MIL in tears b/c I did not take communion at Episcopal church


Hi all,

This summer, I attended an Episcopal church with my MIL. When it was time for communion, she stood up and turned to my son (8 years) and said, “Let’s go.” I grabbed his hand and said, “We’re staying,” with a very friendly tone and smile to go with it. She gave me that withering look with corners of the mouth pulled back, and looked as if she wanted to argue, but she went on to communion.

When she came back, she was in tears!! She said, “I wouldn’t have asked to come here if I knew you wouldn’t go to communion.” She said that I should “just go and receive the Holy Spirit.”

I am soooo dreading future conversations about this - and there will be some. She is verrrry opinionated, and I am terribly non-confrontational. I hate disagreements, and get nervous and can’t speak in a “debate” situation. In most situations, I would just give in and let her have her way. But this is too important, and I would be comprimising my faith (and committing mortal sin) by giving in.

The future discussion of this is going to set me up as closed-minded and ‘separatist’. The opinion of the women in the family is going to be that I am teaching this to my sons, and how awful that I Iet my church do this to us. I can almost hear the behind-the-back talk, too.

I understand why the Church forbids partaking of communion in another denomination. It’s not “guilt” (her word) that makes me do this. I just want to do what my conscience dictates, and not have to argue with her, or anyone! AAAArrrggghhh!!

I need help, words, and reassurance that God and the Holy Spirit will assist me as I speak to her about this. I need prayers that my sons and daughters will grow up strong in the faith, and that this issue will resolve with us doing what we must do while the family maintains the strong love for each other that is present.

You may wonder about my husband - he is not Catholic, but not a practicing Episcopalian either. I don’t think he’ll know what to do with any of this!

My MIL is a wonderful woman. I love her dearly. I love my SILs dearly. They are very liberal - at least, they pretend to be. And they think that the love of God means tolerance and acceptance of anything, above all, all the time. They feel they can worship anywhere as well as they can in church. So, I am just being a stickler and holier-than-thou …

What to do???


I’m afraid I don’t have an answer for you off hand.

But I do understamd because I have a MIL (raised Episcopalian, now Lutheran) who shopped for churches which practiced open communion. (For those who don’t know, protestant churches vary quite a bit, even within the same denomination, as to whether or not inter-communion is permitted.)

I’ll pray for you.


minnieg, you did exactly the right thing. You stayed cordial but firm. You have a wonderful understanding of the right thing to do and why to do it.

I have sung in the choir of an Episcopal church (as my job) for many years. The current rector announces at every service that communion is open to everyone. I never have and never will participate in their communion. A number of people have asked me why, and I explain to them that Catholics don’t do intercommunion because communion implies that we believe what their church believes. Some understand; some don’t. Some think I’m snotty and most don’t care. Maybe you should tell MIL that communing with her would mean (to you, at least) that you believe the same things and you simply don’t.

Stay strong, sister. Perhaps you could pray to St. Elizabeth Anne Seton, a convert from Episcopalianism, for strength and wisdom.



I agree with the others - you handled it just fine.

It’s her problem that she doesn’t like it; not yours.

If she were really a sophisticated, intelligent, and open-minded person, she would understand that respecting your culture means accepting that you can’t receive Holy Communion in her church, and not trying to make you change your mind against your will and against the teachings of your Church, any more than she would try to change a Hindu’s mind about the concept of karma, or a Japanese person’s idea that one should not wear shoes inside the house. :smiley:


You handled the situation beautifully.
I would caution you to stay away from a situation that would require you to attend service with her again (but I am sure you already thought of that)
If she continues on, and there is talking behind your back, simply tell that you do not participate in non-Catholic communion. Explain if you need to, but keep it as simple as possible.


Ask her "If I was Jewish, would you cry because I came to dinner and wouldn’t eat the lovely roast leg of pork you cooked?"
Tell her “I’m sorry that you thought that by agreeing to come to the service with you I was agreeing to take communion. I guess you didn’t know that Catholics can attend non-Catholic services but they can’t take an active role such as receiving communion. Isn’t it wonderful that we have the chance to pray together though?”

She needs to see that despite being supposedly “tolerant” she is actually trying to force her beliefs about communion onto you. Don’t let her.


Ask her if she’d make a pious Muslim woman take off her hijab, or be all mad if an orthodox Jew wouldn’t eat bacon at breakfast.

It seems as though you are most respectful toward her. She needs to reciprocate.


I don’t understand your MIL’s objection. Are you sure she knows that our Church forbids you to receive communion at her church? Make sure she understands that this isn’t your choice. If she already knows that, then why is she upset? Why should she expect you to violate your religious beliefs? I just don’t get it.


quite frankly if you don’t have a showdown (quiet and gentle but determined) now you will be fighting this all your life. Simply tell her when you are alone, your son and hers are not present, that you are Catholic and forbidden to receive communion in another church, that you respect her faith and practice, and you expect her to respect yours, and that of your children. That this is nothing to do with her personally but that your duty to God and his Church must and should come before all else.


Just want to give you some reasurrance. I think you did the right thing. I have been to episcopal services before with friend of mine who is/was episcopal and the priest offered communion to everyone. Continue to stand firm in your faith. The rosary is a good solid catholic prayer. Try a novena for your MIL and it might help to say the St. Michael prayer before you meet with her again.

This past Sunday’s Gospel reading might encourage you as well.


Annie’s right. I’ve been dealing with the behind the back criticisms for years. I wish I would have confronted (with love) my MIL long ago. It seems like one area of disagreement like this spills over in others…


I have been following the disintegration of the Episcopal ecclisial community for a few years now. Do not wander into this minefield unless you have to.

The liberals have taken over, and abolished sin. It’s all about feeling good and being accepting of everyone - hence the open communion. So, minnieg, you are stepping smack dab into the middle of this whole thing. You are not being accepting, which seems to be the number one mortal sin in the modern Episcopal community.

I would simply say that the Catholic Church doesn’t allow intercommunion, and you hope your MIL can accept that.


Here is what I said to my non-catholic Christian mother about not recieving in her congregation: “We share many of the same beliefs. Our churches also have some beliefs that are vastly different. Out of respect for your beliefs, and respect for your faith, I cannot pretend we are in full communion by recieving today. During your communion I will pray that someday we all share he same beliefs and can partake together.”

Focus on what we share, love and smile and pray.


I would just say to her " I am sorry that Our not recieving upset you, but as a Catholic I cannot recieve Communion in another Church. You might not understand or agree with that, but I need you to respect it".


I would simply let her get glad in the same shoes she got mad in.

(sorry just my :twocents:)

She did what is best for her family and now you are doing what is best for yours.


How about this: “I don’t share your church’s beliefs about what communion is, so I don’t want to disrespect YOUR church’s teaching by receiving what I don’t believe in.”


You have to be very carefull with this kind of remark (BTDT) because then you get “Well what is wrong with my Church’s beliefs”? etc etc, then she can get into a whole big deal defending The Church!




I also agree with this.

I don’t really think this is one of those situations where everyone can come out satisfied, unfortunately, because the parties are coming to the table with differently ranked values.

As Catholics we put obeying the laws of the Church above feelings of awkwardness. That is how we honor and follow God. MIL probably sees puting rules before feelings of fellowship as sinful. The best the two parties can hope for is a civil disagreement.

The values are just too different for either party to really respect the values of the other.


It’s amazing how insensitive people can be about these things. Especially, at least in my experience, Protestants vs. Catholics. They seem to think we are just being exclusive and snobbish with no good reason.

I got a real shock from my stepmom, who along with my Dad has seemed respectful of our being Catholic, when she said that if DH and I died and they ended up with the kids (we were discussing making wills and such) they would take them to a Christian church, but not Catholic. And that it wouldn’t really matter that much, would it? I told her that it would at least matter to my oldest, who has already been confirmed and is serious about her faith. The thing that bothered me was that it was thrown out like a challenge, like daring me to say just how much it would matter! I was so shocked that I don’t think I made the point very well outside of what I said about my oldest. There is a huge difference, and as former Catholics both of them know that. I felt like I was being challenged to prove just how uppity and separatist Catholics are and confirm that idea. :frowning:

Your MIL may be purposely stirring the pot to cause trouble, or she may just not realize how very intolerant she really is being. Be kind and respectful, but don’t back down… we are in this Church because we believe it has the truth.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit