On reader writes:
I was wondering what your take is on how to deal with loved ones who have left the Church and have an ax to grind. In the last 3-4 years I have really embraced my faith and become a full-fledged Catholic. (I had been a “cradle Catholic” all my life and wasn’t completely dedicated to the church or even sure what I wanted). I now take major offense to anti-Catholic comments and I also don’t want my children to hear this — especially my impressionable five-year-old.
And another reader writes:
What do you do when your extended family isn’t Catholic, or even Christian … when the family has been shattered from several divorces … when the family’s practices and beliefs don’t correspond to your own? At what point do you need to maintain some distance from your family of origin for the sake of your own marriage and children?
These kinds of questions are quite common among Catholic families. So common, in fact, that I addressed some of them in Mom to Mom:
If you suffer from antagonistic family members, I think you can and should set up some ground rules for your relatives to follow … Let family members know that comments that attack or disrespect the faith and values you are imparting to your children will not be tolerated in your home. While you can’t make rules about the kinds of things might be said or done in other people’s homes, you can make the decision to avoid visiting there … You are only asking for decency and respect. You are only defending your right to raise your children as you see fit. Should your family members choose to dishonor your reasonable requests, that would be their own unfortunate decision.
I did also, however, go on to emphasize the importance of charity in these sticky family situations. It’s important to make a distinction between family members who are hostile toward your faith and those who just happen not to share it. Of course you don’t have to (in fact, you shouldn’t) allow a co-habitating couple to share a bed in your home, but if non-hostile family members live their own lives in ways that are contrary to our values, we should recognize an opportunity to teach our children about the precious gift of faith (not everyone has it) and take advantage of the opportunity to grow in charity (pray for those who don’t share our gift of faith). After all, you never know which extended family members might be watching your example and quietly learning from it.
How do you handle these kinds of situations in your home and family?