Which of my responsibilities as a father should prevail?

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.

Man, that is a tough situation to be in.

What about not funding the wedding, but perhaps contributing money to any kids that come along later?

She knows better, but she choses to do the wrong thing. Which is bad. Yet, we are called to be giving and loving. This is a tough situation. While your therapist and priest gave good advice, it’s ultimately up to your conscience. It sounds like you have a pretty well formed one, so I’d go with my gut here. I would not support the marriage, but support whatever comes out of it.

You worked for the money; you told her your criteria; you have the final say-so.

I would also say that I have been told by Episcopalians that they are Catholic. They may have convinced your daughter of this so she may be mistaken rather than worse, iyswim.

I just finished reading a book by Chaim Potok titled “I am Asher Lev.” which is the Jewish equivalent (broadly speaking) of your problem.

Asher is the son of two observant Hasidic Jews. He has the “gift” of artistry, which his father does not approve. In the book, which is fictional, Asher achieve great popularity due to his painting skills. And, spoiler alert, his most acclaimed paintings are of his mother, and they are entitled crucifixions.

The father travels across the US, Europe, and even Russia establishing Hasidic schools where the orthodox faith is taught. So, his son’s departure to sitra atra (the other side – to an unholy profession) ultimately leads to the son’s expulsion from the home of his parents.

So, this book shows one version of not compromising with an errant child.

but consider the advice in this forum (I don’t think it gives the final answer in your case, but anyway)

this is just me: if it’s not the real thing, a valid Catholic marriage ceremony, why not just get married at the county clerk’s office?

I agree, except for the “good advice”. I think it was very weak advice. The prodigal son parable might have been very different if the father had NOT given him the inheritance. The father forgave the son “after” he repented. I think you have been handling the situation very nicely, with love and explanation on why they should not expect you to go against your faith, even tho they both are willing to go against theirs. Would we help our child pull off bank robberies or any other serious sinful life style? “Giving and Loving” to a sinful life situation is not really loving. Mother Angelica calls it misguided love. You might offer to pay for the annulment fees if there are any. You can continue to love them and I’m sure you will and your daughter knows tha, even tho our kids sometimes use that love try to get what they want and sometimes we have to point that out to them. Prayers for you all, God Bless, Memaw

Helping to pay the annulment fees (Given if I understood correctly the daughter said it’s expensive) is an excellent idea. It can get expensive.

I agree with Memaw. Excellent post and well said.


Annulment fees very depending on the situation. But I think most tribunals will work with the couple. I have walked thru several annulments with friends and my second husband went thru one even before Vat, II and it had to go to Rome.(As they all did then), Signed by the Pope, (Paul VI). Most people have the mistaken idea they are VERY expensive. I believe if one can afford to pay the expenses, one should. It does cost the Church money to process them. We throw our money away on many unnecessary things it seems but gripe when something serious comes along. We need to get our priorities right. I do believe the Pope has asked the fees to be removed or at least reduced if possible. God Bless, Memaw

I feel very cynical about the whole thing. Why is a grown up financially independent daughter hitting you up for money on her second marriage?

Which of my responsibilities as a father should prevail?

Pray for your daughter. Do what you know is right, share the truths of our faith, tell her you love her so much you care about her immortal soul. Now take this off your shoulders and place it on hers, she should care about her immortal soul, she should talk to a Catholic priest, apply for an annullment, get a sacramental marriage. God instituted marriage, His rules, for the procreation and protection of children. Not a civil government, goodness they will marry any two people even of the same sex! Government does it for the money.

You cannot in good conscience provide a way to hell for her by paying for an unsacramental marriage.

I will pray for you. That is a tough situation. But financing her wedding is not her inheritance and is not equivalent to what the father did in the parable. The father was following Jewish inheritance laws and customs at the time, not deliberately financing his son’s wayward lifestyle. And once the inheritance was given, the son would inherit no more. The point of the parable is not the money and how it was used. The point of the parable is to show God’s love and forgiveness when we sin and repent.

IMO (since you asked for opinions), financing the wedding would be morally wrong, as it implies your approval. That does not mean you cut her off from you, or you don’t love her enough. You love her enough to not want her to put her soul in danger. She is old enough to respect your conscience and religious beliefs, and not put you in a moral dilemma. Your first obligation is not to your daughter, it is to God. That is a difficult thing for us humans to practice, but it is the truth. Your actions are a witness to your faith–that is a powerful witness that someday she may appreciate and want to emulate.

And I do understand your situation as I have a child married outside of the Church. I just pray for them frequently and let God handle the rest. But I would not have paid for the wedding. God bless you.

I am confused about the need for an annulment.

If the daughter was baptized Catholic, and married outside the Church without a dispensation, the Church does not consider the marriage valid. An annulment would not be necessary as this is “lack of forum” and is really just a matter of getting some paperwork in order, so any cost incurred would be minimal, and more likely paid to the state for certified copies of marriage & divorce certificates.

My mother, who is not a practicing Catholic or Christian, declared throughout our childhood that she only helps to fund first weddings. I don’t think there is anything wrong with not agreeing to pay for your grown daughter’s second wedding. It would be a nice gesture to offer to pay for the annulment process and explain that many people who have gone through the process have found it helpful and cleansing in a way that helps them to understand why their first marriage didn’t work and teaches them what to do the second time around.

Beat me to it. :thumbsup:

She doesn’t need a declaration of nullity. Such a civil marriage has no presumption of validity. She does some paperwork with her pastor, and the tribunal looks it over.

Now, if her finance has been married before in the Church then that is a problem. If he too has been married outside the Church then same thing-- some paperwork.

Frankly, that is ballsy, asking parents to pay for a second wedding? Perhaps technically it is the first-- both because she wasn’t validly married and secondly because she didn’t have a wedding/reception the first time?

Your daughter actually lied to you about the location of her wedding to get money out of you and YOU need forgiving?

Uh, no.

I would tell my daughter I love her but don’t agree with her life choices, and I will always love her and be there to help her find her way back to the faith if and when she wants that help.

I would tell her that her first marriage is an administrative case that is neither lengthy nor costly and that my original offer to assist financially with the wedding should they choose a Catholic wedding still stands. I would give her the name and phone number of my pastor and ask her to call him and schedule a meeting.

I would tell her that I was hurt she lied to me about the location of the wedding to secure funding and that I was hurt she and her fiancé were trying to turn me into the bad guy when she already knew what kind of wedding I would and would not help fund.

I might offer to pay for the reception or give a generous gift of money with no strings attached, not specifically for the wedding, that they could use however they see fit-- wedding, honeymoon, down payment on a house, etc.

But only if I got an apology.

It may be that they just have no interest in annulments, but your daughter’s situation, as you described it, is a cut and dry invalid marriage. I’d expect the church would resolve it fairly quickly.

I think you’ve handled the situation so far appropriately and according to your conscience.

Thank you all so much for the input and the prayers. Many of you have said things I have already considered, so it’s comforting knowing that we’re on the same page.

About contributing money to something else, in lieu of the wedding: I had the thought of telling them the money I would have given for a wedding has been put aside to go toward a down payment on a house where my future grandchildren will live. They deserve to be cared for, regardless of the rest of this. I think this would be a nice gesture to show it’s not about the money.

Regarding all the comments about paying for an annulment: On the occasion of the first engagement after her divorce, I told my daughter clearly that I would pay any fees for that. This was reiterated with the current fiance, with the addendum that (as was mentioned by Memaw) the Pope has encouraged all diocese to dispense with such fees. In my own diocese, the bishop has done just that, entirely - they don’t even post a “requested donation” for the service anymore. (See below…)

As for needing an annulment: I understand about lack of form, and was using “annulment” as shorthand for whatever process or paperwork would be needed to clarify her freedom to marry. This detail is especially frustrating, because during the recent back-and-forth they each told me they “spoke to several people who (they) trust” who told them it was “nearly impossible” and “extremely expensive”. When pressed, the “authority” turns out to be the fiance’s father, who went through a full case himself (NOT lack of form) over 30 years ago. No matter how hard I tried to explain, they wouldn’t accept that he was in a very different situation in a different time, and it could turn out to be quite easy. When I repeated this part of the story to the priest, even he got frustrated about it. (I’m sure he has to wrestle with dispelling that rumor all the time.) That all said, we’re discussing this on a forum without sufficient first-hand detail, and should really let the Church speak for herself, in due time.

In fact, I gave the couple the benefit of the doubt on this point. They seemed very convinced of the Catholicism of the church, and saying they “lied” to me (as one commenter suggested) is most likely an overreach. If the parish is Episcopalian descended from the High Anglican tradition, the priest may have told them their community was “Anglo-Catholic” and that the couple “both had to be baptized Catholics” - in THEIR understanding of the term. (Read up on Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman and his journey with this theology.) I’m sure neither my daughter or the fiance would have understood the distinction, and so they may very well think I’m being totally unreasonable about this point. When I speak to them face-to-face, I’ll try to lay it out clearly for them, but it may be a struggle.

You’re close 1ke. Her first marriage was an elopement at a time when we were somewhat distant. She married an avowed atheist by a justice of the peace on a beach, and there was no reception. I wasn’t there and found out about it two weeks after the fact. She was clearly trying to avoid discussing it beforehand because of how much of an objection I would have put up. She’s now older and getting wiser by the day, which is why I’m trying not to let her become estranged to me or the Church before we can help her through this stage in her life. I think a “real” wedding will make her feel like she’s rebooting her life the right way. I think she has every right to ask me to “pitch in” for the traditional wedding she didn’t have before. (As we’ve discussed, actually paying is another matter.)

Totally unrelated, here’s my own story about annulments: 22 years ago, after 4+ years of marriage, my wife changed the locks on our apartment. I had to move 1500 miles away to find work while we tried to work out our marital problems long-distance. After 6 months, she gave up and told me to come get the kids. That was the last time she saw them, and we’ve had very little contact with her since, mostly due to her apathy. 16 years ago she filed for divorce with amazingly generous terms, and for the well-being of the children I accepted. Aside from some challenges with chastity, I have practiced continence ever since we broke up. Almost 6 years ago, a very holy priest I was blessed to have in my parish gave me paperwork for an annulment, but for 4 years I struggled to pull 30 pages of testimony out of my head, and it broke my heart all over again. Only last year, feeling it was finally time, I buckled under and finished the last few pages and submitted it to the Tribunal, with a check for $650 that I’d saved up for to pay the “donation”. Two months later, the Pope made his announcement and my bishop stopped charging the fee. I personally don’t begrudge the church asking us to help fund the Tribunal, and was happy to pay. And I found it hilarious that God rewarded my dedication by making me one of the last people in the diocese to pay it. :slight_smile:

I completely agree with you…

God bless you too. I always enjoy reading your posts and think they are spot on!~


God bless you for trying to do the right thing.

If they aren’t going to practice the faith, maybe a Catholic marriage isn’t for them. On the bright side it will be easy to validate should they ever decide to practice.

I guess it comes down to whether this is the hill you want to die on, or not.

It still has to be cleared by the Church. God Bless, Memaw

Depending on where you live, “cleared by the church” may mean the pastor preparing the couple for marriage or it may mean paperwork going to the diocese.

In Europe and some other places it is handled by the pastor preparing a couple for marriage and typically sacramental records are all that are needed (i.e. if sacramental records do not show a marriage entry then one is free to marry), in the U.S. and Canada there is typically more paperwork and it has to be sent to the diocese.

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