Problems with a Family Member

This has been weighing on my mind a lot. I asked the question in the “Ask the Apologist” forum, but they have been ignoring my questions, so I want to ask it here. I need to know what I should do.

One of my family members calls herself Catholic, but there has been a lot of non-Catholic things that she has done, and she continues to receive Holy Communion, and serves as an EMHC, like I do. This distresses me because this is the Lord that she is receiving, and I think she is receiving unworthily. Growing up, Confession was not a requirement in her family, so she doesn’t go.

Just a taste of what has happened:

  1. She told me once that about 20 years ago, she had her “aura” read, and her palm read. I know this is against Catholic beliefs. It says in the Catechism and the Bible that it is.

  2. She voted for Obama and voted “NO” on Amendment 2 (which, if it was changed, would allow same-sex marriage. I don’t think she agrees with gay marriage, but she believed that heterosexual couples living together, unmarried, should receive the same benefits as a married couple, which makes NO sense!).

There have been other things, but these are the two largest things I can think of. When I asked my mom if she ever said anything to her (since they are related), she said it was not a good idea to get involved in a religious argument with the family member because it would never end. How can I stand by and watch her destroy her relationship with God because of this blatant ignorance of Catholic Canon Law? Aren’t I guilty if I stand by and say nothing?
If a believer does something wrong, go, confront him when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have won back that believer. But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you so that every accusation may be verified by two or three witnesses. If he ignores these witnesses, tell it to the community of believers. If he also ignores the community, deal with him as you would a heathen or a tax collector.–Matthew 18:15-17**

I just don’t know what to say because she is very domineering. She frightens me because of her personality and the fact that everything I say will be scrutinized. But I want to move past that. I feel I owe it to her, as a family member and a sister in Christ, to tell her the truth. What would you say??

Well, first of all, engaging in “psychic” practices is in the Bible, unfortunately for the wrong reasons. Recall the saga of King Saul in the Old Testament. He went to visit the Witch of Endor in secret, asking her to conjur up Samuel’s spirit to seek his counsel. This was a big no-no, and Samuel made no bones about telling him that. The end result was that Saul and his son were killed.

Serving as an EMHC is not a right; it’s a privilege. Furthermore, if she is in mortal sin, she is only heaping more and more sin by receiving Holy Communion and not going to confession. If she needs Biblical reference for thsi admonition, then all she has to do is read the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians where he warns the Christians in Corinth against unworth reception of the Body and Blood of Christ and bringing down condemnation on themselves.

Voting for Obama was not the best choice in November. Unfortunately, the Faithful Citizenship document from the USCCB was about as clear as the muddy Missisippi when it came to just who one should have supported in the election. There were some priests who used this as justification to vote for Obama in November; some even used the false “seamless garment” argument. :confused:

I would say spend a great deal of time in prayer and then find a way to tactfully, but charitably, tell her that she needs to get her act together.

Dear CarmeliteGirl25,
What you should do first and foremost is pray for the courage to confront her.You are in my prayers. There is no need to get in an argument with her, all you have to do is tell her in a matter of fact tone of voice that she is going against Church teaching in these areas.Be sure to back up each point with the Catechism and a Bible verse. If she starts to argue, then you must very firmly look at her in the eye and say in a strong even tone that she must hear you out. You don’t have to worry about trying to convince her, the Holy Spirit will do that. And when you are finished, kindly and firmly say that you are not going to get in a discussion over it with her. The ball will then be in her court, she will have to deal with it,not you. And that’s all you have to do,no muss,no fuss. You will have done your duty,which is all that God requires of you.And of course,pray for her.Hope this helps.

Thank you both for your responses. I don’t know why I have such a tough time dealing with her. I used to think she was in my life to punish me because I didn’t know how to handle her (something I am trying my hardest to work on). I think this is Christ testing me to say that if I can deal with her, I can deal with anyone. I don’t mean to sound like she’s completely awful because that’s not true. She does have very good qualities as well, and she cares a great deal about the family, it’s just she’s got some bad faults as we all do. I know I am no better than she and how I deal with her is very important. I will pray that God will tell me what to say and I will beg Him to speak through me to her. I know my mom is going to have a rough time with this because her motto is “Live and let live” with her family, but I can’t stand by and watch the family member throw her life down the drain. I would appreciate your prayers!

Pray for her, but also tell her when you have a chance, “Stop calling yourself Catholic, if you are not going to act like one!”

I am not defending your sister, nor her choices, but neither of these decisions are cause for instant excommunication or the need to remove oneself from the Catholic community. The first happened 20 years ago, and may well have been confessed by her a very long time ago. The second, while certainly not the opinion of many devout and thoughtful Catholics because of the possible sinful consequences of the “win,” are not in themselves sins unless done as acts of defiance to the faith.

I fear you are looking for an unrealistic perfection in your sister before allowing her to call herself “Catholic.” Unless you apply the same standards to everyone else trying to live this life of faith – including yourself – I am not sure a confrontation, or even a behind the scenes discussion with others, is appropriate. Pray for her, certainly; as you would pray for all of us who sin during our journeys of faith.

I wonder, in kindness and not any kind of condemnation of you, if your original question isn’t really a reflection of a much deeper estrangement between you and your sister which pains you.

Pray for her. Ask God to give her mercy and clarity. Ask God to give you mercy and clarity.

Other than that, unless she is currently sinning publicly and causing scandal as a Eucharistic Minister, my opinion is that this is none of your business.

You don’t know that she hasn’t been to confession. If she tells you she doesn’t think it necessary, tell her the joy and peace you receive from the sacrament.

Certainly if she discusses with you her opinions about politics or morality, have the courage to state your convictions and why. If she brings up the occult activities, point out the problem with them in love.

Whatever you do, you need to be very careful that she doesn’t think that you’re saying, “I’m a better Catholic than you are, and you’re not good enough.”

Another thing you could do is discuss it with your pastor and see if he thinks he needs to speak to her. It’s his job to shepherd her after all.

And yes, we are called to admonish sinners, but always remembering first to remove the plank from our own eye. I personally don’t know how to do it (other than with my children) without the sin of spiritual pride. I would recommend again that you discuss it first with your pastor or spiritual adviser.

On a personal note, I find myself too often telling my sister in the exact wrong way what she’s doing wrong as a Catholic. I always come off as self-righteous which is neither effective for her, nor good for me.

And be prepared to be on he receiving end of something equally rude and presumptuous in return.

To your first question:

The incident happened 20 years ago. How do you know that she has not confessed that act? Besides, one incident in twenty years does not a pagan make. :wink:

I took a moment to think about this…and I’ve used the scripture you quoted before in my reply (Matthew 18:15-17). It has progressive steps, and let’s look at those:

If a believer does something wrong, go, confront him when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have won back that believer.

You’ve obviously done that!

…if he does not listen, take one or two others with you so that every accusation may be verified by two or three witnesses.
We don’t do this nowadays. We don’t take other Christians to strip clubs, looking to “rat out” our fellow Christians. We don’t have “God squads” who account for the behavior of others, really. however, you did bring this to your mother’s attention, who is aware of the situation. She counselled you not to be agressive.

If he ignores these witnesses, tell it to the community of believers.
This passage refers to the time when there were smaller communities of Christians and it would be something of a tribunal or a seat of elders who would weigh in on the person’s behavior or beliefs. However, even though we don’t do that nowadays, you have come here to a community of believers asking advice.

If he also ignores the community, deal with him as you would a heathen or a tax collector.

Which sends you back to the beginning, no? Because we don’t ignore heathens or tax collectors in this society, under the New Covenant.

I think a good way to go about this is to swallow your pride and act stupid. Like Tim Staples says, act a little like Columbo. Ask questions. Here’s a possible scenario:

You: Aunt Martha, I know that you’re as Catholic as can be, and have you heard about this social issue?
Aunt Martha: Yes, I think it’s worth thinking about.
You: Well, I thought that it was serious, so I listened to what Farther Corapi said about it, and he quoted the Magesterium as saying X, can you believe it?
Aunt Martha: I don’t know why he’d do that, because this is what I think (she gives her example that is contradictory to the Faith).
You: Well, I just had to look into it further, and learned that the Church says the opposite, because (fill in the why here). What do you think about that?

Now, you get to why “Aunt Martha” feels differently about the church’s stand, and there’s a wealth of tracts from CAF and here that can help you to help her to “see the light.” For example, if she quotes scripture, you know that the Church never contradicts Sacred Text, so you can show her that the text she is quoting is out of context. But be gentle, as I had to learn the hard way!

For example, one time when I was about 15, I asked my mother why there is such a thing as child abuse in the world and she replied, “Well, suffer the little children…” and I replied, “But Mom, in those days, ‘to suffer’ meant ‘to let’ or ‘to allow.’ That doesn’t mean we have to make children suffer!” That didn’t go over very well, as she thought I was being a smartypants.

If we start supporting our theses with facts, instead of emotional reactions, we may lead others to seeing things differently. The best way I’ve found to show each other what the Truth of the Church is, is to guide them to it, not drop off a pamphlet or say, “because the Church says so!” That just makes people more entrenched in their ideas.

I hope this helps! Remember, it never hurts to play Columbo!

i just had to respond because i am having similar troubles with a neighbor. not necessarily church issues, but all behaviors can fit into God’s law some how. i personally have had a lot of spiritual growth over the years due to my issues with this person, and as i read scripture or devotionals i see myself in my dealings with her. and then, to the point of my post, i just started reading the january 2009 issue of this rock…

jeffrey mirus wrote an excellent article called both pharisee and publican call the church home. this issue isn’t online yet, but hopefully soon…

some quotes from the article

the mystical body of Christ is perennially disfigured by the sins of its members, just as the physical body of Christ was disfigured by the wounds of his Passion.

after many examples of pharisee and publican, of which many of us have characteristics of both, depending on the sin, he gets to the meat of the article.

…the Catholic Church is, in one famous phrase, the Church of “here comes everybody.” for this reason, in every different culture, period and place it will always reflect the problems, deficiencies, blindnesses, and even sins that are most characteristic of that culture, that period, and that place.
this means that those who share the predominant faults of their culture will always be a little too comfortable in the Church, while counter-cultural people – who for whatever reason resist the particular faults common to their culture – will find themselves always a little too uncomfortable. the danger the former group faces is that they will experience and respond to the call to growth and conversion only in very muted and accomodated ways… but the later group does not consist of those who are obiviously lax; rather, it comprises those who regard themselves as spiritually mature, well-disciplined, and true to the demands of faith. the danger of this group is that they will assume their own faults are insignificant and that if the Church would only emphasize their own particular spiritual preferences and virtures, she would thereby free herself from every deadly vice. too often this counter-cultural group, which is always by definition a smaller group, will cast itself in the heroic role of keeper of the flame, disdaining the inferiority of everyone else, failing to realize that their own distaste for God’s other children is simply a symptom of another kind of sin.

none of this means that we should not spend time thinking about what is wrong in the Church or working hard to strengthen her against both the particular sins of her members and the general sins of the culture from which she draws them. but it does mean that we need to accept not only the spotlessness of the Church but also her perennial disorder, confusion, messiness and sin… instead, we are to recognize that we too are disordered, confused, messy, and sinful, and so we must work for the Church’s good in solidarity with all of her other members. we must understand that there is no Catholic who is worthy of being a Catholic – and that includes us.

this is a little harsh, but it is very enlightening!

Again, thank you for the responses.

I’ve thought about it, and I believe Jesus is telling me to let it go and pray for her. I see no way that I can bring this topic up in a charitable manner. The things that she said were said long ago, and they are over and done with. If she brings them up again, I will say something, but not before.

I will make an Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for her and pray that she has gone to Confession.

We’ll leave it at that. Thanks again.

I think you’re right about not dredging up things from her past. I think you’re double right to make how to proceed part of your ongoing conversation with the Lord.

You know, you might just keep sharing your faith with her, as you do with others.

If you have a great confessor, say so. You don’t have to tell her to go. You can tell her about your good experiences.

If she goes on retreat, ask her about it. If you hear a good homily, tell her about it. If she goes to a different parish, ask if she’s heard any particularly good ones lately. Ask her on a Saturday what she thinks of Sunday’s readings. Not just with her, but do it generally and include her. “Instruct and admonish one another”…means that the instruction and admonishment go both ways. Make it safe for others to correct and teach you, make it clear that you are a learner and a sinner, and others will feel safer and less on the defensive when you venture to admonish them.

Also, ask for the grace to be freed of a need for her approval or disapproval. I don’t mean in a sour grapes kind of way. I mean, ask that you may accept her and yourself as you are, and concern yourself only with knowing God’s will for yourself only. Sometimes that will include speaking the truth to her, and sometimes it will include recognizing you have come to a “pearls before swine” moment with her, and letting it pass as you accept that we all have clay feet and “swine” moments. If the “swine moments” get to be too many with her, pray God’s mercy on you both, brush her dust from your feet, and go on to the next town. It is God, after all, who has her in His hands.

Many, many of us Catholics have Catholic family members, friends, and acquaintances who disagree with and act contrarily to at important teachings of the faith. When they do not want to hear truth, our words will usually not mean much.

A catechumen was once lamenting about the many sins of Catholics he knows, including their involvement with abortions and their sexual activities outside of marriage, and he asked me “why do these people continue to call themselves Catholic?” I told him they’re still Catholic, they’re only unfaithful ones." I explained we need to continue to be lights of truth and love to them, to pray for them, and sometimes to admonish them.

I’ve also known EMHCs (and lectors and catechists) who not only disagree with some of the teachings, but who are involved in scandalous lifestyles (usually cohabitation, but there are other issues too). We need to continue insisting to our pastors that there be better screening and formation of those involved in these ministries. Oftentimes, a parish secretary or someone else will submit bulletin announcements proclaiming “Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion Needed Now” or “All Confirmed May Serve as Lectors.” I believe this is harmful. Parishioners are NOT being taught that parishioners do not have a “right” to serve in these ministries. No matter how desperate a parish might be to “fill” the needed positions, pastors should ensure they only be filled by Catholics who truly accept and live the teachings, and who strive to be in a state of grace.

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