I apologize for how long this post is, I tried to keep it short, but I guess I failed.
I’ve found myself in a bit of a complex situation. I know there are a quite a few wise Catholics on this board who have dealt with family issues, so I thought get some third-party perspectives. I hope some of you can help me out.
First let me give some background info. I’m 30 years old, unmarried, and have 3 siblings. I grew up in a Catholic family. When I was 19, my parents got divorced (and their marriage annulled). Over time, I came to learn some of the reasons my parents divorced. Among those were my father’s habitual use of pornography, masturbation, and physical and psychological abuse of my mother. I won’t go into all the details here. Throughout the years during and after the divorce, I learned of situations in which my father abused my younger sisters (psychologically, but not sexually as far as I know). For example, my youngest sister found pornography in my father’s house around age 10. Also, my father made threats toward my sisters. On one occasion he threatened to call the police if they didn’t visit him, immediately afterwards, he gave them gifts and told them how much he loved them (there is definitely a disney-world dad mentality, even to this day).
As part of the annulment process, the Church placed an “injunction” on my father. Even though the marriage was annulled, the marriage tribunal ruled that my father was not permitted to remarry in the Church unless he received counseling and worked out some specific problems and impediments. My father isn’t one to follow the rules when they are an inconvenience. He started attending a schismatic “catholic” church and found a schismatic priest that would remarry him to his girlfriend. He has invalidly remarried outside the Church and now lives with this woman. I didn’t attend the “wedding” as I didn’t support it.
Shortly after all this, I wrote my father a letter, explaining why I didn’t attend the “wedding” and my disapproval with how we was conducting his life. That letter began a period of 5 years where I virtually never spoke to my father. During this time, my siblings dealt with the situation in their own ways also. At this time all of them are on speaking terms with my father, and really don’t talk about any of the issues.
Fast forward to 3 years ago. I felt that I needed to attempt some relationship with my father to try to let him know I love him and I still care about him. I began to attend family get-togethers, etc. and have a civil relationship. I never said I approved of his lifestyle, but I never reiterated my disapproval either. In the last 3 years, I feel like I’ve gotten lazy about the whole thing - it has just been a lot easier to ignore the issues and at least participate in family outings, etc.
Here is where the situation gets complex. 18 months ago, I began dating my current girlfriend. We have been talking about engagement. I’ve shared the whole history about my father. My girlfriend is uncomfortable being around my father, and she feels I’m not being true to myself and what is right. She feels that spending time with my father and not reiterating my disapproval to him is sending the wrong message. She feels that my father has come to believe that I’m okay with how he lives his life. To be fair, I think she has an extremely valid point, but it’s just been so “easy” to ignore the issue and go with the flow when it comes to family get-togethers. Additionally, my girlfriend is concerned about our future children spending time with my father who has deep-seeded issues, and worries about their safety around him.
My family (my father, his “wife” and my siblings) are currently vacationing about 1 hour away from my house and I’ve traveled there a couple days to visit and spend time with them. My girlfriend didn’t attend, and I’ve come to find out that she is very upset with me. She hasn’t explicitly threatened to break up with me over it, but she has said she has serious doubts about whether our relationship could ever work out if I don’t have agreement with her on this and do something about it.
She is upset because I had agreed to write an email to my father months back reiterating my disapproval and explaining that I couldn’t go on family outings (staying in the same condo, letting him pay for meals and activities, etc.) I wrote the email, but never sent it because my girlfriend had doubts. She felt I was only doing it to placate her, and she didn’t want me to do it just for that reason. I decided to just delay and do nothing, as I wasn’t fully ready to “stir up the pot” just yet.
The whole situation is complex. How can I tell my father I disapprove of his lifestyle and that I can’t in good conscience keep attending family vacations, outings, etc.? I don’t want to come across as self-righteous to my siblings who have dealt with the issue in their own way and don’t feel the same reservations about spending time with my father. I don’t want to come across as judgmental to them. I also don’t want to seem like a puppet of my girlfriend, only doing this because she has pressed the issue. I feel like I could come to all of this in my own time, but the situation with my girlfriend has hastened things a bit, creating a crisis.
I’m looking for any perspectives, reassurance, validation, suggestions etc.