Radio Show

Fatherly Advice: Talking Religion with Family Members of Different Faiths


A listener calls in need of some Fatherly Advice from Father Dave about a tricky family situation: “My husband and I were confirmed as Catholics in 2015, and we then enrolled our daughter in [religious education] to make her sacraments. … My mother-in-law was baptized Catholic [many years ago]. … She was very supportive of what we were doing [with our Catholic faith and how we were raising] our daughter. … [Her son] — my brother-in-law — went into a rehab program and [while he was there, he] befriended some individuals who were Mormon, and he then became Mormon, and in her effort to become closer to her son, [my mother-in-law] has become Mormon. We support what they want to do — we don’t want anybody telling us what we have to believe, and we’re not going to do that to anyone else. … However, we’ve run into an issue where our mother-in-law is trying to ask our daughter, who is turning 11, [if she wants] to go to [a Mormon] church with [her], and then she’ll invite [fellow Mormons] over to dinner, where they’ll talk about their beliefs and their Bible and such. … I’ve had to counsel our daughter, because it’s not comfortable for her, and she’s explained to my mother-in-law [that] she doesn’t want to be Mormon and doesn’t have any interest in hearing about it.”

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The caller is conflicted by her mother-in-law’s proselytizing. So, she repeatedly insists that she doesn’t care what other people in her family believe, as long as they leave her daughter out of it. Father Dave explains that this isn’t really what the Catholic faith is all about in terms of evangelization: “It’s not [the position of the Church] that you do whatever you want. Religion is not like politics — it’s not ‘to each his own.’ I would say that part of the slippery slope [when it comes to how you engage with your daughter], is you guys saying, ‘Sure, do whatever you want [in terms of religion].’ That’s not what we believe. … Jesus said we should go and evangelize people. Whether or not we want to be converted to something else or not, that has a lot more to do with our confidence in our faith than having some blanket prohibition for anybody [to proselytize].”

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Ultimately, the caller crystallizes her question: “How do I move forward with this situation without causing a big family stir?” Father Dave replies bluntly: “It will cause a family stir. Absolutely it will. … Aside from religion or anything else, if you had been clear with your mother-in-law that when your daughter goes and stays with them, that they’re not to see R-rated movies, and she took her to an R-rated movie … I would say that’s a big deal. You’re the parent. You get to make that call. And if somebody else, whoever it is, violates [your parental prerogative], you absolutely have the right to say, ‘We talked about this, we agreed on this, and you violated that. And the consequences are that [your granddaughter] isn’t going to stay with you — or something else. … You’re certainly not the first daughter-in-law to experience [tension with your mother-in-law].” (Original Air 09-07-17)