How should I prepare my daughter for dealing with her anti-Catholic grandfather?

My father-in-law is a good man, but an anti-Catholic who certainly disapproves of our raising our children Catholic. He is culturally Jewish (non-observant), but his theology is essentially deism. He has told our 13-year-old that, at the next visit, he wants her to explain her beliefs to him. In my experience, that translates into him preaching a sermon concerning the evils of organized religion (especially Catholicism). My wife (not a Catholic, but supportive of our faith) thinks it is necessary for our daughter to talk with her grandfather about this. In a way, I agree, because he sees an unwillingness to engage him as an admission of “blind faith” and that one lacks a rationale for beliefs. On the other hand, it’s a completely unfair fight due to the age difference. I have prepared my children with apologetics tools appropriate to their ages, but I have no idea how to prepare them for this. Any ideas?

If you are the Catholic in your family who is raising your children Catholic with your wife’s consent and support, then you are the one who must determine whether or not your daughter is adequately prepared to debate her grandfather. Your wife’s input into the matter is necessary and should be given due consideration, but by her own choice she is an advisor for the children’s religious formation (not the teacher) and should not undermine your efforts to form the children in their faith.

You make a strong case for why your daughter should be protected at this point from having her beliefs challenged and (given his anti-Catholic sentiment) likely undermined by her grandfather. I can only recommend summoning the courage of that conviction and explaining to your wife why you cannot agree with her position on this. Ordinarily I think spouses should take the lead in explaining the couple’s mutual decision to their own relatives, but in this case you’ll very likely have to be the one to explain to your father-in-law why you do not want him challenging your daughter to a debate. Your wife should support you in this by saying to her father afterwards, “Dad, I agreed when I married that the children will be raised Catholic and I fully support my husband’s efforts to teach our children his religion.”

If your father-in-law cannot be trusted to refrain from undermining his grandchildren’s religious formation, his visits with the grandchildren may have to be supervised by you.

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