Obligation when you hear of a family member living in sin?


*Oh my gosh, just got an email from my sister. So sad. :frowning:

Remember my nephew? Some of you might recall this story…his wife cheated on him, she was not remorseful, then slowly was (but he thinks because she realized all she’d be losing financially without him) he left and never looked back…etc…

So, I found out from his mom/my sister, that he is dating someone. The divorce proceedings haven’t started yet. They are supposedly going away on vacation soon…:shrug: Um, ok.

My sister asked him about it, sort of telling him that he should not be seeing someone while married…and he got very angry, basically telling her ‘that is the pot calling the kettle black.’ (long story if you don’t know it, but my sister left her husband/his dad 5 yrs ago, and started living with a man who was married when they met, etc) So she got defensive, and then he did…and then bam…he left her place. (which he has been staying at)

I fear for my nephew. We are all Catholic, in my family. He has not practiced in years. He got married in a Presbyterian church. Do I have any moral obligation to reach out and talk to him about this? If so…what might you say?

I know that Jesus teaches that if you see a brother in sin, and do nothing…then, you’re sinning, also. Well, I’m not SEEING him sin, but heard about it. Is that a technical loophole? :wink:

Your advice is appreciated…thanks. Please pray for my family. :(*


Are you close to your nephew? I mean are you close enough that you regularly seek him out to communicate with him?

If you are then I think it would be reasonable to give him call or a visit and say that you hear he’s seeing someone and that you are concerned about him and his relationship with God. Maybe say that you wonder if he really wants to involve some new woman in his rather unsettled life. (I don’t remember if your nephew has children of his own but if so then maybe bring them up too.)

Since he’s not now a practicing Catholic you might want to start out avoiding sounding too preachy and try to stick to sounding concerned about him. If he’s receptive to your concern you can eventually move from there to why the Catholic/Christian teachings are not only God’s teachings but also the best thing for us.


*Thanks for your reply. I am relatively close with him…with the caveat that my nephew (this particular one) is very stoic. Unemotional. Closed off.

We had lunch recently…he was up my way on business. We talked. He was very very open with me about how angry he was that his wife cheated. I just listened. I told him I would be praying for him. He wasn’t seeing anyone then…this was maybe 3 months ago.

My concern is that he will be even more closed off…and think that I’m a messenger for his mom, which I wouldn’t be. I run the risk perhaps, of feeling nosy, which I’m not trying to be…and truly helpful, and concerned. I’m concerned for his soul. I really am.

I can’t believe he didn’t marry in the Catholic Church…being raised in the faith, why did both of her kids abandon it like this? :frowning:

So…email, or phone, how should I approach him?*


I will pray for him and your sister.

That is a sticky situation. It is so much easier to know what to do when the sin is something like theft–partly because it’s against the law, but also because it doesn’t tread so much on people’s feelings.

If you’d have called your nephew about good news (say you heard he’d gotten a promotion), than I think you can call him about this. You can be concerned about the situation and give him advice without necessarily talking about the sinfulness of it right up front.

Start with just the practical issues like his behavior causing problems with the divorce. If you can get him to think long enough to slow down or stop this new relationship, then you’ll have a space to reach him about the spiritual aspects.

Also, would it help if your dh or his dad talked to him–man to man?


Here is kind of a different approach.
As a mother, I am guessing you really do not want your kids exposed to people living immorally, right?
I might just let him know you are having some discomfort with the idea of your kids having to deal with such adult situations and you are struggling with how to explain this to your kids. Tell him you worry about them hearing about him going on vacation with a woman that is not his wife. Looking at it from that point of view, he might see it from their perspective and feel like he does have the responsibility to be a good role model for younger family members. Sometimes we get so caught up in ourselves, we forget who is looking. I mean, dating is one thing. A vacation is another thing, that would be immoral even if he wasn’t still married.


Was his dad a stong Catholic? That is a heavy influence on a boy.

Is there another good Catholic man in the family he is close to? This talk will come way better man-to-man.


Wow, that’s really a toughie. If this had been anyone else posing this question, I would have referred them to you! LOL… seriously, praying for this situation, the way you live your life can also speak volumes where words don’t…

Take care…


At this point it sounds like your nephew needs an ear, a shoulder, and someone who will listen to him vent and pour out his heart. If he grew up Catholic then he knows that dating someone while still married is a ‘no no’ but is probably so hurt that he’s entered the “I don’t care” phase. I think you’d do him more good in the long run if you didn’t say anything to him, but where there for him when he needed it. As time goes by and he begins the healing process (instead of just being angry) then perhaps talk to him about his choices.


*That would be great, but unfortunately, my BIL was a strong Catholic…and then after the divorce, fell away from the Church. My dad is probably rolling over in his grave, I mean, he raised us to be strong Catholics…my sister went to Catholic school, I didn’t, but he was very adamant about us sticking with the faith.

You know, I started thinking about things after posting this…how should I say this without sounding, ‘judgemental,’ but sadly, my sister sort of raised her boys to be ‘this’ way. Stoic, unemotional, and she did not enforce going to mass…she and her husband didn’t go much when her kids were teens. I remember coming home from college, and wondering why she was sending them to Catholic school, if they weren’t practicing the faith. (?)
But, I agree kage, it sure would be nice if there was an older male in the family to speak to him…I feel so bad, like he is just twisting in the wind …sinning away…with no one to help him…she tried last night, clearly…but he yelled at her and left. :(*


My dh! Oh my gosh, I hadn’t thought of him! :eek: Yes, my husband would talk to him! I know he would…my nephew really likes my husband, too…maybe they could go fishing together or something…hmmm…Thank you–how funny, the answer was in my own house. :smiley: Well, I have to ask dh if he’ll do this…I know he doesn’t like to get involved in these things…but, if he thought it could plant a seed. Thank you Mrs Sally! :hug1:


*Yes, absolutely he knows this is wrong…even if you’re not Catholic…the divorce isn’t even in motion yet!

Here is another question…suppose I said/did nothing. Would I be culpable in sin, also?*


*Ok, my dh just walked in…and I asked him…he looked at me like this… :ehh: I said…you could go fishing with him…or golfing…

he said…and…then what…

and then bring up that this isn’t a good idea.

he said…what’s not a good idea…

calgon take me away… :hypno:

i said…that he’s dating a girl while he’s married, hello?? :rolleyes:

he said…oooohhhh…well, he didn’t get married in the Catholic Church.

I said, no…but, he’s still married.

He said…ok…you make the arrangements, and we’ll go from there.

Yay! Well…not yay yet. But, I know my dh will bring it up in a way that isn’t mothering the way I might.

You know…like this ----> :tsktsk:

Kidding, I wouldn’t be that bad.

But, let’s say…I said nothing…and did nothing…would I be an accomplice in the sin? Now that my dh knows, would he be an accomplice? *


Your husband is correct, the Catholic nephew who married outside the Church is married in the eyes of the State but not the eyes of God.

That does not mean that living with a girlfriend or having premarital sex with her is one wit less sinful.


Your nephew is a grown up and he knows right from wrong. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t get so upset with your sister for calling him out.

Here’s what I think you should do - Don’t say anything to him. Nothing. But invite him to go to church with you. Try and get him to go each week with you. Just encourage him to get interested in going to church and to do stuff with the church. But don’t talk about the other stuff with him. I promise, he will wake up and smell the coffee so to speak in due time and when he does, he’s going to need an aunt around who he feels he can trust and someone who will not judge him.


*Ok…thank you kage. Would he need an annulment to get married if he decided to marry in the Church, since this marriage is not recognized by God? *


*You know, this is another great idea. He doesn’t live near me unfortunately and travels…like nearly constantly it seems for his job. He camps out at my sister’s on some weekends, she is nearly 4 hours away from me…but when he has business stops here, I could suggest it. *


While there may be a wrinkle that we do not know… 95% certain that he would need a simple “defect of form” - he proves he was baptized Catholic and that he was not married in the Church, his Priest will have done a kajillion of them.


Ok…I mean, he is nowhere near that stage. But, good to know. *


*lol–It’s funny, when it’s close to home…a family member you’re close to…ugh, it can be tough to step up and give that much needed advice! *


*You know what’s funny about your comment, simon…is that I wonder…if my sister hadn’t done what she did…(she has since confessed it and repented)…would her advice have outraged my nephew so much last night? Gets back to what you are saying, about walking the walk kind of thing. Good point.

Sadly, though…her kids are so judging of her (my sister) She bent over backwards for them, but somewhere along the lines, they didn’t get enough faith and love talk from her and my BIL. I think that is why they are a bit cold…a bit distant. She spent a lifetime trying to please them, and they judge her on two (albeit life changing) choices…divorcing their dad, and having that fling with that one guy. *

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