Which should be my priority: morality or family harmony?


Full Question

My siblings and I were raised in a good Catholic home but now, as adults, we no longer all share the same moral code—some follow authentic Catholic Church doctrine while others rationalize that their immoral lifestyles are actually moral. Any time I try to help family members, I’m viewed as an intolerant religious freak. Even my parents consider my efforts to be out of line and hurtful. So I’ve come to fear for the spiritual wellbeing of my own children, and the need to protect them from the wrong influences is painfully clear. This could mean further division in the family—even between my kids and their grandparents if my parents don’t become proper role models. But some people think I should do whatever is necessary to keep peace in the family. What should my priorities be—peace or morality?

Answer

You have an obligation to raise your children in the truth, teaching them genuine morals. This may mean unrest in your family, as you have already seen. But it may comfort you to know that Jesus recognized family division would sometimes be an issue for those who remain faithful to him:

Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Mt 10:34-38)

The Navarre Bible commentary explains:

Our Lord has not come to bring a false sense of earthly peace—the sort of tranquility the self-seeking person yearns for; he wants us to struggle against our own passions and against sin and its effects . . . The word of God in fact leads to these divisions mentioned here. It can lead, even within families, to those who embrace the faith being regarded as enemies by relatives who resist the word of truth. (109-110)

 Implore your parents and other family members to embrace authentic morality and join you in the proper spiritual nurturing of your children. And while it is not absolutely necessary that everyone who has any influence in your children’s lives be practicing Catholics, you must not choose role models who believe or practice morals so fundamentally different from yours that they threaten the spiritual development of your children.

Ultimately, you cannot make your family members’ choices for them—God gave them free will and they have the power to abuse it by rejecting authentic morality. If they do choose wrongly then you have a moral obligation to protect your children from their immoral influences. But recognize that such tragic division occurs at their hands, not yours.

You all are in our prayers.

 


Jim Blackburn