Celebrating Christmas with unmarried cohabitating couple?

My sister-in-law and her live-in boyfriend have invited my family to their home for Christmas. My sister-in-law attends church most (although not all) Sundays and she sends her daughter to Catholic school, but she rejects many of the Church’s moral teachings. She practices contraception and pre-marital sex, she finds same-sex “marriage” acceptable, and she votes for pro-abortion politicians. This is the second time she has moved in with a boyfriend since my wife and I have been married. She is still married to her estranged husband, and does not plan to finalize her divorce for another couple of years because she believes waiting will give her an advantage in the custody fight over their son.

My wife and I have a 4-year-old son, and we are trying to raise him as a devoted, faithful Catholic. We want to shield him from my sister-in-law’s lifestyle as much as possible, because we do not want him to start to view such behavior as normal or as acceptable for a Catholic. We are therefore considering declining their invitation. Doing so will most likely cause a rift in the family, but it does not feel right to celebrate Christmas in their home. Are we being too scrupulous?


If you don’t make a big deal about it to your son, he’s not going to think anything of it. Young children really don’t have any concept of sexuality other than “mommies marry daddies.” My mom was friends with a gay couple, and for years I just assumed they were two friends who lived together, even when they adopted a baby.

Nobody was ever converted by being shunned. It’s not a sin to enjoy quality time with a loved one, and this could be an opportunity for your family to be an example for her.

Jesus ate with tax collectors and prostitutes and the “righteous” Jews of the day condemned Him for it.
Let me consider some scenarios in my life…
My parents are Lutherans. From a Catholic perspective Lutheranism teaches heretical doctrine. Heresy is gravely wrong. I guess I must shun my parents at Christmas.
My brother is considering Catholicism but hasn’t yet decided to embrace it. Meanwhile he continues to live a life contrary to Catholic moral teachings in some areas. I guess I should shun him at Christmas too.
My grandfather is divorced and remarried. He’s out.
My aunt is living with her partner of 10+ years but they have never been legally married. She’s out.

Guess I’ll be alone this Christmas.

I think you see what I’m getting at. How can we witness our faith if not by building and maintaining relationships with “sinners”?

OP how much tension is this going to create if you go?

And why not just say that you want to celebrate Christmas at home with your son? Now he is old enough to appreciate that?

Start a new tradition, and no need to go into anything else?

Of course depends on what you really celebrate at Christmas too…

OP, realistically, you cannot shield your children from exposure to sin and sinners. It is your responsibility to teach them values and discernment.

Of course but there is a time and a place and labelling as sin and sinners at Christmas?

Don’t use the 4 year old as an excuse. If you feel uncomfortable going, don’t go.

I wouldn’t go personally, but I’d be polite about it.

" thanks but we are going to just celebrate at Mass and at home. We are busy that day and want a chance to relax. We regret we can’t be there and we wish you a merry Christmas. Send others our love. "

That’s far better than " sorry your life disgusts us and we don’t want our children exposed to your sinful ways"

I think you should go and be gracious guests. Unless your SIL is saying inappropriate things to your son, eating dinner with them isn’t a problem.

Perfect! I assume they already know how you feel anyways…

This seems to be happening with greater frequency.


You don’t sound exactly thrilled about going. I personally wouldn’t go if the situation was uncomfortable and would sent the above message. Because in our case, that is true. We go to mass, have a nice lunch and relax at home.

You could use this as a teaching lesson, a chance to explain to your son that sometimes people make mistakes and do things God doesn’t like, but that God still loves them and that you can still love family members even if they have their faults.

In any case, your son is going to learn about these things eventually. Might as well be in a way that you can direct towards constructive ends.

The child in question is four.

Yes, I don’t see how it will even register that his aunt is in an “illicit” relationship with a man.

Additional question to the OP: this is your sister-in-law, meaning your wife’s own sister. Is your wife willing to potentially end her relationship with her sister in “protest” of her sinful lifestyle choices? What is her plan for winning her sister back to the Church by witnessing and living the love of Christ?

Very well said. A favorite priest of mine one said the same thing.

Sounds like judgement to me - you could show your son yes she is not living up to the faith but you still have to love and support them. If we shut everyone out who is a sinner we would have no one and we would be all alone - even our spouses to talk or share life with. A good Christian is to be an example - to show the same love and mercy as our Lord and Savior Jesus - not to condemn sinners - remember the mercy and love God has shown you - you must also show the same mercy and love to those around you including practicing Catholics, non practicing Catholic , Protestants , Hindus , Muslims , Atheists and so on. A lot of people seem to forget the love and mercy shown to them by God and refuse to give mercy and love to those in their own lives.

There’s a difference between cutting all ties and shunning and between treating them as if they were a legitimately married couple. It doesn’t have to be either complete and total cut-off, or sending the message that pre/extra-marital sex is completely fine. Pretending that the Church’s moral laws make no practical difference in life is not a good example to set, either. I think you should simply tell her that your family won’t be able to come to her for Christmas this year, but you wish them a Merry Christmas and hope to see her sometime during the holidays.

Me too - I would have to shun my entire family and friends this Christmas if I was to do the same except for my mother.

Well…seeing as it appears you have already judged them…perhaps you should stay home and not emulate the one whose birth is being celebrated…Jesus Christ…who didn’t judge… but instead went and dined with sinners.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.