Am I the biggest sinner in this family?


Our 40+ year old daughter Jane is Catholic. Dick is non-Catholic. They were married by a Catholic priest but eventually divorced. Each remarried someone else. Jane divorced but Dick is still married and says he is GOING to be divorced. It appears that Dick and Jane are now living together as a couple. I believe it is wrong. No children for either.
First question: If true, is Jane sinning? I assume the Catholic marriage was and is valid.

My family and friends treat them as a couple and invite them to family get-togethers. I do not dislike Dick but because this situation seems wrong to me, I am not comfortable and cannot bring myself to invite Dick to my home with my daughter. This unwillingness is of concern to my wife and I am struggling with my judgementalism.
Second question: Am I totally wrong and thus sinning by this exclusion?

Lastly: I do not have a spiritual advisor and hope you might have some advice as to how I should treat Dick (as well as Jane) in this whole situation?
Thank you very much.


Without just that info, it sounds like your daughter and her husband married but then went off and separated to each live in different extra-martial relationships.
Then for some reason, they saw their error and got back to living as husband and wife as they should have been for all those years.

Am I missing something? If not, that sounds like cause for celebration to me.


We can apply the Catholic approach and say they are still sacramentally married, but I can’t overlook the fact that legally/civilly he still has another wife.
He does have a responsibilty to her.


His primary responsibility to her is to stop “causing her to commit adultery” by being in that relationship (paraphrasing the words of Christ from the Gospel). If he had children with her, I’d say that is a responsibility; but you said he didn’t.
Now I would agree he has a responsibility to do what he can to help clean up the mess his sin has created. This probably involves coming to terms with what he did and lovingly explaining to this woman why he needs to end the relationship and return to his wife. Because that woman isn’t and never was his wife. (I’m assuming the original marriage was valid since there was no annulment.)

Edit: What exactly is the responsibility to this woman you feel he is failing to fulfill?


I think I can see the OP’s problem.

While I agree them coming back together, and repenting of their sin and trying to live as they promised they would. The man is legally married to another. He has a responsibility to set that woman free. If it were my daughter, while I would (probably) be happy she had seen the error of her ways, I would worry about the legal ramifications of living with what is legally another womans husband.

To the OP all I can add is pray, pray and then pray some more. This might be a topic to discuss with your priest.


Oh, definitely. I was assuming he would go through with the legal divorce.


First question: If true, is Jane sinning? I assume the Catholic marriage was and is valid.

I think you may wish to reel in your nose… let God worry about the sins… Pray for all of your family and ask them in turn to pray for you…


TO: quasius

I haven’t quite figured out how to use this site, so I apologize for my ineptitude.

We live in two worlds. It might be reassuring to say how happy we are that this sacramental marriage is “reestablished.” Unfortunately most of the world see’s a married man (yes, you can argue it was not a “true” marriage) who is living with a single woman.
They choose to tell each other, “I don’t want you anymore” now I want someone else. Then they can do it all over again several times.
I am saying the choices we make have responsibilities, take care of those first and then we can rejoice. Do the honorable thing and clean up the current situation before embarking on another “union.”


All right, I think I see more what you’re saying now.
Well, first of all, I wouldn’t be overly concerned with what “most of the world” sees. You obviously avoid scandal where possible, but you don’t back off from truth.
I guess important information here is how Dick and Jane are viewing this? Do they see themselves as returning to what they should have been doing all this time or is just yet-another-relationship? Also, keep in mind that you almost certainly do not have enough information to answer that question- but keep in mind that it’s important question.
To reiterate a previous question, what do you think Dick needs to do to “clean up the current situation?” I can understand your concerns about the legal divorce, particularly since as a non-Catholic he may be viewing it as more meaningful than it actually is. Is there something else you think he should be doing?


“reel in your nose”…LOL.:):slight_smile:

Seriously, it’s not him putting his nose where it should not be: he’s being asked to have this iffy situation right in front of his nose; he can’t help that, allegorically, it smells wrong to him. :slight_smile: Hence the questions. ICXC NIKA.


Clever, but not helpful.


The only thing you are missing is that the Catholic teaching applied in this situation is so very much at odds with the common wisdom that many people naturally have trouble accepting the fact the the couple are now doing exactly what the Church teaches that they should be doing.


He definatly needs to get the civil divorce dealt with as quickly as possible. I can think of a few other things that might also be appropriate, depending on the circumstances:

He might have monetary or other responsibilities to the woman he is legally married to. He needs to go ahead with that part of the divorce in a Christian way, even if it was never a “valid” marriage.

It might be worthwhile for he and the “real” wife to live apart, alone, or be celibate for a time. If they are jumping from one relationship back into this one that could be unwise. Perhaps some counseling, or a marriage retreat, or even a newlywed/pre-marraige retreat would be a good idea. Clearly there were problems before. Have they taken steps to deal with them?

It might be worthwhile to suggest a retreat, or talking to the priest, about this to your daughter, in private. Tell her you want to see this work, and it’s important to get started off on the right foot.


James, what was your relationship with Dick when they were married previously? Are you close enough to have a private conversation with him? Tell him man-to-man that he and your daughter caused hurt before with their first divorce and that you want to see things done correctly before more hurt occurs. He needs to go through a divorce with his current wife before he becomes involved with your daughter again. You should also have a talk with Jane as her father even though she is an adult. Tell her how concerned you are for her soul and not just her present happiness. Encourage them to live apart until Dick can get his situation rectified. Encourage her to go to confession and seek advice from her priest, just as you should go to confession also (to confess your own sins, not hers!!). Marital counselling for the couple is also a very good idea.

As for finding a spiritual advisor, best step is to ask your priest. If he is not able to take on the commitment, he should be able to tell you who might be available in your area. Spiritual advisors are not always priests because advice and abslution are two different things.


Thanks, your post is the first realistic down-to-earth response in this situation and I wholly concur with your observations.
I was not asking what steps they should be taking, but rather how I should be responding towards the two of them.

I realize this will probably generate lots of “Mind your own business” posts, but it should be everybody’s business! We keep slipping into an attitude that there is no right or wrong and anything goes. It wasn’t too many decades ago that this situation would have been considered extremely scandalous. Today it’s just normal.


Sr Sally, thanks very much for the second realistic response.
I know what steps they need to be taking but until that happens, I don’t believe I can or should allow myself to treat them as though they are once again a married couple as the rest of my family seems to have done.


I am not sure what type of relationship you have with Jane or what Jane’s thoughts on the matter are, how receptive she would be to your talking to her about the subject, but my main concerns would be:

  1. Why has Dick not gotten a civil divorce from his “civil wife”? If he is truly committed to patching up his marriage with Jane, why is he still letting the state believe he is married to someone else? Which leads to the next question…
  2. Are they really aware that they are married, or are the “living together” with the mentality that they have no strings attached and can up and leave whenever they want to?

Depending on their frame of mind, these subjects may be something you can approach, or you may want to suggest for them, or Jane, to go speak with a priest, or you might come up with some other way to deal with this. I really don’t know the dynamics of all of the relationships (your with Jane, Jane with Dick, Dick and civil wife) to give any opinions directly (lol, not that I am that wise to begin with), but I do agree with feeling there is something wrong with the picture, even if they are a married couple. I would treat them as a married couple though, since that is what they are, which might be especially important if you suspect they are not aware that they are married.


1 Corinthians 7:3-5:
3 The husband should fulfill his duty toward his wife, and likewise the wife toward her husband.
4 A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife.
5 Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another, so that Satan may not tempt you through your lack of self-control.
I think the real question here is whether the Catholic teaching on the validity of marriage is really true, or if it is just a scam to extort money through the annulment process. From the use of quotes around “real”, I think the answer might be clear.


I’m not sure how the annulment process is an issue here.

St Paul’s advice is good, but of course he says quite clearly that it is permissible for a married couple to abstain from sexual relations for a time for spiritual purposes. And of course married couples often have to abstain for reasons out of their control - illness, separation due to jobs or other reasons, or before NFP was available, to avoid conception if that wasn’t an option. In fact, there is a tradition of married people living celibately after they are done having children, with the consent of both partners, of course. And all Catholics are supposed to abstain from sex on days of fasting and abstinence.

I would think sorting out a marriage and dedicating oneself to prayer and other kinds of togetherness would be an excellent reason for a period of abstinence, especially if sexuality has caused trouble in the marriage.


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