Incestuous Father-in-law


Last year my wife of 17 years told me about her childhood sexual abuse by her father and a rape by a neighbor. It had caused her some serious mental and behavorial problems. Honestly, some of them nearly ended our marriage. Still, we managed over the last year with heavy counseling (10 sessions a months, 4 together, 6 her alone). God has managed to keep us together and I think we are going to make it.

Here is my problem. Her family. Thank God we no longer live within visiting range. We haven’t seen him in 2 years. I have yet to see or speak to him since learning of the abuse. But I, the daily communicant, wish him dead. There I said it. What am I to do? I literally want to complete the task myself. What does God think of me? What am I supposed to do? How do I reconcile this?


Maybe you need some individual counseling to work on forgiveness. It’s a process. And for some, a choice every day. It sounds like you are still angry, hurt and outraged by what your wife suffered and what, in turn, the two of you endured because of her trauma. Completely understandable. But wishing someone dead only hurts you, not him. It sounds like you’ve spent the last year being a rock for your wife, being an empathetic ear, fighting through the emotional roller coaster… and now that she’s reaching a light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps you are allowing yourself to feel spent and exhausted, finally. Maybe you need someone to help you process and forgive the injustice that YOU have suffered as a result of this situation.


I think God would understand your moral outrage. After all if we lived in OT times certain members of that family would be dead as God says they SHOULD be dead. However I would say that you avoid them as much as you want. You don’t owe them an explanation nor should you be asked to explain why.


I’m terribly sorry for your wife’s ordeal with her dad! That makes me both angry and sad. I do think that your emotions are warranted…even feeling somewhat of a death ‘wish’ for your father in law. However, thoughts, when dwelled upon…can either manifest themselves into actions (which I highly doubt you will act on) or they will bring us down (probably what will happen to you if you allow these feelings to fester)

There are many unsolved mysteries in this life…one of them being…how do adults get away with hurting young kids…especially, their own? Your FIL is obviously an ill man, and so…you can take those thoughts that you have for him…and pray for him…and, pray that God takes away those thoughts from you. Remember…the devil wants us to hate. Even if in this case, you have a right to hate…the devil is at play here. Don’t let him win. Your wife and you, by the grace of God…are getting through this, and she is blessed to have you helping her through. I think that not seeing him, however, is best. I don’t see the need to see him. We are to honor our mothers and fathers…but we don’t have to visit them if they are abusive…or if the pain is too great. It also says in the Bible for our parents to not be harsh to their children–so, it’s not a one way free for all, for parents to do whatever they choose to their kids…and expect respect in return. Respect is earned.

I will keep you both in my prayers. Please just remember to give these thoughts over to God…for if you dwell on these thoughts, they will end up destroying you.


What does your confessor say?


I would also suggest that you leave any punishment for this in God’s hands. Sometimes God has a better way of dealing with this kind of injustice than you could ever dream up on your own. God also wants your FIL to be saved. Christ died for him too. Don’t get in the way of that by your actions. It is in your family’s best spiritual interest that everyone eventually reach forgiveness and moves on.

You don’t know if he has ever really faced God and dealt with the reality of his sins. Maybe he has changed. You will know when he begs forgiveness of your wife.

Having said that, never leave any children alone with him.

I take it your MIL has no idea any of this happened? In that case, she must be suffering the effects of never seeing her daughter too. I’ll pray for you.

I know what it’s like to want to pray for someone to die. Trust me. But God doesn’t work like that. He’s not a Cosmic Hit-man, and you send out the order and the problem is “discreetly taken care of.” We can’t tell God to kill people. We can ask him for wisdom. With wisdom, everything else falls into place. And that is a pleasing prayer. (But I understand. I spent a few years saying the “Make him die” prayer for another different situation.)


This makes me so angry. How can people do these things to their own children. :gopray:

I agree that you should probably get more counselling.


First of all, my deepest sympathy for you and your wife. It is good that she is getting some help, and that you are extremely supportive. You must love her deeply.

Your feelings for revenge are deep. It is understandable. I think that you feel this way because you haven’t seen justice happen to her father or that neighbor. You need justice before your feelings can be put to rest.

With the idea of justice, I do not mean courts, prison, etc. It can be obtained in a variety of ways. It may very well be the realization that he will get his in the end, or that he has to carry around the guilt of what he has done.

My mother once told me to lay it at the foot of the cross. Give it to Jesus, and let Him carry that burden for you.

Then again, Dr. Phil said not to carry around that negative burden one more day. Do not allow that negativity to eat your soul.

I can only hope that these little thoughts might help you in some way. It isn’t easy to let it go- I know first hand on that. It is hard, and I do highly recommend that you continue the therapy sessions with your wife, and consider going to some on your own.

I will pray for you and your wife.


Angry is hardly even close to the word I am thinking now. Our parish has an adult victims of incest group that meets weekly. Maybe your Pastor knows about this kind of program. If he does not check your Arch site, and scroll through it and see if there is a ministry for this and they may be able to direct you to a nearby parish that does this ministry. I am really sorry for your family and what its doing to you all.
I second that this man should never be left alone with children again.
I agree with whatevergirl about contact with the man.
Please pray, I will be too. Dont do anything that will jepordize your relationship with Christ or your own heart that knows we cant take another life, no matter how odious and despicable that life is.
The bible tells us it would be better that man have a millstone around his neck than to harm a child…
God is Just, trust in God’s judgment
Trust that unrepentant souls go to Hell for an eternity.


Oh my we are so sorry for your ordeal and pray for peace and calm to be in bothy you and your wife’s heart and minds.

Pray for justice to those involved. Let God judge their actions let his will be done.

Don’t do anything yourself to make it worse. You don’t have to see them, communicate with them, or are you under any obligation to acknowledge them at all. You control the contact and communication to the bare minimum as necessary to protect your wife psyche and your own heart and mental health. That is your priority - pray on it and ask for guidance.

We will pray for your wife’s peace.


I know this might seem a little bit obvious, but I just want to make sure…have you discussed this with your priest in confession? Sometimes these kinds of thoughts can really be more serious sins than some of our other actions that we do seek forgiveness for. I really do believe that reconcilliation can bring you the grace and the little bit of extra pastoral counseling that you need. I also think just sitting with Jesus in adoration, telling him about all of your feelings, turning them over to him, will bring you more healing than you can imagine at this point. Even if you are hurting too much to do much of what you might consider real praying, I think if you take that time, and let him into your heart, you will find the strength and the forgiveness that you need. I’ll be praying for you too…


I havent read all the responses, but has this man been brought to Justice? HAs he done his time or made reparations? He still very well could be molesting children. HE needs to be imprisoned.


It is important for you, as a Christian, to not want to harbor thoughts of wishing someone dead. Instead, say a prayer leaving him to God and hoping he gets the grace of a repentent heart. Let God take care of that.

We don’t have to feel good about the prayer leaving that person to God, just do it as an act of the will. The Lord accepts that.


He understood my anger. He actually said that God was the only one who could take my anger, as long as it was given respectfully to Him.

Thanks for the responses. They are comforting.


The one thing really that you can do is pray pray pray - for your wife and yourself - AND, if you can bring yourself to do it, for the graces of repentance, and God’s mercy and salvation, for your father-in-law too. And know that I’m praying for all of you :crossrc:

Remember Jesus said ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do’. And there are many reasons why this might be true of your father-in-law as well.

For one, a high percentage of abusers are themselves VICTIMS of abuse. So it may be, growing up as a victim, he didn’t learn HOW to behave any differently or better.

Most of us have sinned mortally, all of us know what it is to intellectually know that we should be doing differently or better but still succumb to that compulsion or attraction to do the wrong thing.

Then there are other factors that could be involved, such as undiagnosed mental illness of some kind. And I’d say that child abuse is SUCH abberant behaviour that there’s a high likelihood of some such factor in the case of anyone who would do it.

I’m not trying to excuse him here, or belittle the horror of what he did, just offering a way in which perhaps you can begin to find healing in spite of it for yourself.

God bless - and may St Dymphna, patron of victims of incest, watch over you.


My priest once told me a story about an elderly Russian woman that was visiting the parish on vacation to see some of her family. During confession she said that as much as she tried she could never forgive Stalin, well to make a long story short it wasn’t a hinderence to absolution. Some times things are a little more complicated than others.


"When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” - Revelation 6:9-10

God will avenge, but it’s not helpful to be always praying for it to happen. I have spent many years praying that God would either turn a certain person in my life to repent and turn from their sins, or take them to Judgment so that they cannot harm anyone else by their sin. He hasn’t taken them yet, so I can only assume that He has better things planned. God is not mocked though, and whether in this life or the next, whether saved or not, your FIL will pay for his sins.

In the meantime, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, and you will be perfect. In the meantime, pray that God will give you that perfect love and acknowledge that you also fall short of His perfection.


I appreciate all the responses here.

I am finding that the only thing getting me through the pain is thinking about my wife. I cannot spend time thinking about my FIL, it only causes rage.

When I contemplate on the pain that my wife feels it brings out in me tremendous compassion.

Why her…or any child?

I have a 15 year old daughter. That was when my FIL abused my wife. How could he? I cannot comprehend this. I would kill myself first if I felt the compulsion to abuse someone.

I cannot/will not forgive him. He has caused my wife tremendous pain, nearly ruined my marriage and caused my children the pain of seeing their parents struggle in their marriage.

I will not forgive. How will God forgive one who is not sorry?


You should read this short article by Jimmy Akin called The Limits of Forgiveness.


Contrition on the part of the sinner is not required in order for us to forgive him. Also, you do not know his heart. Only God does.

I’m sorry, but I see this in a different light.

I was sexually abused by two family members as a child, until age 13. I forgive them, I do not wish revenge upon them, I do not hate them, fear them, nor want them punished by God nor by the laws of man. At times I think about what happened, and sometimes I cry about it. But mostly I just live my life.

Everyone reacts to this type of situation differently. For some, forgiveness never comes. For some, it comes slowly. For some, it comes quickly and they feel more guilt than anger or hurt. Everyone is different.

But I must stress that working toward forgiveness, for you and for your wife, would be the ultimate goal. Nothing else will heal the pain.

We cannot live in the past. Sometimes we endure atrocities in our lifetimes, but we MUST move on. Otherwise we are not truly living. Do your best to move on. Pray alone and with your wife. Go to adoration. Pray for your father in law. Pray for your mother in law. Pray for all victims of child abuse and their abusers–most of the time the abuser was also abused in childhood. Pray to receive the spirit of forgiveness.

I’ll pray for you, too.


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