Peace to all. I’m a single father having a difficult time right now and am seeking the advice of fellow orthodox-minded Catholics on how well I’m handling a situation.
My daughter is 26, and has lived outside my house for over 8 years. She was married once before, outside the Church, then divorced. She has not sought for or received an annulment.
After that divorce, she was engaged to a co-habiting boyfriend. At one point, she asked me if I could help financially with the wedding. Framing my answer positively, I said, “As long as you get married in the Church.” She understood that meant somehow untangling herself from all the grave sin in her life. Surprisingly, she said she’d work on it, but the relationship ended shortly after that.
She is now engaged again, and again co-habitating. Like her, he was baptized in the Church and received first Holy Communion, but not confirmed. He used to attend non-denominational Protestant services every week, but she has been bringing him back to Mass instead. She has said she believes that the Catholic Church is the One True Church and she has no desire to attend services in non-Catholic Christian churches. So it’s kind of a horrible mixed bag - she’s a cafeteria Catholic involved in grave sin, but at least she’s not totally fallen away either, and I have some opportunity to draw her closer to the Faith where she can get things straightened out.
(She strikes me as a prime example of what Pope Francis is trying to do - concentrate on the pastoral and hope we can bring the lost lambs back into the fold. A strategy I don’t actually believe in, but since my own daughter is in such a situation, I will cautiously attempt to follow his guidance. The alternative is driving her away, which I am trying very hard to avoid.)
But now that she’s engaged again, she has again asked me for money. This time she came prepared and told me about this wonderful Catholic Church where they would be married by a Catholic priest. It sounding like they were getting things straightened out, I tentatively agreed. But looking up the website of the church she referred to, I find that it’s not Catholic at all, it’s Episcopalian. And the priest they said would be performing the wedding is the Episcopalian rector of the church. Distilling the phone and text conversations that followed down to the highlights:
I asked them to work on getting the annulment, they said they were “well informed” that an annulment was virtually impossible and horribly expensive.
I said the Pope had ordered otherwise, and did they actually talk to a priest? But they still said it wasn’t going to happen.
I said I was sorry, but I could not fund what I thought was wrong, explaining to the fiance again that they were objectively in a state of adultery. It wasn’t the money I cared about, I was endangering my soul too to accept their rationalization, and I had to stand up for what was right.
They got offended, and the fiance said my daughter was considering renouncing the Catholic Faith over it.
I tried to apologize to her for the offense while standing firm on the principle.
And my daughter told me she accepted the apology, loves me, and “will forgive” me.
Coincidentally, I had a therapist session yesterday, and I made an appointment with a priest for this afternoon. The therapist (a Catholic I love and respect) told me to try being “less rigid” and try to love and trust my daughter, and the priest (who I love and respect) told me that the father of the prodigal son gave him his inheritance even though he knew it would be spent on sin.
As well-intentioned as the therapist and the priest were, and in fact neither of them told me outright that I was doing the wrong thing, my attempts to figure out how to follow their advice makes me feel like I myself am rationalizing. Yes, I have to love her (and him too), and I need to sit down with them face to face and talk things through more thoroughly, and I should work on some other ideas to help them see I’m really trying to help them, but I still believe I shouldn’t help fund the wedding.
Just as I was sitting down to write this, I read a counter-example to the prodigal son story. The Church has stood up for the words of Christ on marriage for two thousand years, and even when the entire Church of England was poised to be lost to the Faith for centuries by Henry VIII, the Pope still refused to give him a divorce. I know it hurts me to refuse my daughter “her inheritance”, but even for love of her can I turn my back on the Savior’s command?
Thank you for any insight.