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Dear Tradition in Action,
I read with interest the article on children receiving divorced parents into their home. My question is similar. My husband, against my wishes, is divorcing me! I have an 8-year-old daughter.
I know for sure we should not have anything to do with any woman he dates or "marries" but what to do about his family members? Should we continue to go to family functions as if nothing is amiss, should I try to limit the time she spends with her father?
Also, should I resign from my position as the leader of the "girls club" we started at our church (a "girl scouts alternative" club)? I feel that I should, as I am clearly not qualified to lead young girls as a divorced woman even if it is not of my doing.
Any assistance you can give me on this would be greatly appreciated as I do not want to cause scandal and want to maintain a correct attitude and posture.
Fr. Sretenovic responds:
First let me say that you and your daughter, as well as your husband, will be in my prayers. I pray you will receive some relief in this very difficult and painful situation. You can accept this as penance for any past sins you may have committed, or offer this suffering to earn graces for others dear to you.
Visits with the husband’s family
In response to your questions, I think that you should continue to visit with your husband’s family members, provided that they are not receiving his dates or new “wife,” and they are not supporting his conduct. As long as they consider his behavior wrong, you can continue to visit with them.
Otherwise, you should cease to visit those who support him. To continue to visit with them would mean that you also do not care about Catholic Morals, but are just looking for a kind of social relationship. This relativistic approach would give a bad example to your daughter as well, and unfavorably influence her Catholic formation.
Generally speaking, you need to keep up normal social relations as much as possible, bearing proper witness to the truth that you are, in fact, still married, and will be “until death do we part.”
Should the daughter visit her father?
I believe that you should not try to limit the time established by the judge that your daughter should spend with her father. You may explain to her Catholic doctrine on the duties of the husband and wife to be faithful to their vows and maintain the marriage no matter what difficulties may appear. But you should not prevent her from visiting her father during those legally established times. Beyond that period, however, you may well advise her not to remain with him given his scandalous situation.
According to Natural Law parents have rights over their children until they reach legal age (18-years-old), and this applies to her case.
It is quite possible that, if your husband does obtain a civil divorce and does begin to date, your daughter may meet this woman and see her from time to time. To face such a problem, you should consult your lawyer in the divorce process to see if, in order to preserve your daughter’s morality, there is any legal means to prevent her from being with him along with his date or new “wife.” I don’t know the civil law regarding such cases. If there is any possibility to arrange this, the lawyer should know it, and you should ask the judge to grant this request.
If the civil law will not assist you, you can always ask your husband to avoid such situations for the sake of your daughter’s spiritual and emotional stability. If this does not work, the only recourse left is to speak to your daughter about the moral issues involved, and explain to her why it is wrong.
Is it the case to renounce previous responsibilities?
In your letter, you did not mention the reason for the separation. I understand that it may be delicate to describe in a first account of your problem. But to answer objectively whether or not you should resign your position as leader of the “girl scout” group, I must consider the two possibilities: whether the separation was caused by the fault of your husband or yours.
If the separation is a result of your husband’s fault, and this is known, I don’t think Catholic Morals asks you to resign your previous engagements. Even in the case of a position of teacher or one who deals with the formation of children, which seems to apply here, you may well continue your apostolate.
If the separation is known as being your fault, and this fault is not only a question of bad temperament, but a grave moral one, you should resign your position to avoid giving bad example and being the constant subject of gossip.
To what measure is Girl Scouts a good thing?
That being said, I want to make two collateral observations for you to consider.
First, I do not know much about the Girl Scouts. My question would be whether or not such an organization, whose origin is not a Catholic one, fosters femininity in the girls.
Does this organization help little girls in their formation to grow into good wives and mothers? Or does it make them more “tomboyish,” worldly and career-oriented? Being a secular organization, it will not deal with questions pertaining to the Catholic Faith and glory of God, in general, or the salvation of one’s soul in particular. In such case, it is not to be encouraged.
While it could be argued that this does not automatically make it something bad, it does raise the issue of whether or not it is the best course to take. Such secular groups should be dealt with by Catholics on a limited basis at most.
A second point to consider is the fact that, generally speaking and without knowing the particular case of your parish, many of the girls in Girl Scout groups are not Catholic. They are not raised with the ideals and standards that the Church sets for her daughters. Therefore, the indiscriminate relationship between Catholics and non-Catholics can have the effect of weakening the resolve of Catholic girls involved in the Girl Scouts to pursue the correct ideal and customs. Most probably these relationships will not make the non-Catholic girls Catholic, but they will make the Catholic girls relativistic and worldly. Ultimately, it may very well lead to religious indifferentism.
I hope these answers will be of some assistance.
I assure you of my prayers for you and your family.
Fr. Paul Sretenovic
Posted September 12, 2007
Related Topics of Interest
How Grown Children Should Receive Scandalous Parents
Divorced Parents, Unwed Mothers
Problems of Conscience on Marriages, Live-ins, Baby Showers
A Refrescher on Catholic Teaching about Marriage
Natural and Civil Marriages - Problems and Solutions
Addressing Priests and Religious
Co-education is a False and Harmful method of Teaching
Crisis in Catholic education and St. Thomas' Solution
Crisis in Catechism
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