Am I being judgmental of my adulterous sister?

My sister was married for 16 years to a wonderful man. Although she claimed to love him and seemed happy, she admitted enjoying “innocent flirting.” In 2002 she started having an affair with an older man. Later that year her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer, but she did not stop the affair. She appeared publicly with the “other man” and told our family that he was “just a friend” and that her husband “wanted her to have fun.” Her husband was in fact very distressed and depressed about the situation, and spoke to family members about it. He gave her an ultimatum and she did stop the affair a few months before her husband died. She refused to admit ahe had done anything wrong although it was obvious what had happened.

Six months later she met another nice Catholic man and they married 1-1/2 years later. They had been married for five years and she seemed happy and content and never mentioned any problems. It seemed that they had a good life together. In April of last year, her second husband was also diagnosed with terminal cancer! She refused to admit that she was unfaithful despite clear evidence to the contrary. She refused reconciliation and even to talk with their priest informally about the problem. She also refused to stop seeing the man and continued to lie about her contact with him. After several months of this, her husband filed for divorce. She immediately began living with the man she was having an affair with. She now goes to a Protestant chapel with her new boyfriend, who calls himself “a disciple of Christ.” During this whole ordeal and the one with her first husband, she continued to act in a very phony, pious, and superior manner, even quoting Scripture, talking about being a Christian, and giving unsolicited religious advice to others. Family members (myself included) that confronted her were immediately deemed “the enemy” and now she doesn’t have much to do with us.

Am I wrong (sinning) to be judgmental toward my sister? I feel disgusted, angry, hurt, and embarrassed by her behavior. I am also, of course, concerned about the state of her soul. I (a Catholic) believe she has fallen out of God’s grace by deliberately committing mortal sins. My mom (not a Catholic) believes in “once saved, always saved” and does not worry about eternal punishment for my sister but is concerned that she may be punished severely or taken out of this world by God so that she will not continue to sin. She says, “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” and that we as Christians should forgive my sister and leave it in God’s hands. I am having a very hard time acting as if nothing has happened so as to please my mom and keep the family peace, and I also do not want anything to do with my sister’s boyfriend. To be blunt, I think he is a creep! My heart is aching for my sister’s husband who is now in hospice and getting close to the end. Please comment.

At this point, I think it a waste of time to nitpick over your feelings toward your sister. The one who needs your concern now is her husband. Whenever you feel tempted to dwell on your sister’s behavior, try to find something nice that you can do to help her husband. If you live in the same area as he does, you might visit, bring him anything that might make him more comfortable (including a priest if he would like to see one), and do your best to help him keep up his spirits. If you are not local and can call, you might do that. The point is to channel your negative feelings for your sister into constructive assistance for a man who is dying.

As for your sister, I cannot blame you for feeling angry at her and embarrassed by her behavior. But rather than focus on that, you might try asking yourself why she responds this way to crises in her life. Awful as it is, some people react to the debilitating and/or terminal illness of a spouse by forming a romantic relationship with someone else. It is a means of coping with the reality that someone that person loves is about to die. That doesn’t excuse the person who hurts his or her spouse by such behavior, but it may help to explain how an otherwise “nice” person who believes that he or she is a “good Christian” could engage in such despicable actions.

**Recommended reading:

**God Help Me! These People Are Driving Me Nuts by Gregory K. Popcak
When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People by Leonard Felder

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