have a responsibility before God to protect their spiritual health and faith. DO NOT get into a fight, if possible. Just calmly explain this.
They will probably put up a fight or a defense or an attack. Then CALMLY repeat the issue in words like this, for example: We love you, but we cannot allow our children to be exposed to things contrary to our faith. We have to account to God for our children, not you. This is the decision we have made in the best interests of our children's faith. There is nothing more to discuss. I'm sorry, but that is the way it must be. Goodbye.
We will be in prayer for you and your family (and in in-laws).
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