Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother


What are the boundaries of this commandment? And what represents a violation of it?

As young children, it means to obey one’s parents, not to lie to them, to honor the rules of the house, to not do anything that would cause them grief or humiliation, etc…

But what for adults who have long since left the nest and have a family of their own?

I ask this because I have been accused of violating it by a sibling. While I stand firm in my choice, I want to make sure I’m not standing firmly on a dung heap. Here is a little background:

My sibling and I, both grown adults with families, had a debate over a “hot topic” in Church teaching. The sibling (after a couple rounds of healthy debate) finally rebuked me for my “false interpretation of Church teaching”.

My spouse, reading this latest response was upset with the manner of that response, and sent my sibling a private email rebuking the behavior. My sibling, rather than responding back privately, took the issue to the entire family, demanding an explanation from me (sent to all other siblings (all adults) and parents) for my spouse’s chastisement.

I responded back to all that I supported it and that it was fully in line with the Church. And then I got bombarded with emails/phone calls belittling my spouse (“under attack from the devil”, “needs prayer”, brought into this family so we could pray for…”, “needs counseling”, etc…).

And now the actual issue I am inquiring about today: In response to what I perceived as disrespect to my spouse I drew a strict boundary. I pointed out to the family where I believed them to have been disrespectful to my spouse, either by action of lack of support (since this had now become a family-wide discussion at the liberty of my sibling). I demanded an apology and resolved to cut off all phone-communication until such apology was offered. I then privately contacted my parents and told them I was disappointed in their response and lack of response while my spouse was being singled out (that letter also pointed out issues from the past that had yet to be addressed by them regarding said sibling). I told my parents they owe my spouse an apology for being one-sided on the issue.

And that is when I was accused of violating “honor thy father and mother”.




Whoa… ya’ll need to stop debating religion… that’s pretty clear. :eek:

I say this coming from a family who has also fallen into that trap, so hear me out…
When church teachings and religious debates get intermingled with personality conflicts, people begin to have a crisis of faith - and THAT is NEVER worth the debate - ever. At some point legalities and rhetoric take over, and the basics stuff you AGREE on (faith, hope, love, charity - all that) gets THROWN out the window.
In my greater family, there is one sibling that enjoys a good religious debate… and will do ANYTHING to get a topic going. That’s his forte. He and his wife feed on this. It’s gotten to the point where no one in my family actually ENJOYS being around them. It’s sad. They enjoy being cut off from the family because they can’t stand being around the “heathens” that they always stir up debates with.

So frankly… you may not like my response… but too bad, I’ll say it anyway.

Take on a little humility. Apologize for any hurt feelings. Promise to avoid debates that will harm family ties. If you TRULY feel like they are doing something fundamentally wrong in the faith (whatever the debate topic was about), then pray for them - quietly. Love them. Don’t cut ties over religious debates.


Unless your father and mother have accused you of not honoring them, it sounds like its a way of deflecting some of the blame for their own involvement in the debate by the sibling. It sounds like the sibling might feel they've (the sibling in question) have been backed into a corner and the only way out is to accuse you of breaking a commandment. Now the onus is on you because now you have to justify your actions instead of them taking more of the heat.

I've been in similar situation with my husband's family. What started out as a "discussion" between just two people, became a whole family affair when it never needed to involve anybody else but the two original participants. It is awfully hard to heal or reconcile any kind of heated discussion when so many people are involved, especially when it involves personal attacks. We're still healing from our situation, 5 years ago, slowly but surely though.

There seems to be much more to be concerned about than just if you dishonored your parents or not. Even if you did dishonor them, how does that heal everything else that has taken place? The accusation of dishonoring your parents, seems miniscle to everything else that is going on, especially the attacks on your husband.


Thanks for the replies.

I was trying to be purposefully vague so as not to seek out any unfair bias. But I don't want to mislead anyone either, so...I'm a male, as is my sibling...mid 30's, practice NFP, have 4 children (3 + 1 in the womb) in 6 yrs of marriage.

Some more background...it was an agreed-to debate (in the begining) on whether or not NFP removed the fecundity aspect from the marital act. I said it did not and used the fact that the Church approves of its use, CCC, and an article from Rev. Brian Harrison to support it. (But let's not get onto that topic too much here...perhaps in another thread).

@ Em_in_FL: My brother's view on NFP is probably not something "fundamentally wrong" because he is actually more strict than the Church says he needs to be. However, his view implies that I am commiting a sin against the marital act by using NFP. That puts me in the position of having to defend it because now I'm seen as the heathen. I do like your response though. ;)

@ PatriceA: I agree...and can attest...this is only a chip from the iceberg. When the emails/calls started coming, everyone kept telling me how they viewed my wife as needing prayer, counseling, she is under the devil's influence, etc... It isn't the first time it happend...the last time I just swept it all under the rug and made nice. But this time it hurt me alot because it showed me how litte they think of her. And her private rebuke of my brother was directed only to his behavior, so I saw him as having no right to go to the whole family with it...nor did I see teh family as having the right jump in on her the way they did.


It’s a personal favorite debate topic of mine, and I’m with you wholeheartedly… :thumbsup:
(wait, is this MY family debate??? :p)

I’ve learned that you don’t always *have *to defend it, though… let it go. You *know *the truth - heck, it’s written in pretty plain language. I promise, you’ll have less heartache and more peace of mind.

Congrats on your growing family, by the way!!! :smiley:


[quote="Em_in_FL, post:2, topic:249344"]
Take on a little humility. Apologize for any hurt feelings. Promise to avoid debates that will harm family ties. If you TRULY feel like they are doing something fundamentally wrong in the faith (whatever the debate topic was about), then pray for them - quietly. Love them. Don't cut ties over religious debates.


I do like the idea of this, but the clincher is that this isn't the first time, and wont' be the last. My family has a long history of sweeping things under teh proverbial rug. We'll all say "I'm not mad anymore, let's agree to disagree" etc...but nothing ever changes. And no realy apologies. That's what irks me.

My brother had once called my wife a derogatory word when things got REALLY heated a few years ago. After a few weeks passed, my wife sent out an apology to the family for her role in the arguement...period. No excuses, no blame, just "I'm sorry.". My brother, for his part, said, "I'm sorry for using that word...BUT..." and proceeded to explain why he was justified in it, why he'd do it again in a similar situation, etc... I let that go back then, avoided further comment, smiled and resumed our normal family life.

But I can't do that again. He can't call my wife out like that and the whole family cannot ignore teh fact that she was defending the faith while they defend my brother.

(I'm venting here so try to bear with me if I get off topic...sorry.)


[quote="Em_in_FL, post:5, topic:249344"]
I've learned that you don't always *have *to defend it, though... let it go. You *know *the truth...


Yeah, I do see your point here...


No, vent away... that's pretty bad, I'm sorry.

My personal technique has been avoidance of the subject... changing the subject when necessary... and talking a lot about the weather... :o


[quote="PatriceA, post:3, topic:249344"]
Unless your father and mother have accused you of not honoring them, it sounds like its a way of deflecting some of the blame for their own involvement in the debate by the sibling. It sounds like the sibling might feel they've (the sibling in question) have been backed into a corner and the only way out is to accuse you of breaking a commandment. Now the onus is on you because now you have to justify your actions instead of them taking more of the heat.


Okay, this makes alot of sense to me. Right, it was not my parents who accused it, it was 2 of my brothers (including the one I was initialyl debating). And justify my actions, I did! I wrote a detailed, though not overly long, letter explaining every step of what had happend and asked the family to re-evaluate if they still thought my wife was to blame for blowing this whole thing up. After all, her sole involvement in it was to chastise my brother's behavior. If anyting, my brother and I should have been held equally responsible.

Sadly, the letter was never read. My family had agreed that since I blocked all phone communication, that they would refuse any written communication. :( I do know that my parents skimmed it over, but they threw it away thereafter, according to what my father said (I had not held them to the "communication ban" at first because I thought I could show my sincerety by leaving that door opened.

@Em_in_FL (reagrding congrats on the growing family) : Thanks!! And congrats to you as well as I noticed your signature!


Without knowing the specific details, here is what I have found in some of my research:

The website/author is not Catholic, but her books have helped our family in many ways - especially when it comes to setting up boundaries! It works for non-abusive friends and family as well.

Exodus 20:12 'Honour your father and your mother so that you may live long in the land that Yahweh your God is giving you.'

This passage itself can be so easily misinterpruted and twisted to no longer serve God, but to serve ones own self.

- to bring up someone's past in which the person has truly repented is not Christian-like and should not be held over ones head.

  • to demand an apology "or else", seems rather passive-aggressive in behaviour and may be considered emotional blackmail. Would it not be better to recognize and take responsibility for your actions and, as Em_in_FL suggested, apologize without placing blame on anyone?

edited: my response came much earlier, but part way through my response I was sidetracked and didnt realize that time got away from me. further responses have helped to clear up some of the questions.


Response to "ahs"
It appears that the response of some of your family members is a result of confusion and misinterpretation of the term "Natural Family Planning". Some people have mistakenly defined NFP as "Catholic contraception". This is so far from the truth! Papal encyclicals have been written by several popes that have clearly stated that this "periodic continence" between spouses is sanctioned by Catholic teaching. The USCCB has a item on their website - Natural Family Planning Program - this would probably give a lot of valid information on the subject. Also, the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, NE is an excellent source. This is a medical facility specializing in NFP and other related issues. I think that most dioceses have established programs which explain and educate married couples in NFP. My understanding is that these classes are taught by diocesan priests.

I humbly suggest that you and your wife seek the guidance and counsel of your parish priest, or contact your Bishop's Chancellory Office. Many families have become estranged due to differences in understanding of Church teachings, particularly in these days of dissent and confusion spread by Satan. You may want to swallow your pride and reopen the door to your family rather than face the possibility of no contact for the rest of your lives and that of your children. That is why I recommend the guidance of your priest or bishop.

I will keep you and your family in my prayers. Please do the same for me. God bless.


Greenmoira and dazed, thanks for the feedback and information. I check out that link and see about reopening the door to communication.

Greenmoira: It's funny that you mention the encyclicals that support the use of NFP. I read them after the debate turned sour and saw where they, along with Theology of the Body and CCC, supported it's use. Ironically, my brother pointed to those SAME encyclicals (Familiaris Consortio and Casti Conubii) to prove that NFP is condemned. Somehow he linked NFP in with contraception, as you mentioned.


[quote="ahs, post:1, topic:249344"]
.....My spouse, reading this latest response was upset with the manner of that response, and sent my sibling a private email rebuking the behavior...


Prayers for you for such a difficult family situation, I know how hard that can be.

Okay, what you said here really stood out to me when I first read it. No doubt your wife is a lovely woman and loves you very much! Obviously she wants to stand up for you which is wonderful! That being said (just from the information in your post) I tend to disagree with the way she handled it and this may have fueled your brother's anger. Don't get me wrong, spouses are supposed to stand up for one another. If your wife had been present at the conversation and heard you being insulted then of course she should stand up for you. That's not what happened though...you were having a written email dialogue with your brother and she interjected herself into it and put him in his place. Although her heart was probably in the right place defending you this was probably not the right approach. Likely her past irritation with this brother fueled her anger as well.

Putting myself in your brother's place I would be very resentful getting a slap on the wrist from one of my sibling's spouses via email for something I emailed to a sibling. My siblings and I are quite capable of communicating and handling conflict with each other we have done so since childhood. I could be wrong on my assessment here, just my initial thoughts. This does not account for your brother's bad behavior of course, it was wrong of him to pass the information on to make your wife look bad.

I agree with another poster and try and be as loving as possible. Also please try and not be negative that your family "sweeps things under the rug" and "let's agree to disagree" but nothing ever changes and that irks you. Dear one this can be a blessing please try and see it that way! There are countless families that don't speak to one another for years and years. The fact that your family keeps in touch and tries to get along despite conflict is a blessing and a positive thing! Saying "let's agree to disagree" is not ideal but sometimes that's how families cope, I know your family is not alone in this it is common and does not mean a lack of sincerity.

I do not see an easy solution to your dilemna since clearly this has brought up hurt feelings and high emotions. I could agree with you that you were right and your family is wrong but what does that solve? Perhaps an apology for your part and a "lets agree to disagree" might be the best approach. I am speaking as someone who has lived this. I have had to accept the fact that my relationship with some family members must be kept to talking about the weather and superficial things. This is okay I am happy to accept the relationship as-is.

Someday with God's intercession you may be able to go deeper with your family and discuss these matters. For the time being it seems you might have to back away and keep things friendly. This is a heavy cross to bear and actually quite painful. Draw close to Christ...he didn't want his cross either and he will help you carry this one.

Hope this helps a little. God bless you.


Avoid the topic in the future.

Nowhere is it written that family members must discuss their sex lives with each other! No one needs to know what you do, how often, where, or how many times.

New topics should be discussed.

I also agree your wife should not have jumped into the discussion. It was between you and your brother, and she should have left it that way.


Monicad, I found your post very helpful. Also, I can totally see where my brother would get angry about my wife stepping in...I can put myself in those shoes as well (mentally) to see how I'd react.

It will be some time before I'll do the "agree to disagree", but I'm not opposed to that. Right now I want them to at least see it from my point of view, to see why I feel that they don't appreciate my wife. I want them to see where they have looked down on her and scorned her when she states her opinions. There are more than just her in the family that get opinionated, and at least all of her's can be backed up by the Church (the whole family is Catholic BTW). But they won't even read the letters I wrote (which weren't "angry"...though they were quite "to-the-point").

And I want my parents to confront the fact that my brother took it to that next level. She may have stepped over a line to confront him, but HE went even further and threw it to the whole family...yet SHE is being blamed for blowing it all up in the family's face.

Heck, she's even being blamed for MY action of drawing that line in the sand...and she had stepped completely back by that point. I don't need my parents trying to see me as "good" and my wife as a bad influence. We are one.


I just wanted to add that I think you were very chivalrous to stick up for your wife! :thumbsup:


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