How to handle Protestant in-laws?

My family is about to begin RCIA at a local parish. My in-laws, who live in same town and who are going to be moving into a house one mile down the road very soon, just recently found out about our attending mass. Although they have not yet been confrontative about the issue (simply because they are ignorant of all things Catholic and just believe that a Catholic church is just another “denomination”), there have been a few incidents recently where they appear to be acting passive aggressively in regards to our children (i.e., comments regarding church, etc.).

The main incident happened last Sunday, where my MIL called us on our way to mass and wanted to see our children that day, and went onto say that she wanted to take them to church with her. My husband said he’d think about it, but thankfully, mass went a little longer than usual so there wouldn’t have been enough time anyway. The kids just went over that afternoon.

However, my MIL is quite well-known for her manipulations and we realize that this will be a constant issue, especially when they move, of her trying to wrangle our kids into going to church with her. She is monopolizing on the fact that my younger girls “don’t like mass” because it’s not as “fun” as our old church with upbeat music, etc.

My questions are:

  1. What is the best way to approach this situation? Should we just be proactive or reactive? IOW, should we just set the boundaries now or wait until we need to?

  2. If our kids go to early mass with us, would it be okay to occasionally let them attend church services with the in-laws to keep the peace as much as possible as long as the kids and the in-laws know well in advance that the kids CANNOT receive communion there?

It is definitely not our wishes to have a huge blowup with the in-laws and we want to be as charitable as possible as to make our lives and our children’s lives as stress-free as possible. To this end, we still plan on attending Christmas Eve services and the like with our in-laws in addition to our mass obligations. We still believe there are many positive things taking place inside Protestant churches and they are still doing their best to worship God, so I can’t see how it will negatively impact my children’s faith as long as we are making sure they are properly catechized. Am I wrong, here? :shrug:


Welcome home! How beautiful!

OK. About the in-laws. Remind her if it begins to get “obvious” that she is undermining you, that it is YOUR responsibility to raise your children in a faith, not the grandparents.
Absolutely not their responsibility.
You can have the kids over all you want, but you worship as a family. Period.
End of story, no arguing, no remarks about their faith, (not that you would) but be firm and smile.
Don’t allow an adversarial climate to arise. That would certainly be counterproductive and detrimental to your faith life and everyone’s soul.

And, very importantly, pray for her heart to be softened. It’s knee jerk reaction. I’m sure she love you all, and maybe one day soon, she may come to understand that a person’s spirituality is their own. Just as you would never demand she worship with you.
God bless, Be assured of our prayers. :heaven:

pianistclare, you are always so wise! Thank you! Yes, praying her heart will be softened. Thankfully, she is not downright hostile toward our move to Catholicism. Do you see a problem, though, in allowing our children to ever occasionally attend church service with them if our mass obligation has already been fulfilled as long as the boundaries of what is allowable have been set? By occasionally, I mean like once per month or every two months. We definitely want to keep the lines of communication open.

But, on second thought, this may be a “give an inch, take a mile” situation :rolleyes:

My husband has a book for her to read if/when she ever opens the door for dialog.

While I don’t see a problem with your children learning to be tolerant of the grandparent’s faith practices, I do see a problem with them attending both churches. Especially while the family is learning about Catholicism and the Mass. They are NOT the same thing, and your children might come to view it as “so long as we go, God doesn’t care where you go”.
There is a reason why the Mass is crucial. Christ is present. They will not get this or understand this for some time. I would caution you about sending a mixed message to
the kids. After a time passes where the children are solidly catechized, I see no problem with going to a service for their Anniversary celebration, or something like the passing of a relative, of course that is different. But allowing them to attend 2 services? Your kids will become confused, and also, probably try to be “reverse indoctrinated”. And, as happened with my 2, (I’ve worked in parishes for YEARS) they grew tired of being in a church many hours a day. To this day, my girls tell their friends, "it’s great being a Catholic! Just don’t stay make it a 12 hour ordeal! :stuck_out_tongue: ) They were happy when they could drive home, and leave me at work after Mass.
Good luck!

Your lines of communication will always be open. They’re your family. :thumbsup:

One problem I can see already is that MIL has got you thinking about what YOU are doing is " disturbing family peace". Nope. Aggressively or passive-aggresively undermining the Church and your authority as parents, implying that you’d better send your kids to their church some of the time or else, those are things which destroy family peace. It’s setting you up as the bad guy unless you cave to what she wants. You are not the unreasonable one for refusing to play along. If she has a huge blow up, that’s on her.

^^THIS is the exact thing she said to my husband. She found out that we’d been attending a Catholic church by cornering my 11yo son in my kitchen (with us in another room) and saying, “Where did y’all go to church today?” Of course, he couldn’t lie so he told her. She never mentioned it that day, but called my husband the next day and said, “I’m not upset that you are going to church there, but I’d probably rather you not. I don’t think it matters where you go to church as long as you are praying, reading your Bible, and love the Lord.” :slight_smile:

But, you are right, probably best not allow this for now, especially since my girls are still young and don’t quite understand the Mass yet, or the significance of it. Right now, they are just sad that they can’t receive the “Lord’s blessing” (a term one daughter came up with for communion :shrug:). They were so excited to finally be able to partake once they were baptized in January.

Remind her that at the conclusion of every single Mass, all the people present get a blessing from a priest, an ordained man standing “in persona Christi”. And…even better, one day soon, she will receive Jesus Body Blood, Soul and Divinity, in person herself.
Everything is a teaching moment.
God bless you. If you need materials, I’m a DRE…you can PM me.
God bless!

Actually, maybe I was misleading about that. SHE has said nothing to us that is an insult or attack on the Catholic Church or us going there. But, she is a MASTER at undermining our authority as parents. There’s not been an “…or else” moment…yet :rolleyes:

Honestly, she is very “ignorant” of a lot of church doctrine and doesn’t really know anything about Catholicism, so she has no ammunition yet to launch. She just flies by the seat of her pants and attends church for the inspiring sermon and uplifting music. (Basically, she acts as her own authority on anything spiritual). But, maybe this ignorance is good in that one day, when she does ask us a question, we can give her information that may open her eyes. She does crave spiritual experiences so I’m hoping that the lives of the saints and the miracles of the Catholic Church will appeal to her. I actually think she’d enjoy praying the rosary, if she understood it.

Thank you, again! I may PM you in the future as issues come up. My sweet Catholic neighbor gave me a couple of picture books about the Mass so that has helped us all tremendously.

However, we’ve still yet to go up during the Eucharist to receive a blessing. We’ve always stayed seated, but maybe my girls would really enjoy this. They already enjoy dipping in the font and crossing themselves. We’ve been practicing it during our prayers at home :slight_smile:

yeah, many folks operate on “feelings”. I’m sure you’ve read the numerous threads about this.
Be patient with her. That’s all you can do. It won’t change overnight, don’t expect it to.
Your children are vulnerable and you don’t want them dreading to see grandma because of this. Be as kind and tolerant as you can be, and pray that she return the courtesy. You’re her family. She needs to keep things cordial and loving between you, as you do.
Ultimately, she will respect you both for taking your spiritual lives seriously.
As you say, there are likely misconceptions. Baby steps. Every day, pray asking the Holy Spirit to guide your words and actions. You will receive the strength and kindness necessary to deal with any awkward situations.

I don’t know your children, but I wonder if it would put them in an awkward or difficult situation when it comes to communion.

You might tell them not to receive communion when they go to grandma’s church, but then the time comes during the service and grandma says to receive. Are they going to be able to say “No, Grandma, our mommy doesn’t want us to do that?” That would take an awful lot of maturity, even for a tween or teen.

LOL. Just know that going up for a blessing is not necessary. And in my mind, kind of makes not receiving feel worse. The blessing at the end is for everyone. There is nothing “special” or different about a blessing in the communion line, and truth be told, parishes are not supposed to do it. A lot of places encourage it though.

I think that having everyone hang back is quite an incentive for people to study and makes them long for Eucharist in a good way.
Your priest will advise you though. Defer to his preferences. :thumbsup:

Yes, we’ve had our ups and downs over the years but I am the one daughter-in-law that always comes to her aid whatever it is (and the other 2 DIL’s live in her same neighborhood) :rolleyes:

That may be why they decided to buy a house just down the road from us…we’ll be the ones helping them out as they get older :smiley:

My friend told her mother-in-law (who had two sons) who was being bratty once that she’d better learn to be nice to her because it’s the daughter(s)-in-law that make the decision about which nursing homes they’ll go to…lol

HA! Good one!

That’s an interesting take on it…I totally see your point :slight_smile:

Buy 2 copies of “Catholicism and Fundamentalism” found in the bookstore on and tell her you’d like to discuss a chapter at a time…

It will pretty quickly both educate her and let her know why it wouldn’t be a good idea for your kids to continue at the Protestant church. At least until they have a firm grasp of the RC faith.

Good luck.


Praying for your situation. My parents are Protestant (I was raised Methodist) and my mom is what I refer to as a “Church lady”. You know the type “my church this…and my church that…” “our pastor this…and our pastor that…”. Sometimes I want to tell her to stuff it but I hold my tongue. Many protestants can be very disrespectful towards Catholics, which seems odd from one Christian to another. My 2 cents is never let her outrank you when it comes to your kids. I would stay very firm with her on how you want to raise your own kids.

God bless.

To answer your questions:

  1. Nip this in the bud IMMEDIATELY. Be PROACTIVE.

I have Protestant in-laws that very thankfully are respectful of our Catholic beliefs. We don’t have any children yet, but what I would do if I were in your situation is be very polite and extremely firm. “Under NO circumstances are the children to attend services at your church without me present. PERIOD. End of discussion. Thank you for understanding.”

I see no reason to say anything further.

  1. Allowing your children to attend Protestant services, especially unaccompanied by you, is a very bad idea.

They will hear interpretations of Scripture that are NOT the Church’s. It will be a chance for your in-laws undermine Catholic teaching, and make your lives (and the children’s lives) far more difficult in the long run.

Time to put your foot down. They are YOUR children, and YOU are responsible for their spiritual well being.

God bless you and your family, and welcome aboard!

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